The Adventure: How Travelling Changed My Life
Call me a nomad.
Since birth, I have been roaming around the Philippines and was perhaps destined to roam the country and perhaps the world–how I wish. There was no event in my life that didn’t involve traveling. It is part of me and my family. It wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t for those frequent “family-work oriented excursions” that we had back in my childhood days or my adventures into the unknown.
Traveling is part of my system, and the way that defines Berniemack and HabagatCentral.
Nomadic Beginnings: No Permanent Address
Since December 1985, the month when I was born, my family has been roving around the country for years. Since my dad is a civil engineer, work is influenced on where he may be assigned. I was born in Ermita, Manila, at 6 PM of the first day of December. Two weeks later, my first flight with PAL bound for Cebu, then to Pagadian. EDSA People Power Revolution came and went, and then we settled in Cebu City from 1986 to 1989. My first words were Cebuano, my first education was somewhere in Labangon. During that period, we frequented Iloilo (my dad’s hometown) and Pagadian (mom’s hometown). I was a jetsetter, riding Bac-1-11, Shorts 3-60 and eventually Fokker-50. This sparked my interest in my childhood dream to be a pilot and an aviation enthusiast.
Blood: Family’s a Nomad
When the 1990s came, we moved in to Greater Manila, since dad’s work was moved to now BGC (back then a military zone and government camp)–settled in suburban Imus, Cavite, south of Manila. It is here where I would be spending the rest of my elementary and high school life. Yet during those times, whenever dad is somewhere away, he always takes us with him to the project sites—no matter how far and rural it may get. From then, I started to appreciate living in construction sites, smell of grease, and machinery and the lone far fields to posh areas. Despite moving into Manila, we still frequent the provinces. Yes, I tag along with my dad on his field projects, and so he does.
Another reason is the spread of my relatives and family friends all throughout. Bataan, La Union, Pangasinan, Cebu, Iloilo and Zamboanga are the areas we frequent so much since my relatives are there. Clannish? Nah, just to take a vacation away from the big city—that’s all.
While we usually take the plane to our destinations or by air conditioned car or bus, however it’s not all the time a bed of roses.
Shift to Cruising
When fuel prices have gone up in the 1990s, our flying days were temporarily ceased. The luxury of being in a full-service legacy airline (PAL had the monopoly of hub flights back then) is no more. We’re back on crossing the islands by ferry. William Lines, Aboitiz (WG&A later) and Negros Navigation to call it a few, have been our major carriers. Taking up the economy class bunkers instead of hotel room services, eating together with the rest of the passengers in a ship mess hall reminiscent of a school canteen during lunch time, and those long hours of beautiful vistas of islands, and seas, prevailed during our trip. It was at this point that not all the time I can “travel-in-style.” This was the start of my “no-frills” traveling.
Appreciating Simplicity: One-week exile at Talicud Island
Then came in 1996 when dad has a project in Davao. For a moment we thought that we are just in Davao City, the amenities and stuff—and the first time I’ve reached this beautiful city as well after a long journey by ferry from Manila (yes, direct trip—no stop-overs). However, we are to cross Davao Gulf and be heading for a one week stay at Talicud Island, just off-coast of Samal Island. This journey was unforgettable. Introduced to crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, the intoxicating drink called tuba, and a week of no city living—yes folks. No electricity except a few hours at night!
The first arrival was heartbreaking. Being a city boy myself, I couldn’t avoid but cry since it’s so far from the civilization! No electricity means, nothing! No TV or cool fridge to cool off. That is the buhay probinsya that my parents are so used of, but not this city kid. Yet because of staying for so long and having appreciated the rustic and simplistic beauty of the island and its people, I started to understand how buhay probinsya is and what happiness simplicity in living can be.
Moved Out: Manila Boy to Promdi
But I started travelling independently on that hot day of May in 2002. Embittered by the turn of the high school graduation in Cavite and the decision of sending me to a state university in Iloilo instead of Manila has sealed my fate going back to my Visayan-Mindanaoan roots. It was MV Saint Ezekiel Moreno of Negros Navigation that took me on an 18-hour ride from Manila to Iloilo where my dad and my college life is waiting. It was my first time traveling alone, but it was a journey that has changed my perspective in life. That 18 hour ferry cruise was the epiphany of all things that came into my life, and would eventually change my perspective—from “Manila Boy” to proudly “Promdi.” From Manila-centric to VisMinda-afficionado which would eventually turn into “all-encompassing Filipino and appreciate the world” mindset. That’s the beauty of travel on how we learn more and shift perspectives for the better (or for worse in some).
Shifting Perspectives: Introduction to Backpacking
Between 2002 and 2006, I’ve traveled and explored so much of Panay Island and Negros. Shunned away the “high-class living” of my Manila Boy past and moved on to enjoy the simplicity of living in the provinces. First time I rode a jeepney, went on kábit (hanging behind) and eventually became a toploader (riding on top of a speeding jeepney). There were no airconditioned buses anymore, but far safer from robberies. I started to realize that I can shift from being a luxury tourist into a backpacker, depending on availabilities. And then, whenever I go to places such as in Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, Guimaras and Negros, I tend to save up as much as I have to–The beginning of my backpacking life. From then on, I was not afraid to travel alone by land, air or sea.
