Roads that know no end

We are nomadic in nature, adapting quickly to a change in environment and making the most of the resources in a given territory. In Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden, he surmises that the genus Homo which defines the start of mankind had been interwoven with the flora and fauna of the planet during a legendary golden age. In the biblical account, it was after the exile from Eden that man became cut off from the world.

After the exile from Eden, we find, in the biblical account, mankind condemned to death; hard work; clothing and modesty as preventatives of sexual stimulation; . . . the domestication of plants (Cain); the domestication of animals (Abel); and murder (Cain plus Abel).

As civilizations rose, crumbled, and evolved, more fortified than the last, systems were conceived, putting the thoughts and priorities of humanity in its place. A friend once noted that “the system humanity has created was designed to keep you safe, settled, and in one place. It’s hard to notice the plight of others when you’re satisfied and distracted by the things that you own.”

So disconnected we have become with the rest of the world that we forget there is more than ourselves. Modern society has become so successful in keeping us in our bubbles that we’ve become accustomed to our comfort zones and personal needs and we start living in an illusion promoted by the very pillars of society to keep the status quo. That’s why we travel far and wide despite miniscule budgets and an uncertain itinerary: because we choose to see what else is out there. The most basic perhaps, is the “road trip.”

Romanticized by the free-spirited youth of the late ’60s and early ’70s who went off to nondescript getaways in their pursuit of activism or leisure, road-tripping has been around since the invention of the automobile. In the Philippines, stories of our parents’ weekend getaways to popular vacation destinations like Baguio and Batangas easily inspired a league of weekend warriors who happen to blur lines between the beginning and ends of the week. But with social media’s infiltration, the quintessential road trip has become as normal as an out-of-town selfie. More and more Filipinos are embarking on that journey, whether it’s to reconnect with a larger cause or escape from the dredges of daily life.

EXPLORE PHILIPPINES tagged along with four friends—Jana Sebastian, Isabel “Sab” Quiñones, Mica Abesamis, and Andrea “Andy” Genota—on their road trip to Liw-Liwa, Zambales, to experience and document the group’s road trip.

Mika and Sab revealed that they have been friends since high school through a digital pen pal relationship on Tumbler, while Jana and Andy became friends through common connections. In fact, the former two had only met Jana during the trip, but with the way the women got along it felt like a reunion of sorts. But isn’t that what a road trip is about? Opening yourself to experiences and meeting new people that could potentially become friends for life.

Why we go on road trips

Jana is living the dream of most: traveling as work calls for it. A road manager for a local band, she’s whisked away to destinations like Quezon and Bicol, but her favorite so far is Coron, Palawan. “It’s like a different world,” she shared, “I go on road trips because of the people I’ll be with.” Andy on the other hand, goes on road trips for work and on her own accord. A photographer by profession, she’s been to local places like Siargao for work, which she told us is one of her favorite destinations. “I see it as a possible home. It’s a surf spot and an island so you truly feel the atmosphere of being on an island.” A few months back, she visited Sagada. Despite the very touristy reputation of the mountain province, she described her trip as magical, choosing the lesser visited paths that led her to Marlboro Country and Blue Soil. “It’s very disconnected. We would trek uphill and find ourselves in a sea of clouds,” Andy says. A few days before the trip, she backpacked solo to La Union where she found old friends and made new ones who accommodated her for the trip. “It was the first time I did it and it was great going solo because you only have to worry about yourself.”

“Ever since I was born, I was drawn to traveling,” Sab told us. Her family was forced to move to different places every year because of her father’s occupation. “I’ve lived in Bacolod, San Fernando in La Union, and now Los Baños, which is my favorite so far. It’s magical being in the mountains in a town full of young, like-minded people—the stories, and even the place itself. The nearest mall is 30 to 40 minutes away and internet signal is weak, so you’re forced to sit down and talk to each other.” And that’s what a road trip forces us to do: veer our attention away from the comfort of our screens and share ourselves to the experience. “Going home every day from the city to Los Baños is a road trip.” However, Sab shared that her favorite local destinations so far include Buscalan, home of the famed Whang-Od and where she focused her thesis on. “Despite the fame it’s receiving because of Whang-Od, it’s still so disconnected. We were still able to sit down and talk to the locals and experience what you’re supposed to experience on a daily basis—human interaction. Nowadays, people are stuck on their phones, looking at other people’s lives.” She makes a good point. We go on road trips to experience something new yet culturally familiar. “I go on road trips to experience what the Philippines has to offer more than your regular tambayan,” she concludes.

For Mika, she happens to be the quintessential budget traveler who will go if the price is right but pursues traveling nonetheless. “I go on road trips to remind me how big the world is and that it isn’t just you in your bubble. Every road trip is different.” She recalled a family road trip to Ilocos where she was taken aback by the beauty of the Philippines. “It was the first time seeing these sites all in one place so raw and untouched,” she talked about the Paoay sand dunes, Kapurpurawan rock formations, and the Bangui wind farm. “Then again, I also enjoyed Baler because it was very laid-back compared to the other surf spots, which are just busy. The people there are pure and willing to go the extra mile.”

Through conversations over lunch, each revealed they found it difficult to choose a particular road trip that trumps any other. “I don’t put any experience on a pedestal because I’ll compare. It’s not a good thing to expect. I’d rather just be in the moment,” said Mika. “I feel the same. When I’m asked that question, I end up saying ‘all,’ so I just let it surprise me. You just end up disappointed if you place a caliber,” added Andy. Jana and Sab agreed but added that what makes a road trip worth it is the journey and the people you’re with or you meet. Ultimately, it’s the memories that stick.

The road trip to Liw-Liwa was a new experience: shoved in a van filled with different people, some old friends, some who have only just met, but had an odd feeling of familiarity that we all reveled in. Mornings were filled with wanderlust as we followed the group uncover spots around the area. We ended up by a still river nestled between tropical pine trees and led to another campsite deeper in the forest. At the beach, we watched as they swam and surfed in the undulating waves as the sun set into Liw-Liwa’s signature gradient of pink and orange hues. As the night sky unveiled its canvas of the universe to those who were willing to look hard enough, the group gathered around a bonfire and looked up at the stars. Finally, everyone retreated into their air-conditioned tents at the The Glamp—a first for everyone.

The next day, with all the bags packed and the equipment safely stored away, we weren’t quite ready to head home just yet. The van ride took longer than usual, stopping here and there to prolong the experience, taking photos against the sunset at pit stops along the road. We arrived close to midnight, double the time it would have taken us to get home if we whizzed past the highways. But even then, as we bade each other goodbye, we couldn’t help thinking when the next road trip will come up.


Photography by Andrea Genota

This article was first published on Explore Philippines Magazine Issue 18

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Our journey began with an idea to discover what it means to travel the Philippines, beyond the alluring images of sparkling blue waters and powder white sand. We seek to share travel stories to inspire the wide-eyed traveler, moving them deeper into the destination with stunning images and narratives about its sights, tastes, textures, smells, and local life.

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