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Filipina Explorer is a travel blog that believes in the power of stories to connect us to the world, shape ideas, and move us to action. Read these stories from the archives.
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About Filipina Explorer
Hi! I'm Gretchen, a travel writer based in the Philippines. I created Filipina Explorer in 2009 to document my journeys through places, parenthood, and word weaving. This blog is a collection of those stories and everything in between. (Photo by Martin San Diego)
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Your US Road Trip, Covered

When you are young and are looking for a way to get out and see the world, meet new people and experience exciting activities, there is truly no better option than to plan an incredible road trip. The United States is the perfect country to undertake your road trip, as the cultural difference between each state means that you can experience a diverse and exciting range of activities that will leave you with some of the happiest and greatest memories of your life for you to look back on and pass down the generations.

To help you plan this trip of a lifetime, this quick article will give you the three bases you need to cover to ensure your adventure goes off without a hitch, leaving you free to enjoy yourself and see more of the world.

Making plans

The first thing you need to do your research on is how to plan a road trip in America so that you know exactly what is happening where and when. Doing your planning doesn’t mean that there is no room for being spontaneous, it just means that you have a plan to follow when you need it and you never find yourself at a loose end and wasting time.

Get a map of the USA and put marks on all the places you would like to visit in your lifetime. Once you have done this step, you have a better idea of which places you can fit into this trip and make a route for and which can wait until next time.

Always be prepared

One of the biggest things you need to have sorted when going on a road trip is the essentials. Knowing what you need to have in your car is valuable knowledge and could get you out of a tight spot if you find that your car has broken down or you get lost.

Some of the essential things you need to pack into your car include a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, jumper cables, foam tire sealant, and a good flashlight, as all of these items will help you out in a sticky situation.

If you are traveling in colder climates or during the winter months, a good idea is to invest in some snow supplies, such as a shovel and some anti-freeze, incase you get caught in a storm. Another good idea, especially if severe weather strikes, is to learn some basic car knowledge so that you can do minor repairs yourself.

Having somewhere to rest your head

Finally, going on a road trip means spending a lot of time in the car, which means that it is extra important to find suitable lodgings when you arrive and your chosen destinations so that you are not suffering. You can find lots of great places to stay through VacationRenter.com all across the USA and, once you have your route planned out, be able to book excellent accommodation well in advance.

In Conclusion

A US road tripis often seen as a rite of passage for the younger generation, whether you’re a US native or traveling from overseas. Before you take the leap into your vehicle and set off across this great nation, follow the above tips to ensure you have every base covered.

To the women and the men (post-hike brain fart)

We were about 30 minutes away from the summit, then we heard it again. “'Yong mga lalaki, kaya 'yan. Pero kayong mga babae, 'yang bata, hindi (The men can do it. But you women, that child (Lia), can't).

This is not unusual  for male mountain guides. Female guides always prove to be doting, enthusiastic, and thrilled about hiking with fellow women (moreso, one who's under seven). However, half of male guides have given us dirty looks and snide remarks. They say, “You can’t because you’re a woman”.

There were seven women and four men in our group. All of us hiked for three hours, all putting the same amount of effort. Nobody among us asked to be carried, or have our packs carried for us. And with the exception of Lia and me - who are always last to arrive anywhere - everyone was hiking at the same speed.

But we weren't able to summit, not only because the guide forgot his jungle bolo - which would’ve been useful in hacking through thick and tall grass (as well as his food and water but hesitated to receive any food we offer) - he also didn't think we should and can summit based on our gender.

(This is why we need more female guides! And better training for all guides that they are not just there to show the way up, but provide the morale boost to all hikers to get there.)

Sometimes you get used to it, but when such perceptions become hindrances in moving forward, that’s when it becomes problematic. It's one thing to think of a gender a certain way, and another to keep people of said gender from realizing their greatness, no matter how well-intentioned it is. 

Women are not a pity project or an after-thought. Our sex isn't a disability or a setback. Some of us scale mountains, surf, or race. Some of us raise citizens. Some of us become CEOs, doctors, engineers, journalists, astronauts, leaders, authors, teachers, chefs, people who create and sell every day essentials, visionaries. And all of us have the ability and power to be great, no matter the size or age, just like men.

We must realize this and inculcate this in our children. Because discrimination doesn’t just exist in the mountains. It exists across all landscapes and industries. The lessons we teach our children are passed on from generation to generation, and if there is a flawed lesson that keeps being passed on, change will only remain a dream.

To the men who support and believe in women, thank you for choosing empowerment over misperception. May you always with us, side by side, believing that we can do life-changing things alone or with you.

To the women, may the people who discredit you not become a reason for you to stop believing in yourself. Do not let them prevent you from going further. Never tire of fighting for your greatness. You owe yourself that. 

Letter #16: Rainy New Year's Eve in a tricycle

Hello, Lia.

It's been pouring down since Christmas, and tonight is no exception. It's New Year's Eve, and we are inside a dripping tricycle, your sleepy head on my lap, en route to your lolo and lola. We waited for an hour for buses and jeeps that won't come. If this happened before I had you, my mood would be damper than this weather. But now I would rather think of this as part of the adventure. 

It was through you, through our adventures and mishaps that I gained a revitalized sense of life. One that sees the world with a fresh pair of eyes and indulges in curiosity than complaints. One that urges you to laugh more and worry less. One that tells you to believe like a child does: with absolute faith, without agenda, and freely. These gifts enable me to breeze through life's hair-ruffling, mean jokes. And all of these gifts are from you. 

Today, while some people are wishing for more, I wish for nothing else than what we already have. Our adventures are always the greatest in my book (I mean, just look at some of the things we did together in 2018!). Home will always be where you are. My year will always be amazing as long as you are in it. 

