For their upcoming 60th wedding anniversary celebration, my dad Benny had to treat himself and his wife Toying to a new Volvo. This time, it was the new V40, which had just arrived at the recently-opened Centris showroom on Edsa near Quezon Avenue.
This 5-door, 5-seater hatchbox is the latest acquisition in a love affair between the couple and Volvo that started in the mid-’90s when they first bought the boxy compact executive S40 sedan.
At that time, my car-crazed dad was midway in his first decade as a senior citizen and needed a reliable mode of transport to bring them to and from Laguna and Quezon City every week—the former where they chose to retire and the latter where the family house we’ve all grown up in still stood.
All us seven children had given the thumbs up to the decision, firmly believing in the vaunted safety of the Swedish brand. The S40 had air cushions ahead of many other models, and was powered by a 1.8-liter, 5-speed engine that Benny yearned for while cruising on SLEx (It wasn’t very strict on speed limits yet those days).
Alberto Arcilla, then CEO of Viking Cars Inc., had done a good job training his boys to sell safety and Volvo cars together. “Just a few days ago,” said his staff when my dad visited the Makati showroom and office, “there was a total-wreck Volvo brought in. But the owner had not one bruise or scratch on his body.” (Viking Cars is the exclusive distributor of Volvos in the Philippines.)
This kind of story, and the subsequent high-profile safety debates that followed after Princess Diana’s fatal accident in London in 1997, firmly cemented this love-Volvo relationship. Over the next years, Benny and Toying would move from one model to another, never unhappy with their latest choice.
The S40 is still in the garage, maintained by one of my sisters. The car’s now old by many Volvo afficionados’ standards, but she still feels safe to ride in. There’s a small case of being sentimental over the fact that this was the first Volvo that my dad bought, and the whole family just takes this attitude in stride.
Most models acquired later have stayed within the family as “hand-me-downs,” such as the V50 and XC60. And they made for an impressive advertisement for Volvo, like when we were all speeding down Quezon Avenue on our way to Archbishop’s Palace in Intramuros where the renewal of vows commemorating my parents’ 60 years of marriage took place.
For the occasion, the family needed “he-she” cars to individually bring my dad and mom to church. My dad was insistent in his usual playful demeanor that he needed to properly meet my mom at the church door, just like any couple who would just be getting married.
Viking Cars marketing services assistant vice president Loi de Guzman gamely lent the “he” car, a Biarritz Blue V40 test-drive model, to match the “she” car, an Electric Silver replica that was to bring my mom to church.
On seeing the car that he was to ride in, driven by his eldest grandson, and accompanied by his other male grandchildren, one could see the covetous glint on my dad’s eyes. Truly, it was true love, no matter what the color of the “dress” was.
My mom is 84; my dad is 88. Except for that morning’s trip to church and emergency errands, they rarely travel without each other’s company. He still drives his Volvos; actually, he enjoys driving them and refuses any of us or a driver to bring them around. Well, unless the doctor ordered him not to.
Since he was converted to Volvos, my dad had admired the many safety measures added on to newer models. He was all agog over the auto brake feature of the S60, his second Volvo. And rightly so, especially since he had dozed off at the wheel one Saturday afternoon during the regular drives back to Manila.
With the new V40, my dad likes the acceleration kick from the 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine. Such a surprisingly powerful car, he describes to a friend, from this sleek, compact package. He still loves his XC60—great in boosting his driving confidence during the rainy days, but the V40 is the ideal toy for the big boy.
No clan event is complete without Q&A games, and in the ensuing program after the chapel ceremony, one question had to be: What is Lolo’s latest toy? Oops, qualifies his granddaughter-emcee, it must be exact to the model’s name and color.
Amidst the excited buzz, one small hand first shot up and raced onstage. “A Volvo V40, Electric Silver,” Rafael’s voice carried over the microphone. It helped that he had a dad, my cousin Nick, who was also quite crazy about Volvos, coaching him. In fact, Nick had asked aloud if one of the Volvos were to be raffled off.
For sure, everyone enjoyed the family gathering. It was a great time to celebrate and enjoy. My dad’s parting words the day? “I hope to live up to 116,” he said, just longer than the oldest man recorded alive. And yes, in great probability, still enjoying his Volvo.