What a Journey it has Been…
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” — Don Williams, Jr. (American Novelist and Poet, b.1968)
In a couple of weeks, the year 2011 will come to an end and another one will begin. This December, the 14th edition of the Blog Carnival takes a look back at the memorable journeys taken by 34 Pinoy Travel Bloggers. From journeys on land, sea, and air on the way to a specific destination, to trying out various modes of transport, overcoming fears, and learning life lessons while on the road, this compilation pays tribute to the spirit of adventure that courses through the veins of true-blue travelers.
Join us as we focus on the often overlooked journey it takes to get to wherever we’re going.
BUSES AND TRAINS
For most tourists, long haul rides aboard buses and trains are just stretches of time one has to endure or sleep through to get to the next destination. But for travelers, the long rides are a chance to slow down and reflect on the journey, or are the key parts of the adventure itself.
Estan Cabigas of Langyaw recounts several long trips he’s taken – including being on a bus for two days while en route to Ormoc via Bicol. He recounts doing a masochist’s loop through Luzon and Visayas (a journey of 2,600 km and 63 hours total travel time), and taking a trip to the remote islands of Cuyo in Palawan through Negros and Iloilo. In his post “When the journey becomes the destination,” Estan describes how addicting it is to travel the “long and hard way.”
“Never mind if I am having difficulty at times, lugging a backpack, camera and laptop. Of experiencing disappointments, meeting people, enjoying the scenery and food. But most important of all, these long trips afford me to think deeper, to plan or just staring out into the distance as the world just passes by.” Read more.
Marky Ramone Go of Nomadic Experiences revels in the scenery outside the bus window while ““Weaving Through Scenic Sorsogon Countryside.” After taking a day trip from Manila to Naga, then another bus to Legazpi, he finds some quiet time to think as he stares outside the window of an “ordinary” (non-aircon) bus from Legaspi to Sorsogon at the pastoral towns along the way.
“The simple settings of the surroundings give an idea that not everything should be made of grandeur…Folks walking the side of the road carrying sacks of the day’s harvest and kids playing in front of tiny homes. It looks like a hard life from the perspective of someone who has gotten used to the enormous dictates and norms of a big city, but from their own eyes it is the most ideal and respectable way of living.” Read more.
In an earlier post in Travel Up, I shared a recent trip I took with my family when we hopped “All Aboard the Bicol Express.” The trip on the Philippine National Railway (PNR) train that travels to and from Naga in Bicol to Manila rekindled childhood memories of earlier train rides and became a trip down memory lane as we compared how the train had changed over the years.
“There’s something very nostalgic about the rocking motion of the train chugging along noisily on the tracks. I find the rhythmic vibrations of the train’s engine, sounds of metal clanging on metal, and echoes of ‘choo-choo’ of the train’s horn oddly comforting.” Read more.
Ding Fuellos, The Pinoy Explorer shares interesting stops along the only road that connects Banaue, Bontoc and Baguio. He highlights the “4 stops you should not miss in Halsema Highway” – Guerilla Saddle in Benguet, the Philippine Pali, and Sabangan Stop and Mount Polis. Gorgeous landscape photographs are complemented with recollections of his trips and insights on long hauls.
“Long hauls have always been fun for me. As you pass by every town, or take a leak or grab some snack during stopovers, road travels give you a glimpse of a community’s way of life, a wee bit of their culture, tidbits of local information, and most of all enjoy the beautiful scenery you will always remember in your life.” Read more.
Francis Nunez Balgos of Pala-Lagaw humorously describes a long bus ride from Baguio to Sagada, a destination he considers as one of the best and most picturesque places he’s visited. He says the scenery, climate, and experience of the long ride to Sagada on “The Road through the Highest Highways” in the country was an adventure in itself.
“Mind you, there’s no aircon bus to Sagada. One of the passengers I was with brought some “Daing.” Baho Much! 🙂 Imagine smelling it all the way to Mt Province on an ever winding road.” Read more.
Aside from traveling by bus, another option to get to or from Sagada that has been gaining popularity is toploading – the act of riding on a roof of a vehicle. While it poses many risks and has been declared illegal in some areas, more and more travelers are interested to try it out just to experience it “the way locals do” as two of the PTB toploaders shared.