^^ Toploading a jeepney at Iloilo, together with Enrico Dee of Byahilo.com, 5 years ago.
Turn of Tides: Mindanao Journeys
I already told the whole story several times on my blog on different occasions on why I have love Mindanao and find excitement going into it. Click here and you’d get to know the rest of the story. The “Manila Boy” that I was thought once that Mindanao is such a rowdy, uncivilized land where peace is really illusive. All it took was some mad Mindanaoan dorm mate, a seminar of student journalists, a best friend, and a 24-hour ferry ride back to Mindanao and see what my forefathers have saw in “The Land of Promise.” From then on, instead of “I keep on coming back to Manila,” as what Hotdog say, I say “I kept on coming back to Mindanao.” Loved it, promoted it, and wanting to go back and even live with her.
Once afraid of stepping into unknown territories, I have become more daring when the thesis days came. Crossing Maguindanao alone in the name of research, in which it bore sweet fruit.
Changing perspectives, knowing where to set fear and where to correct people from distant Manila on how to perceive Mindanao—that’s where it all began.
Influence: Media and I
We always say that the media has a firm grasp in influencing people, and yes it does. As early as in the 1990s, elementary days, I have been an avid follower (prol’ly fan) of Lonely Planet TV series (now Globe Trekker), particularly I guess with Ian Wright (my closest friends call me as his alter ego, dunno why), Justine Shapiro and Megan McCormick (I even dreamt and even up to now, wanting to meet them).
When culture and travel was for Lonely Planet, it was my dream of becoming a journalist that triggered my bold and daring trips—especially my thesis days. However, it was Diego Buñuel and his show “Don’t Tell My Mother…” that sparked me to “boldly go where no tourist would even dare want to go” and see a different side of it, rather the one that is being interpreted by mainstream media.
Explain to me, why HabagatCentral?
To quote my explanation as on why did I named myself or my blog HabagatCentral?
HabagatCentral was derived from inspiration of traveling. Like the wind called “habagat,” it travels swiftly over the archipelago bringing much needed rainfall for replenishing the parched soil.
Yes, I’m a southerner (habagat is the Visayan of south), I keep it center in my heart and I keep traveling a center of my life, just like the habagat monsoon wind. That explains it.
Urgh! Work and Seat Sale!
And finally, the events of seat sales have been a trigger for me to buy cheap tickets as if it is just like peanuts! It made travelling more accessible to cash-strapped people like yours truly.
To Make the Story Short, traveling has…
It’s already 1,500 word long essay. It’s getting boring…hah! But those are just some of the things that traveling has changed my life completely—it does happen all the time for me.
Just to make the story short, starting from the day I was born, traveling has already been a “leap of faith” personally. Every journey I take has so much to see, so much to share and so many things that changes in me. It influences me, it moves me, it drives me, it inspires me, and it makes me feel more human.
In this current state, I owe a lot to this “past-time.” I’ve seen the world in a much better perspective—something that an online forum, social media could never replace. Traveling widens and opens my eyes to the beauty of the world that diversity is one thing that keeps this world alive and vibrant — way better than myopic, and monochromatic world that some people would like to choose. I chose travel because it feeds my curiosity to know more and appreciate the world. It’s just like NatGeo, Discovery and History at the same time saying:
“Be Curious, because the World is Just Awesome, and yes, We Make History everyday! This is Who We Are!.”
Traveling for me also is not just about spending your money, fulfillment, and enlightenment, but also an advocacy. Helping local tourism in a way and appreciating the importance of knowing more of the locality’s culture, the arts and history, and how we can learn from it and express from it and even take care of it. I like to encourage people to see the world, outside of their comfort zones and jump into their personal leaps of faith.
It’s indeed beautiful—and at the same time, we meet new faces and friends in the process. Who knows, I might meet my “soulmate” here just like Ate Gay’s.
Even though I am not ready to leave my “day job” as this sustains my living, my family, and even my travels, I always make it sure that from time to time, I go. I live on Paulo Coelho’s quote, “If adventure is risky, try routine and it’s deadly.” Blame it to Indiana Jones and Tintin!
And being a traveler, means no one is better than the other traveler. Thanks to Renz of Traveling Nomad for reading me that online article, it doesn’t matter on how we travel—luxury or backpacking, the number of places you have been to, how many influential people you are with, how rich or poor you are, or even the difference between “a well-traveled person” and a “newbie,” since life itself is a journey, we are all equals. Different strokes for different folks. Because we are all travelers in this journey called life.
Traveling is my life. Therefore, within my personal history, shifts and influences on my decisions and life were most likely influenced by traveling. I live within it. It runs in my veins. And the journey is not yet over. I like to see and experience more of the world, and share it to the people with enthusiasm without overwhelming them. On my life’s journey, she will teach me how to live life to the fullest, fulfillment, and happiness. By her, I appreciate how wonderful life and the world are.
I was born to move.
This is my personal entry for the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for the month of March 2012, hosted byReiza Dejito of “Wander If You Must“ with the theme “Leap of Faith: When Traveling Changed My Life.”
Visit Estan Cabigas’ Langyaw to see the archive of Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival!