Real People: Gea Pino

Gea is so passionate about travel (and so eloquent about the experience AND so resourceful with funding…you’ll see what I mean later!) that it’s hard to imagine a time when she wasn’t always going off to one place or another. And yet there was a time when — like so many of us — she was always saying, “I don’t have the money; I’ll travel when I’m rich.” Read on to find out what changed her mind.

RealPeople_Gea_01NAME
Florie Gil (Gea) Pino
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OCCUPATION
I am a chemical engineer by profession but currently working as a Manufacturing Specialist and as a Pollution Control Officer of San Miguel Foods Inc.
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HOW DO YOU FUND YOUR TRAVELS?
Honestly, I don’t have a travel fund per se. I do save up if ever I travel. And those savings are backed up by loans. SSS loans go to travel expenses. And sometimes it’s fly-now-pay-later as part of the travel expenses are taken care of by the reliable plastic cards.

Most of the time, even if the tickets are bought way in advance, my travels are based on whatever is available during the airline’s seat sale. I do have places in mind that I want to go to before the airlines offer seat sales.

For someone who is like me — who feels “sick” for not having traveled even locally for two months in a row — and would like to set up a travel fund, have someone keep the money for you. For instance, open a joint bank account with a friend who, like you, would want to have that travel fund. And think of that money as something not really yours, so when the time comes that you need it for a great adventure, you have the finances to back you up.
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WHERE WAS YOUR MOST RECENT TRAVEL?
Surigao del Sur
Tip: Traveling in a group will be a lot more economical than traveling alone in this area. Going from one place to another will take a lot of time. So either you go by habal2x which is faster than taking a public bus or you rent a van. Habal2x fare is per motorcycle, so it’s better to have someone to share it with or you pay the full fare all by yourself.
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WHERE ARE YOU GOING NEXT?
By next week I will be flying out to the capital. From there, I will travel by land to Zambales to surf. (Note: Because of my publishing schedule, this actually already happened!) But for next year, I have booked myself a ticket to Myanmar among others. And hopefully (God willing), on the later part of next year, to Europe.
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WHAT ARE THE PLACES AT THE TOP OF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?
EUROPE. No explanation needed.

RealPeople_Gea_02
FAVORITES
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DESTINATION
Singapore has always been my favourite — I’m not sure why! Probably because it was the first country I had been to outside the Philippines. And whenever I’m there, I always feel at home even though I’m just crashing in some friend’s home. You can never get lost in Singapore. Their railway system is the best in my opinion. And the peppered crabs are just so mouth watering. Yes, I know, they’re known for their chilli crabs but the hawker station in Ang Mo Kio offered that peppered crabs were the best — well, except maybe for those chilli crabs that my friend made for my last dinner at their home last year.
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STAY
By far, my favourite hostel would have to be the Explorers guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur. It’s clean and cheap and offers overflowing coffee anytime of the day and free bread and spreads for breakfast. It’s a few blocks away from Pasar Seni station.
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FOOD
Somewhere in Kuala Lumpur, just across the H&M store, we chanced upon a Mediterranean restaurant. Aside from it being delish, it was friendly on the budget. For someone who could live on Skyflakes just to save up during travels, that’s telling a lot! And the noodles in Blue Sky Hotel in the Old Quarters in Hanoi was really good for 25,000 kip worth. I chose it because it was one of the cheapest on the list (and I really need something other than Skyflakes to eat) and good thing it was far from being a disappointment! That was the best buy.

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TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
Travel style or philosophy? I’m not sure. I guess it would depend on what you really like to do — like I always see to it to experience or see what the place is known for or whatever interests me for the time being. But I do admit that food is last on the list, probably because eating is really a necessity so I don’t dwell that much on food. Basically, I just want to see the beauty this world has. Call it sightseeing or whatever, but the sights and wonders of a place is a testament to how beautifully artistic our loving Creator is. Whether it be a place or the people, whenever I see something good I always say “Lord, you are sooo good! You are beyond awesome!” and to be able to see what He has created and to not just see it but experience it, it humbles me that He allowed it to happen and my heart is just full of thankfulness.

