It’s really amazing how travelling can enrich a person’s appreciation of different places. I know because that is what I experienced when traveling opened my eyes to a whole new world back in 2006. It can also open our mind to the wonders of selflessness and good deeds.
For 20-year-old Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) students Aaron Crisostomo, Asia Wy and Kyle Favis, it took a side trip to El Salvador in Misamis Oriental to realize how much more they can do to help uplift the lives in a community—to travel with a purpose.
The trio makes up Team Juan Big Fight, the winner of the Juan for Fun Backpacking Challenge 2015, Cebu Pacific’s fourth installment of its ultimate backpacker challenge for college students. This year, five student teams got to travel to Bangkok, Thailand and any Philippine destination they wanted, for eight days, all for free.
Travelling with a Purpose
Team Juan Big Fight made a sojourn to El Salvador to plant mangroves as their own simple way of helping preserve the environment, and leaving a positive impact in that community.
But city tourism officer Jeen Clarin-Lopez had other things in mind. She brought the young visitors to the local dairy farm and winery where they met some locals.
“We were strangers yet they welcomed us with so much eagerness and optimism, showcasing their craft, their products and their livelihood,” said Aaron.
Their encounter with the locals taught Team Juan Big Fight that there is so much more they can do.
“As travelers, we have the ability to aid the local economy, to boost the locals’ confidence in their craft, to fuel their dreams for their own town,” shared Kyle.
The other competing teams also realized that the Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge is more than just travelling and exploring a place. It was also about being responsible travelers, and doing what they can, to help a certain area or community.
Second place winner Team Extreme—made up of Gio Tiongson of ADMU, twins Miguel Manalang and Luigi Manalang of De La Salle University—found purpose in their travel when they tried canyoneering in Kawasan Falls in Cebu.
“The experience was the scariest and most thrilling adventure of our lives. With the help of our guides, we conquered Kawasan Falls,” said Gio.
The group wanted to give back to the local guides who made their experience safe and memorable. They took note of improvements that could be done for the community’s benefit, such as waiver forms, orientations and better gear, and shared it with the guides.
“We also prepared an infographic material that they can print and show participants, so that everyone will be more prepared for their own adventure of a lifetime,” shared Luigi.
A trip to Naked Island in Siargao, Surigao del Norte prompted Team Domaro—composed of Doel Lozano of Notre Dame Dadiangas University, Marielle Padilla of ACA SarGen Foundation College, and Rogen Sagarino of Mindanao State University–General Santos—to discuss with the locals how important it was for stakeholders to know the importance of, and work together towards, keeping tourist attractions clean.
“When we arrived at the island, we saw garbage all over the beautiful white sand, left behind by tourists on island hopping trips. We cleaned up after them, and brought the trash back to the main island,” said Doel.
Juan for Fun Backpacking Challenge
The teams, along with Team Iskapade (Jassy Tomol, Joyce Gonzalez and Kat Locsin of the University of the Philippines – Cebu) and Team Square (Cheloi Marasigan, Mischa de Guzman and Rae Argallon of the University of Sto. Tomas), kicked off their exciting 8-day escapade in Bangkok, Thailand. They marveled at Bangkok’s majestic temples and historical sites, sampled tasty street food, and learned a few basic Thai words.
With the freedom to conquer any Philippine destination of their choice, the five teams collectively traveled 29 places including Guimaras, Camiguin, Siargao, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, and various islands and towns in between—before heading to Davao, their final stop. Each group was given a travel allowance amounting to PhP35,000 and US$250, which they maximized to have as many fun and exciting experiences as possible.
In the end, it was Team Juan Big Fight who took home: 12 round-trip tickets to any Cebu Pacific international or domestic destination; P30,000 worth of gift certificates from Boreas; three Canon Powershot SX600 cameras; and three Samsung Tab 3 Lite from Smart Bro. The challenge was also made possible through the support of the Department of Tourism, and the endorsement of the Commission on Higher Education.
The Cebu Pacific Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge 2015 was co-presented by Cebu Pacific GetGo and Nissin Yakisoba, with Boreas Gear as the official travel gear, SmartBro as a major sponsor, and Canon Philippines as the official imaging partner.
Check out the backpacking adventures of the five teams’ adventurer in the Cebu Pacific Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge in Facebook and www.juanforfun.com,
Congratulations to the organizers of the Cebu Pacific Juan for Fun Backpacking Challenge 2015 and to all the participants!
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