Our visit in the Philippines actually came as a surprise. It wasn’t planned. You see, I’ve been away from home for years already. The last time I visited was 4 years ago (in 2013!)– before I started my backpacking journey. And that visit wasn’t really long as my siblings and I had to leave the country for a South East Asian getaway.
Anyway, the main reason why I flew back to the Philippines was because of my grandparents. I think it was few days before the New Year when I received a message that my grandfather was rushed to the hospital. Just so you know, I am very close to my grandparents because I grew up with them and in fact, I would like to think that they are my first ‘fans’. We were in South America then and I felt helpless! I wasn’t able to sleep soundly even with the amazing environment that surrounded us. For me, all I wanted to do was to go home.
So going back, I immediately looked for flights to Manila but these were extremely hefty and it wasn’t practical for us to go home just yet. Good thing that my grandfather became better! But I knew what I wanted to do next – it was time to go home. It was also a chance for me to meet up with some of our readers.
Meetup with BZFLAG Travel Readers at Z Hostel Manila
Z Hostel Manila was very generous in providing us a space for our meetup. I decided it would be cool to hold a ‘small’ gathering in a rooftop where we could enjoy the city skyline.
Ok, so if you are a Filipino, you are probably aware of the concept of ‘Filipino Time’. If you are not familiar with such, it actually goes this way. For example, they would set a meeting at 8:00PM, right? For most Filipinos, that meant 8:30PM. It’s always 30 minutes after the agreed time. So yes, you can say Filipino time is being ‘fashionalbly’ late. Because of that, I expected that there will be few readers when we arrive. But Lo and Behold, JAMPACKED! I was happy for two things.
- That our readers know the concept of ‘traveler’s time’ – because you know, you can’t be late for a flight.
- I didn’t expect that we have a strong following in the Philippines.
The meetup in Manila was very casual. I got to hear stories from our readers, and I was able to share my stories with them. Some say that I inspire them. But I have to be honest, our readers inspire us to do more.
Meetup with BZFLAG Travel Readers at Bo’s Coffee, The Space Mandaue
The first meetup in Makati was a success! I was a bit nervous about the next meetup which was in Cebu. After all, I didn’t have an idea if we have readers from that part of the country.
And so the day came. Jon and I went to Bo’s Coffee and I have to admit, I had no idea how to approach anyone. But of course, it didn’t take long to get to know our readers on a more personal level. By the way, I have to thank Rowell Clenuar of Travel 29. Your photos are so amazing. You captured the best moments of the night.
I really wished we had a longer time for the meetup but we had to say our goodbyes. However, I am sure that the meetups we had in Makati and in Cebu will not be the last.
I’ve been away for so long that I almost forgot how hospitable Filipinos are. Even if I was tired and sick in one of the meetups, the positivity of all the readers and kaladkarins was enough for me to stay strong!
Let me summarize the things that I noticed and loved about the meetups in the Philippines
- They were on time – Really guys, you surprised me on this one. I even learned that some of the readers went straight to the meetup place after their jobs. It really means a lot to us that you took time and effort.
- The genuine support – I’ve brought BZFLAG Travel merchandise and most of it will go to a charity that we are helping. I was so glad the readers are supporting this by purchasing our items.
- The willingness to share ideas – I am very talkative. That’s quite obvious, right? But sometimes, it gets so tiring to talk! I’m happy that our readers were confident to share their travel plans, adventures and even tips with one another. How many of you made friends with other readers during the meetup?
- The adorable smiles – Again, I was a bit sick. Aside from the medicine, what really made me feel better were your smiles. It’s as if they are telling me, ‘Oh no BZFLAG, you can’t get sick!’ haha
- The feeling of being HOME – Lastly, while I love travelling (and I would still travel for years), nothing beats the feeling of being home, right? I thought I can only experience such bliss with my biological family. Little did I know that I have a different set of family – the Kaladkarins.
And so I am getting emotional writing about this but it’s fine. Apart from seeing the best locations in the country, I saw more than that. I saw something which other tourists should look for. It’s the Filipinos that make this country a great place to visit.
I shall see you again. For now, we have to go and grab our bags. Remember, #DreamsDoComeTrue . If a simple girl from the province was able to do it, then you can too!
This trip was arranged by . Special thanks to Mr. Gerry Panga , the Tourism Attaché and Director for Northern and Southern Europe, .
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