Backpacking, Pinoy Style!

Recreational Outdoor Exchange (R.O.X.) had a free lecture last Sunday at their awesome store at the Bonifacio High Street. They invited speakers who have done it, are currently doing it, and will be doing it. Backpacking, that is.

First to speak are newlyweds Gabby and Mench Dizon. They are both avid travelers, and to finance their upcoming Morocco trip, they decided to make a different kind of wedding registry. Instead of setting up a registry with Rustan’s, they put up their honeymoon itinerary in their wedding site, Friends and family can just pick out the activities they want to pledge for as wedding gifts to the couple.

Gabby and Mench have so far been successful at getting their activities pledged for!

Nice idea, eh? So far they were able to raise 75% of their trip budget, and looking forward to raising the remaining 25% before the trip in October.

The next speaker was student and travel blogger, Ivan Henares. Ever the true traveler, Ivan has just arrived that day from Spain, and is preparing for his next flight out of the country. He shared his tips on how to save money on airfares: sign up for airline’s mailing lists to avail of heavily discounted fares. When choosing a destination, he recommends going to the Unesco World Heritage Sites. There are five in the Philippines: the Baroque Churches (San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila; Church of La Nuesta Senora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, and; Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo), the Historic Town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, the Rice Terraces of the Philippines in Cordillera (Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao, Nagacadan, and Hungduan), the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, both in Palawan.

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The last two were Robert Alejandro and Jetro Rafael. Both Robert and Jetro went on a backpacking trip a couple of years ago through Southeast Asia and China. Jetro wasn’t really happy with his job anymore, and as fate would have it, an e-mail came in that (sort of) changed his life. The sender asked if he wanted to go to 9 countries with only Php45,000. Together with Robert, they met with the original writer of the e-mail, a guy who turned out to have already done it, and just wanted to do it again. For three months they traveled from Manila to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Luang Prabang, Vientiene, Siem Reap, Phnom Phen, Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hanoi, Nanning, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzen, Macau and Hong Kong. They took all forms of cheap transport: budget airlines, trains (in lower class cabins), public busses, and slow boats. They slept in hostels, and made friends from all over the world. Traveling cheap IS possible, and fun to boot.

Now R.O.X. asks, How do we create a backpacking community? There are established online communities of backpackers online: Thorn Tree forums, Bootsnall, CouchSurfing. In the Philippines, however, there’s none. Ivan says it’s because there’s no established backpacking trail in the Philippines.

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I guess it’s because we’re still in the process of realizing that we can travel without spending a lot of money. Years ago, traveling has pretty much been the realm of the rich and the overseas worker. Nowadays, thanks to budget carriers, it’s easier and cheaper to travel domestically and even internationally. Thanks to the internet, it’s also so much easier to research destinations and book transportation and accomodation ahead of time.

One of the attendees remarked that when you say backpacker, the image is usually that of a male traveler. She asked Mench for tips on backpacking as a woman. Having traveled solo, and having meet other solo female travelers, it’s surprising to hear this statement. Actually, from experience, when locals learn that I’m traveling solo, they become more concerned about my safety than I am about my own. Well, whether you’re a guy or a girl traveling, always be alert and use your common sense. You don’t necessarily have to distrust every local you came across (they’re not all trying to scam you), but at the same time, be mindful of where you are.

Back to the question, how do we create a backpacking community? The talk is actually a great start. Another would be to provide information of possible places to go, as well as itineraries and estimate budget. Another would be to organize group trips, where people can sign up and get a first hand experience on how to travel on a shoestring budget.

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I’d think of a couple more ways, but my head is now filled with thoughts of backpacking through Asia I can’t concentrate. Have to plan for next year!

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 33 Comments
  1. samjuan says:

    Ang galing! Astig yung na-raise nina Gabby and Mench Dizon mula sa pledges!

    Nakaka-inspire. Kapag yumamanako magba-backpacking na idn ako. Haha. Anggaganda ng mga kuha mo. whew.

    Salamat sa pagdaan sa aking blog.

  2. nina says:

    Walang anuman, Samjuan! Ibinoto nga pala kita!

  3. Fritz says:

    Whoa! Wait… my head is reeling in excitement. Seriously? 45k and all those countries? That’s like a’s travel dream come true! Whoa whoa whoa! I’m not even exaggerating here, I’m really THAT excited! Thanks for this Nina!

  4. nina says:

    Grabe no? I once spent more than that in once country and for only two weeks -_- Sobrang tipid daw, ang since marami sila, shared ang malalaking expenses like accomodation. I hear they’re coming out with a book of the places they went to, where they stayed, etc. Gusto ko nang mag backpacking uli!

