As it is in a number of other Southeast Asian countries, car culture is on the rise in the Philippines. But it didn’t start in the archipelagic country; Filipinos living in America and elsewhere abroad have been building cars and being part of the culture for a very long time.
Philippines-based group Stance Pilipinas/Manila Fitted was inspired by casual car gatherings in California during the mid 2010s, and after 80 meets in the Philippines decided to hold its first event stateside.
Timed to coincide with Filipino Heritage Month 2023 in October, the meet drew more than 250 cars, plus their owners, friends, family and the wider community to AT230 Cars and Coffee in La Habra, Orange County.
Stance Pilipinas/Manila Fitted are known to host some of the most laid-back events in the Philippines’ capital, but they also promote a positive automotive environment through tastefully-built vehicles. The California event echoed this, with a car turnout that was diverse and of high quality.
Covering the event was a tough task; the main spot at AT230 Cars and Coffee filled up very fast, so cars were parked in a few different lots and out on the street.
To properly celebrate Filipino Heritage Month, a prepared menu for the event covered home country favorites. For several attendees who had not been back to the Philippines since their youth, this rekindled memories from the past and made it a full experience.
The California meet was special as it bridged several groups: Filipino veteran car builders in the USA, track day regulars, stance fans, and owners of classics, exotics and JDM cars.
Porsche has a big enthusiast following in the Philippines, and you may have seen that in the Manila 911 60th anniversary meet I shared on Speedhunters back in September. In La Habra, various 911s were on show, from one of the first RWBs in the USA, to a Clubsport-inspired 991 and an OEM+ PTS GT3 Touring, plus many more.
Euro enthusiast cars have always been popular in the US, but as era-correct builds are only becoming more and more popular, I wasn’t surprised to see a number of 1970s, ’80s and ’90s German cars present.
With the 2023 SEMA Show being held two weeks after this event, a few prominent Filipino car builders weren’t able to display their very latest creations. But a number of prominent builds were still present.
I mentioned veteran American Filipino car builders a moment ago, and they represented the old school scene with everything from an Opel Kadett GT/E Cosworth to a Mercedes-Benz W114 coupe with a retrofitted C36 M104 AMG engine.
Some of you may know the name Joel Tan, but even if you don’t, you’ll probably recognise his cars, two of which were previously featured on Speedhunters – namely his Hakosuka and Corolla. Joel, who was a huge advocate for the Filipino car scene in the USA, sadly passed away in 2022.
The idea of a Filipino car show in California was talked about with Joel as far back as 2014, so with this being the first event, it was dedicated to him. Joel’s daily-driven truck made a poignant appearance, and his SEMA 2021 jacket was gifted to one of the meet’s organisers.
The overall ambiance at this event was amazing. Despite the early call time and a long drive for many, everyone felt at home for a few hours on a peaceful Sunday morning.
The streets of California are where it all began for Filipino car culture, so to bring it back here was something special.
At the end of the day, car culture is not bound by the builds, but the people and the community behind it.
How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.