In his account of “Crazy Toploading from Banaue to Bontoc” Edcel Suyo of SoloFlightEd compares how exciting he thought toploading would be based on other people’s accounts and experiencing it first hand in the freezing cold and rain while sitting cramped on metal railings on a jeep navigating slippery roads.
“Toploading is NOT for everyone. This is just an alternative if you want to know how to blend in which is also risky. All the time, I questioned myself “What the heck am I doing here?” and “Whose idea was this in the first place?” I shut my thoughts out when it hit me that I was the one who came up with the ‘cool’ suggestion.” Read more.
Josiah Sicad of Lakas ng Trip also shares his own “Toploading from Bontoc to Banaue” experience aboard a bus going in the opposite route, and gives handy advice to stubborn risk-takers on how to beat the system and experience toploading for themselves. He advises travelers to watch out for electric wires and water tubes while riding the roof.
“When the bus started to move while we were on the topload, we were greeted by the shouts of fellow passengers such as “YUKO!”, “KABLE!” or “OOOOW!” Read more.
Several bloggers shared their adventures aboard motorcycles in different towns around the country. As a motorcycle rider myself, I’m inspired to visit these places, particularly the highway to Ilocos Sur.
Edmar Gu-Quibb of Edmaration writes about traversing the Tagudin-Cervantes-Sabangan Road, which connects Ilocos Sur to Benguet and Mountain Province, via scooter. In “Reaching Ilocos’ Last Frontier via Scooter” Ed admires the view with mixed emotions – the feeling of achievement of crossing the highest point of any highway system in Ilocos Region while trying to get home in one piece.
“You don’t know what will happen to you next because you’re the only one riding in that empty road, no traffic at all, no houses, no people, just you and the trees, the fog that covers your way and the mysterious sounds of nature that you don’t even know where it is coming from.” Read more.
RV Escatron of Looney Planet reminisces about “A Lost Photograph and Early Travels with Father” while riding aboard his father’s 1977 Yamaha as a child. RV vividly describes the joy of going along on sunset rides through a bumpy 78-kilometer drive on the national highway that cut into the interior of his hometown island .
“The sound of the crank shaft was my hint. Any sound of it made my soul jump out of my body and in a jiffy, I was already an arm’s reach near the motorcycle.” Read more.
Jeffrey Rilles of the Traveling Morion shares a photo gallery of the “Habal-Habal” (also known as a “Skylab”) a motorcycle modified to seat more than two persons. He says it’s a common mode of transportation in Cebu especially in mountainous barangays, where roads are not accessible to 4-wheeled vehicles. Jeffrey, shares his amazement at seeing how the drivers maintain their balance despite the difficult terrain.
“I was amazed how the driver managed to balance the passengers seated on both sides (left and right extension wood) plus the additional weight of the other one at his back.” Read more.
Mhe-anne Ojeda of My Comings and Goings writes about how she took a break from her usual chauffeured business trips and roughed it up in Davao by trying different modes of public transport- including a tricycle, bus, jeepney and motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle became a “Journey to Gutsiness” for Mhe-anne, as she had to overcome her phobia of riding two-wheeled vehicles.
“Motorcyles are the cheapest, fastest and most common transport in Cateel, the only option if we want to see the enchanting Aliwagwag Falls located about 45 minutes on rough road from Poblacion. I hesitated big time! But getting the boost and the cheers from friendly Cateelenos, I pushed myself, and had the ultimate heart-pumping thrills of my life – on a motorcycle…” Read more.
In “Motorcycle Diaries: Tagbilaran and Beyond,” Rain Amantiad recounts a journey she took with two friends – Tey, a kindred wayfarer and Jopet, who was used to the “touristy” way of traveling. This journey was a turning point for Rain, because of the presence of “one boy who turned his back from a very sheltered upbringing” to travel with her the “poor-girl-mad-writer way.” Getting lost while driving up to the hills of Baclayon on her friend’s Honda XRM was one of the many memorable moments.
“After a few turns in a limestone-paved road, every thing started to look the same. At that point, Tey kept glancing at the gas meter, calculating how much more we could spare before we find the right turn. When we realized that we could no longer waste any more gas, we stopped.” Read more.