Traveling? Dream it and make it happen. Don’t wait for it to happen — make it happen! One convo with the owner of the plant I worked with jumpstarted my travel. He asked me why I haven’t been traveling when he could hear in my voice how much I’d love to travel. My answer was always: I don’t have the money, I’ll travel when I’m rich. Then he said: you don’t need to be rich to travel. You just have to make it a priority. You buy bags, shoes, and other stuff you don’t really need — why not buy yourself a plane ticket? And I was, like, yeah, why not? It was one of the best advice I ever got.

Reading blogs has its advantages and disadvantages. It can trim down what you want to see and what you want to do from your own personal researches. From those blogs, you’ll know how to go to places that are cheaper, safer and more enjoyable. You can estimate the time and money that you need. But it can be disadvantageous as well. It can make your itchy restless feet itch and become restless even more. Your wanderlust will become even more insatiable as your bucketlist becomes even longer, even with the ticking off of places that once were on the list.

And I just realized now: the more I travel to other countries, the more I love the Philippines, the more I appreciate what we have. It’s hard not to compare places, it’s hard not to compare another country with your country. Right now, I’m mentally comparing Phi Phi islands with El Nido and Coron. Haha. But the Philippines will always be the winner for me.

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Real People: Gea Pino” was created by FGP and LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Real People: Francis Tenefrancia

When I was fiddling with my Real People publishing schedule — trying to put people in categories (mostly by how/where I met them) so I could spread them out and create a balanced order — I wasn’t quite sure where to put Franc. High school? Healthcare? Advertising? Writing? Mike’s Minions? Mike’s Minions Again? Mike’s Minions No More? Needless to say, Franc and I have had a lot in common and that includes travel. He’s one of the most creative people I know — his creativity even extends to how he schedules his travels in relation to payday — and his ending statement is virtually a call to action: to travel, yes, but also to Google a certain exotic food. Read for yourself!

Franc_00NAME
Francis Tenefrancia
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OCCUPATION
Copywriter
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HOW DO YOU FUND YOUR TRAVELS?
Funding my travels is a little tricky as I make just enough to get by without the “extravagance” of travel. I rely on the power of the credit card to book a flight months in advance, giving me time to save up as much as I can for my trip. I also try to schedule my trips after a pay day in case I fail to save up enough cash (which happens most of the time).
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WHERE WAS YOUR MOST RECENT TRAVEL?
Benguet. I went trekking to Mount Pulag with my friends. If you’re planning to go there, be prepared for an extensive hike and bundle up for an extremely cold night.
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WHERE ARE YOU GOING NEXT?
I wish I could say Paris but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I would like to go to Hanoi next year though.
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WHAT ARE THE PLACES AT THE TOP OF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?

  • New York
  • Paris
  • Tuscany
  • London
  • Beijing
  • Kyoto

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FAVORITES
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DESTINATION
I love the Philippines, but I’ve always wanted to experience different cultures. I love seeing how different and how similar people from different places can be. So if I had to choose a favorite, I guess it would have to be the only other country I’ve ever been to — Thailand.
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STAY
Kermit Surf & Dive EcoCamp in Siargao. They have the friendliest staff, including a very accomodating resort manager. They also serve a very hearty breakfast, which is always a plus for me.
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FOOD
Puerto Princesa’s KaLui will always be one of my favorites. Good food, great ambience.
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TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
I try to be more of an explorer and less of a tourist when I travel. I say yes to new experiences, try new things, and taste food I normally wouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t even mind exploring a city on my own.
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MESSAGE TO ASPIRING TRAVELERS
Travel not to see the world but to experience it. There’s plenty of pictures on the internet to see, but there’s no way of knowing what a tamilok tastes like unless you try it yourself.

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Real People: Francis Tenefrancia” was created by FT and LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

Real People: TGnewyorker

TG was one of the very first people to encourage me to keep travel writing — I will always remember and appreciate that! We were in grade school together, so she’s also the first person, among those in this Real People series, that I ever met! TG is probably 10x as traveled as I am — in fact, she’s currently in her answer to “Where are you going next?” But more than the stamps on her passport, what I greatly admire is how she always puts her family first. She doesn’t travel to flee from home but to enrich it. And her travel tips are for everyone. Don’t live beyond your means; make sure your needs are paid first; travel light — whether you’re going to Bantayan or Barcelona, local or international, that’s travel advice you can always take to heart.