  5. Fritz says:

    I’ll buy that book, if ever, and put it on a pedestal in an acid-free, humidity controlled encasing. Yan ang mga kwentong inspiring!

  6. Interesting post Nina,

    Being a backpacker myself,I would be interested to join the next talk, when will it be?

    Will be off to my next 3-week backpacking gig in a few days…East Coast, USA, here I come! ;o)


  7. nina says:

    Ivan, no word on when the next talk will be (shouldn’t YOU be the one giving the talk, though?), but if and when they would schedule it, I’ll post it here :)

  8. estan says:

    an interesting post nina. backpacking in the country should be promoted especially to us pinoys because not only will it help communities, the info generated may entice other foreign backpackers to come not only in the more known cordillera circuit but to the rest of the other interesting places as well.

    that wedding expense pledge is one hell of a great idea!

  9. Interesting post and great idea on the wedding pledge site. Will definitely keep that in mind when I do get married. hehehehehe

  10. Ferdz says:

    This is actually a very good project to make people more aware that traveling is not only for the rich people and that a shoestring budget can take you a long way as well.

    It would have been interesting as well if they started a discussion on backpacking locally first. The could have invited Carlos Libosada on whose book “28 days around the Philippines” was the first ultimate backpacking book published here in the Phil. It’s his writing that inspired me to travel on a budget as well.

    My friends and I early this year was playing in the idea of building a Pinoy Backpacker site, which caters to real budget and adventure travel. In fact I already have the domain a few months ago but is still studying the format since I think a simple WordPress couldn’t hold what we wanted our site to be. Anyways, I think there’s a growing market for backpacking here already, it’s just a matter of organizing people’s interest.

  11. nina says:

    Estan: Exactly! Actually your Loop series are a great way of showing Filipinos and foreign travelers alike that you CAN travel around the Philippines for cheap! (I once met this guy who cycled all over the Philippines!)

    Whiff and a sip: Wedding, baptism, 30th birthday, the list goes on XD

    Ferdz: Speaking of shoestring budget… do you have a copy of Lonely Planet’s SouthEast Asia on a shoestring? Pahiram :D Hmm, this is the first time I heard of Carlos Libosada’s book. Is it still available? I’d love to read that. And yes, a Pinoy Backpacking site would be awesome!

  12. dyanie says:

    wow P45K tapos 9 countries na? galing!! gusto ko rin maging backpacker!

  13. Nomadic Matt says:

    looks like you have a new goal!!!! create an online community!

  14. Ferdz says:

    Nina! I have a (bootleg) copy of Lonely Planet’s SEA on a shoestring. Sall I bring it next week? pwede mong hiramin muna :D

    Wala na ako masyadong nakikita ng book na yun since it was published by now gone Bookmark. I think some NBS still have them in stock.

  15. nina says:

    dyanie: Sobra no? Pero kailangan din babaan ang standards kapag ganun! ^_^;

    Nomadic Matt: Haha, I wish! Nah, I’m happy just being able to write about my travels and having people who actually want to read about it :D

    Ferdz: May bootleg copies pala ang LP lol. Yes, please, pahiram ako :D

  16. tutubi says:

    di ko alamyan a…offline talaga ako pag local events… we need to establish local backpacking trailsand promote them even to foreigners. at least i now see a couple of people organizing tours to some not so usual destinations

  17. Ging says:

    hi!been reading your blog….its great!esp. about backpacking :) would love to join if there will be a club/online community for this. its about time for pinoys :) ciao!

  18. nina says:

    tutubi: Korek! Sige, I’ll keep you guys posted kapag may similar events uli ang R.O.X.

    Ging: Thanks, Ging! Actually, there are a couple of groups organizing tours around the country that wouldn’t break the budget. One of these is Owen’s D-I-Y Coron tour

  19. Caloy says:

    Hi, I was ego-searching my name (one of those times na walang ng juice ang brain in front of the computer) when I came across this site. Very interesting. Anyways, Im the one who wrote that 26 Days Around the Philippines (thanks to Ferdz for the advertisement) but its out of circulation already. I have a travel blog, though. You can check it out at if you want to get some travel tips.

  20. nina says:

    Hey Caloy! Too bad I won’t be able to buy a copy na :( Anyway, I’ve subscribed to you blog :D

  21. Gabby Dizon says:

    Hi Nina,

    Thank you for linking our site! And I have to say, you have such a beautiful site yourself. Nice template, great layout, and most of all, kick-ass content :)

    Looks like R.O.X. is giving the backpacking talk again on June 28. You were already there, so it might not be interesting enough for you to visit again… it’s so nice to be discovering the travel blogging community though in the Philippines though.

