I am in love with Manila!
It is quite easy to fall in love for a city that has a healthy mix of modernity, history, and culture. I love its raw and tough atmosphere, an aspect that I have initially feared but I have learned to love now that I get to have a weekly personal encounter with one of the country's premiere cities.
At the center of Manila's rugged atmosphere is Binondo, Manila's Chinatown. Established in 1594, Binondo is the oldest Chinatown in the world and was once the country's center for finance and business. Manila's initial pomp and pageantry slowly faded after World War 2 and the gradual shift also affected Binondo. But despite of these changes, Binondo remains to be the center for business for our Filipino-Chinese community and was able to keep its rich culture and heritage through the years.
There are a lot of interesting fact in Binondo that were uncovered when we joined the fray of the Chinese New Year's celebration. Join me as we uncover the history, the culture, and trying to find a touch of our luck as we explore Binondo!
Did you know that the country's first center for finance and commerce was in Binondo?
There are three popular streets in Binondo and one of them is Escolta - the "Makati" of the earlier years of the country. The street was the first home of the country's biggest players in finance and commerce. Although its glamour has faded through the years, a lot of efforts are being put in to revive the popularity of Escolta.
You can walk along its cobblestone street to explore the historical structures that line Escolta. Start by enjoying the neo-classical building of the Don Roman Santos Building that now serves as the home of Bank of the Philippine Islands. Walk down the street to enjoy the neo-classical design of Regina Building and the beaux art style. of Natividad Building and Calvo Building - the first home of GMA Network. You can also check out Burke Building where the first elevator in Manila was installed and the First United Building which was once the tallest building in the country.
While you are at it, do check out the Capitol Theater. The theater was designed by Juan Nakpil with a rare design of having 2 balconies. You can walk the whole length to admire the neo-classical El Hogar Building that was built as a wedding gift. If Taal has the Wedding House, Escolta has the Wedding Building.
Calle de la Escolta is a treasure trove for history buffs and there are a lot to explore that is worthy of a separate blog entry. The renewed attention on Escolta paved the way for the drive to reconstruct and preserve these old structures. A move that can clearly state that modernity can mix with history when we give it proper attention.
Anyone up for walk at Calle de Escolta?
Did you know that the new Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arc at the foot of Jones Bridge is the largest in the world?
Standing at the height of 63.8 feet and the width of 74 feet, the new Filipino Chinese Friendship Arc is the largest in the world overshadowing the arc in Washington, USA. The arc was unveiled in 2015 and featured a more modernized look highlighted by three Chinese pagodas. Its current location stands at the foot of Jones Bridge to now include Escolta.
Just a few meters away is the smaller and original friendship arc that for years greeted locals and visitors to this district of Manila.
Although the new arc may have raised some questions from local historians, the arc is very appealing and exudes the vibrance of the culture and heritage of Binondo.
Did you know that you can find a small replica of the Statue of Liberty in Binondo?
Tucked along Juan Luna Street is an old building that was once one of the biggest malls in the country. The Aguinaldo Mall was a 6-story building that was inaugurated in 1931 under the ownership of Leopoldo R. Aguinaldo & Co. It was involved in the trading of footwear supplies, women accessories, and hair products.
The mall had already ceased operations but the current structure remains standing along the busy street of Juan Luna. Except for some business on the ground floor, the building shows its age.
However, the building facade still has its iconic human sculptures although it is camouflaged within electric wires. The building has a small replica of the Statue of Liberty, one of the few that you can find in the country. It stands side by side with the image of Andres Bonifacio, which is an irony since the the mall is called Aguinaldo. The two images show the fusion of two cultures in one venue.
Did you know that the first Filipino Saint was born in Binondo?
Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz is at the heart of Binondo's bustling community. The public square was originally called Plaza de Binondo and served as an economic hub for the locals. It was later renamed to Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz to honor the first Filipino saint who was born in Binondo.
The public plaza is one of the few open parks in Manila. It is highlighted by a sculpture of Lorenzo Ruiz at the center. Interestingly the plaza has two fountains on both ends which are part of the original strructural installations during its earlier years.
Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz was once considered to be one of the "most impressive open spaces in Manila" because of its aesthetics. Although the park has evolved from greens to a concrete park, it was able to retain the trees that are peppered in the area. It still remains a center for activities where major activities for the communities are staged here.
Did you know that the octagonal belltower of the Binondo Church is the only original structure from the 16th century church?
The massive Binondo Church has gone through a lot of reconstruction after being damaged by natural calamities and the only original structure from the 16th Century is its belltower. The church is huge with its high ceiling interior. One of its highlights are its painted ceilings that depict the life of Jesus Christ.
The altar is also a point of interest as it was loosely designed to look like Vatican's Saint Peter's Basiica.
Enshrined in one corner of the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz is the Sto. Cristo de Longos - a blackened image of the crucified Christ. The image was said to have been found in the 16th century by a deaf-mute Chinese. The image is said to be miraculous that the deaf-mute was able to speak right after his discovery.
Did you know that you can enjoy a feel of Hong Kong’s side market in Carvajal Street in Binondo?
Carvajal Street may look like an unassuming street that connect Quintin Paredes and Yuchengco. But when you walk along Carvajal, it will transport you to a different place. The look and feel of the street is very similar to the market side streets that you see in Hong Kong.
Carvajal Street is a street of all market trades. The street is lined up with fruit and vegetable vendors, meat and fish vendors, small eateries, snack houses, and small businesses. Interestingly, there are stores near the Yuchengco end that also sell Chinese products from the popular ones to the “exotic” ones.
So do not miss out on Carvajal Street to get that authentic Chinese street feel when you are in Binondo.
Did you know that Ongpin Street is a melting pot of all trades?
Name it and Ongpin Street has it. From food establishments to jewelry shops, Ongpin Street is probably the most iconic among the three popular streets in Binondo. I mean, Binondo is always equated to Ongpin, right?
The street stretches from Binondo Church to the Santa Cruz Church and it is lined with all kinds of trade – hotel, food establishments, Chinese Drugstores, Chinese Charm Stores, groceries, and jewelries. It is a major artery of the district and has always been the center of Filipino-Chinese commerce in Manila.
The best time to visit Ongpin Street is during the Chinese New Year celebration where you get to see the whole street burst out in revelry, not to mention the crowd. The whole stretch of the street is colored red and with activities happening left and right. You get to enjoy watching Dragon Dances, both the authentic and the innovative ones. You can also enjoy checking out Chinese Charm stores to get a dose of charms that will give you good luck.
But one thing that you will enjoy in Ongpin Street is trying out the authentic Chinese dishes from the restaurants located along Ongpin Street and its side streets. The gastronomic delights of Ongpin Street is worthy of an independent blog entry soon. And just before you head home, drop by Eng Bee Tin to buy your favorite take home treats – hopia and tikoy!
On a side note, you can also check out the largest tikoy in the Philippines on display at Eng Bee Tin during the Chinese New Year Celebration.
Did you know that there is a temple in Binondo where you can seek advice for your future?
This was my second time to visit Kuang Kong Temple along Kipuja Street. This temple dedicated to Chinese deity Kuang Kong is one of the few Buddhist Temples that are open to the public. Kuang Kong is known as the Goddess of Mercy and is also the Patron of Scholars and Martial Arts.
As from my previous visit, the temple had a lot of visitors offering their prayers and requests while burning incense. There were even devotees who offered fruits as their offerings. For those who want to seek advice for their future, you can approach the elders of the church who can give you insights of it. They can also advice you on what to do to attract the positives in your life.
Post Travel Notes:
Binondo is a district in Manila that simply brims with pride when it comes to their unique heritage and culture. It is amazing that despite the urban decay that happened in Manila, Binondo is one district that has managed to sustain its urban charm. It is one of the most vibrant district of Manila with its eclectic atmosphere making it one of the preferred tourist destinations in Manila.
There are still a lot of nooks and crannies to discover in Binondo. There are food spots to check out and, with the renewed attention on Escolta, discover its development that attracted the younger crowd. All these things are worthy of another shot to walk and explore Binondo again.
Getting There: One can take the LRT 1 train and go down Carriedo Station. From the station, you can walk towards the Plaza Lacson. You can start your walking tour from the Roman Santos Building and Escolta.