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RealPeople_TG_16NAME
TGnewyorker
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OCCUPATION
I am a 34-year-old mother of 3 kids (to my NoahMykaBella) & a full-time house wife. I am a nursing graduate but opted to stay home and raise my kids because time is precious, they will only be kids once, and we can’t turn back time.
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HOW DO YOU FUND YOUR TRAVELS?
Usually I plan all of my travels. I make sure I have money for them. I brainstorm my expected expenses and see to it that I have enough. When I travel it’s mine and my husband’s money. He works while I also manage a small school canteen. We don’t have money set aside for travel but I make sure all other needs that are important like house loans, car loans, etc. are paid first. Travel for us is a luxury, but since I love to travel, I do plan travels for my family (husband + kids) and a “couple” trip (me + husband only).


WHERE WAS YOUR MOST RECENT TRAVEL?
The last time I traveled (which was just last Sept. 17-22, 2014) was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A must when you go to KL is to eat at Jalan Alor. The best place! My husband and I ate there every dinner. A must-see also is the Petronas Tower.
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WHERE ARE YOU GOING NEXT?
I’m going to Bangkok next month, November, with 3 of my girl friends. (Note: This was written in October.) Our plan is just to eat and shop — more like shop and eat-till-you-drop. This will be my 2nd BKK trip. The first was in 2010 with my husband and I’ve said I will be back. I loved BKK! Then I have a Singapore trip with my family this December, with Mike & NoahMykaBella. I went to SG last year, and I told myself if I have the money, I will bring my kids to SG! I know they will like it. This is our Christmas gift for our 3 kids. It’ll be a surprise for them! I am very excited for this trip!
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WHAT ARE THE PLACES AT THE TOP OF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?
In my lifetime I want to travel and see more of the world, hopefully with my husband. I want to go to Santorini, Greece & Cinque Terre in Italy! Soon, I’m hoping.

FAVORITES
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DESTINATION
I have been to so many places but my ultimate favorite was Italy, the South of Italy to be exact. I traveled there with my family (parents and siblings in 2008) to the Mediterranean. It was beautiful! Positano and Sorento was just the place to be…that Mediterranean cruise was all paid for by my parents who are New York-based (together with my siblings). I flew Cebu-NY and then NY to Barcelona, Spain where the port was. In 2012 I went back to Italy and again it’s still beautiful. Even though I went to Germany and France at that time, Italy remained my favorite. The Vatican I loved! And San Giovani Rotondo, where we find Padre Pio’s shrine, was just a pretty little town. Venice was beautiful too!
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STAY
My fave hotel was the one in Paris — Hotel de Trocadero. The tip of the Eiffel Tower was just outside our room window.
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FOOD
In KL, it was Jalan Alor — it’s a street in KL full of restos but outdoors and so cheap! In BKK were the little street stalls that you find all over the city. In Rome was this little resto at the back of our B&B. And when in New York, you gotta eat the bagels and chestnuts you see on the streets as well as hotdogs in a bun. And New York pizza too. Those huge pizzas — you have to fold them to eat them. That’s how to eat a NY pizza!


TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
Don’t live beyond your means. Traveling is expensive, but I know we all need a little R&R. Traveling doesn’t mean to just go international. You can simply travel local. Since I’m Cebu-based my fave place to go is the beach in Bantayan Island. Another local destination that remains a favorite is Bohol. It’s so close by and easy to travel to.

Always travel light! Just bring 1 pair of pants and a couple of comfortable shoes. Please don’t bring your whole closet. Chances are, you won’t be wearing all your clothes. Bring clothes for the exact days you will be there plus 2 extra clothing just in case…that’s how I do it. And I bring an extra foldable bag in case I will be shopping — going home I will have a bag to pack them in. Also, make sure you know the climate of the place you’re going to. Pack clothes for winter when you’re going to a cold place but please leave your leather boots when going to a tropical climate.

