The Islander Girl goes to Travel Spread

I had a lot of fun (and learned a lot too) at Explore PhilippinesTravel Spreadย event last week ๐Ÿ˜€ The anniversary party was on November 24, while the event itself was on November 25-26, 2016.

Both the party and the event were in the events hall of Century City Mall in Makati. I was also lucky enough to attend both events with friends – yay less awkwardness at being at an event where you don’t know anyone @_@

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I have two main memories of the anniversary party: eating dragonfruit ice cream from Johann’s Cuisineย and fried pizza from Chill Out Cooks, and seeing Rhian Ramos in person.

Johann’s Cuisine‘s dragonfruit ice cream is amazeballs. I’m not really a fan of dragonfruit – it’s okay, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to eat – but the ice cream is love. Johann’s Cuisine uses coconut milk for the ice cream, not cow’s milk. So not only does it taste delicious, it’s vegan too ๐Ÿ˜€ Yes, I only found out after I forgot that I’m not supposed to eat dairy for a week (doctor’s orders) and ate a cup, so WHEW, crisis averted.

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I have no photo of Chill Out Cooks‘ fried pizza because I was so hungry that I forgot to take a photo before I devoured it. But here’s a photo from their page to show it in all it’s glory:

Mary Ann and I wondered how you could fry a pizza. Is it deep-fried as is? Do they coat the slice in batter then deep-fry? Do they put two slices together like a sandwich then deep-fry? As it turns out, it’s just the pizza dough that’s deep-fried THEN they put the toppings. They can also stuff the dough with the toppings then deep-fry. Their regular stall is in Greenfield District in Mandaluyong (Friday-Saturday, 5pm-12mn) and since I’ll be there anyway on Friday for Geekfight, I’m grabbing another slice of their fried goodness.

The other highlight was seeing Rhian Ramos, the cover girl for Explore Philippines’ 2nd anniversary issue (Nov 2016-Jan 2017). She’s so pretty, she’s unreal. Are all celebrities like this?

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France Pinzon (the editor-in-chief of Explore Philippines) is friends with the creators of Saving Sally, an independent animated movie that Rhian starred in when she was 19 (she’s 26 now!) that is FINALLY getting released this December at the Metro Manila Film Festival, so she brought it up during Rhian’s interview and gave her the opportunity to promote it. Trivia: Rhian is actually the second Sally – she only came onboard after the original Sally was unavailable for reshoots. WATCH THE MOVIE GUYS!!!

Another bit of trivia: I sent in an audition video for Sally. Obviously I didn’t get it ๐Ÿ˜›

As for Travel Spread itself, I was only able to attend the second day because I wasn’t feeling well on the first day. While that’s unfortunate, I’m still happy because I was able to catch my friend Paul Catiang‘s talk on travel and food writing! ๐Ÿ˜€ The talk itself focused on his experiences of eating while traveling, including an eight-month stay in India with his father, where the food was so rich (Paul says it’s like having a Bollywood dance number in your mouth) that he ended up craving for the simple things like plain steamed rice. Paul says that food needs to be understood in three contexts: survival, curiosity, and comfort. We eat to survive (none of that fancy stuff), but we’re also curious about other things. But at the end of it all, we come back to the food that comforts us and makes us happy. It was a great talk ๐Ÿ™‚ The Q&A section had people asking him about how he got started in food writing for Explore (he’s known France for a while and she tapped him to write) and how he deals with restaurants where the food isn’t that good (apparently, there are lots of ways to avoid answering the question “Masarap ba?” [“Is it delicious?”]).

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The afternoon had a panel session by the Explore Philippines staff on what it takes to put out a great magazine.

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When (almost) all the travel information you need is online and available for free (mostly), why would a reader want to buy Explore Philippines? France (she’s bottom row, middle, covered by the mike stand) says that they produce Explore as a well-edited collector’s item – something you keep even after reading. “We want the magazine to stand the test of time”, she says. They attract readers using the quality of the visuals and stories, as well as featuring lesser-known destinations. Publisher Christina Po (bottom row, left-most) added “We feel like reading articles in a magazine is a different experience from reading something online.” This doesn’t mean that they’re skipping online content. Their website http://www.livetoexplore.ph has the same quality writing but in much shorter and specific articles, as befits an online audience. The gorgeous photos are there too. The website does NOT have the magazine’s content, so you still have to buy the magazine if you want the long-form stories.

The revamped Explore Philippines now comes out quarterly instead of bi-monthly, which France says gives them more leeway in logistics for shoots and more time to make sure that stuff is well-edited. “It’s actually more work, not less work [to publish quarterly]!”, she says.

France also says that they’re coming up with more travel events next year. I’m definitely looking forward to those ๐Ÿ™‚

Explore Philippines Magazine is turning 2!

