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Meet Celine Reyes, (Fellow) Wanderer and Writer

You know how there are some people whom you instantly have a connection with? That was how I felt when I met Celine Reyes. One early Monday morning, I showed up at the meeting place for the Vamos a Malolos press launch, only to find that I wasn’t on the list of confirmed attendees. Luckily, there was a free spot on the bus. The organizers introduced me to Celine; I sat beside her; and our shared lust for travel quickly brought us past that “awkward strangers” phase.

I found that Celine and I have plenty of similarities. Aside from our itch to explore the world, we’re both writers and bloggers. She contributes articles on local travel and food trips to When In Manila and shares her personal adventures on her blog Celineism. We both traded in our steady office jobs to pursue our dream careers, never mind that said careers probably won’t fill our bank accounts. And like me, she aspires to be a published author. Talk about coincidences!

“Travel will heal you, one way or another. Indeed, it healed me. I was a mess before I began going on adventures, and the more I went, the more I became whole.”

Still, we have just as many differences, which made our conversations all the more interesting. While I’ve traveled mostly abroad, Celine’s determined to see as much of the Philippines as she can before heading for foreign territory. While I’m a big scaredy-cat, she seems to be pretty much down for anything. I can name a couple of other things that set us apart, but you’re not here for that, are you? You’re here to be inspired, just as I was inspired by her stories.

So now I’ll leave you to read about a fellow writer’s wanderings. Like Smarla, Celine encouraged me to explore more of the Philippines and to seek adventure. I hope she’ll do the same for you.

1. What sparked your interest in traveling?

Books. Yep, that’s right. It’s books. My early years were spent in the company of Gandalf and Harry Potter. They’ve inspired me to go on adventures of my own. Seeing extraordinary places, meeting incredible people, and experiencing magic (or a reasonable facsimile) are the things that fuel my Wanderlust. But it wasn’t until 2014 that I started to actually travel. Something life-changing occurred. My mom died thirteen days into the New Year. And that was the catalyst, the very first of the series of chain reactions. Shortly after that tragedy, I decided it was time to make adventures happen.

2. What’s your traveling style?

If I’m to have a style, it’s freestyle. Hehehe. Well, I haven’t tried solo travel but I plan to. And I do like traveling with other people, whether they’re friends or future-friends. I prefer not to stay in fancy hotels because (a) budget, (b) a clean bed and a decent bathroom is really all I need, and (c) self-trained to sleep on any surface and any condition. I will stay for weeks if time and money permit it.

Sometimes, though, one day is enough if you start early. I remember this one time. Me and a group of friends went on a hike at Mount Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal. It was only supposed to be a dayhike, but in addition to reaching the summit, we were also able to do a traverse, wade in the Tinipak River, and swim inside a cave. We were told that this was a two-day itinerary but we did all of it in one day! Sure, there was exhaustion but there was also pride and heaps of enjoyment. I also believe every adventure needs a little bit of planning, you know, like having a list of activities you’d want to do and points of interest you’d like to visit, and knowing when the bus leaves. However, I think the only real preparation you need is this: be ready for anything.


Tribal tattoo from Whang Od (Photo courtesy of Celine Reyes)

3. What’s your most memorable travel experience/encounter so far? Why?

It would be my most recent: the Six-day Cordillera Adventure. So much has happened during this trip. It began with scaling the third highest peak in Luzon — Mount Pulag in Benguet. Then, we went back to Baguio to sleep in the house of a stranger. Then, suddenly, we had Rhian Ramos as an adventure buddy! (I’m not kidding.) We also met the legendary Kalinga tattoo artist that is Apo Whang-Od. And I had my first tattoo. “Nakitulog tayo sa isang tribo. Akalain mo ‘yun,” I remember my boyfriend saying. This trip was filled with several surprises and almost-epic fails that it gets the Most Memorable Experience award.