RealPeople_TG_12

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Real People: TGnewyorker” was created by TGV and LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Real People: Yvonne Carangue

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I met Yvonne in Batanes. There were 5 of us having breakfast together: Yvonne was there with her friends Marge and Cheng, while Sir Onkar and I were both solo travelers. I was fumbling my Tagalog when, to my great relief, I found out that the three girls were also native Bisaya speakers. Hay salamat! All four of them were very kind to me and told such interesting stories. I wouldn’t recommend the breakfast at Fundacion Pacita (so little food for such a hefty price tag!) but I do recommend traveling solo at least once in your lifetime — it will give you the chance to meet and make friends with people like Yvonne.

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RealPeople_Yvonne_02NAME
Maria Yvonne Carangue

OCCUPATION
Radio broadcaster / Account executive

HOW DO YOU FUND YOUR TRAVELS?
Usually I take the budget out of my salary — 20% monthly. If I have commissions from sales, 50% of it will go directly to my travel fund.

WHERE WAS YOUR MOST RECENT TRAVEL?
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur last September 2014. That was our 2nd time there — the first was in 2011.

Singapore Tips:

  • If you want a discounted price for any attraction in SG, go to Lucky Plaza Mall and buy package tickets from the Cebu Pacific Travel Agency — you can save as much as SGD 5-10.
  • Don’t miss the light, sound and water show in Marina Bay Sands and the Supertree show at Gardens by the Bay — for free! Schedule: 7:45pm and 8:45pm; Lights and Sounds: 8pm and 9:30pm
  • Find a cheap but comfy hostel along Geylang Road and China Town near MRT stations.

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WHERE ARE YOU GOING NEXT?
Planning (fingers crossed) to visit Seoul, South Korea during spring time (to see the cherry blossoms) next year!

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WHAT ARE THE PLACES AT THE TOP OF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?

  • International
    • Beijing, China
    • Jerusalem, Israel
    • Japan
    • Paris, France
  • Philippines
    • Vigan
    • Palawan
    • Sagada

RealPeople_Yvonne_TravelPics_01

FAVORITES

DESTINATION: Hongkong and Macau
When we got there last 2012, it was cold and Christmas season, that’s why travel was so comfy. And Disneyland was just so amazing for someone who’s young at heart like me. We stayed in the pad of an OFW, Annabelle Copia, in Kowloon for as low as P400 per night. She guided us through all the directions and attractions in HK. Hong Kong to Macau is just P900. Macau is really the city of dreams. It’s one of my favorites because we didn’t spend a penny for transportation there. The shuttle buses of all hotels and casinos are for free. Unlimited juice, tea, coffee and souvenirs are also for free. (Isn’t that amazing?) But if you’re with a group and spending 1-2 days there, it’s a must to have a Filipino tour guide (cheap).

STAY: Khaosan Immjai in Bangkok, Thailand
This is a newly built hostel near Khaosan Road for as low as 350-450 pesos per night with free breakfast, unlimited coffee and bread.

FOOD: I’m not really into restaurants or cafes when traveling. I love the street foods in Khaosan Road (Bangkok) and Chinatown (Singapore). You can eat there for as low as 50-100 pesos per meal.

RealPeople_Yvonne_01

 

TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
We make sure that we have a cheap but memorable travel experience — inexpensive but including many places and attractions.

Additional tips:

  • Always bring printed maps and MRT maps.
  • Ask for help from locals.
  • We travel light but when we come back our bags are heavy with lots of pasalubong for our loved ones — as in maximum of 40 kg when we get home!
  • If you want to travel, make sure you read blogs from fellow travelers — you can get lot of tips on where to go, what to do, and where to stay. Consider all the dos and donts.

Ang pagbibiyahe ay isang paglilibang at edukasyon. Hindi kailangang maging mayaman ka para makapagbiyahe. Don’t let your dreams remain dreams. Start now while you are able. My favorite quote is from Lao Tzu: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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Real People: Yvonne Carangue” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Real People: Denise Lim

Staying home this weekend? That’s okay. The next traveler in the Real People series doesn’t just stay home, she has to work most weekends.