ON THE ROAD
Several bloggers compiled lists of the various modes of transport they’ve tried over the years. Others shared travel tips on the best way to get around or gave updates on the current trips they were taking.
In “The Bucket List: Happy, Funny and Awesome Misadventures on the Road,” Jerome Baluyot of Balintataw reflects on his memorable misadventures – biking in Batanes, climbing Mt. Pulag for the first time, and white water rafting.
“Sometimes when you’re on the road mishaps and misadventures happened unexpectedly. But some of my misadventures that I encountered during my travels are not all harmful, most of them even made the trip more memorable, something you would talk about with friends and family back home.” Read more.
Arzeriel Hernaez Garcera of Pinas Backpackers shares tips on how travelers can get to various destinations using different modes of transport. In his post, “How to Get there,” he lists his adventures aboard motorcycles, dump trucks (for mountaineering trips), buses, small boats, private vans, and mountain bikes, among others.
“If I don’t have the budget I just grabbed my mountain bike and pedaled to any destination to where my mind and heart desires without having the worries of how much I will spend on the transportation itself. With mountain biking I have discovered some places which I have never gone through even in my hometown – General Santos City.” Read more.
Karlo de Leon of the 4AM Chronicles enumerates his “7 Must Have Travel Experiences” that would make the journey part of travel interesting – including solo trips, trekking in the rain, hitch hiking and media tours. He gives tips on how to best experience these in the country.
“A note of caution though – do all these at your own risk. When the rush is higher, the risk is greater. But there’s a way to keep things safe still so don’t do things mindlessly. It takes a little preparation and gut feel.” Read more.
Meanwhile, Lilliane Cobiao, the Wanderlass, takes time from her busy round-the-world trip to give an update on what she’s been doing and where she plans to go next in her post “Europe. It’s a Wrap.” She shares the mixed feelings of that leg of the journey coming to an end while looking forward to the rest of the trip.
“Mixed emotions clouded me the last couple of weeks. It was a combination of sadness because I felt quite at home and not ready to leave Europe; Panic because I felt I’m running out of time; Stress because I can’t decide on my next step; and generally confused because of all of the above.” Read more.
GO WITH THE FLOW
Aleah, the Solitary Wanderer shares how she likes to go with the flow when she travels instead of sticking to a strict itinerary. In her post reflecting on “The Essence of Traveling” Aleah says it’s the treasured memories of the people she met along the way and how she got there that is the essence of travel– NOT “jumpshots in front of famous landmarks.”
“I may not be able to remember how many temples in the Angkor Archaelogical Complex I had visited, but I do remember the kids who sold me souvenir items, especially the girl who had exchanged her Mickey Mouse dangling earrings with mine. Those are memories I treasure, not the sites itself.” Read more.
“Sometimes its not what you have that matters, its what you do with it.” Read more.
Flipnomad recalls the moment he nearly died on a bus ride from Xiangcheng to Kanding when the bus he was on going up the mountain slopes nearly collided with a truck. In his post “The Day I Thought I’m Going to Die,” Flip recalls the moment when the bus and truck driver tried to steer away fast and he thought they would both fall off the cliff.
“I closed my eyes… and I told myself… ‘It might hurt a bit and then it will be over, don’t worry.’ I felt peaceful after I gave up holding on to my dear life. I felt that life and death were embracing each other, looking me straight in the eye.” Read more.
AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH
A few brave travelers shared the great lengths they go to in their quest for adventure. From hiking through rough terrain to get a perfect photo, to climbing to the summit of a mountain, all the difficulties were made worthwhile when they finally achieved their goal.
Audrey Gladys Tamayo of Byaheng Barok shares how her love of landscape photography has redefined how she travels. From being picky with accommodations and favoring private transport and tours in the past, she has gone to great lengths “In the Pursuit of Life, In the Pursuit of Happyness” to get the perfect shot.
“I have experienced travelling out-of-town and back to Manila all in one day, trekking through a boulder beach at 4am, traversing through a foresty area, wading through waist-deep rivers, walking through sea grasses and sea weeds near the shore, dipping in a thigh-high murky lake, falling down from a high and unstable dead coral, enduring sucking leeches, sleeping by the river banks with no camping tents, and giving up sleeping for 24 hours. Need I say more?” Read more.
