Friday, May 26, 2017

Giving Back Through Community Outreach Programs with Meaningful Travels Ph

Wazzup Pilipinas!

“When we travel, we are ‘takers’. We take a lot of things with us – memories, learning, photos and souvenirs. But isn’t it time for us to truly give back?” 

By the time you are reading this, the Wazzup Pilipinas team is on their way to the Mountain Province, specifically Maligcong and Mainit in Bontoc, for a community outreach program cum travel organized by Meaningful Travels Ph.

We met the main organizer at an event where she was one of the speakers., and we got so interested in what she was doing that we approached her personally to tell her that we want to write about her and Meaningful Travels Ph.

She was not able to get back to me that very moment as she was about to join a mini-contest on stage as one of the activities for the event of the Australian Embassy, but we received a text message from her later that day to ask us how we are going to go about it.

Now, that led to finally joining their trip, together with our best partner photographer, who was also eager to join the exploration to two communities.

Meaningful Travels Ph is appropriately named to depict how the organizers make it a very "meaningful" travel. When most travellers will just go to a site to take selfies, photos, videos, and some souvenirs, Meaningful Travels Ph aims to give back.

From the travel advice and preparations sent to us via email, we read the following message from Ann Marie Cunanan:

"We now officially welcome you to Meaningful Travels Ph May 2017 Mainit and Maligcong Trip!

Every trip, we meet a lot of amazing people who share their passion for travel, exploration, nature, people, and communities. We came up with this travel guide for you to prepare yourself for the journey - physically, mentally, and whatever it is that you need to make the experience a successful and meaningful one.

The journey is not a walk in the park and will require the type of travelers who are willing to “rough it out” and at times, adapt to situations. The bus journey is long (10-12 hours each way) and the travel can be challenging aka "buwis buhay". But, you will see and appreciate the most beautiful landscapes and experience the amazing Igorot culture. You will also build new friendships amongst your fellow travelers and all the people you will meet along the way.

Half of the trip’s success will depend on how much you give of yourself. As what a dear friend of mine had said, “When we travel, we are ‘takers’. We take a lot of things with us – memories, learning, photos and souvenirs. But isn’t it time for us to truly give back?” This is your opportunity. Let’s seize it!

I know we are all excited especially the local communities and the children we will be visiting. are also excited. I wish you all the best for this trip and let’s pray for the best trip experience ever! I can’t wait to see you all soon! " - Ann Marie "Naknak" Cunanan, Travel Organizer

Here are some descriptions of Maligcong and Mainit:

"Maligcong is one of the six barangay in the town of Bontoc, Mountain Province. Recently, adventure enthusiasts have been flocking this once sleepy town for its cool sweater-weather, untouched rice terraces, mist-laden mountain viewpoints and hiking trails that lead to hot springs on its adjacent barangay (Mainit). It is more than 400 kilometers away from Manila and getting there requires a combination of bus and jeepney rides, either through Banaue or Baguio City.

With the advent of mass tourism now plaguing Baguio, Sagada and Banaue, Maligcong has now emerged as a good alternative for weekend travelers looking for a place to hike and simply chill out." - Lakad Pilipinas

Mainit was named after a tagalog word that means "hot". This can be attributed to the presence of hotsprings within the village's premises. Walking around the village, one would see boiling waters and steams, and local houses have the benefit of having their own individual hot pool tubs to ease the tiredness of the locals who are mostly working as farmers.

Not a lot of visitors visit the place because of its remote location. An avid traveler has to travel an hour more from Bontoc to the uplands just to visit the town of Mainit. But, any traveler who takes an extra effort will be rewarded by the soothing waters of their mineral hotsprings and amazing mountain view as you go up to this sleepy and quiet village.

Ann Marie's travel advice and preparations also includes what to pack, and to also prepare our body for the trek:

We were asked to pack the right kind of clothes and gears for the trip, and they listed the suggested items to bring with us.
"There is only one long trek for this trip and it is the climb to Mount Kupapuey. Locals can trek the mountain under 30 minutes only but city people or first time mountaineers may require at least one hour and a half of time to include rest intervals. 

Prepare your body for this trek by doing stretches and lots of walking (ideally days before the trip). Also have the right trekking shoes and outfit with you. "

They also advice that we should inform family and friends that we will be on a trip. 70% of the time, we have very limited access to mobile signals and we don't want our loved ones to worry where we are. For those who will take a leave from work, we may want to inform our workmates in advance that we'll have no access to email or phone during our travel dates.

Trekking burns a lot of calories. In order to sustain our energy for the trip's duration, we should have enough trail food and water during the trip.

The organizers will provide the main meals, water, and some snacks in our main stops (bring a water bottle with you for refills) but we should carry with us extra food to fuel our systems. Trail bars, chocolates, nuts, dried fruits, and jerky are good for a quick nibble.

The places we'll stay do not have regular tourist facilities. We will be living in communities, so we were told to expect to live, sleep, commute, and eat just like the locals do. Are we willing to give up some of our city comforts? 


For this trip, we will be sleeping on our first night at Maligcong Elementary School. The school offers a very good vantage point of the rice terraces and also allows us to bond with the school teachers. Just carry with you a sleeping bag for the evening. In Mainit, a local home will host the travelers(with bed and beddings.

Comfort Room:

There are no showers and flush toilets. Instead, everything is done manually using a pail and a dipper. But these communities never runs out of fresh clean water. 


We'll eat what the locals eat, well, not really the exotic ones. Our meals in Maligcong and Mainit will be prepared by the local community members. So expect to try their "pinikpikan" dish and some more vegetable dishes from their organic produce. 


We'll ride the bus for the long ride to Banawe/Bontoc, and use the local jeep as our mode of transportation within the region. For those who are adventurous, enjoy a breezy (and thrilling) topload ride during the trip.

During the Trip: We all want the trip to be smooth, harmonious, ethical and a successful one.

1. Make yourself comfortable. 
The bus rides are long (10-12 hours), you can bring a neck pillow and a blanket to keep you warm and comfortable during the trip. Good music or podcast playlist can also keep you entertained for the whole ride. If you you are prone to motion sickness, take a motion sickness tablet (ex. bonamine) an hour before the trip.
2. Create a harmonious and friendly environment with your fellow travelers. 80% of our travelers are solo travelers. Don't be afraid to make friends and reach out to the next person beside you. Always remember to respect each individual coming with you on this trip. They will come from different backgrounds (such as religious, gender, and political orientation). Respect your differences, and celebrate those that you commonly share with them. Make it a safe environment for everyone and help keep the positive vibes alive. You'll be surprised you'll create new BFFs in your journey once the trip finishes.

3. Be open, be respectful, and be friendly with the community locals. We are approaching a community that still observes most of its indigenous culture and traditions. We are there to interact and "share" a few moments with them as they host us into theirhomes and community. Keep an open mind and respect the traditions and stories you will hear during our visit. Our role is to observe and learn as much from their culture. 

And don't forget to be generous with your smile and spirit. The locals are very friendly and will always try to help you feel comfortable as much as they can. 
4. Love Mother Earth. It is a common practice for mountaineers to observe the LNT rule also known as leave no trace rule. Avoid leaving your trash in the communities. Pack all your "trash" and you can throw them in designated trash cans once we reach the city center in Bontoc. 

5. On Taking Photos. Most of us will be excited to take photos and share them online. Best to always ask permission if its "ok" to take a photo. 
Do not post anything that will put anyone in a bad light, make them look vulnerable or "kawawa" in a situation. 

With children, especially for documentation purposes, MTPh will ask in advance a permission from the school guardian / Principal for us to document and release materials with the children. 

6. Health and Safety There are no hospitals in the area. God forbid, in case of emergency, one has to endure the an hour travel to the next hospital. Always keep an eye with each other and be cautious with your activities to avoid harming yourself and others.

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