2014 review: Going 15 in Project 25

“How do you measure a year?” asks the popular theater song.

I do it by the places I visit, the people I meet, and the memories I create while traveling.

I started Project 25, my personal goal of visiting 25 countries by the age of 25, in January 2013. Now, two years after, I find myself 10 countries away from my goal.

Almost done with this part of the world!
Almost done with this part of the world! 15/25

2014 was a crazy year in all aspects of my life. I’ve covered many inspiring disaster and climate change related stories as a journalist, I’ve traveled to places I never expected to visit, I made many new friends from around the world, and even rekindled my passion in my first love in journalism – sports.

It was a year of gaining new insights, expanding my personal networks, and doing more of what I love to do. Traveling has become both a philosophical and spiritual journey for me. In my travels, I learned new perspectives that redefined my biases and prejudices. Every time I’m in a new place, I become beholden by God’s amazing creations.

Here’s my 2014 in review:

April

I found myself in wet and wild Songkran fun in Bangkok, Thailand last April. The country has always been in my mom’s bucket list so when I had the chance, I took my family to the land of Buddhist temples and pad thai.

It’s always a lovely experience to be in Bangkok. The last time I was in this city was in November 2012 and I’ve been in love with it since. I also got to meet my old and new Thai friends who stayed home for Songkran.

This gold-covered stupa is the national symbol of Laos.
Pha That Luang, a gold-covered stupa, is the national symbol of Laos.

I took advantage of my trip to Thailand to add another country to my list. I left the Philippines earlier than my family to backpack to Vientiane, Laos. It’s an amazing little country and I wish I had more time to spend in it. I plan to go back someday and spend a week or so just relaxing amidst the beautiful temples and nature parks.

May-June

These months saw me traveling to the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines for the first time. But it’s not for leisure, it’s for work. I tagged along some of Weather Philippines Foundation’s rollout of automatic weather stations, meeting local government officials and presenting Rappler’s initiative Project Agos.

The MacArthur landing site in Leyte.
The MacArthur landing site in Leyte.

I also did a couple of stories on a Leyte town’s programs on disaster preparedness that helped them survive Yolanda (Haiyan) with very low casualty. The beaches of Leyte are beautiful and I’m planning to go there someday for vacation.

July

Victoria Peak
Victoria Peak

This is the month I fulfilled a promise. When I graduated in March 2013, I told myself I’d treat my mom to a trip abroad once I started working. Last December 2013, I booked a trip for my mom and I to Hong Kong – another country in her bucket list – for July 2014.

ILOCANOS UNITE! I didn't understand half of the conversations since my mom and Andrew were speaking in Ilocano.
My mom and our tour guide in Macau.

Aside from shopping, we enjoyed the sights, and flavours of one of Asia economic and cultural capital. It was an adventure that almost didn’t push through because of Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun).

We also crossed the Pearl River Estuary for a day trip to Macau, where we had our first gambling experience in a casino. We were guided around the island by an OFW working on multiple jobs there. His story is very inspiring.

August

This is, perhaps, the apex of my year. Last August, I covered the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games in China as one of the 35 young reporters worldwide selected by the International Olympic Committee. The last time I covered a sports event was during my Rappler internship in Palarong Pambansa 2012 so being in the Youth Olympics was a surreal experience.

I met a lot of inspiring young athletes and reporters in the 3 weeks I was there. My mentors – veteran international sports journalists – taught me very relevant lessons on covering internationals sports events and doing human stories.

With my Latin Americans friends Carolina Cabella (Argentina) and Diego Melendreras (Guatemala)
With my Latin Americans friends Carolina Cabella (Argentina) and Diego Melendreras (Guatemala)

I will never forget my fellow young reporters. We shared sweat and tears in those 3 intense weeks. I hope I get to see them again. In Rio 2016, maybe?

November

The entrance to Puerto Princesa's underground river, a UNESCO World Heritgas and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
The entrance to Puerto Princesa’s underground river, a UNESCO World Heritgas and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

I’ve been focused on finishing Project 25 for the past 2 years and I felt that I haven’t traveled the Philippines for leisure enough. So when I saw an AirAsia Philippines promo, I invited my friend Angela Casauay and we booked a weekend trip to Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

It was a relatively cheap weekend getaway to one of the most beautiful islands of the country. In the 2 full days we had, we went island hopping, underground caving, and partying. This trip was a much needed breathe of fresh air from the stressful typhoon months.

I will write about my Palawan experience soon!

December

This was a month of travel I never expected. Because of this travel blog and my social media presence, I was invited by the Kerala Tourism Board to be part of the #ComeToKerala tour. We traversed Kerala, India – also known as “God’s Own Country” – from the capital city of Trivandrum through backwaters, highlands, and plantations until we reached the economic capital of Kochin. The best thing about this trip was that it was all free – airfare, accommodation, fees, and food!

A very releasing cruise along the backwaters of Alappuzha
A very releasing cruise along the backwaters of Alappuzha

I haven’t finished my #ComeToKerala blog series but I highly recommend this Indian state to all my followers. It’s one of the best places I’ve been to so far!

On the way to Kerala, I had long transits in two other countries. I was able to go around and visit some of the sights in Singapore and even stayed a night in a hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I’ll be writing about my experiences there, too!

Onto 2015!

2014 brought a lot of amazing surprises, travel-wise and career-wise! I’m looking forward to meeting more people and visiting more countries this 2015!

So far, I have a planned trip to Hanoi, Vietnam in February with my family to celebrate my sister’s graduation. I’m also backpacking to Brunei and Kota Kinabalu with my college friends in April. I’m still planning out the rest of the year but my eyes are set in Myanmar (so I can finally complete all ASEAN countries) and South Asia (Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives). The ultimate goal is to go to the US on December to meet my best friend.

WHERE TO NEXT? Waiting for my flight to Singapore in Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport
WHERE TO NEXT? Waiting for my flight to Singapore in Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport

10 countries left with 2 years and 5 months more to accomplish it. Thank you for being with me in this amazing journey! AMDG!

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