Last year, I made a wrap-up of my trips on 2015. At the end of the entry, I wrote how 2015 would be such a hard year to beat. Little did I know that 2016 would be something else. I have to be honest, by the end of 2016, my frustrations got me thinking, “What have I done with my life? Where am I taking my life?” They say one has to look back to history for one to figure out the future. Here I am, taking into account the highlights of the year that passed in the hopes of helping myself plot my goals for 2017 (yeah, right). Without further ado, Footprints 2016.
January: Cebu, Philippines
Out of all the cities I have been to so far, Cebu would have to be my favourite because it has everything – beaches, mountains, shopping malls, and one of the biggest festivals in the country. Every January, Sinulog Festival is celebrated in Cebu. My friends and I went on our first trip outside Region 8 to the Queen City of the South. During the festival season, there are colourful parades, patron masses, and what many from my generation enjoy – street parties.
After the festival, we went to Oslob to swim with the famous whale sharks. We also spent a few hours in Sumilon Island. I was totally surprised that I wasn’t hungover from partying the day before our beach trip.
March: Kalanggaman Island, Palompon, Leyte and Ulot River, Paranas, Samar, Philippines
It seems that I go to this island more often than I should. On a more serious note, Kalanggaman has always been a favourite. I took the trip with my high school homies. If you have no idea where Kalanggaman is, check out my travel guide because you are seriously missing out!
This year, my Japanese foster sister, Aya, went to visit us again after three years. We took her to Ulot River for a fun boat ride and river adventure. It was only a short day trip so I didn’t write about it until now.
April: Hernani, Eastern Samar, Cuatro Islas, Inopacan, Leyte, and Bohol, Philippines
I took a leap of faith on this trip. Eastern Samar is my home province but I’ve never actually been to Hernani (I only pass by it on my way to my hometown). I joined my first Gawad Kalinga Bayani Challenge. I went to the venue by myself, aboard an open truck and travelled for three hours from Tacloban City. I met new people, the kind of people who are genuine and who truly want to help the community. Read more about the Bayani Challenge here.
On Holy Weekend, my family and I took a trip to a booming beach destination in our region – Cuatro Islas. From the name itself, there are four islands that you can hop to. You can also choose to camp in any of those islands but only one has some facilities. I love how the islands remain untouched. Just look at the white sand!
By the end of April, I went on a trip to Bohol. It was my third time there but I got to visit a few places for the first time like the Mahogany forest, Panglao, and many others. Read my travel diary in Bohol.
July: Tagaytay and Dulag, Leyte, Philippines
My trip to Tagaytay wasn’t really for leisure and I did not get to see any sights as I was there for a ten-day training. I’ll explain more about it when we get to the juicy part at the end of the year.
I never knew that Leyte had a few surf spots. Heck I didn’t even know I could surf. I learned from a friend that there’s a surf camp just an hour away from Tacloban City. With my guitar and backpack in tow, I headed to the camp and met my friends. We stayed overnight and I learned how to surf for the first time! It was a really memorable experience. Read more about it here and watch my travel video here.
August: Manila, Lake Caliraya, Laguna, and Baguio City, Philippines
I was selected to be one of the eight facilitators for the annual ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme (AYVP). It was Philippines’ first time to host the program. 50 youth volunteers from all over ASEAN gathered for a month to learn more about disaster risk management and immerse in local communities. I really had a great experience during the program; I learned many new things about disaster risk management, about ASEAN as a whole, and best of all, I made good friends and expanded my network in the industry.
During my stay in Manila, I was invited by our editor for TripZilla, Charm, to accompany her to Eco Saddle in Lake Caliraya. I had another YOLO moment as I commuted to get there – alone; and I’m not even from Luzon! Haha! It took me around five hours to get to my destination but it was so worth it. We were there to feature Eco Saddle on TripZilla. Our host, Tine and her dad, were extremely accommodating. Here are 10 fun and exciting things to do in Eco Saddle.
AYVP ended on my birthday last August 26. The next day, I hopped on a bus to have yet another YOLO trip to the land of heartaches, the place where, as others would say, people go if they have had their hearts broken. I visited really local places like art galleries, coffee shops, bars and pubs, Camp John Hay, and many more thanks to my friends from the Cordilleras who happily volunteered to be my tour guides. It was a very personal trip and I didn’t really want to write about it until now.