Denise is currently a surgical resident (hence the neverending work) but she’s also a travel enthusiast. “Feature Cebu first!!! Sooo much to seee!!!!” — with exactly that many exclamation points — was what she said when I first asked if I could feature her here. She describes her trips as mostly “solo travel on a shoestring budget” and tries to fit as much of it into her once-in-a-blue-moon 7-day leaves. Her travel photos have long caught my eye, but what hooked my heart was this note she once wrote on Facebook (I think you’ll love it too):

© Denise Katrina Lim

© Denise Katrina Lim

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NAME
Denise Katrina Lim
aka Dora with the wandering feet

OCCUPATION
Resident Physician, Department of Surgery

HOW DO YOU FUND YOUR TRAVELS?
I always save up for my travels. That’s why they’re really well-researched and well-planned. Did that sound geeky?! Well, you know how it is…we show up at the hospital everyday, and for 5 years! So the two 1-week vacations per year are really something to look forward to.

WHERE ARE YOU GOING NEXT?
To the playground of the gods! Mount Pulag trek in February.

FAVORITE DESTINATION
Hmmm…soooo difficult to decide!!! Toss up between Venice and the heritage site of Georgetown, in Penang, Malaysia. Penang oozed with art and culture and wonderful people everywhere, and the fact that you have a map and things to find…

WHAT ARE THE PLACES AT THE TOP OF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?
Macchu Picchu!!! Santorini, Greece…Egypt…India….China…London…Vietnam…the list is endless. Locally, I still want to go to Batanes, Siargao…climb Mount pinatubo and Kitanglad-Dulangdulang…Laoag…Vigan…

TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
Most of my travel is local because I cram everything into my 7-day vacations, and they’re mostly solo travel on a shoestring budget. I like clustering up the places I want to go to.

CEBU TRAVEL TIPS
Go south. Drop by Argao for the caves, Mantalongon for Osmena Peak, and Kawasan. Then go round south. Drop by Liloan, Santander. Hop on the ferry to Siquijor. Come back and take a pump boat to Sumilon. Don’t forget to swim with the whale sharks. There’s Tumalog Falls and Bantay sa Hari, also in Oslob. Then there’s Alcoy; canyoneering in Moalboal, trekking up a river and rappelling down 3 waterfalls; and Aloguinsan for the caves.

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Real People: Denise Lim” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Real People: Elinore Magale

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I had the pleasure of traveling with Elle — the next traveler in my Real People series — a few years ago. She and Stephany and I went to Manila to check out the wedding supplies section of Divisoria, and although we never did get around to setting up our own wedding shop (life got in the way!), I still have fond memories of that trip. Here, she talks about her favorite destinations (no, Manila didn’t quite make the cut, hehe), tips for getting the most out of trips to such places as Malapascua (Cebu) and El Nido (Palawan), and how she funds her travels. Her last travel funding method is especially valuable for people who think their regular income isn’t big enough!

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RealPeople_Elle_04NAME
Elinore Magale

OCCUPATION
Virtual Administrative Medical Assistant (VAMA)

HOW DO YOU FUND YOUR TRAVELS?
Traveling is my greatest addiction and I try to find different ways to sustain the euphoria. I fund my travels through my savings or with extra money from my earnings. I score tickets from airline promos. The only downside is you have to adjust to the availability of the dates, and usually the travel dates are several months or a year away, but, well, at least that gives me ample time to save. Most of the time, I travel with a friend or a group of friends — it’s cheaper compared to travelling alone. As much as possible, I try to take advantage of my company’s incentives and bonuses. I also try to do freelance online jobs whenever possible.

WHERE WAS YOUR MOST RECENT TRAVEL?
Malapascua

Tips:

  • Expect a long travel time from the city so bring something to keep you entertained (or you can indulge in the luxury of sleep).
  • Be cautious so you won’t get tricked or overpriced by locals.
  • Plan your day’s activity and try to haggle with the prices.

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RealPeople_Elle_02

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WHERE ARE YOU GOING (OR HOPING TO GO) NEXT?
I’m planning to go to Bantayan Island very soon, hopefully. Bantayan Island is situated at the northern tip of Cebu and is known for its white beach and pristine waters.