Explore Philippines, the official inflight magazine of SkyJet Airlines, is turning two years old! To celebrate, Explore Philippines is hosting the fantastic Travel Spread: Traveling the Philippines One Page at a Time – a super fun free event for travelers interested in learning more about travel and food writing, promoting conservation through art, and bringing local communities and travelers together. It will be on November 25-26, 2016 at the Century City Mall Events Center, 4th floor, Century City Mall, Makati City ๐Ÿ˜€

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I was lucky enough to be part of the media launch at The Mango Treeย in BGC, where we got to meet the editorial team (EIC France Pinzon and Managing Editor Alyssa Lapid), and publishing team (publisher Christina Po), as well as some of the speakers for Travel Spread.

According to France, Explore Philippines differentiates itself from other magazines by being the “premiere lifestyle and travel magazine that’s pro-Philippines”. France also credits part of the magazine’s success to featuring celebrities (as guest Explorers) who really do travel and have their own travel personalities. They match celebrities with their locations, like surfer gal Rhian Ramos with Siargao (the 2nd anniversary issue cover girl!) and adventurers Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez with rugged Albay. Christina also takes pride in featuring sustainable tourism in the magazine, as she sees it as a “great way to break barriers”. “How and why we travel has a great impact”, says Christina.

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The editorial sections of the revamped Explore Philippines include Main Course (OMG food), Now Boarding (what’s happening now), Checklist (the best and the brighest in local tourism), Pulse (all about travel trends), Disruptor (focuses on life on the move), Jetsetter (Pinoy tourist share their secrets), Pilot (movers and shakers in the tourism industry), Roots (a new section dedicated to “the faces and places that helped build a community’s identity”), Recreation (sports and the outdoors!), and Detour (traveling with a purpose). I get the feeling that Detour and Main Course are going to be my favorite sections.

The speaker lineup for Travel Spread also got me hyped up to attend (yes, you can be hyped about attending talks. It’s a thing.). I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from these people:

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Raffy Dionisio of Circle Hostelย is going to talk about Tribes and Treks,ย a new activity offered by in their Zambales hostel where guests can interact and live with the local Aeta community. They launched the activity a few months ago to help their guests connect with the Aetas and for the Aetas to further benefit from tourism. Tribes and Treks is also featured in Explore Philippines’ 2nd anniversary issue ๐Ÿ˜€

April Cuenca of Tripkada will be talking about tripkada.com, an Airbnb-style app where travelers looking to save money can join trips put together by independent trip organizers. While Tripkada is officially registered as a travel agency, April considers Tripkada to be more of a “travel tech” company than a traditional travel agency. The trip organizers benefit by reaching out to a wider client base and organizing their own schedules, while travelers benefit by not having to organize everything themselves and getting lower prices. My friends and I have been talking about organizing our own environmental education tours for the longest time and Tripkada sounds like the perfect platform for it.

Paul Catiang of Puzzled Owlย (YASSSSS!!! WHOOOO!!!) will be talking about some of my favorite things: food, travel, traveling through food, and writing about food and travel. Paul is a regular contributor to Explore Philippines and yes, he gets paid to eat lots and lots and lots of food ๐Ÿ˜› Yoga keeps him trim though. Part of his talk will involve his eight-week trip to India to meet his father for the first time. In his words, eating Indian cuisine is like “having a Bollywood dance number on your tongue”.

A photo posted by Macy (@theislandergirl) on


Travel Spread’s sponsors also got to talk about what they’re bringing to the event: Merrell will help you find the right trekking shoes, Oculus Academy will teach you how to throw shuriken (whaatt???), Chill Out Cooks will feed you fried carbonara, fried pizza, and fried Oreos (sign me up!), and Ozamiz City‘s tourism department will feed you dragonfruit ice cream and laya fish

The Mango Tree kept this writer from starving by feeding us authentic Thai dishes: vegetarian spring rolls, fish cakes, pad thai, chicken skewers, and mango cake. I think I visited the buffet three times *ducks*

 

I’d like to thank Explore Philippines for the opportunity to be part of the media launch and the Mango Tree group for the GCs to Cocina Peruvia that I won in the raffle draw ๐Ÿ™‚

Remember: Travel Spread happens on November 25-26, 2016 at the Century City Mall Events Center, 4th floor Century City Mall, Makati. See you there!

Surf, sand, and saving the sea with Reef and WWF

Last week, I had the great opportunity to attend the Free the Sea Movement sponsored by Reef Philippines in partnership with WWF Philippines. Reef and WWF put together a great event that featured some of my favorite things in one place: a coastal cleaup, surfing, and good music.