  22. nina says:

    Hey Gabby! I hope you and Mench raise enough (and more!) pledge for your Moroccan honeymoon!

  23. caloy says:

    Hi again. It looks like your banner picture is a shot of Donsol countryside….. The one leading to the visitor center…… wala lang….. Am I right? Do I get a prize if Im right?

  24. nina says:

    Yup, you got that right, Caloy! Prize? Err… special mention? Hahahaha

  25. Rose says:

    Hi Nina,

    Oh my god, my friend Nikki and I are backpacking our way through Europe this August and we badly need any advice, tips, blooper-kwentos, any information, just to make everything fit in our budget at the same time connect with the locals and their culture.

    Yun actually talaga focus namin, connect with the locals. Have you had any europe-backpacking-experience or May kilala ka bang may experience na duon whether Europe or somewhere else? Yung cheap traveling talaga, walang kyeme hehehe! Yayain sana namin magkape, amin na yung kape, promise! :) Kwentuhan lang! Also, let me know if there’s a backpacking community already, as a tropical country filled with natural wonders and with abundance of 1piso fare promos from airlines, bakit nga naman wala pa? :) Sama din kami dyan!

    [I indicated my email in this comment. Found your blog through my blog, you left a comment there..super glad I found your site :)]

  26. nina says:

    Hi Rose!

    I hope you don’t mind me e-mailing you directly. I wanted to make sure you get my reply! :D

    Have you or your friend signed up for CouchSurfing? It’s this global community of travelers. You can sign up for free, and you can look for people who can host you (for free!) in the places you’re traveling too. Getting hosted means free accommodation, and a local connection! Some can only host by meeting you for coffee or drinks, and while some can even show you around.

    The local Manila CouchSurfing group is pretty active. Almost every week, the group gets together for dinner or drinks or party, and the hosts usually bring their CouchSurfing guests with them. Syempre di ako nakakajoin sa kanila because of my work *bangs head on the wall*

    I think there’s a couple of CS events happening this week, and there’s got to be someone who’s been to Europe! (There’s one expat who’s originally from Switzerland).

    Hope this helps! I haven’t been to Europe (kaya namamatay ako sa inggit sa inyo), so this is the best advice I can give you ^_^;

  27. gio says:

    i attended yesterdays lecture aug 12,, same here,, hindi naman ako pinatulog ayaw maalis sa isip ko ung mga ginawa nila,, ang laking impact sa akin nung lecture nila..

  28. nina says:

    Hi Gio! Na-inspire ka rin? Bilis, ipon na! South East Asia is waiting :D

  29. JR says:

    Hindi ako nakapunta! waaa…
    But im planning to go backpacking in thailand-cambodia early next year…
    Solo flight ito… naghahanap pa ako ng karamay.,..

    Sana nga mapromote nga yung backpacking dito sa Pinas.. Nung ginawa ko yun for a week sa banaue-batad-sagada, mas marami pa akong na meet na foreigners kaysa sa pinoy… hay….
    Di pala ma promte, sana mag ka interest yung mga fellow kababayan natin na e explore yung sarali nating bansa…

    Enough of my rants… I agree Nina!… —-> “Bilis, ipon na! South East Asia is waiting “

  30. Mel says:

    Hi there nina!

    My friends and I have very restless feet and are very passionate about travelling. We went backpacking in Thailand a few years back and met many Europeans who were very surprised to meet Filipinas like us riding a public bus through the ricefields of Southern Thailand. We have been thinking about backpacking across Southeast Asia. So, I was happily surprised to discover that Robert Alejandro recently came out with a book documenting such an experience. I’m sure there are many more fellow Filipino travel enthusiasts out there. It would really be nice if such a group would be organized. I will definitely be one of the first to join.

    Many more wonder-filled adventures to come!

  31. RJ says:

    Hi all! Three years ago, I’ve discovered the joys of backpacking and solo travel. I’ve been around SEA, and am now contemplating on the feasibility of going around the world. I’ve been searching for a Filipino with a Philippine passport who has done this, but I can’t seem to find someone. I know it’s difficult for us to do this, given the limitations, but I’m willing to apply for the required visas just to do this. If you have any suggestions or know anyone who has done this, pelase do let me know. Thanks!

  32. lee says:

    wow! i’m so inspired. palagi ko postpone ang travel plans ko dahil wala akong kasama. when is the next lecture and can i still join?

  33. […] year ago, Robert Alejandro and Jetro Rafael shared their experience of traveling through Southeast Asia on a shoestring budget: 9 countries (including China, Macau and Hong Kong), 3 months, for only Php 50,000. I was amazed at […]

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