The places that I would love to visit by next year:

  • Local: Coron, Palawan; Vigan
  • International: Singapore; Hongkong-Macau

WHAT ARE THE PLACES AT THE TOP OF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?

  • Paris
  • Hawaii
  • Greece
© Elinore Magale

© Elinore Magale

FAVORITES

DESTINATION: Still nothing beats El Nido, Palawan for me. The island hopping activity is to die for — you get to marvel at the magnificent sight of each unique island and savor the pristine waters at the same time.

Tips:

  • Do your research to maximize your time.
  • If traveling alone, join a group for an island hopping tour; it’s much cheaper.
  • Travel light.
  • Bring mosquito repellent lotion.
  • Again, expect a long travel time from Puerto Princesa to El Nido (approximately 4-5 hours).
  • Don’t forget to bring sunblock.

STAY: I am really not that choosy when it comes to accommodation. As long as I am comfortable and the bathroom is decent, I am already content with that — but Kermit Surf and Dive Ecocamp in Siargao surpassed my expectations. It is very homey and has a very accommodating and approachable staff. Best of all, for those traveling within a budget, the place is very affordable and your room comes with a free big breakfast.

FOODKalinaw in Siargao. Nice ambience, friendly staff, and their pizza is definitely worth trying.

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TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
I always plan my travels, but most of the time things change unexpectedly, so instead of procrastinating, I make the most of it by being creative and spontaneous. I also try to immerse in the local culture; after all, traveling is always a learning experience. Travel as much as you can while you still can. Life is too short to stay in one place. Explore the world out there, broaden your horizons, and make wonderful memories.

 

Real People: Elinore Magale” was created by Elinore Magale and LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Real People: Mel Beluan

Now that I think about it, I’ve never actually met Mel, though we have a lot in common. If somebody made a Venn diagram of writing, healthcare, and advertising circles, we’d be occupying slightly different corners of the same intersection. Oh, and UP. What we don’t have in common is mountains: he’s climbed so many and I’ve…not. (I’m a loser.) But that’s why I’m so excited to feature him here. I’ve learned a lot from reading about his adventures and I know you will too. Make sure to check out how he funds his travels. The best way to save money is to not spend it; live simply, or as Mel often says: “Eliminate want.”

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Ascent to Mt. Apo’s summit using the so-called “direct ascent” route. Photo by Eric Gavino.

 

NAME
Mel M. Beluan

OCCUPATION
I edit a newspaper for doctors, create content for ad materials, and practice medicine.

HOW DO YOU FUND YOUR TRAVELS?
Traveling for me is enjoying the wild outdoors — in particular, nature-trekking, which in our country usually involves climbing mountains. Trekking is a balance between plans and impulses, because, hey, why not? Whatever the case may be, I fund my treks with my savings, but mostly I fund them by almost exclusively nature-trekking.

I don’t invest in cars, cameras, iPhones, condos, fancy shoes, J.CO donuts, etc. I’m not fond of restos, bars, and hotels. I eat in carenderias. I don’t drink alcohol anymore. I don’t smoke. I don’t have a family of my own. I buy secondhand. I DIY. I commute (or sometimes I say I “commuteer”). I don’t have a credit card. I try to live simple and cheap. I have zero debt.

Now that’s a whole lot of travel funding tips for you. (In my case, they are family health funding tips as well, since my father is sick.) I’m not enforcing on myself a certain lifestyle. It’s just my nature. I like to think I have this Zen-like mental kit I’m equipped with.

Anyway, I’m not bashing people who love cars, go semi-annually to Boracay, or upgrade their iPhones, but the wild outdoors is way, way cheaper. You need to initially invest in a backpack, a jacket, a sleep sack, etc., but a lot can be bought cheap online and local, and DIY’d if you are resourceful. My trekking shoes are cheap, mod’ed, and recycled. You don’t have to do everything that I usually do, but what I do may give you an idea.