“Explore Manila!” is a personal project to go around the cities and the lone municipality of Metro Manila to discover its tourist destinations and what it has to offer. I plan to continue the project on the second half of 2017 to discover what the cities, located down south, have to offer. If you are up for a city exploration, leave a message or shoot me an email so I can update you of the schedules.
With 44 islands to choose from, we never ran out of places to discover and explore. We had our complete fill of white sand beaches the whole time. Whilst some places were blessed with a couple of white sand shorelines, I think that probably Balabac got the most share of it. But the Balabac Group of Island is more than just a collection of islands. It is a vacation buffet of sorts where you can also enjoy rock formations, sandbars, natural infinity pools, and a very rich marine ecosystem underneath its waters.
Balabac is the westernmost point of the Philippines. It sits close to Sabah, Malaysia with the Balabac Strait as it natural boundary. Despite its natural beauty, Balabac has trailed behind its northern counterparts like Coron and El Nido in terms of its tourism economy probably because of some safety concerns and perception.
This is the second of my two-part #BalabacAsyon travel blog. Again, the words and captures that I used on this blog is an injustice to the real beauty of the place. I do encourage you that if you have the means and the time to visit Balabac, do it with a reputable travel agency, better yet… sign up with FB travel group Kilometer Zero Ph so you can definitely enjoy the real beauty of this paradise on this side of Palawan.
You probably noticed that my earlier blog featured the white sand beach destinations of Balabac but do not be deceived because these group of islands have a variety of interesting spots to offer. Balabac can also be a toughie with its amazing rock formations and these rock features will simply make your jaw drop.
Remember this beach spot from the first blog?
Kabkabun Island sits right across the sandy shores of Silom-Silom Beach. This rocky island is in fact connected by a natural bridge that one can cross during low tide and forms part of the property of Kuya Helvin. The island whose main feature is a solid rock formation at the center of the island. Its coastline is mostly rocks formations with a small patch of white sand where our boats docked.
The island is the smallest that we visited and you can easily explore the whole island by foot. Far from the usual beach stops that we had, Kabkabun Island had the most dramatic backdrop because of its rock formations. I guess its rocky landscape is a great playground to play around with our cameras and subject.
Kuya Helvin shared with us that pineapples used to grow on top of the island's main rock formation. Unfortunately, the plants were destroyed during the last typhoon that hit the area. I am hoping that on our next visit, we will be able to cross the natural bridge to Silom-Silom Beach.
Coming from the sea, I found Timbayan Island's rock formation odd. I could not figure out what it was whether it was an overhanging rock or a dried coconut tree. But the real beauty of Timbayan Island can be seen, not on the shore, but by viewing it from the top.
I dubbed Timbayan's rock formation as "God's Unfinished Natural Runway".
Viewing the formation atop an overhanging rock, the natural rock formation looked like an unfinished airport runway extending towards the sea. The view will simply keep you in awe. I realized that Balabac was indeed blessed with so much beauty, polished and rugged. I think that to better appreciate the beauty of Timbayan, one has gotta to see it first from the same vantage point where we started.
Coming face-to-face with Timbayan's rock formation, one could see the actual crevices of the "abandoned runway". You can actually find small saltwater pools long the crevices with schools of small fish. I did not want to miss out on walking the length of the "runway" until I reached its tip where I was given a different view of Timbayan's beauty.
Timbayan Island is not all rock formations. On one side of the island is a small white sand cove where our boats docked while the other side had a longer stretch of white sand shores to enjoy. But Timbayan Island stands out because of "God's runway" and it is the same feature that makes it stand out.
Ramos Island: The Beauty Underneath
Throughout our trip, our group was simply mesmerized by the beauty of Balabac with its beaches, sandbars, etc. Everytime we head back to our campsite, we would always talk about attempting to check out the beauty that lies beneath the waters of Balabac. The boat crew would share with us stories about sightings of dolphins and sea turtles. We were hoping to have the same encounter but I guess we were not that lucky. And besides, poaching was probably driving these marine animals away from the area.