In “Don’t Tell my Mom How I got to Mt. Pulag”, Mich Borlagdan of Chasing Philippines recounts the challenges she faced on the way up to Luzon’s highest peak. For Mich, it was the misadventures — like toploading, hiking with a heavy backpack (against her doctor’s advice), traveling with a bunch of strangers (who eventually became friends) and secretly riding in a 14-wheeler truck of fruits and veggies to Baguio — that made the trip memorable.
“Don’t expect that it’s air conditioned. There are also no comfortable reclining lazy boy chairs inside. Everything is made of cold steel. But good news, you can get some carton boxes and give these cartons their once-in-a-lifetime-chance to be sleeping bags.” Read more.
Brenna Bustamante of the Philippine Travelogue writes about her first solo climb in “A Belated Birthday Climb at Mt. Tagapo.” After being stood up by her friend, she pushed through with the trip on her own, hooked up with a group of mountaineers, and made her way to the top of the mountain in Rizal. She recounts how the journey to the summit gave her the strength to believe in herself.
“We made a few pauses but the longest we made was in a steep clearing that opened into a cliff. The view was already amazing. I could see the lake from there. It was beautiful. Every time I would be this close to giving up, all I had to do was look back and see what I had climbed and I was ready to climb even higher.” Read more.
Graciel Cecilio of Pinay on The Move shares one of the most pivotal moments of her life when she was finally able to climb Mt. Fuji in Japan and cross it off her bucket list. She says it was there, on top of the 12,389 foot stratovolcano that she learned “5 life lessons from Climbing Mt. Fuji.”
“Life Lesson #1 – don’t be afraid to dream big! I am amazed at how most people just stop at “it will do”. Every time you feel like you want to settle for mediocre or the status quo give yourself a big kick in the gut! Go for what you really want. Know that you deserve the best! Big dreams mixed with passion = magic.” Read more.
TRAVEL BY SEA
In “Memorable Journey – the past and the present” Chin Chan of Juanderful Pinoy writes about conquering his fear of the ocean during a boat ride to Zambales. Getting stuck in the middle of the ocean in a small fishing boat was a challenge for him, but at the same time he was able to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings.
“I knew it’s going to be a long and bumpy boat ride. I was nervous about it too. I felt sick in so many ways. I felt like I was riding on a roller coaster which I did not appreciate. No matter how positive I was, my brain tortured me. I felt like I was an idiot struggling to find all my senses.” Read more.
In “Basilan – Enroute to Isabela City,” Pinoy Adventurista shares how he pushed through with a trip to Basilan a week right after a bomb exploded in its capital city Isabela. From the Zamboanga City Passenger Terminal, he boarded a ferry going to Basilan, hesitant at the security situation, yet eager to pursue his goal of setting foot in the largest and northernmost of the major islands of the Sulu Archipelago.
“The security at the port is tight, military and police visibility is very evident. After I have boarded, it still took us about 30 minutes before we were able to sail.” Read more.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
From long road trips and crazy adventures on land and sea, several bloggers shared their experiences aboard airplanes, memorable flights, and the view from the top.
Ever since he first rode a plane to Tagbilaran from Manila at the age of ten to visit his grandfather’s hometown, The Lost Boy Lloyd has kindled a love for flying. He says that this love for airplane travel is the driving force for his wanderlust, and will continue to be his “Fuel to Travel.”
“I see flying as an awe-inspiring experience, especially when I think about the fact that mere hours earlier I’m stuck in Manila’s traffic then later I’m enjoying a different place with people speaking a different dialect.” Read more.
In contrast, Robx Bautista of The Traveling Dork shares how his “Fear of flying” has tortured him on every flight he’s been on. After 23 years of never stepping inside an airplane, Robx finally got to experience being thousands of feet above the ground during a flight to Ozamiz, Mindanao.
“When the plane started moving, I began fidgeting. I couldn’t even make fun of the situation because my friend was on the opposite end of the row. So I just balled up into a fetal position (the most fetal I could get since I had seatbelts on) and stayed like that for 2 hours.” Read more.
