I have been lucky to travel around The Philippines first before I embarked on an overseas career. This gave me the chance to confirm what everyone has been saying about the Philippines.
That it is a beautiful country rich in natural resources and home to citizens whose hospitality is oftentimes considered to be a fault. I’ve practically toured the whole island of Luzon, from Aparri in the North, down to Mindoro and Bicol in the South. In the Visayas, I’ve visited Cebu, Leyte, Iloilo and Bacolod. In Mindanao, I’ve scoured the cities of Davao, Cotabato, Cagayan de Oro, and General Santos, and have been to Marawi and Butuan. I believe those are good samples of the best of my country’s 7,100 islands.
Not everything was fun and happy, though. In some of my travels, I’ve encountered dangers, felt rage, loneliness, and embarrassments. But looking back, they have all been part of the whole adventure, and have added strong hues to this colorful multi-dimensional prism of experiences. On my first trip to South Cotabato, I remember praying for my dear life when our 50-seater Fokker airplane experienced an engine trouble right in the middle of a typhoon. Imagine how horrified I was when during the strong air turbulence, the flight attendants started to distribute life vests to everyone in anticipation of a water landing. When I saw their nervous faces, I immediately felt that surprising tedium of a nightmare. It was a moment of helplessness and resignation and I sat there in terror and totally surrendered my fate to God.
In Marawi City, where I gave lectures on video production at the Mindanao State University, my legs literally wobbled in frozen fright when we drove through a Muslim rebel-infested area, where minutes earlier, a military encounter transpired. I also experienced dealing and negotiating with the notorious syndicated fixers in Manila’s domestic airport, just to be able to get a seat for a flight to Butuan. I was double-crossed when I found out that the flight was cancelled long after I paid the grease money for my ticket, and the bad guys just disappeared instantly.
I’ve wined and dined in some of the best hotels, but have also eaten uncooked root crops and salt with farmers inside a shanty made of cardboard boxes. I have taken luxurious baths in Jacuzzis full of herbs, aromatic oils, and flowers and had also survived being in a remote island for three days with practically no toilets and beds. In Cebu, I was once given a red carpet treatment and on a writing assignment which got me face to face with the world famous seaweed Taipan, Benson U. Dakay. Weeks after that, I found myself riding a carabao in the rocky mountains of Bukidnon to interview peasants for a story I was doing on barriers to rural entrepreneurship. I relished all the perks of my travels, but have also learned to endure and live with its intrinsic inconveniences and discomforts.