We did get a chance to experience the underwater beauty of Balabac when we stopped over a snorkeling site off the coast of Ramos Island. The beauty of Balabac radiates even under its waters. The reef area where we anchored was teeming with marine life and we were all like kids enjoying a new toy.
Here is a funny anecdote... Nemo seems to be enjoying his spot here in Balabac. Nemo was never lost. Nemo was simply shunning away from his newfound popularity and opted to stay in the peaceful waters of Balabac.
Natural Infinity Pools
Pool palaces is probably one of the most talked about party venues in the metro. It is a cool idea partying with friends by the poolside. But long before humans ever thought about this amazing idea, God has already molded the very same concept with nature and Balabac was His party venue. These pool palaces beat the city one's out with a natural infinity pool and a wave pool rolled into one. And with Kap's boat crew, it was a party like no other.
Unnamed Infinity Pool, Matanguli Island
This still unnamed "infinity pool" off the coast of Matanguli Island was our very first taste of a narural infinity pool. Imagine a huge area of about a hectare or two with turquoise waters glistening under the summer sun. From our boat, you could see the white sand bottom of the pool that extends to where the water turns deep blue. You know that the color transition was because of the drop on the sea floor.
As our boat anchored on its white sand seafloor, I noticed that the waves were quite huge that our boat was bobbing up and down. This made me queasy so I simply jumped out of the boat into the cool waters. The water was just about 4 feet deep. In no time, everyone was already out and about enjoying its clear waters and enjoying the soft feel of the sand under our feet. It was like being in a wave pool with soft white sand under. The only difference was all of these were naturally made with a great view of the surrounding islands to boot.
KMZ Sandbar / Stingray Sandbar
Remember Candaraman Island from the previous post?
Candaraman Island is a gem from almost all sides. It is probably one of the islands blessed with so much beauty both under and above its waters. Our #BalabacAsyon ended with a blast when he headed to another natural infinity pool located north of Candaraman Island. The Stingray Sandbar, also known as KMZ sandbar, is another perfect place to throw a pool party.
Unlike the first natural infinity pool that we visited, the KMZ sandbar has tamer waves that allowed us to enjoy our send-off party. The clear waters was so inviting that after the crew drove out possible stingray occupants in the area, everyone simply jumped into the pool. Yes, stingrays frequent the area but we were not that lucky to catch a glimpse of the sea creature.
Interestingly, the deeper waters in the area yielded unique sea creatures. I was especially drawn to a different kind of starfish. While we are all familiar with the usual shape of a starfish, the one that we saw is a rounded green one. It was as if Balabac was saying that it is different and that it stands out from the rest. It was definitely a fitting send off for us.
If 2016 gave bar hopping a different definition, Balabac’s version of bar hopping elevates the activity to a different ball game. It was simply a fight of beauty and experience. If you are fascinated by sandbars, this part of Palawan will not only give you quantity but with a sure dose of quality sandbars to hop on.
Angela Sandbar / Mansalangan Sandbar
Let me share with you the story behind the name of Angela’s sandbar. Often referred to as Mansalangan by locals, it is funny that the sandbar does not pop out on google maps when you type in “Mansalangan”. This sandbar is a popular stop in Balabac and did not go by a popular name. But the frequent visits of Kilometer Zero PH had their team jokingly refer to it as Angela’s sandbar, in reference to one of Km0’s founders. In due time, the name did pick up until it was geo tagged as Angela’s sandbar.
The sandbar glistened in the noontime sun in all its splendour. I guess that the lunch hour is the best time to visit as the tides are lower revealing the whole length of the sandbar. Angela’s sandbar is a beauty that gets you excited as you approach it because you could watch the white sandbar grow in front of you like it was rising from the sea.
Not willing to endure the noontime sun, we opted to proceed with the tour and to just drop by the sandbar in the afternoon on our way back to camp. Our second visit had the tides flowing in so part of the sandbar was already submerged in saltwater. The waves and the sun was friendlier and the best part of it was that we had the whole sandbar to ourselves. It was quite an experience to watch the parts of the sandbar slowly going underwater while we strolled down its powdery white sand.
Talking about naming sandbars, Balabac is still an uncharted territory and there are still a lot of sandbars that remains unnamed. Take the case of an unnamed sandbar located on the southern tip of Candaraman Island that we visited before heading back to camp.
It was a thrill strolling along the short strip of sand in the middle of the waters that separate Candaraman and Balabac Island. The 300-meter sandbar was a great place to enjoy another round of swimming or simply to run the length of the sandbar.
Interestingly, we were all lobbying Kap to name the sandbar under our name. It would be cool to have a sandbar named after you. But if I were to name the sandbar, I would name it the “Great Divide Sandbar”.
Simply because an interesting feature of this unnamed sandbar was that it stands to divide the black sea urchins and the starfish. On one side of the sandbar is where you dare not swim because of the presence of a lot of sea urchins while the other side makes you feel like a star as you swim with a lot starfish.
A few meters from the unnamed sandbar is the sandbar of the stars. Starfish Sandbar and the Unnamed Sandbar are just two of the five sandbars located south of Candaraman Island. As the name implies, the sand bar is the home of hundreds of starfish and you would be amazed to see these creatures spread out underwater as you approach the sandbar.
We enjoyed counting them until we can no longer do so because there was just plain too many. The sandbar seemed to be a place where all these starfish could get together to discuss issues that affect them. If you are lucky enough, you can try to find the six-legged starfish in the area.
Punta Sebaring, Bugsuk Island
The sandbar of all the sandbars that I have been so far in the country. Punta Sebaring is already an eye candy even as you approach Bugsuk Island. The white sand that stretches far into the sea can be seen even if you are still quite a distance from the docking area. Punta Sebaring is one of the popular stops here in Balabac, not only for its beauty, but it is also where you can find one of the finest white sand in the country, if not the finest.
Stepping onto the wet white sand of Punta Sebaring was like stepping onto a big marshmallow where your feet actually sinks in a few inches. That is how fine the sand in Punta Sebaring. The stretch of white sand rippled by water was a great element for photos, and we all tried to artistically put traces of foot steps towards the forested area of Bugsuk. The rustic scene and the soft feel of its white powdery sand on our soles was enough to make Punta Sebaring my favorite Balabac spot. I would not mind visiting it over and over again.
I have to agree to those who also visited Punta Sebaring that it is where you will find the finest white sand in the Philippines. But to visit the place requires the right timing because the tides can make it difficult for boats to traverse the waters leading to it like how ours did when we left the place. But it is definitely a piece of paradise here on earth for every beach lover. Just make sure that you protect yourself from beach tick bites before hitting the sandbar or exploring further inland.
Post Travel Notes:
Balabac is just beyond comparisons. Its beauty further solidifies Palawan’s spot as a tourist destination that is like no other. It is a league of its own. Our #BalabacAsyon was like going to a buffet of sorts where you have a fill of everything on the menu and you simply come out full and more than satisfied. Balabac levels up expectations on white sand beaches, sandbars, underwater wonders, and rock formations. The variety that Balabac offers is simply jaw-dropping and that you simply look forward to what it can still offer.
Balabac is an off-beat destination that is ready to score big, now that it is starting to catch the interest of travelers. I am glad that I was able to enjoy it in its early stages of tourism development. The whole #BalabacAsyon was an encounter that simply caught us breathless that we came out of the experience wanting to discover more.
And yes, we will.
For those who are interested to discover more of what Balabac can offer, our IG travel group, @viajerongpinoy, teamed up with @kilometerzeroph for a 6 days 5 nights exploration of the Balabac Group of Islands on March 24 – 30, 2018. For more details about this instaviaje, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.
Getting there: Going to Balabac is a total of 10 hours of travel by air, land, and sea from Manila. In our case, we opted to join one of the organized trips of Kilometer Zero PH. I highly recommend their group as the trip was very fun, organized, and extremely safe. And with Kap Andong at the helm of the trip, you are sure to get a lot of great sites and insights. You need not worry about anything once you step inside their van. The flights to Puerto Princesa and your pre and post-trip accommodations are the only things that you need to work on.
If you want a full and satisfying #BalabacAsyon experience, you can reach Kilometer Zero PH here.