In “”Chronicle of My First Flight Experience,” Ivan Brinas Cultura, ang Batang Lakwatsero writes an account of his first experience of flying. He also shares useful travel tips like cheap ways to get to the airport and where to eat and sleep at the terminal. He spent a whole night at Mall of Asia to make sure he would get to the airport for the early flight.
“Ten hours prior to the scheduled flight, I was already on my way to Mall of Asia, with me is my 5kg backpack, 2kg snorkeling equipment (yup, tinimbang ko talaga muna bago ako umalis ng bahay), a body bag that contains all my very important travel stuff like camera, ID and cash, and of course my beloved wide-brimmed straw hat.” Read more.
In his post “Of Delayed Services,” Renz Bulesco, The Traveling Nomad shares how an eight-hour delayed flight made him realize that not all things will run as smoothly as you expected at the start of the trip.
“One can’t really determine if the flight he’s taking will depart and arrive on time or not. The most important thing to do about planning a trip is to have some alternatives. At least, when a delay strikes, one can opt to pursue his alternative plan/s and can still enjoy his trip.” Read more.
Edelito Sango of Island Vacations shares how his first trip to Europe became his “Most Unforgettable Experience” traveling abroad. He almost got left behind at the airport terminal while in transit from Qatar to Madrid. After falling asleep at the Doha terminal, he was jolted awake by an announcement over the loudspeaker declaring that the flight to Madrid was already boarding and his companions nowhere in sight.
“I ran at full speed downstairs towards the boarding area where I caught the last trip of the bus that ferried the Madrid-bound passengers en route for the waiting Qatar Airways Flight QR 69 at the tarmac…” Read more.
In “What you see 30,000 ft above the ground,” Journeying James recounts an airplane ride after a month-long journey to the Visayas and Ilocos Region where he encountered a tragic accident. For James it was an opportunity to reflect, slow down, and enjoy the moment looking at the clouds outside the plane window.
“I have made a lot of flights but the view from above never fails to amaze me. It was as if a master-painter always shows his obra maestro for everyone to see.” Read more.
In “Bhutan: Flying Into the Land of the Thunder Dragon,” Life is a Celebration shares the stunning view during their approach to Bhutan, a little Kingdom that lies in the Eastern Himalayas above India and near Tibet. The photos from above serve as a glimpse of her upscoming Bhutan series.
“From my window seat, I saw how rugged the landscape is. Those lines down below must be the roads zigzagging around mountains. From a distance, I see snow-capped mountains in different hues of blue, even near-green, capped by the white snow shining under the glare of the sun.” Read more.
In “Homeward Bound from Manila to Cagayan de Oro City,” Bonzenti Panganiban of Con Tour Blog shares a chance encounter with two nuns he met at the airport on his way home and the thought of his long journey coming to an end.
“I then heard a beautiful and soft voice of a lady announcing our flight bound for Cagayan de Oro. (say it with a soft voice, but modulated)–“Flight No. 143 bound for Cagayan de Oro is now ready for boarding”. I can’t recall anymore what was the exact phrase, especially the flight number, but all I know that I am homeward bound.” Read more.
Lastly, instead of looking back at journeys past, Eileen Campos of Possibly Pinay looks ahead to travel plans in 2012 – with flights already booked to Bohol, Coron, Boracay, Singapore, General Santos and Kota Kinabalu, among others. In her post “The 365-Day Trip that will be 2012,” she challenges herself with the number of trips to new destinations while revisiting old favorites. For Eileen, 2012 offers something bigger and better.
“By August, I’ll be doing one of my biggest trips of the year – an 8-day, 5-island luxury-and-budget trip around the perimeter of Cebu from Malapascua, Bantayan, Camotes, Moalboal and Sumilon Islands.” Read more.
For the 34 travel bloggers who shared their stories, the year 2011 has indeed been a great year for travel, but it’s only a taste of what’s to come. As Eileen says at the end of her post — “Watch out world, watch out 2012 – we’re coming. Screw you, ancient Mayans – this is my year.”
Here’s to hoping for the best for travelers in the coming year! Merry Christmas and Happy New Travels to everyone in 2012!