Events Lifestyle

Air Asia Philippines Announces 5 Create Camp Finalists

For a very long time, I stopped attending media and blogger events, an eventuality of working when the rest of the world is sleeping. From morning till afternoon, where most events are held, I’m home sleeping. But last Wednesday, I went to Chino Roces, Makati to attend Air Asia Philippines’ Create Camp event. Save for the title of the event, I knew nothing about it. I came there not expecting anything but went home feeling inspired and grateful.

Air Asia is a low-cost airline based in Malaysia. Air Asia Philippines started its operations in 2012, traveling on 30 routes within the country and the rest of Asia. I’ve flown with this airline more than I could count because of its competitive air fares. They recently opened a competition for young storytellers called Create Camp, a social media reality search. The event revealed the 5 finalists who would go head to head for a chance to win over 1 million pesos worth of prizes, trips, and mentorship programs.


The selected finalists will undergo a training on photography, videography, and travel under the tutelage of the present Air Asia storytellers. The 9 people who will serve as mentors to the finalists are Benj Ramos (entrepreneur/photographer), Enzo Cruz (photographer), Ayen Dela Torre (educator and founder of Where to Next), Rachel Halili (graphic designer and co-founder of Where to Next), Nella Lomotan (marketing professional/photographer), Javi Cang (investment banker/mountaineer), Patrick Martin (social entrepreneur/adventure filmmaker), Kyrke Jaleco (travel and corporate filmmaker), and Pao Cuarteron (photographer).

And who are the lucky 5?

1. Cara Durano – a fresh graduate from De La Salle University who has the passion for adventure and music.
2. Ray Ambler Baguilar – a business student from the University of Baguio who is also a part-time financial advisor.
3. Jaip Saluba – a travel filmmaker from Iloilo.
4. Paolo Garrido – a.k.a. the Afro Wandered of Mapua, is a multimedia practitioner
5. Bea Pargas – a student and a teacher from UP Diliman.

The 5 Create Camp finalists with the bloggers

We were shown the videos that the 5 contestants created during the announcement of the finalists. I am no filmmaker, but I stake a claim in being a storyteller; I know a good story when I see one. Based on the videos presented, I could see why these five people were selected. Each finalist has a unique style and clever cinematic techniques required to make a compelling film. I was very impressed, particularly with the video entries of the 3 male finalists.

Click here to get $24 off your first airbnb booking

Out of the 5, my favorite video was created by Saluba; the transitions are seamless, the back-lighting is impeccable, the voice over perfectly melds with the sound effects. The cross-cutting, aerial shots and jump cuts were cleverly integrated, creating such an enticing narrative. You may see this video on this link.

I could not help but be inspired by these 5 souls, almost envious that they already knew what they want to do this early in life. Their videos, a vivid reminder of how much a person can achieve if he or she follows his/her passion.

But that’s not the only exciting thing that happened in this event. Air Asia gave away round-trip tickets on some Philippine and Asian destinations. I was reading something on my phone when I heard my name; I won a return ticket to Iloilo!

Thank you, Air Asia, for this wonderful opportunity!

Congratulations and good luck to the 5 finalists of Air Asia’s Create Camp!


My Biggest Learning At Age 35: Do More Regrets Than What-Ifs

I’m afraid of heights, snakes, sharks, deep waters, even smiling to a cute stranger. But you know what I am not afraid of? Change. I like it, I embrace it, I treat it as a friend. If I don’t change anything in my life, I know that I won’t be able to get what I want. I used to feel sad when I see people leave, but now I look at them, smile, and wish them the best of luck. I congratulate them for chasing after what they want. I admire them for not letting a goal or a dream to become a “what if”.

Because that’s how, in my opinion, people should live. We are only given one life (even if reincarnation is true, it’s not like we can remember our past life anyway right?) and we owe it to ourselves to do everything in our capacity to live with more of, I-shouldn’t-have-done-that than I-wish-I-have-done-that. For me, it’s always better that you did something and it didn’t work than to never have tried at all.

I made many decisions in which people called me reckless. They think that I based everything on emotions, that I do not ponder on things. They might be right, but I also know that I have never achieved much when I was being too careful. And so whenever there is a chance, I choose to take a leap of faith. As long as I know in my heart that it’s right, I go for it.