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To join the event, I needed to purchase anything from Reef (whether at a Reef of G-Force store) and text my name and receipt number to the Reef coordinator. In return, Reef would take care of everything else related to the event: transportation, accommodations at Little Surfmaid Resort, meals, and the surf clinic. Needless to say, it was a fantastic deal. Plus, coastal cleanup! There were only 50 slots so as soon as my friends confirmed that they were game to go, I went over to Trinoma to buy some Reef goodies. In fairness, their flip-flops are super comfy and soft. Much easier on the feet than Havaianas.

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The Islander Girl goes to the DRT Expo Philippines 2016

Despite waking up at 5:30am (after falling asleep at 2am after a pool party), I managed to keep my mind in a coherent state and drag myself to the Diving Resort Travel (DRT) Expo Philippinesย held in SM Megamall last September 9 to 11 (I went on September 11). I couldn’t miss it as my friends scored great deals on dive gear last year and I really wanted to get a bigger mesh bag for my stuff. I’d also like to thank Jem and Bryan for dropping me off at Megamall and Starbucks for being my workplace from 8 to 11:30am as I waited for the mall to open.

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Entrance was originally pegged at Php 200 PER DAY but was lowered to Php 50 during the event itself. I have no idea what possessed them to think that Php 200 entrance was acceptable.

I was only supposed to stay for an hour – look around, buy my bag, and get out – but ended up staying for almost four hours because there were a lot of things to see and do. Which, according to my friends, was quite a departure from last year’s event.

The Philippine Department of Tourism had a pretty swanky booth to promote diving in the Philippines. Their canvas swag bag included a magazine featuring the country’s best dive spots, a bag tag (mine featured Siargao, which I hope to visit during the off-season), and a lanyard. There were also a lot of resorts offering special rate for those who booked onsite.

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There were talks on marine conservation. The one I managed to attend was on the promotion of shark tourism as a means to get fishers to stop hunting them, given by Steven Surina of Shark Education. Shark Education is a company that specializes in shark diving tours. The marine biologist in me couldn’t help but speak out at the end of his talk, reminding him (and everyone in the audience) that while tourist dollars are good, the tourism development has to be done in partnership with the local community so that they can benefit from the tourist dollars as well. It’s not uncommon in the Philippines for the local community to resent tourism because the developers and the tourists are foreigners and the locals themselves don’t earn that much from the industry. Steven talked to me afterwards (me speaking was a last-minute decision and so I wasn’t prepared and my brain and remarks were all over the place) so I had to clarify that I wasn’t attacking him or anything and was just saying that shark tourism (or any tourism) has to be developed properly. I also met Polly, Su, andย Lynn: really nice guys from Taiwan who shared with me that they had the same issues in Taiwan.

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Video of the talk by Lynn (my comments are at the very end):

Talks on underwater photography that were useful. I was only able to attend the talk by Penn de los Santos entitled From Ordinary to Extraordinaryย but I really enjoyed it. He focused on the basics: know your equipment before you dive, there’s always something nice to photograph, and look for that angle that will turn the ordinary shot into an extraordinary one. Great reminders for a newbie like me. His suggested cameras for beginners were the Olympus TG-4 and the Canon S series (I own an S95 that still holds up after 6 years).

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There were NGOs promoting the environmental conservation and responsible tourism. I only spent a significant amount of time at the Green Finsย booth – one of the staff chatted me up and I told her that I used to work for El Nido Resorts. Other NGOs were WWF, Greenpeace, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, and Dolphins Love Freedom.

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And lastly: So. Many. Things. To. Buy. GYAHHHH! I was really only there to buy a new dive bag but UGH! Even if you gave me Php 50,000, it wouldn’t have been enough to buy everything that I wanted to buy. I finally got my bag from Aquaventure Whitetip, which had an Aqualung 80 liter mesh bag (it’s big enough to fit the standard plastic dive crate) for only Php 1,215 (40% off!).

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Yes, I stuffed a Superman pillow in the bag for this photo.

Another company I liked was Scuba System: a Hong-Kong based company who had cute AF dive gear under their Oceanarium brand. The whale shark and mola are regulator bags (!!!) and those gorgeous animal prints are on quick-dry microfiber towels. They also had nudibranch tissue holders (the tissues come out among the gills!) and mask straps. I was thisclose to buying the whale and dolphin-print towel but it was sold out by the time I went back to the booth to buy it (my wallet rejoiced). Fortunately or unfortunately Scuba System found a Philippine distributor at the DRT so it should be available locally in about two months (my wallet is bracing itself). Mares also had their Puck Pro dive computer on sale for around Php 12,000, which I would have bought if I had the money. Then there was Scubapro selling a mask and snorkel combo for Php 1,200, when a mask alone would have been around Php 2k. Gah.

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Bonus: I saw some friends there! Shoutout to Mavic and Gage, and a big HUHU to Jamie who went on Friday and didn’t tell me.