Shout-outs: Huge shout-out to Hull and Stern for keeping the Viajerong Pinoy’s stuff dry during our island hopping activities with our personalized Hull and Stern dry bags.
Huge shoutout to IG: @igramer for some of the shots featured on this blog.
You can also follow us on Instagram: @marc7del, @payatnalaskwatero, and @thetravelingdada for more of our travel visual stories.
You can also follow @viajerongpinoy on Instagram and on Facebook to discover the beauty of the Philippines from the eyes of our fellow Pinoy travelers.
As I was on my way to BGC yesterday for a meeting, I stumbled upon another horror travel story that was posted in one of the FB travel groups that I follow. It warned its members about getting the services of a Facebook travel organizing group sharing the horrors of her experience. She shared that the way it was handled by the organizers were so bad that it completely spoiled her whole travel experience.
The incident made me smile because I, myself, had a slightly similar experience over Labor Day weekend but not as horrific as the one shared by the FB user.
Just to give you a brief, I decided to be “joiner” to an organized backpacking trip to Romblon last weekend. My decision to join this organized travel by this FB group was that I wanted to visit Cresta de Gallo in Sibuyan Island without the hassle of arranging the transportation on a very long weekend. In short, it was more of the convenience over a DIY trip. Now, this was my first time to be a joiner of a trip.
Everything was going smoothly. There were some bumps along the way but that was understandable. I mean no trip is close to perfection and, as an advocate of local travel, I have understood that through years of traveling in the Philippines. These “bumps” add flavor to the travel experience. But a major mishap towards the end of our Romblon trip created a stir to most of the joiners.
The trip organizers failed to secure our return tickets to Batangas City ahead of the long weekend so their purchase went head-to-head with the deluge of ticket demand from the Labor Day weekend crowd. And for those who have been traveling in the Philippines, you know what that means, right? So to cut the story short, we got stranded for a day in Romblon and we were all “lucky” as chance passengers on our second day. We arrived in Batangas City a day later than what was mentioned in the group’s committed itinerary.
Honestly, the “mishap” was an incident that could have easily been recovered had the organizers properly handled the situation. It was a simple case of managing the expectations of everyone on board. I think that if the organizers approached the situation tactically, the tour would have ended on a high rather than on a sour note.
Let me share with you my pick-up points from the incident and I hope that for those who are involve in organizing these kinds of trips or for those who intend to go into one, you could learn a thing or two from this piece.
Commitments are commitments. Stop giving “backpacking” a bad name.
For FB groups who organize trips, please drop the “backpacking” excuse to cover up for your mistakes.
Backpacking is a travel concept where the idea is you only have a backpack for your stuff and for mobility purposes. It also involves the flexibility of time and destination depending on the whims of the traveler or travelers. Everyone is involved in the planning and execution. The uncertainty and unpredictability card for this kind of trips are high and this is usually applied to DIY trips.
But when a group offers a package for an organized tour, the trip’s level of uncertainty and unpredictability for its participants diminishes at a very low rate. The understanding is that the organizer has already studied the itinerary that he or she is presenting hereby giving the participants the leverage to manage their schedule around the itinerary. In short, you do not ask the participants if they are okay with the itinerary but you tell them that this is our committed itinerary to the traveling group and the participants’ work around it.
With this itinerary, you also work on the arrangements for everything because the organizer offered a package where he or she commits to take charge of all these arrangements – from transportation, food, and accommodations. It is the reason why participants join in. They want the convenience of a person or a group to organize everything. In most cases, organizers are not commissioned to draft it and he or she offers these packages to followers which makes their commitment stronger to participants.
In short, an organizer’s commitment is a commitment. If changes should occur along the way, the organizer takes on the responsibility for it. You do not turn the tables around and make it look that it was the participants’ fault because it was a backpacking trip. You offered an organized tour where participants work around it and it is the organizer’s responsibility to deliver. It diminishes the right of an organizer to pull out the “backpacking” card when things go wrong.
When things go wrong, it is a mistake of the organizer and not the concept of backpacking.