You may say that it’s easier said than done and you are right; it always comes with a struggle. But remember what I said in my previous post, “stop asking for easy.” Anything great is not supposed to be easy. When you choose to do more or be more, you should be ready to take on new challenges. To pull this off, you should always trust in your abilities. Determine what you can and cannot do then either improve yourself or work with what you’ve got. The key here is to always take courage even when you are not sure of the outcome. Will you be successful? Maybe. Will you fail? Maybe. Either way, you will learn, and that is the reward for bravery.  

I didn’t gain this confidence overnight, it took many years of failures, heartbreaks, and depression. I was also that person who used to worry all the time, constantly obsessing on the littlest of things. But as I grew old, so did the learning and one of them is that worrying is unproductive and a waste of energy. 99% of the time, the things that we worry about doesn’t happen, or if they do, it was not as bad as we thought they’d be. 

In life, everything happens because of a decision. You can listen to what people say; be smart and wait, or listen to what your heart says; be brave and take action. I’ve done both, but I find that in those times that I chose to take courage is when great things happen to me. And so I choose to be brave.

Recently, something occured that forced me to reassess my life. It’s probably great timing because it was just a week before my 35th birthday. I went home reeling from the events and I spent the next day trying to figure out what to do. I spoke to a few of my friends to seek counsel and they advised me to basically do nothing and just accept my fate. Besides, it’s not like the battle cannot be won, I got people who believe and support me after all. When I think on it, following my friends’ advice is the safest albeit a discomfiting choice, kinda like getting a tooth extracted; a little painful, but once the tooth is gone it’d be over.

Yet, I couldn’t do it. Call it pride, call it foolishness, but I was very distressed with the consequences of staying put. I know my friends mean well and they were just trying to look after me, but when I asked myself if I would be okay with it, the answer is no. I won’t be able to live with it, and I cannot be consoled. 

(I know I may not be making much sense to you right now, sorry that I cannot be more explicit. Maybe in time I would be able to tell you the whole story.)

The other option is what my heart was telling me to do. Now this one is much more difficult; it would be uncomfortable, it would be uncertain, it would be unstable. Nevertheless, when I asked myself if I could live through it, the answer is yes. Guts told me that the pain will be worth it. Sure, the challenge is greater, but it will also be very liberating and exciting. The best part is that no matter the result, whether I succeed or not, I will come out an improved person. That to me, is enough a reason to take the risk.

I know when god or the universe is talking to me. The day before I left for Malaysia for a vacation, I received the memo. I will find comfort with the thought that should I fail, at least I tried. After all, I intend to collect more regrets than what ifs in this life.



Travel Vietnam

They Don’t Drink Tap Water And Other Things I Noticed In Vietnam

When I went to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, I snapped a photo of a street that looked a lot like any of the regular streets in Manila. When I posted it on Facebook, my friends thought it was funny and questioned if I was indeed, in another country. What they didn’t know is that despite some similarities, there are many things that Vietnamese people do differently from the Filipinos.

In 2014, I finally had my first stamp on my passport. It was my first time to fly abroad and I was beyond excited. I was supposed to go with 3 of my colleagues, but all of them backed out from the trip. I went through the whole stages of grief for what they did.

  • Denial: Nah, they’d change their minds in the coming days
  • Anger: How dare they do this to me! F*ck them!!! This friendship is over!
  • Bargaining: I’m going to beg. I’ll ask them in a nice way and maybe it’ll change their mind.
  • Depression: Okay, they still don’t want to go. This is really painful. I’m not gonna talk to them.
  • Acceptance: So what if they don’t want to go? I can go on my own. I’m gonna do it.

Yes, I went through it. I wish I am kidding.

Despite the shock, my will to go never wavered for one bit. I will push through the trip come hell or high water. Naturally, I was both excited and nervous. This is it, I am going to another country. I will be physically out of my country, I will speak with people who have their own language, beliefs, tradition, and law. This is way beyond my comfort zone. But more than anything else, I was excited to know how the Vietnamese people are different from the Filipinos. Will I find their ways odd? Am I going to be culture shocked? Will I find some things offending or improper? All these questions were soon answered.

The coffee culture

I thought Filipinos have strong feelings for coffee; I was wrong. Apparently, we don’t love it with as much passion as the Vietnamese people do. There is literally cafe on every corner of the street in Ho Chi Minh and most of them place small chairs or stools (in Tagalog, bangkito) in front of their establishments where the locals like to hang out to enjoy their coffee.