With faith in the wonder that the coming year brings, 

*Photos of Baguio, Kiangan, and Subic by Martin San Diego

Anchors and pitstops

Tito William, a stubborn diabetic in his 50s, drove us from our home in Manila in the early morn. Four hours in, he took a left turn on a dirt road. We rolled down our windows, squealing like maniacs at the sound of familiar waves.

Long before San Juan became a surfing mecca and before San Fernando fashioned Christmas Villages, there was Bauang. On it gray shores lied a flurry of resorts, mostly packed during weekends. Long Beach Resort Hotel was Tito William’s favorite. He was a traveler whose favorites were anchored on the familiar feeling of home rather on escaping from it. On his list were go-to  resorts in Luzon: Trigon Resort in Iba, Zambales; Crystal Springs in Calamba, Laguna; and this. He brought us to these resorts over and over again on vacations.

Long Beach Resort rests on a massive beachfront property, surrounded by grass and greenery. We had sizable connecting rooms, each with its own veranda and TV. In the middle is an al fresco restaurant and bar that overlooked the sea. My mother exclaimed, wide-eyed, “They have a band playing at night! By the sea!”

During sundown, while she and Tito drank at the bar, I’d sit by the veranda – cigarette, beer, and journal on hand - watching the sun turn a fiery red. Many stories were borne of those sunsets.

In between swimming, we shared meals there. He usually ordered his favorite bangsilog – sometimes, two: one for him and one for me. After breakfast, we would stick our heads out the restaurant's wooden ledge, eyes closed, letting the day’s salty promises sink in.


Lia and I hailed a tricycle along the National Highway after checking out of our hotel at noon. “Saan tayo? (Where to?)” the old driver asked.

“Long Beach Resort,” I replied.

He looked puzzled.

Bukas pa naman po siya, di ba? (It’s still open, isn’t it?)” I inquired.

He shrugged his shoulders as he turned on the ignition. Within five minutes, we came up to the same dirt road. Moss has made the resort's large cemented signage almost inconspicuous. Like many of the resorts along the strip, moss here seems devoid of life, parched to a bleak gray instead of green.

Twenty, 14 years ago, this place was abuzz with the chatter of families and expats. Today, it is whisper-quiet. One can hear dry leaves crackling and waves that sound weary of waiting for people to return. There were no cars, and by the absence of tire and shoe tracks, it seems no one else has arrived in a long time.

A middle-aged ladycame out of the dark reception hall.“Check in?” 

Hindi po, pero puwede ba ‘ko umikot to take photos?” (“No, but can I go around to take photos?)

A dark pickup truck arrived at the parking lot. A stubby woman and a small boy unboarded and went straight to the empty restaurant. The lady excused herself and followed. Maybe they do have guests. Who wouldn’t want an air conditioned beachfront room for P750 a night?


I walked to the garden fronting 12 rooms. The entire building, like everything else surrounding it, looked beat. Wooden ceilings and walls slowly being taken over by mold; roofs brittle and pale. Attached on a few are manual-type air conditioners - albeit rusty - but in most, they are missing. Other edifices have windows whose wooden panels are dangling out or nowhere to be found, or rust-covered roofs that are barely holding on. Plastics and a broken umbrella are scattered on shrub-covered shores. Time, people, the world has forgotten that this place exists. Even it itself no longer knows the meaning of existence.

The lady returned. “Boss namin ‘yon. Tinatanong niya kung magche-check in po kayo. (That was our boss. She wants to know if you're checking in.)”

I shook my head and reiterated that we just want to take a look. “Naga-accept pa po kayo guests? Sabi nila under renovation kayo (Do you still accept guests? People said the resort is under renovation).”

Opo, pero hindi na po yata ire-renovate. Ang alam ko po binebenta na ng boss ko. (Yes, but we’re not renovating. From what I know, our boss is selling the property.”)

She leered at me and began to probe. “Para saan po ba ‘yong picture, ma’am? (What do you need the picture for, ma’am?)”

“For a blog feature," I said to keep her from delving further. I wasn’t really planning to write about it. Lia and I were on our way home after a work assignment in  San Fernando’s new Christmas Village. But we dropped by because Lia has no memories of Tito William, her angkong (grandfather). He died when she was only a year old. She saw him just once, and she doesn’t even remember it.

I want to show her, not just tell her, “This was your angkong’s life”, so she’d still have a piece of it even if he is no longer here. Show her a map of all our pitstops, because we wouldn’t know where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been.  


We stood on the shore. Railroad vines sprawled endlessly beneath our feet. “Madalas kami rito dati,  Lia. (We used to frequent this place.) Angkong loved it here,” I related. 

I took Lia’s hand, and we took one last close look at the sea. We are here, Tito. Do you see us? I hope you know this place matters to me, even if I didn’t know it then. A piece of me is anchored to it, even if it is no longer what it was. And now it’s part of Lia, too.

“Happy ba kayo no’n? (Were you all happy then?)” Lia asked, playing with dead leaves and a stick.

“Yes, we were,” I answered, smiling wryly. “We were.”

This was a pitstop, and there are still plenty to tread a first time and come back to. To get our bearings realigned. To repair the wounds. To refuel the courage, so we can walk the longer road ahead. To be able to move on. 

If we are lucky, we might find these pitstops just as they were when we return. But sometimes, we will find they no longer exist.

You will find the world has moved on. You have moved on. Still, it matters you’ve come here, where you can only have remnants, not the whole. Because one remnant, one memory, is always enough. It’s enough ammunition to confront the grief of losing the place it is anchored to. Enough fuel to drive you for the remainder of the road. Enough wealth to last a lifetime of impermanence.

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