If you stop to consider it, there’s something inherently gleeful about playing in the mud. However, the expectation is that past a certain age, we’re expected to tire of it and become adults. It’s almost unanimously agreed upon in society that busy grown-ups have neither the time nor the inclination for frolicking in mud.
And yet happily challenging the assertion that adults shouldn’t play in mud are the members of the Land Rover Club of the Philippines. a group of men and women–many of them easily described as successes in their various fields drawn together by a shared love of Land Rovers, and mud. Or more succinctly, off-roading which involves experiencing the country’s off beaten path.
While it’s true that Land Rover owners are as diverse as the models of the British four-wheel drive vehicles they so adore—these 4x4s have been used heavily in the military and have been popular among adventurers, construction, and agriculture business owners since they were first manufactured in 1948—pretty much everyone who owns a Land Rover has one because these powerful vehicles are extremely capable and versatile. Members of the Land Rover Club of the Philippines repeatedly challenge their trucks’ mettle by taking their Land Rover Defenders, Discoveries, and Range Rovers through treacherous terrain that would give any other car a mental breakdown.
Camaraderie or fellowship, in fact, is one of the main draws of the club that was founded by a group of Land Rover enthusiasts led by Robby Consunji in 1997. Not only does having like-minded friends make the off-roading trips to the lahar-filled riverbeds in Pampanga, the Jungle Base 4x4 Center in Tanay, Rizal, or even as far as Johor, Malaysia for the Rainforest Challenge more fun, it’s also a way to make sure that these adventures are safe. One of the club’s objectives is to provide responsible and safe 4x4 tours, and they definitely take this seriously by making sure they travel in groups, obtain the proper permits, and bring safety equipment. Besides, considering all the nooks, crannies, and angles the club manages to get their rides into, it’s really not unusual for someone to need a little assistance so they always come prepared. At this year’s Independence Day Fun Ride in Pampanga, a newer member had to have some help maneuvering his Land Rover up a steep, newly-carved mountain trail and everyone was willing to lend a hand, from steering the vehicle to winching it up the arduous incline. Private equity arranger of OLLI Consulting Group, Leo Dominguez, shares that even he got stuck in the middle of a river during his first river crossing when his engine died and his fellow members helped him out. “If your car gets stuck, it’s okay. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about since everybody goes through all that. It’s how you learn,” he says.
Resiliency, camaraderie, adventure and community are words we can use to describe members of this club. After all, it’s pretty standard for them to work together to get their co-members’ vehicles unstuck and back on track to enjoy the marvellous scenic views of their journey, this was as happened during the June 12 Fun Ride. After transversing the newly discovered trail in Capas, Tarlac which was extremely gruelling the participants shared lunch at the banks of the Porac River and continued on, happily driving through the Lahar deposits along Puning Trail.
Membership in the Land Rover Club of the Philippines can be a pretty exhilarating adventure, what with driving through muddy river beds, rocky mountains, representing the country in one of the world’s longest and toughest international 4x4 races - Rainforest Challenge of Malaysia-, as members Larry Mendiola and his son Hirryan did in 2010, where they proudly garnered 2nd place; however, there is the other side of the club that also takes part in more serious endeavors.
The club members have been involved in numerous disaster relief efforts across the country, as seen most recently after the October 2013 earthquake that devastated the province of Bohol, and in the Typhoon Yolanda-stricken areas in the Visayas. The Land Rover’s ability to cross difficult terrain which is mostly unreachable by other cars, allows the members to deliver food, mats,pillows, and medicine to survivors of these calamities. The club has built a formidable network of partners who include the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA), Santa Fe Moving and Relocation Services, AirAsia Zest, Pusong Minero of the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment (PMSEA) and most recently the Barefoot College from Rajasthan, India.The partnerships have facilitated transport of billboard tarpaulins for use as disaster relief shelters and medical mission tents; something they realized was a necessity in the wake of Typhoon Sendong when a barangay captain confided in them his inability to provide privacy to 200 displaced families residing in a basketball court. Fortunately, the group’s network was more than happy to donate tarpaulins and assist with the entire logistics. In addition, the Malaysian partner, Elite Disaster Rescue Foundation (MEDRF) is a non-profit elite rescue group that began collaborating with the club providing search and rescue services during Typhoon Pablo. The club frequently provides the MEDRF team with Land Rovers to facilitate the provision of medical aid, relief and stress debriefing services within the calamity-stricken places.
The Land Rover experience enables anyone interested in discovering this off the beaten path treasures of the Philippines. It opens one up to experiences that would otherwise be rare for non-members, such as assisting communities that aren’t easily accessible or discovering sites and locations that haven’t yet been inundated by too many tourists. This, according to Japhet Miano Karluki, an expat from Kenya working as an extractive industry consultant with OLLI Consulting group and one of the club’s newest members, can be quite humbling. He says, You can see from the places we visit the diversity, richness, excitement, and wonders of nature, and how even calamities like the Mt. Pinatubo eruption created the extraordinary trail and formations from the lahar. It’s amazing.” One might not normally get a chance to see these places, so being able to visit these sites at their best and at their worst makes one more aware of one’s good fortune and makes one want to share one’s blessings.
So despite what other people may say, playing in the mud doesn’t have to stop when you grow older. If you’re anything like the members of the Land Rover Club of the Philippines, your fondness for traipsing in the mud means that you can make good friends, go on adventures, encourage local tourism, practice your philanthropy, and widen your perspective. Is that such a bad thing?