Quoc Huy Tran

They like their coffee black with condensed milk and they like it iced. There are even street vendors who are selling Vietnamese iced coffee. Never in my life have I seen coffee being sold on the street, at least not this way. In my country, you may buy hot coffee from sidewalk vendors who are also selling candies, chips, and cigarettes. The coffee comes from the sachet of 3-in-1 coffee mixed with hot water. In Vietnam, there are street vendors who sell nothing but iced coffee, served on a plastic cup with a straw. And it’s good like the Vietnamese can claim they have the best-tasting coffee and I will not contest it.

The bar patrons face the street

Along Bui Vien—a.k.a. the backpacker street in Saigon—the streets are lined with bars and restaurants. The seats outside are all facing the street. That’s right, so there you go walking down the street and you got the bar or resto customers for an audience. It was the most awkward walk that I’ve done in my life. I’ve never done the walk of shame, but I think I pretty much gained an idea. But it was only weird the first time. After a while, you sorta get used to it and it will bother you less and less.

Vietnamese look like Chinese

I used to think that Vietnamese people physically resemble Filipinos, after all, many Filipinos are often cast in this long-running Broadway musical, Miss Saigon. My classmates in college even told me that I looked Vietnamese. But when I went to Vietnam and saw that they are light-skinned and have small eyes, I realized that physically, they look more like the Chinese.

Cilantro, the national vegetable

If I’d seen a fat Vietnamese I don’t remember it because I noticed that most of them are of lean or slim built. A fact that I can only attribute from the food that they eat; mostly vegetables. And unlike the Filipinos who like greasy food, the Vietnamese prefer steamed or raw food.
paul morris

Their most favorite vegetable would be cilantro, a must-have ingredient in Vietnam cuisine. You know how some vegetables practically taste nothing when cooked? Well not this green stuff. It has an intense aroma and very distinct taste that I find to be too strong for comfort. And they put it absolutely everywhere; on their national noodle dish, Pho, on their sandwich Banh Mi, on their salad rolls, I mean in every dish you could think of. Like if they could put it in their coffee they would. Because cilantro is not just a vegetable but a way of life, you’d get a whiff of cilantro the moment you step in a restaurant. [Read: Forced Healthy Eating in Vietnam]

They don’t drink tap water

I usually ask the waiter for tap water in any restaurants in the Philippines. I just think that bottled water is a waste of money, and it’s not like I get sick from drinking tap water anyway. In Ho Chi Minh, you can’t do that. They always rely on distilled bottled water. In fact, in the house of my Couchsurfing host, I saw crates of bottled water covering an entire wall. So why don’t they drink tap water? Well according to a local, their water is contaminated and untreated especially in the rural areas.

The motorcycle culture

Crossing the streets in Vietnam takes some ninja skills. You see, they love riding scooters or motorcycles, men, women, young, old, women on short shorts and heels, everyone drives a motorbike. And they come from different directions that it took me a full day to learn how to cross the street properly. When I mentioned this to a local, he gave me a tip. [Read:Braving the Streets of Ho Chi Minh]

“Just go on walking and do not hesitate. The motorbikes won’t run you down, they will be the ones to avoid you.”

I followed his advice and it worked.

frank mckenna

In the Philippines, you only need to put up your hand to signal driving vehicles to slow down if you want to cross the street. In Vietnam, they couldn’t care less and would go on driving. The first time it happened to me, I thought the truck driver would run me down; thank heavens he didn’t. This happened on a street with no crosswalks. Again, in this situation, just walk slowly.

Despite the many similarities with the Philippines, Vietnam has a unique identity that is both intriguing and amusing. I now remember it with fondness even when my visit has been marred by the scamming incidents that I experienced. Vietnam gave me the necessary education that the world is big and there are so much more to see and learn if one is willing to venture into the unknown. And I am willing to give it another chance, to better understand its culture and its people should I find an opportunity.

What about you, have you been to Vietnam? Tell us what you find unique in this country in the comment below.

