What are you willing to endure to win a brand new car?

That is what is at the heart of Subaru’s Palm Challenge, an endurance competition which has been running for 14 years now. Since its inauguration in 2002, the challenge has been held annually at Ngee Ann City in Singapore, giving participants a chance to win a brand new Subaru.

This year the challenge had 320 participants from the host country and 80 regional participants from Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The Philippines sent ten individuals to participate in the Palm Challenge after conducting local eliminations all over the country.

The Palm Challenge is an endurance competition where participants have to place their hands onto the specified palm decals on their assigned Subaru vehicle. The main objective is to keep their hands within the palm decal until one last participant remains. The challenge is punctuated every six hours by a five-minute break for participants to relieve themselves, have a meal, or just relax.

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Participants are spread out into 10 cars, with 40 participants per car. Hand decals are placed along the sides of the car, with the positions assigned randomly. Unlike the previous Palm Challenges, this year’s event was held under tents, amid the threat of heavy smog, and for the participants’ safety.

In case you’re wondering, the record holder for the Palm Challenge is Singapore’s G. Jaishanker who held onto the vehicle for 82 hours and 16 minutes. This record was set during last year’s challenge.

Sitting down with the Philippine team

Moments before the official start of the challenge, we sat down with the Philippine team to share stories. During our brief conversation, we learned that some went on a strict diet in preparation for the challenge. Some of them even trained for the said event, like Juan Furiscal, who conditioned his body through regular exercise. Cebu-based Donn Michael Yap used his CrossFit workouts to prepare for the said event.

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Some participants have also competed in the challenge several times. For the Philippine team, the veteran/experienced participants are 33-year-old Alex Neblasca who participated in the competition for the seventh time and 36-year-old Juan Furiscal who tried his luck for the third time.

We also asked what their respective strategies were in order to outlast everyone. 40-year-old ex-Marine, Francisco Gomez, told us that, “You’re up against yourself when you join the Palm Challenge.” Gomez added that the first five hours of the challenge are the hardest because, “your body and mind are adjusting.”

The competition

The challenge officially kicked off at 1 p.m., last October 31, and the participants were filled with excitement. You can’t help but notice the positive vibes coming from the Filipino participants as they constantly laughed with each other and waived to the camera (with the free hand). It is as if they’re really having a good time.

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From left: Juan Furiscal, Oshwald John Carbonell and Juntie Torres

Ngee Ann City was filled with supporters who were cheering their countrymen. Crowds were always present, even during the wee hours of the morning to dawn, to show support to the participants. With that in mind, Filipinos based in Singapore flocked to the venue and showed their support for their countrymen by shouting “Puso,” “Go Philippines,” “Kaya pa ‘yan,” and “Kuya, kaya mo yan,” among others.

As time went by, the number of eliminated participants started to increase. Due to sleep deprivation, some competitors experienced intense muscle pains and mental fatigue. In other words, body functions start to deteriorate and competitors have difficulty maintaining focus.

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Good thing, there was a five-minute break every six hours to allow participants to eat, drink, stretch, receive basic medical assistance and use the toilet. Some even used it to light a cigarette.

Participants were anxious to relieve themselves during the five-minute break. For Alec Ebuen, the five-minute breaks were as precious as gold.

Despite the five-minute breaks, one Filipino competitor, Marcus Pagcaliwangan, hallucinated during the challenge. According to him, he removed his hand from the vehicle because he thought that his passport was on the palm decal.

In this regard, other Filipino participants told us that having hallucinations due to intense physical and mental fatigue during the challenge is natural. In his three years of joining the challenge, Juan Furiscal shared that he had witnessed a number of participants who hallucinated during the event. He even cited that during the previous years, a competitor removed his hand from the car and started to celebrate because the individual thought that he had already won the challenge.

The last Filipino standing

Four days have passed since the challenge began and the participants dwindled down to 10. One of which was 33-year-old Alex Neblasca who gave his all to raise the Philippine flag. Passed the 70-hour mark, Neblasca was still standing, however he was suffering intense muscle pains. He grimaced and gave his best to endure the pain, but it overcame him and he fell short of the victory.

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Before letting go of the vehicle, Neblasca uttered “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” His wife even talked to him through FaceTime and said that it’s okay to let go. Neblasca exited the challenge with a time of 72 hours and 23 minutes, finishing seventh overall and was awarded the Philippine Winner.

The last man standing was Vietnamese national Nguyen Phuoc Huynh who posted a total time of 77 hours and 58 minutes, outlasting Tan Hong Sheng from Malaysia and Yip Yu Wai from Singapore. Nguyen won an all-new Subaru XV 2.0 i-S.

Neblasca spoke to us after he was eliminated and said that he could really not endure the pain from his lower leg. When asked if he would compete again next year, Neblasca said that this might be his final Subaru Palm Challenge.

In its 14 years, the Philippines has yet to win in the said challenge but, during this year’s competition the 10 Filipino participants have made us proud. Led by Neblasca, the Philippine team gave their best shot to claim the title as they endured intense physical and mental fatigue.

Indeed, the Subaru Palm Challenge is more than just keeping your hand on the vehicle. Rather, it is an endurance competition that challenges and pushes human capabilities to the limit. The challenge also tests the competitor’s willpower, determination and mental focus.

So, how long would you hold on for a brand new Subaru?

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