The Why in All of This

Before I go all intellectual about why I want to do this campaign, let me tell you where it ┬ástarted from — and it’s all mushy stuff.

I first began to see the country post college. I had no opportunities before that. No money, no group to go with, no guts to do it. I remember admiring this dormmate of mine who did. Someone who scaled the terraces walls alone (her family was from Mindanao). She traveled by herself sometimes. And since she was a girlie girl, she got harassed along the way. But she loved the whole experience. I thought to myself: I wanted that too. I wanted to see and experience.

hike Philippines, hike Batangas
AIM Trek, during the mid-90s — photo by Lisa Leong

Fast forward a few years after, I got involved with a little-known mountaineering organization in Makati, AIM Trek. I wasn’t paid a lot at my work but I was able to afford their training (running around some carpark in Legaspi Village) and their weekend trips (max 300 pesos for a weekend).

I fell in love with the countryside through them. I embraced the respite that nature offered. I loved the peace and quiet, and the fresh air.

But even then, when I trekked mountains, I already saw changes through the years. Fresh paths were trampled on within a year. You can see trash along the way. Forest covers disappeared with each return. And the mountains grew more and more crowded.┬áThe worst was seeing used condoms float on rivers close to campsites. No judgement about sex in the mountains here — but hey, horny hikers can at least get rid of their trash properly.

A few more years after, I fell for the sea so I dove! This was through my mountaineering friends — kuripot like me — so getting my PADI dive licenses was made more affordable. It was always through friends or friends of friends who were dive professionals. (I was lucky enough to just have to pay for my books and dive card — on top of actual dive costs, of course — from Open Water to Rescue; otherwise, I couldn’t have afforded it. )

Sabang Puerto Galera
One of my first solo dive trips. Good ol’ Sabang, Puerto Galera

I have a love affair with the sea until now. She has always been there for me… yes (mushy part coming — warning!) even through heartbreaks. I travel alone most of the time now but back then, I was “forced” to do it. You know how it is: pre-booked flights you want to use up but you’re at odds with your significant other so you go alone.

It started that way and I didn’t stop because I fell in love.

And through those years of exploring new places and revisiting favorite sites, I saw how time has ravaged my loves. I’m not talking about just the wear and tear of time. I refer to abuse, non-sustainable “development,” the stripping away of cultural heritage… and all that serious stuff we’d rather not talk about when we think of Philippine tourism.

And that’s what I want to talk about here. That’s why I want to go out there and get the message across online.

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Post Author: Roda Novenario