Itinerary Popular Travel

El Nido Travel Guide: Traveling Solo Versus With A Group

I don’t over plan my travel because I like to have variety. I was thinking of applying the same approach for my recent trip to El Nido to the chagrin of one of my companions. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but I felt her concern when she asked for our itinerary and I could produce none. But there is a method to my madness, allowing me to discover exciting things that I wouldn’t have found had I set everything in stone. But I am not alone on this trip, therefore I was willing to adjust. I started planning our trip, Google Sheets and all.

As everyone else, I was left enchanted the first time I went to El Nido in 2015. It was special for several reasons, the main would be it was my first time to travel alone. Back then the damage was ₱18,894.24, that’s around $300. I had no one to split the expenses with and I didn’t know any better. So this time, I set a goal to cut the cost without compromising the quality of the trip and I did my research. I told my friends to prepare ₱10,000 for the pocket money.

Getting There

We booked our flight via a seat-sale promo with Air Asia. We had different flight schedules, Lara and Lou flew in the morning, I was scheduled in the afternoon, while Alchris took the evening flight.

There is a new Puerto Princesa airport and it was just inaugurated in May this year. It’s located in Barangay San Miguel. The old airport, according to some reports, will be used by the military. Let me just say that I love this new airport, probably the most beautiful airport that I’ve seen in the country.

We were supposed to take the bus to El Nido but a man approached us offering their van service. The bus fare would cost us around 400 pesos he said, while the van transfer is only worth ₱500 ($9.93). Considering the 6-hour travel time and the small difference in the fare rate, we opted to take the van.

In 2015, I went with Lexxus, a known transport operator in Palawan. Not only is it more expensive, the van was also filled to the brim that traveling was anything but comfortable. This time, the van didn’t overbook and the fare is also cheaper. So my suggestion is, talk with people offering their van service outside the airport and haggle. Because they are in competition with one another to get passengers, it won’t be too hard to negotiate for a lower fare rate.


One of the reasons El Nido is expensive is because of the pricey accommodation. But you’d be glad to know that there are now cheaper options with the emergence of hostels and guesthouses. We only spent ₱2,295.00 per head and that’s already good for a 4D3N stay at Outpost Beach Hostel. For my full review of this hostel, check out this link → [Read: Outpost Beach Hostel – The Most Popular Backpacker Hostel in El Nido].

On our last day in Palawan, we checked in at Teofila Pension in Puerto Princesa. It’s a no-nonsense accommodation, pretty basic, and only 10 minutes away from the airport. We stayed in one room with 2 beds and shower. A one night’s stay cost us ₱1,280, but since we split the bill, it didn’t hurt our budget. Teofila Pension is not exactly a stellar accommodation but given how near it is from the airport and its cheap rate, I definitely recommend it if you just need a place to crash in Puerto Princesa. By the way, our payment covered breakfast, which makes the deal all the more compelling.


This is the only part of the trip in which we didn’t have to shell out thanks to the sponsorship of Sealand Venture. On our first day, we took the Tour A. This is the same tour that I took in 2015, but I didn’t mind going back especially when I wasn’t able to take photos on some of the islands before due to my water damaged phone. To know more about Tour A, click the link below:

Read: What to expect on Tour A in El Nido Palawan

The next day, we went back to the port for the Tour C. To know more, click my story below:

Read: What Everyone Must Know About Tour C in El Nido

Both tours would take you to some of the most beautiful beaches, snorkeling sites, and lagoons in El Nido. A and C are the most popular island-hopping tours, but if you are press with time and could only pick one, I’d recommend Tour C just because it will take you to my most favorite island, Tapiutan where you can see an unsullied beach called, Dalisay (a.k.a. Star Beach), and to this beach that takes some effort to reach but is definitely worth the trouble, the Secret Beach.

Land tour

I found out that there is so much more to see in El Nido that even if I wanted to dedicate a day for doing nothing, I decided against it. Not wanting to waste our time, I spared a day for land tour. There are some travel operators that offer this, but if you’re with a small group and you’re not inclined into spending more, it’d be good to hire a tricycle driver. They aren’t hard to find; most tricycle drivers would offer their services or know someone who could give you the tour.

In our case, we hired Kuya Joshua for only ₱1,500, split 4 ways so that’s only ₱375 per head. We were able to discover some of El Nido’s less visited points of interests and they were all amazing. To know more, read my article here → [Read: How to Explore El Nido’s Off the Beaten Path Destinations in under 500 Pesos].

