Our infatuation for exploring places began almost a decade ago, back when I could scroll through my Facebook feed for five whole minutes without coming across a photo, video or article that echoes #wanderlust. Our real love affair with it however, blossomed in a different era and we’re fortunate enough to claim that we’ve somehow made a living out of it.
Our brain baby, Bookie PH was born almost five years ago when we set out to make every 20-, 30- and even 40-something’s dreams of trotting the globe happen. We were eager to bring people around the country, with the goal of expanding to the rest of Asia, and eventually, the world. Somewhere along the way, we entirely eliminated the prospect of flying people outside the country and began advocating exploration within our sitting-dog-shaped archipelago that is the Philippines.
I vividly remember visiting Batanes for the first time in 2014 and being marveled by it, dumbfounded that this place was here in my country all along. I then wondered how many more Bataneses were out there. It was at that point when I knew I was on a mission to see more of the Philippines and, ultimately, be positively mimicked by my peers. The dream then became to make local travel happen for everyone.
Since then, let’s just say my passport has been experiencing a drought and my skin tone has maintained a certain shade of brown.
We have 7,641 discovered islands as of writing.
And I’m positive I haven’t even seen 5% of it. There’s a heap of options to choose from and it’s almost daunting to imagine why most people tend to look further. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no hardcore patriot who is anti-anything-foreign. I still take interest in exploring other countries every once in a while. But through time, our priorities have slowly evolved to putting the Philippines first. Case in point: Last year, I traveled once internationally and got to explore 13 places within the country.
For as long as I haven’t seen all 7,000-plus islands, I won’t be taking them off of my priority list. Even if I do end up ticking those off, there will still be a myriad of reasons to keep revisiting them. Besides, it doesn’t take a lot to go around the Philippines.
It’s so easy to travel locally.
It’s cheaper, low-maintenance and doesn’t entail as much effort in planning. Going around the country requires neither a passport nor a visa. We all get to skip processing queues, the agony of facing a consul assessing our monthly take-homes and family ties, and having to rummage through our old cabinets to find our birth certificates.
On top of that, in many instances, flying isn’t required when traveling locally. I find that the available modes of transportation in exploring the country comprise a good fraction of the entire experience. Long road trips make room for LOL moments, heart-to-heart convos, and my personal favorite–car-aokes. Boat rides, on the other hand, hone budding friendships from trying to converse with someone you just met in a volume loud enough to overpower the motor. Imagine all that pleasant awkwardness while sighting some majorly scenic views.
Our country is naturally beautiful.
It seems like when the gods of nature cloaked the earth, they concentrated their splendor on us. If you just go out there, you’ll realize that we are akin to a catalogue of the most beautiful beaches, as several international publications have shown, year after year. We don’t need the ingenuity of a seasoned designer to populate our place with stunning architecture. Our islands, in their respective raw forms, are striking visions in themselves.
We are comprised of diverse cultures.
The fact that we have 187 languages within our 81 provinces is mind-blowing. Foreigners I get to meet outside Manila can’t believe I do not understand what our trusted boatman is saying. And that’s just one aspect of it.
Each province’s customs, language, and food are so varied that some of them seem alien to everything I’ve come to know and familiarize myself with. This always paves way for rich encounters, where I am happily forced to situate myself outside my comfort zone and immerse myself in the unfamiliar.
Every trip turns into a journey of learning–whether it is about the honesty of the people of Tablas, the origins of the Kankanaey and Ilocano languages and their similarities, and even the unique version of adobo in different provinces. It’s refreshing to realize that we are all very different yet every nook has evolved into a solidified unit.
We support local communities when we travel.
There’s a tendency to overlook this, but among the more valuable parts of traveling the country is bolstering local economies and, ultimately, sustaining smaller communities.
There was a time when I preferred to do away with hiring guides as it cost more and it was a tad bit touristy. What’s real #wanderlust without getting lost anyway? Through time though, I learned that whenever I go island hopping, not only do I learn so much from our guides; I also support their livelihood. Besides, the kind of service and hospitality they extend is laudable. They’re helpful, informative, witty with their jokes, skilled with their photo tricks, and most admirable of all, proud of their homeland. The last one never fails to shine through–so much so that it has become second nature for me to imbibe their general disposition.
It goes without saying that I love and embrace my own.
I have been reminded time and time again by foreigners of how lucky we are that paradise is just an hour’s flight, or in some instances, a drive away from where I live. I couldn’t agree more and beam in delight when I am told this because there’s really nothing to deny there. I proudly claim that I do live in a rich, colorful tropical paradise.
The Philippines has always been and will always be home. And I can’t wait to explore the rest of our backyard.
Preview.ph’s guest editor for the month of March is the Bookie PH team. Comprised of Dijo Songco and Monica Copuyoc, these frequent nomads run a travel website whose goal is to make all your local travels happen. If you’re interested in seeing our country's unreal natural beauty, head over to their website to create your summer adventure.