From left: Glenn Tan, Executive Director, Motor Image; with 2016 Car Challenge Winner, Sunawr Ali; and Debra Soon, Head, Family (English) and Premier Segments, Mediacorp.
Asia’s Next Top Model contestants, Monika Sta. Maria (Season 3) and Natalie Pickles (Season 2) were there for the duration of the competition.
2016 Subaru Car Challenge champion, Sunawr Ali, in the final stages of the competition.
Text and photos by Neil Pagulayan
November 5 was a muggy Saturday afternoon and Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza was overflowing with people. Patrons were on their Saturday afternoon out, the organizers were running around frantically trying to tie up the last minute loose ends, country representatives trying to keep their regional finalists within arm’s reach, while the media from different countries were throwing themselves in the fray to get some good photos for their respective stories,
The Regional finalists — 10 from China, 10 from Taiwan, 10 from Cambodia, 10 from Vietnam, 10 from Malaysia, 10 from Hong Kong, 10 from Thailand, 9 from the Philippines — joined 321 more challengers from Singapore totaling 400 participants.
The Philippine contingent was composed of primarily veterans of the Palm Challenge with eighth-time challenger, Alex Neblasca; fourth-time challenger, Filmark Bernante; third-time challenger, Juan Furiscal, Jr.; third-time challenger, Juntie Guevarra Torres; second-time challenger, Donn Michael Yap, second-time challenger, Albert Saguillo; second-time challenger, Francisco Gomez; second-time challenger, Carlo Talahib; and first timers, Mark Joseph Trinos and Crisencio Sabal, who unfortuntately was unable to join the team in Singapore for the finals.
At stake is a Subaru XV 1.6 IS valued at S$69,600 (P2,422,252.08).
Not long after the challenge officially began, it started to drizzle. The rest of the day was overcast and set the tone for the rest of Day 1. As the evening wore on, about 40 participants had already called it quits.
Day 2 was sunny and half of the field had been eliminated by the end of the day. The Philippine team was still intact. While most of our team kept to themselves, two were noticeably upbeat, positioned next to each other on Car 1: Filmark Bernante and Carlo Talahib, both veterans from past finals. They gave us, the Philippine media representatives, an insight as to what went on behind the fence and they also poked fun at another team mate, Juntie Torres, on the same car, who took it all in stride.
Day 3 was challenging, with a downpour early in the day and then the hot sun and humidity reared its ugly head towards noon, resulting in more expected eliminations.
The final day was hot, and then there were three left. Savoring his final five-minute break, Team Philippines last remaining member, Alex Neblasca, 34, ate a banana, soaked his feet in ice water and got a massage to get circulation back into the rest of his body. The palm of his right hand had turned white and had gone numb from more than 70 hours in competition, but he was determined to win that Subaru, and we encouraged him.
With one minute left in the break, Alex bravely went back to his position on the hood of Car 1, which would have been very hot at this time under the noontime sun.
It’s now a battle of wills, now under strict scrutiny from the head marshals. Every breath was a potential elimination waiting to happen and at 73 hours and 50 minutes, Alex dropped out of the contest.
The reason? His hand was uncontrollably moving off the marker on the car and had moved far enough warranting his elimination. He was devastated, but at the same time relieved that he would finally be able to get some well-deserved rest. He also takes home S$2000 for being Second Runner Up.
After 75 hours and 58 minutes the last woman standing, Analiza Bte Mokhtar, 38, was eliminated. She takes home S$5,000 as First Runner Up. The last man standing was 38 year old Sunawr Ali, the proud winner of the 2016, Subaru Car Challenge on his 12th year of trying.
“I’m very happy that 12-time contestant Ali has finally taken home the prize. He has demonstrated sheer grit, endurance and determination from start to finish, in both his 12-year quest for the Grand Prize, and also for the past 75 hours and 58 minutes during the Challenge. He told me that this will be his last Challenge win or lose and I’m glad that it has ended on a high note for him.” said Glenn Tan, Executive Director, Tan Chong International Ltd. and Motor Image, distributor of Subaru.
Team Philippines, achieved the longest combined standing time of 490 hours and 42 minutes, despite a disadvantage of having only nine regional participants, due to one participant backing out at the last minute. For that, they were awarded the Country Team Winner title with a cash prize of S$10,000, which will be divided equally between team members.
In spite of his defeat, Alex bagged a lot of prizes. In recognition of the efforts by regional contestants, the last-standing representative from each participating regional country, like Alex Neblasca, will also leave with the title of Country Winner and a cash prize of S$1,000. For being the last standing regional contestant (not from Singapore) he wins the Asian Winner title, walking away with an additional S$5,000 cash.