In our case, we hired Kuya Joshua for only ₱1,500, split 4 ways so that’s only ₱375 per head. We were able to discover some of El Nido’s less visited points of interests and they were all amazing. To know more, read my article here → [Read: How to Explore El Nido’s Off the Beaten Path Destinations in under 500 Pesos].


There is something in my 2015 that I wasn’t able to do that I indulged in on my return and that is eating. There were some things that my friends and I did not agree on, but food is not one of them. Everyone was totally on board about pigging out. I noticed that there are more establishments now than 2 years ago, in fact, a Jollibee is currently being built somewhere in Corong Corong. Hence, we didn’t lack options, it was just a matter of choosing which one to try.

Here’s a list of recommendations:

outpost-beach-hostel-el-nido (8)

Casa Kalaw – This tops our list for the best place to eat in El Nido. This is the in-house restaurant of LiO Villas Resort and where we had the most satisfying dining experience. The ambiance is good, the staff are well-dressed and polite, and the food price is not as expensive as we thought it’d be. It was recommended to us by Kuya Joshua during our land tour; good thing we listened to him. LiO Estate is a bit far from the town but trust me, the trip is worth it. Do not forget to order their pork kare-kare and ensaladang mangga. For dessert, you should definitely try their unique take on leche flan.

Art Cafe – This cafe can be found near the port and is quite popular with tourists. The food, however, is just alright, nothing remarkable. For food, go for margherita pizza.

The Cavern Pods & Specialty Coffee – It’s a newly opened pod hotel that has its own cafe. They offer delicious and reasonably priced breakfast meals. The best thing about this place, of course, is the coffee. After days of making do with so-so tasting coffee, I had coffee here and was like, finally! Someone got it right!

Roofbar – We found a bohemian bar in the town after an island-hopping trip and it’s called Roofbar. I heard that backpackers like to hang out there in the night. I totally digged the bohemian vibe; the colorful curtains, the mismatched throw pillows and ottomans, the overall quirky design of the interiors. We went here for a quick snack. Their cheese stick and calamares are nice and the margarita is refreshing.

Outpost Beach Hostel  – Outpost has an in-house bar and restaurant and it’s open even to non-guests of the hostel. If meeting new people is your scene, this is the place for you. It is always brimming with people, mostly foreign backpackers in their 20s. The bar is open until 10pm, after which, you may continue the party with your newfound friends at Las Cabañas beach.   

Breakdown of Expenses

So this is it, the final verdict. What do you think, is it cheaper to travel in El Nido solo or with a group? I made a side-by-side comparison of the expenses, but it’s important to mention that there are many things in this trip that were different from the one that I’d taken in 2015 and I do not just mean about having company. For example, I went on a tour in Puerto Princesa then, but this time, our tours were focused in El Nido. Hence, I cannot make an exact comparison. Nevertheless, I’d like to think that I was able to correct my mistakes from the first trip, like finding a cheaper option.

Another point of consideration is the food. In 2015, I ate mostly in small food joints, this time I ate in restaurants. We ate so much, a big chunk of my budget went to food. Despite this, my 2017 trip with friends out to be cheaper than the one that I took in my lonesome in 2015.

Note: Conversation to dollar is based on August 2017 currency rate.


From this trip, I learned that:

  • I indulged on my Puerto Princesa accommodation in 2015.
  • There are cheaper van transfer options from Puerto Princesa to El Nido.
  • The tour sponsorship saved us ₱2,800 ($55.68).
  • The tours arranged by Palo Alto in 2015 were expensive. I found out that there are other tour. operators that offer the same tours for less.
  • And the biggest realization: It’s easier to pig out when you have people to split the bill with.


You may view or download the itinerary of this trip by clicking the photo below ↓ .






Pin this!


Be Warned Of These Most Common Travel Scams In Asia

They say bad experiences make for great stories; it doesn’t make the experiencing though any less harrowing. Traveling albeit a thrilling experience, is not removed from possibility of setbacks, one of which is getting scammed. And they come in many forms, oftentimes targeted at tourists. It’s these acts of miscreants that give a place a bad name. In a perfect world, tourists have the freedom to roam and discover a place with no misfortune. And because the world is far from perfect, it pays to be vigilant and be aware of the ongoing scams in the places you are visiting. I asked some travelers to share the scamming incidents that they experienced while traveling in Asia. Here’s a list of the most common scams in Asia that you should be aware of.