October: Manila, Philippines, Tokyo and Mie Prefecture, Japan
The highlight of 2016 would definitely be my participation in the 43rd Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP) as a Philippine Youth Ambassador of Goodwill (chos!). 28 youth leaders plus one National Leader were selected to represent the Philippines for this 52-day program. Prior to the program, we had a ten-day Pre-Departure Training in Tagaytay then we spent about a month in Manila for our Pre-Departure Activities.
After my AYVP stint, I went home to Tacloban for only about two weeks then headed back to the busy concrete jungle called Manila. The whole month was dedicated for practices, lectures, courtesy calls to embassies, and bonding sessions with my Dilaab (batch name) loves. It was a bit stressful since we had to prepare ourselves for the actual program. On October 24, we flew to Japan to officially kick-off the program.
Okay so if I were to describe my trip to Japan in three words, they would be: toilet, kimono, cool. Toilet. Wow, Japanese toilets are pleasantly complicated! Haha! Seriously, there were so many buttons to choose from, the toilets even made sounds to cover up for pooping, and the toilet seats would automatically warm up. TMI? Okay. Kimono. I got to wear a traditional Japanese kimono and flaunted it for two hours around Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture. Cool. Some days, it got a bit too cold but I really loved the autumn weather. More about my experiences in Japan.
November: Japan, Vietnam and Thailand
Over 300 participating youth went on board MS Nippon Maru, one of Japan’s famous cruise ships. The cruise started in November as we set sail for Ho Chi Minh City.
I never knew I would get to visit Vietnam. It wasn’t on my bucket list until I got to taste Vietnamese coffee! Oh my God, I did not know I could love coffee this much! Haha! Seriously, coffee in Vietnam has got to be best I’ve tasted yet, not to mention it’s really cheap! I didn’t buy souvenirs but I bought lots of coffee because why not? Shoutout to my buddy Susan, our host family and the local youth in Ho Chi Minh! Here’s my travel diary in Vietnam.
I had such an awe-inspiring stay in Thailand with my host family. My buddy, Riku, and I were taken to Ayutthaya, we got to taste the famous Tom Yum and Pad Thai, and best of all – we went shopping at the weekend market! I wrote about SSEAYP in Thailand, check out the article if you’re curious about it. The photos won’t disappoint.
December: Singapore and Indonesia
We sailed for Singapore after Thailand. It’s my third time to go to the Red Dot and although I’ve seen the spots over and again, my SSEAYP experience in Singapore was different. My buddy, Noiy, and I were hosted by Mary, who, like me, is also a writer but she writes about finance. Her home is a goldmine for Chinese antiques and I learned a lot about Singaporean culture from her. Here’s my Singapore travel diary.
The last leg of our cruise was in Jakarta, Indonesia. Around this time, I was already 5 kilograms heavier no thanks to the buffet meals onboard and the delicious local cuisines that we’ve tried in every country. Jakarta was no exception. My homestay buddy, Beuu, and I enjoyed the Martabak. I raved about it on my travel diary. Moreover, with our homestay family, we went to the popular theme park in Jakarta and we also visited Taman Mini, a park which is a miniature of Indonesia. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to take lovely photos of the traditional buildings.
I have two words to describe 2016 – roller coaster! I’ve had downs, ups, and more downs. I met some of the most amazing people. I learned so many things. I’ve read so many Paulo Coelho books, more than I should have. I’ve rekindled my love for music, arts, and photography. I became more philosophical than ever. Ultimately, I rediscovered myself. 2016 was something else. As I now say goodbye to the year that passed, I’m opening myself for new opportunities, new beginnings and chapters, new people, new experiences, new passion, new everything! As I’ve said in my open letter, 2017 is my gap year. With everything I’ve been through for the last twelve months, I can say that I’m ready to take on whatever is about to come my way this year.
I’m so excited to go around my beloved country this year. Hopefully, I’d get to write more interesting things for my Footprints 2017. Here’s to the wanderlusts and adventure-seekers! May this year be our year! Ciao for now!