4. What’s the scariest thing you experienced while traveling?

This is ridiculous if I think about it now, but I was truly scared when this happened. Last September, I went to a trip to Baler with some high school friends. My boyfriend and I were excited because we just went halvsies on a GoPro and were looking forward to using it on this trip. So, during the surfing lessons, my boyfriend, who wanted to learn the ways of the waves with me, entrusted the GoPro to one of my friends. Suddenly, a particularly big wave came and washed over Charlie – our friend who was holding the camera. I didn’t think much of it until I saw him and my other friends go frantic. Charlie was still holding the selfie stick that the camera was attached to but the GoPro was gone! I literally jumped off of my surfboard, my heart thumping in my chest, and started swimming towards them. I was about to cry when one of the instructors emerged under the water and thrust out a hand. He had the GoPro! I breathed a huge sigh of relief until my instructor pointed out that lots of GoPros have been lost in the waters of Baler. I thought the found GoPro might not be ours. But we checked and it was ours. The moral of the story is to never use a regular selfie stick with your GoPro. Get an appropriate pole.

5. What place that you’ve visited felt most like home to you?

I’m from Angono, Rizal and my mom’s from Bacon, Sorsogon, so these two don’t count. Well, it’s the city of Tupi in South Cotabato that I felt most at home in. I went there as an ambassador for Green Cross’ (yes, the alcohol brand) “Do Good, Get Dirty” program. We went to the Tarsier Sanctuary (yes, there are tarsiers here too) in Mount Matutum to participate in the reforestation efforts being done there. We spent a day with the B’laan tribe – Mount Matutum is primarily under their care. And what I saw in their eyes made me protective of them. I realized we did not only plant trees, we planted hope.The B’laan showed us warmth and extraordinary generosity and this made me fall in love with the place and its people. I consider Tupi my third home, and the B’laan tribe as family.

6. What are your three most important traveling companions/tools? (Aside from your passport, of course!)

A camera, of course, for capturing great moments. An alampay (shawl) which has proven to be multipurpose. And a pen and paper for writing down thoughts.

Maniwaya Island in Santa Cruz, Marinduque

Maniwaya Island in Santa Cruz, Marinduque (Photo courtesy of Celine Reyes)

7. What are your top three local destinations that you’ve been to and why?

Everyone should visit the Ilocos region once in their lifetime. I love that place. So much to see and do here. There’s sandboarding in the Paoay Sand Dunes, marveling at the Bangui windmills, and then there is Vigan.

I saw intricate rhymes in the stone-paved thoroughfares, a calming rhythmic pattern everytime my feet hit its uneven ground. There were the careful and resilient verses etched on the outlines of the old houses. I heard the emphatic stress in the cantering of horses; the shroud of historical and cultural significance topping off the perfection of the unending ode.

I wrote that about Calle Crisologo in Vigan. That place is poetic.

So, yeah. Ilocos.

I also recommend South Cotabato. Ziplining in Lake Sebu is definitely a must. Visit Tupi too, if you can.

Marinduque should also be on everybody’s travel list. The Heart of the Philippines doesn’t get enough credit. Visit Maniwaya Island in Santa Cruz. This place can give Boracay a run for its money.

8. What are your top three international destinations that you’ve been to and why?

I haven’t been outside the country. It’s a conscious decision on my part. I’m a staunch advocate of local tourism and a fierce subscriber to the idea that I call centrifugalism – start from within. The Philippines has lots to offer. I want to be able to properly brag about our local tourist spots when I go abroad. In the meantime, I’m adamant to not go international until I’ve been to Batanes.

Learning how to play the faglung with the Blaan kids

Learning how to play the fag-lung with the B’laan kids (Photo courtesy of Celine Reyes)

9. What are the top three important tips/learnings you picked up while traveling?

The most practical: Make a list of the things you need to bring. Check off each item as they go inside your luggage. Because of this trick, I rarely forget anything essential.

The most existential: Travel will heal you, one way or another. Indeed, it healed me. I was a mess before I began going on adventures, and the more I went, the more I became whole. I’m no longer insecure. I’m less selfish. And despite the constant dissatisfaction and occasional disappointments, I can truly say that I’m happy with my life right now.

The most universal: I already said it – expect the unexpected. In travel, as it is in life, there are countless surprises. Embrace them, and believe with all your heart that no matter how incredible you think something is, the best is yet to come.

10. Why travel?

Why travel? Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, that’s why. Generally speaking, I haven’t been in a lot of places, but the few places I did see? Well, they were fantastic. Travel changes you for the better. There is magic out there, believe me, just put on your most comfortable shoes and see for yourself. In the words of Anthony Bourdain: “If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible.”

Stay tuned for another installment of my featured wanderers! Want to share your own thoughts about travel? Get in touch with me here.

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