Apologize, Resolve, and Offer Concrete Solutions
Every trip will always entail some minor bumps along the way and to minimize those “bumps” is part and parcel of being a travel organizer. It is the organizers responsibility to manage these bumps and expectations. In fact, some of these bumps, if managed properly, will actually be swept under the rug in no time.
But there are those really nasty travel “bumps” that could have been avoided with proper planning and foresight. In our case, having no return tickets back to Batangas could have been avoided if it was addressed weeks ahead considering that organizers knew it was a Labor Day Weekend. But as they say, shit happens and it did. Unfortunately, that crucial mistake caused a domino effect during the latter part of the trip.
I think another crucial lapse on the part of most travel organizers is their inability to sufficiently address such “travel crisis”. Travel organizers should take heed that no amount of explanation will justify the organizer’s mistake of not handling a basic expectation from them. It is like a student coming into an examination room with a calculator but without a pen. That is how important the basics are.
But there will always be situations where basics are being missed out and these situations would differentiate the mature ones from the rest. The mature ones will simply apologize, recognize their lapse, and offer no other explanations. Again, you can give a hundred of explanations but it will not diminish that it was the organizer’s fault.
Sabi nga nila, kayo nagkamali, sino ang dapat mag-aadjust?
Mature tour organizers will always find a concrete solution and will not work on chance. Organizers need to address the uncertainty that the participants are feeling. Whether they admit it or not, a feeling of disappointment will run among the participants and organizers should be ready to face that. But if you give them a concrete plan where the feeling of uncertainty is addressed, most of the participants would understand.
In our case in Romblon, all of the participants knew that we were already stranded and we were all trying to just go on with the day. However, the feeling of uncertainty with everyone later on took a toll because the organizers failed to give us a specific date on when we could return back to our normal lives. It was like getting stuck without knowing when we will get out. As I have mentioned to a friend, it would have been better if the organizers told us that we have sure RoRo tickets for everyone on May 4 but we will still try our chances on May 2 and May 3 to get on a boat for Batangas. If this was the case, I could have easily adjusted my schedules to May 5, planned where to go on the next two days, and I would have been one person off their back.
Again, it was a simple case of providing us with a concrete solution rather than simply playing with chance and uncertainty.
What you say matters. Watch your words.
I have always believed that in whatever “crisis” that you are into, less is more. I have always practiced to only provide details on what is necessary to those affected rather than giving them a whole gamut of explanations to which they would then start rationalizing. I stick to the facts, share the action plan, and just give you the status. This way it also shows that I am on top of the situation because I can explain the situation and action plan simply.
The wrong words can get a whole fire running.
Travel organizers should have a strong presence of mind during these “travel crisis” and the first impulse should be to work on the welfare of their participants. They should ensure that proper assistance is of high priority. Most of your participants know that you are not a legal business entity so they are aware of your limitations but that should not stop you from providing assistance, at the least.
Due prudence with your words and actions will give organizers an added advantage. Remember that it is the primary responsibility of the organizer to make their participants understand the situation, and not the other way around. It was the organizers’ negligence that caused the inconvenience so do not expect paying participants to understand especially if the lapse was a basic expectation that the organizer promised from the start.
On the side note, travel organizers should also refrain from sneaky side comments because it just adds fuel to the fire and it does not help the situation. Remember how the situation is handled is a reflection of the tour organizer and not its participants.
As I look back at the situation, it was one of those opportunities where the coordinators could have easily worked the situation to their advantage if they only stopped for a brief moment and coordinated themselves first. Having done DIYs and organized group trips previously, I understand that there was a lapse on their part but they could have easily recovered if they managed expectations early among the participants.
As I have said earlier on I will practice due prudence by intentionally not naming the FB travel organizer’s name on this blog. I would like to give them the space to further improve their services through this feedback and hopefully help the start-ups, as well. Feedback is best way to make people see how they can move from good to great but the first step is to accept the feedback with an open mind.
So how was the Romblon experience?
It was a great experience.
There were some lapses and bumps but I would not let those bumps spoil a weekend that could rival the events happening in Boracay. No one can definitely beat that King’s cup game in Cresta de Gallo. No worries, I will be blogging about the trip soon but probably without endorsements or recommendations, at this time.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.