IT HAS always been the call of the Department of Tourism for Filipinos to be a tourist in their own country.
Fulltime travel blogger Glen Santillan, founder of escapemanila.com, was able to visit all the 81 provinces in the country in 2016. He started his journey to visit all the Philippine provinces in 2013.
“It was a blogger, Journeying James, who also inspired me to do it. He traveled 100 days in the Philippines,” Santillan said.
Since it would not be easy for Santillan to do the 100-day journey as it was not feasible for him then, he opted to do a 50-day journey in the Philippines, starting in Davao City.
“I started in Davao then Surigao, Tacloban, and then all the way to Sorsogon. Then I went to Manila, Aparri, and then I went to the other side to Santa Ana, Cagayan. I then went back down to Romblon to Iligan and then to Davao,” he said.
The 50-day travel allowed Santillan to pass by some 30 provinces along the way. Instead of booking flights, the whole travel was done by bus, van, and ferry.
To compensate for his expenses, Santillan was working 20 to 30 hours a week during the travel period. He would work at night and then roam the town or city he is in the morning.
He stayed at cheap hotels during the 50-day travel but he did not mind this as his ultimate goal was to experience the tourist destinations in the places he visited.
Santillan saw a lot of places in the Philippines during this travel but then he had the urge to see more of the country.
“I made it the goal to visit all 81 provinces... When you see places like Pagudpod you want to see more of the Philippines because there are places to go,” Santillan said.
He said the idea of visiting these provinces excites him because of the discoveries he will make for each visit.
“Ano kaya ‘yung life doon sa ibang provinces? Ano kaya pwede gawin doon sa ibang provinces -- the food, the culture, at yung attractions? Ano kaya yung ino-offer nila? It really excites me na to learn more,” Santillan said.
Since completing the 81 provinces in 2016, Santillan said Tawi-tawi and Batanes are two of the most memorable places he has visited in the country.
“We only hear about Tawi-tawi when there are kidnappings and negative stories. When I was there the first time, it was different from my expectations,” Santillan said.
He noted how hospitable the people of Tawi-tawi were. As for the place itself, Santillan said Tawi-tawi is simply beautiful.
“Maganda ang place pero walang tourists, even domestic travelers... When you visit other islands doon mo makita ang ganda ng Tawi-tawi (The place is beautiful but there are no tourists. When you visit the other islands, you will see the beauty of Tawi-tawi),” he added.
Batanes, on the other hand, is as beautiful as it has been described by the people who have been there.
“Batanes is my number one province in the Philippines. It is beautiful, indescribable,” he said.
Santillan’s journey to visit the 81 provinces in the country was not all highs. He also experienced some lows especially at the middle of completing the goal.
“In the middle I was asking myself, what is the purpose?” he said.
Santillan pointed out that by this time, the provinces that he needs to visit are either very far or not easily accessible like Catanduanes and Kalinga.
Taking inspiration from fellow travel bloggers who have visited all 81 provinces, Santillan got back on his feet and planned for the last leg of his goal.
Still traveling through van, bus, and ferry, he started in Davao then traveled to Biliran. From Biliran he went to Masbate, Catanduanes, Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, and Occidental Mindoro.
The last province he visited to complete 81 provinces was Kalinga. He marked this with a tattoo from Apo Whang Od.
“I was happy because I can now move on the next goal. As a traveler, when you meet a certain goal, you want to move on to the next. I was happy and excited to see what is next for me,” Santillan said.
Helping the local community
Traveling to domestic destinations is not only to see beautiful tourist sites. Santillan said by being a local tourist in your own country helps the community a lot.
There were times where he did not want to write a beautiful destination in the Philippines but at the same time he saw the importance of the need to promote it.
“You want to be madamot and not promote the area because you do not want to people to go there. Pero [by promoting the area] you are helping the community. If there is a tourism boom marami mabigyan ng trabaho,” Santillan said.
He said Filipinos do not have to go far if they want to see beautiful beaches or stunning tourist destinations in general.
“Filipinos [tend to] prioritize abroad [when traveling] but in the Philippines marami silang mapuntahan, madami silang makita (There are a lot of places to go and see),” Santiallan said.
For Santillan, by being a domestic tourist who documents his travels through his blog, he is doing his own little way in helping the different local communities that he visits.
“I wanted to feature and promote all the provinces because... When there is boom in tourism it can help the community,” he said.
He encourages Filipinos to start visiting their local tourist destinations to be able to help the local community.
“As a nation, support rin tayo sa mga ibang places. If nag-travel, spend too to help the local economy (Let us support our other destinations and if we travel to these places, let’s help the local economy too by spending),” Santillan said.
Work. Save. Travel
For those who also want to travel, Santillan said while it may not be for everyone, considering that not everyone are financially well off, one can still travel with proper planning.
“I realize traveling is not for everybody but it is not just for the rich too. With proper planning and mindset you can travel around the Philippines. If you just work hard, save money,” Santillan said.
He said if you really want to travel, do not go beyond your means.
“Travel if it is within your means. Work hard, save, travel, and plan ahead of time,” Santillan said.