Come to think of it, the names seem particularly apt: our Isuzu Hi-Landers were more the big and buxomly type than, say, Rikki Dy-Liacco's sleek Mitsubishi Eagle Talon which, if we were to apply a sex goddess nickname, would merit an Ina.
Ara was Jun and Jerry's while Aris and I had Joyce, illustrating who is top hubadera for the Isuzu Hi-Lander Shell Rally Team. But who were we to complain?
After all, this writer and Manila Bulletin's Aris Ilagan were but last-minute draftees, all too willing to settle for beer garden beauties for a chance at an honest-to-goodness rally.
Isuzu Shell's Jun Magno was out to prove the Hi-Lander could go on to the next level: the 1999 Petron Rally Series. As co-driver Popong Andolong was out of the country, service manager Jerry Eusebio was tapped for the task of navigating the six special stages of the Nueva Ecija leg - 44.75 kilometers of punishing dust, mud and gravel up and down the hills of Pantabangan.
All Aris and I had to do was survive. Third place in the AUV class was assured as the only other competitor was Olson Camacho and Jojo Macaraeg in their Toyota Tamaraw FX. As for the overall rankings, we had no illusions of putting one over the likes of Rikki, his brother Edgen and seven-time national rally champion Vip Isada.
Besides, this was the real thing: competing against the veteran rally drivers who had taught us the basics during the …