All in all, I had a great time. The DRT was a great place to be that afternoon ๐Ÿ™‚

The Islander Girl goes to Blogapalooza

Last May 21st was my first time to attend a Blogapaloozaย event. Billing itself as the Philippines’ first and largest B2B: Business-to-Blogger Networking and Marketing Event, Blogapalooza brings together business looking for bloggers to write about them and bloggers looking for content to feature.

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My primary reason for going to Blogapalooza was to listen to the speakers. As both a blogger and someone who was thrust into social media marketing without any prior training, I wanted to learn more about how PR professionals approached social media marketing and how bloggers chose the companies that they worked with. However, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t have fun and learn more about the products that the businesses were promoting.

The two panels that made the day worth it were Blogging as a Businessย by Ginger Arboleda of MommyGinger.com and the discussion panel How Brands Can Work Best with Celebrities and Influencers by Norman Agatep, Matec Villanueva (two PR pros), Mikael Daez, and Erika Padilla (two celebs I know nothing about). Granted, I didn’t know who these people were prior to Blogapalooza but their presentations and insights were very much welcome. I loved how Ginger broke down marketing strategy into easy-to-understand pieces that a non-Marketing graduate could understand (Ginger, don’t ever apologize for discussing technicals! Those were awesome.). She discussed the importance of knowing who you are as a blogger, what you stand for (your personal brand!), and what your purpose is before you even start blogging. There was also a section on knowing who your demographics were and the importance of approaching companies who share the same demographics AND values as yourself. After all, you can only sincerely and truthfully promote a product that you believe in, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ A lot of what Ginger discussed was something I knew on an instinctual level, but it’s very different to hear a professional’s take on it.

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NexCon 2 and beyond!

NexCon 2 happened last May 16-17, 2015 at Function Room 2, SMX Aura but I’m only writing about it now because Real Life got in the way. Boo to Real Life! ๐Ÿ˜›

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First off, I’d like to say THANK YOU to everyone who made NexCon 2 possible: the wonderful attendees (seriously: you guys are the best con attendees ever!), the amazing guests and panelists (we bow to your experience and insights!), the exhibitors (thank you for believing in our event!), and the convention staff (hard workers all around!).

How much fun did we have? A LOT. A WHOLE BUNCH. A WHOLE FREAKING TARDIS-LOAD.

Fitting NexCon 2 inside the TARDIS. Photo by Adam Fuqua.

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NexCon Manila – the ultimate science fiction and fantasy party!

The thing that I’ve been helping out with since graduation is finally happening this weekend! Welcome NexCon Manila, the biggest science fiction and fantasy event of the year! It’s on May 31-June 1, 2014 at the Bayanihan Center in Ortigas. What a way to cap off your summer ๐Ÿ˜€
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What makes NexCon different from other local conventions is that we focus on science fiction and fantasy content from the Philippines and the West. The biggest activities are the film, comics, and literature panels featuring genre entertainment leaders –ย groundbreakers here in the Philippines and abroad. Where else can you sit down and discuss film with Erik Matti (Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles, On the Job) and Louie Suarez (RPG: Metanoia),
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comics with Leinil Yu (Superman: Birthright, Avengers), Danny Acuna (veteran komiks artist), and Carlo Vergara (Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah),
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and horror literature with Karl de Mesa (Damaged People: Tales of the Gothic Punk) and Yvette Tan (Walking the Dead and Other Horror Stories)?
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And the fun doesn’t stop there! GeekFight Trivia Night is celebrating it’s 5th anniversary at NexCon Manila with GeekFight Battle Royale! They’ve planned eight kick-ass rounds of all things sci-fi and fantasy, including rounds that are freaking genius. One of the rounds started out as a joke but they ran with it anyway, so be prepared! I would so join if I weren’t a co-organizer ๐Ÿ˜›
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And last but not least, we have the contests! There are three contests for the event: Cosplay Masquerade, Cosplay Rumble, and Take Cover. What’s the difference between Masquerade and Rumble? Check out the infographic below:
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For hardcore competitive cosplay, I recommend joining the Rumble. Best in Show receives a 7″ tablet from our sponsors!
Take Cover is a photo competition, where you edit your awesomesauce cosplay photos into even more awesomesauce NexCon Manila comic book covers!
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Did I mention that we’re ending NexCon with a (Big) bang? Because we are! Indie bandsย Peso Movement, Stereodeal, and Paranoid City – all fantastic bands and Converse endorsers – will get you dancing, singing, head-bobbing, and geeking out, all at once ๐Ÿ˜€
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Interested in going? Buy your tickets now! There are different ticket tiers to suit everyone’s interest level and budget. I highly recommend that you get the Gold ticket for maximum enjoyment, as it includes access to all the panels and contests for two days, access to NexCon Rocks (the closing concert), AND a free limited edition NexCon shirt if you’re among the first 200 ticket buyers ๐Ÿ˜€
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