Achievements Unlocked in 2016

Hello, 2017! It’s been another year of travel and since I haven’t had time to write all of my backposts, a summary year-ender post should do the trick. I had a lot of trips to both new and familiar destinations, participated as a finalist in Wrangler’s True Wanderer competition, and finally got a motorcycle upgrade! Here are some achievements unlocked and noteworthy adventures in 2016:

MAJOR TRAVEL QUEST: PROJECT 81

I like to collect random things when I travel. The past years, I collected photos of all the beers I’ve tried during trips and photos of room keys in hotels I’ve stayed in. For both travel sidequests, I surpassed my initial goal of 99 beers and 99 keys. Like I explained in an earlier post, collecting items is a video game thing. I was trying to think of what other items to collect when I considered attempting to visit all 81 provinces of the Philippines, a goal I didn’t seriously pursue before because of debates within the travel community.

I never really counted the provinces I’ve been to before until I decided to compile and upload an album called Project 81 on my Facebook page. This was met with a crazy overwhelming response from strangers. The album went viral (currently at 81,000 shares!) and I gained a lot of new readers organically. A lot of people who live in provinces I’ve been to thanked me for showing the beauty of their place, while those from places I haven’t been to reached out, asking me to visit and feature their provinces as well.

Visiting all Philippine provinces remains a long-term travel quest. I’m not really in a rush to visit every place and I don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it. I know that spending a day or a weekend in a destination can hardly do justice to a whole province. As much as possible, I chose to highlight natural landscapes (like beaches, mountains and waterfalls) and fun activities I did in each place – whether it was hiking, biking or motorcycling, since these are things I really like to do.

The project just gives me a travel goal in mind and forces me to consider other destinations than the usual popular tourist spots. There’s a joy in discovery in setting foot in a new place for the first time. There’s also something so satisfying about looking back and seeing all the places you’ve been to as a whole. There’s a sense of accomplishment. At the end of 2016, I’ve visited at least 60 provinces with photographic proof.

NEW PROVINCES VISITED

Because of this travel quest, I got to visit some very beautiful destinations in the country that people wouldn’t normally think to visit or are still very much under the tourist radar.

I went on a 5-hour hike to hidden rice terraces, went cliff-climbing, swam in beautiful beaches and got cooked in a giant pot in Antique.

I took a road trip around the region of Soccskargen, visited the Pink Mosque in Maguindanao and the Grand Mosque of Cotabato City, stopped by Sultan Kudarat, hiked down to see the beautiful Asik-Asik Falls in (North) Cotabato and got to ride and trek to Lake Holon in South Cotabato.

Rappelled down a 100-foot waterfall, went island-hopping and motorcycled solo around Biliran.

Was blown away by the simple beauty of Abra when we visited rivers, waterfalls and rolling hills there.

REVISITING FAMILIAR DESTINATIONS

Closer to home, Art and I explored a lot of awesome trails by mountain bikes during the weekends including biking to Kinabuan Falls, Laiban Dam and Bataan’s Killer Loop.

Hung out on a giant hammock and spider web above the forest in Tanay, Rizal.

I got to go back to Batanes and soaked in the small island vibe of Sabtang Island during their first island festival.

I revisited a lot of Bohol’s tourist spots solo by motorcycle and saw the beauty of Anda Beach.

 

I got to try canyoneering in Kawasan Falls, hiking to Osmena Peak, and rock climbing in Cantabaco in Cebu, considered to the rock climbing mecca of the Philippines.

I explored the underworld again during awesome caving adventures in Samar with friends from Trexplore.

I ended the year with a road trip around three provinces in the Cordillera region (Benguet, Ifugao and Mountain Province) for Northbound Magazine, which had us trekking at 4am with a pack of friendly guide dogs to reach this view of the rice terraces above the clouds.

INTERNATIONAL TRIPS

I had to renew my passport, so I was only able to travel internationally three times (and pretty late) in the year, mainly thanks to travel sponsorships. I was selected as one of the delegates / social media influencers in a media trip organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

I returned to Japan through an invitation from Cebu Pacific and Universal Studios Japan and extended a bit to explore Osaka, Kyoto and Narra with travel blogger friends!

The last, and my favorite trip for the year, was a family trip to to New Zealand. Art and I got to visit places out of Middle-Earth, bike amidst spectacular scenery, and I finally got to try skydiving! Woohoo!

ONLINE RECOGNITION

I never thought when I started this blog in 2011 that it would be considered as one of the best travel blogs in the Philippines. Some online recognition and features this year, include:

TRUE WANDERER

One of the coolest travel experiences in 2016 was being selected as one of the 10 Finalists of True Wanderer, a competition for motorcycle riders organized by Wrangler Philippines. This year, the contest was done in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and we were assigned to one of three top destinations randomly.

I admit, I wasn’t so excited about being assigned to Cebu at first because I had just come from a very nice trip there 2 months before. I wanted to go to a destination with a fresh perspective and no expectations. But it turned out to be a very memorable trip, with new experiences like witnessing the sardine run in Moalboal, chasing waterfalls in South Cebu and riding up to Osmena Peak. This trip made me realize that no matter how many times you’ve been to a destination, there’s always something new to discover. You just have to look for it.

What made the trip extra special was going around on Chocobo, my scooter who has been my travel companion since I started this blog 5 years ago. I know I owe the success of this travel blog to him.

Oh yeah, I now have a travel column named after my blog in Wheels Magazine!

PROJECT FENRIR

One of the reasons I joined True Wanderer was because the prize was a new motorcycle. A month after the trip, the winner was announced and …. I didn’t win. But being selected as one of the finalists was an honor itself. I ended up collaborating with the True Wanderer 2015 winner Marvin Geronimo for a new custom Final Fantasy-inspired bike. LEVEL UP!

@karasantos new adventure ride by #detourmotorcycles. Full feature of this bike soon.

A photo posted by Cafe Racer Philippines (@caferacerph) on

It took about 3 months to get all the parts and technical work done, but I got to take home Fenrir before 2016 ended. The bike has already gotten a lot of attention online and offline and has an upcoming feature on Cafe Racer Philippines!

This new bike is not a bad way to end and start the year. We look forward to going on new adventures this 2017! Happy New Year! 🙂

P.S. I am still keeping my old bike. We’ve gone through so many experiences together that I just can’t give him up. He’s an awesome scooter and still the most convenient to use especially when I have to carry a lot of stuff or navigate through city traffic. 

Thank you to everyone who made these trips possible: Cebu Pacific Air, Universal Studios Japan, Department of Tourism (DOT), Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), The Provincial Government of South Cotabato, Gian and Sheila of Adrenaline Romance, Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore, Louie Pacardo of Nomad’s Perspectives, Masungi Georeserve, Kawasan Canyoneering, Mabuhay Motorcycle Tours, Katahum Tours, PH First, Wrangler Philippines & Marvin Geronimo of Detour Motorcycles.

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This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for December 2016 with the theme “Year Ender 2016” hosted by Mervz Marasigan of Pinoy Adventurista.

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