bless the lonely road
City streets are the epitome of city stress, so recharge your batteries by hitting these five open roads.
1 When you need to get lost in a dream
Go here: SUBIC-CLARK-TARLAC EXPRESSWAY
Have you ever heard of highway hypnosis? It’s a phenomenon when you stare at the road ahead for so long that you start to run on what is pretty much autopilot, doing all the things a responsible motorist would do but never remembering any of them afterward.
It is possible to be hypnotized by the seemingly-endless Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. This is, hands down, the best place to literally lose yourself in. The 93.77-kilometer expressway stretches on and on, into the horizon and beyond it, a lonely road cutting through the minor hills and rice elds of centuries-old haciendas. You can travel to either Subic (on the southernmost end) or to Tarlac (the northernmost end) to take it all in, but the best results, I’ve found, are from when you take it to and from Tarlac.
Oftentimes, you will never nd another car traveling with you. There are hardly any police to ag you down when you give in to the temptation of letting loose and burning through your tires. The road is all yours, should you ever fancy a scenario in which you’re running away from something.
2 When you need some thrill
Go here: KENNON ROAD, BENGUET
Let’s come right out with it: Kennon Road is dangerous as fuck. People die on the road when it’s raining and wet and prone to landslides, and I’ve never trusted the little stone barriers that separate you and the ravine. It might also be cursed—hundreds of the workers who built it at the turn of the last century died either from malaria or falling.
Kennon Road, watched over by the giant lion’s head sitting on the outskirts of the city, does not look favorably upon inexperienced drivers. It can be taken fast. It has to be taken fast, because you are sharing the two-lane road with cars who want to go up to and down from Baguio as much as you do.
That’s the beauty of it: you have to both run it and be safe, and not let any of your fears get to you. There is no room for hesitation, only the milliseconds-long window to tap the brake before you attack a blind corner or a switchback. If you’re slow, you’re endangering the driver behind you by tempting him to overtake. You have to set your mind completely to the ascension victory.
3 When you need control
Go here: GOVERNOR’S DRIVE, CAVITE
You’ve never lived, I believe, until you’ve own like the wind through an empty, unlit stretch of road in the middle of the night. If that sounds dangerous, you’re actually right; Governor’s Drive is danger, a standing testament to the gaping inconsistencies of provincial governance in the Philippines. There are hardly any streetlights, any barriers separating lanes (and you from the countryside), and any sort of consistent police presence. It’s exactly the kind of place where the news nds motorists who meet death at the hands of an oncoming truck.
But letting the engine rip through its long, hardly-congested (and smooth!) stretches and navigating its sidewinding snakes like you’re some Gran Turismo driver in the Carmona to Dasmariñas part of the 58.3-kilometer highway is an oddly calming experience. Driving through it, I’ve found, is the right mix of zen and control, ideal for when your life is starting to spiral out of your hands. Take it back, wheel in your grip, and let the miles run through your mind.
4 When you need to cool down
Go here: AGUINALDO HIGHWAY, CAVITE
There are three ways going in and out of Tagaytay, all meeting at the city’s cold heart of a rotonda. Two of them carve a twisting trail along the sides of the 600-foot high ridge the city rests on, but the last one is an 11.9-kilometer straight drive going up and down the gentlest of slopes.
If the steeper roads only completely reveal the city once you ascend to the top of the ridge, then the Aguinaldo Highway unravels its boundaries to you little by little with each kilometer you travel. If the weather’s getting too damn hot and you don’t have the time or luxury to venture all the way up north to go to Baguio or any of the mountains in the Cordilleras, just head south. You can start rolling the windows down when you’re going up from Silang, as the roads will be sparse and the mountain wind already blowing at the bottom.
This actually applies to any of the roads in and around Tagaytay, but the city’s boom (at least two new malls developed in the past few years) means more traffic clogging what was once a soothing mountain drive. There’s more freedom on the Aguinaldo Highway, at least.
5 When you need some discovery
Go here: SOUTH NATIONAL HIGHWAY, CEBU
The island of Luzon is an interconnected network of, shall we say, pretty advanced settlements. Once you hit the open road in almost any direction, you’re likely to pass through places that are rough and rural, but drive on further and you’ll eventually hit a big city or town on the other end, with hotels and McDonald’s and Jollibees for your weary, traveled soul. Luzon is developed like that. Cebu, however, is more rugged. The Natalio B. Bacalso South National Highway, spanning the swordlike main island, is a time machine. Leave the confines of Metro Cebu (which honestly looks no different from Makati) and little by little, the city gives way to the country. Every kilometer of the 196-km island you cross is a gradual turning back of time’s dial, until you arrive at the proud ruins of a Spanish baluarte in the town of Oslob, where the falls are hidden and the whale sharks play with the shermen. Chances are you’ve never seen any of these (unless you live in Cebu) so here’s an adventure you can lose yourself in.