WHERE WAS YOUR MOST RECENT TREK?
Mount Napulauan in Benguet, with ascent from the Municipality of Hungduan and descent to Hapao, comprising a so-called mountain traverse.

Tip: It’s extremely cold up there, but not as cold as Mt. Pulag. Ask about landslides along the trip to the trailhead (where you start the trek) and back; they’re common in the rainy season. The mossy forest part of the trek was the prettiest in my trekking experience; photo shoots will surely slow you down there. At the summit, there might be a sea of clouds with the sun or the moon hovering above, similar to the one on Mt. Pulag. Both ascent and descent are difficult. The descent is super torture to the knees. Try less difficult mountains first, as this traverse is informally rated 7 out of 9 in difficulty. Go there in a group in order to save.

RealPeople_Mel_02

Mossy forest section of the climb to Mt. Napulauan’s summit. Photo by Karen Escalante.

 

WHERE ARE YOU GOING NEXT?
Mt. Mantalingajan in Palawan, said to be the most difficult mountain in MIMAROPA’s so-called Knife Edge Trilogy. I already climbed the other two in this trilogy, Mts. Halcon and Guiting-guiting (G2). These mountains are rated 9 out of 9 in difficulty. The phrase “knife edge” refers to the so-called blade-thin, steep ridge of a trail that one has to negotiate in order to reach the summit. All three mountains share this feature.

Knife edge on Mt. G2. © Mel Beluan

Knife edge on Mt. G2. Photo by Maynard Orrey.

 

WHAT ARE THE PLACES AT THE TOP OF YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?
Mt. Kanlaon, Mt.Talomo-Mt. Apo traverse, Mt. Dulang-dulang and the Kitanglad mountain range, Kibungan circuit, Bakun trilogy… wait, Mt. Everest?! Isn’t a climbing bucket list anathema to a Zen mindset?

 

FAVORITES

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DESTINATION
There are several faves based on different criteria. I love Mt. G2 in Romblon for its difficulty and other-worldly terrain of shards of rock. Photos of such need no filters or post-production. The climb was also memorable because a lot of things aligned for me: bad weather, not being physically fit, my shoes detaching from their soles, my busted headlamp, etc. The climb requires mental and physical toughness. Never miss having a shoot at Mayo’s peak, with the “knife edge” in the background. Climb in the summer.

Ascent to Mt. G2’s summit, before the kiss-the-wall section of the hike. © Mel Beluan

Ascent to Mt. G2’s summit, before the kiss-the-wall section of the hike. Photo by Elmer Parazo.

 

STAY
None really. The room and service only need to be good enough.

FOOD
None. The food being served only needs to be clean and familiar.

 

TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
We have many reasons to travel, or in my case, to trek. People travel to bond, make friends, selfie-shoot, picnic, drink to death, get over an ex, prove a point, etc. While I have no problem with picture-taking, bonding, and the like (in fact, I like them), I consider trekking mostly as a celebration of nature, and of beautiful mornings and health; a form of endurance and exercise; an escape.

Final tips. For newbies, climb easy mountains first. You don’t have to climb difficult mountains. Trekking is not for everyone, and your first trek will decide if trekking is for you. For those few of you who will pursue the outdoors after their first trek, you will be rewarded with adventure not possible with the usual tourist spots. You will soon begin to realize what a lot of your non-mountaineering friends will be missing out in our country.

Prepare physically and mentally. Before the start of the trek, load up on fluids, electrolytes, and carbo. Try to be self-contained and self-reliant with your food, water, shelter, raincoat, first aid kit, etc. Never trek solo. Got a medical condition? Check with your doctor if mountaineering is for you. You can learn more about mountaineering in a basic mountaineering course (BMC).

Don’t make your travel or trekking bucket list too long or else it will stress you out. Do short-term impulses non-bucket-list style but tip the balance toward the sensible long- and medium-term plans and bucket lists. In travels and in life in general, a few impulses here and there mean we can never plan everything long enough, because, so to speak, tomorrow, we die.

By the way, I was an insomniac. My weeks are long 12 months a year. If there is one thing that trekking has helped me, it has probably helped reset my body clock.

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Real People: Mel Beluan” was created by Mel Beluan and LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.