2016 was an awesome year for Team Our Awesome Planet! From out of the country destinations to discovering more of what our beautiful Philippines has to offer, it was indeed a year full of many wonderful memories!
Here's a look-back at what each team member found memorable and why...
SAGADA by Anton Diaz
The Road Trip to Sagada was our most ambitious and memorable project to date, featuring the best of Sagada with our family in partnership with Mofilm and Ford.
The Sagada Blog Series was two years in the making, with a lot of emotional highs and lows throughout the execution of the project.
We are proud of this 15-minute mini-documentary of our Sagada Experience, directed by Gian Mawo.
Watch out for more mini-documentary films on Our Awesome Planet this 2017!
OSAKA & KYOTO FAMILY EXPERIENCE by Rache Diaz
It was definitely a learning experience for me, bringing our 4 boys with varying ages to a foreign country culturally different from ours. I loved how we were able to share our adventurous side with our curious children. They easily adapted to wherever we literally threw them in and are now eagerly looking forward to our next adventure.
I felt the kids readily took up to the challenge of having more responsibility during this trip--Aidan looked after Yugi when I had to attend to other tasks, and Joshua and Raphael were independently carrying their own things. Surprisingly, the boys didn't complain that they lacked sleep even though we would go back to the hotel late at night and wake up early the next day. They just happily ate to their hearts' content.
I think it's safe to say that I can now travel with the boys fearlessly.
BOHOL by Abigail Javellana
Our summer was one of the most adventurous times for the whole team and family. We rediscovered Bohol by Stand Up Paddling (SUP) across the Loboc River where no cars or motorbikes could take us, fearlessly Bike Zipping across a picturesque view of the Chocolate Hills, Dolphin watching in Pamilacan, Snorkeling in Balicasag Reef Sanctuary, and enjoying the beautiful beaches of Anda.
It was a fun time having the kids sit in front of our boards while we paddled across the Loboc river. But I also distinctly remember how never-wracking our shoot was, knowing all our gear (i.e. SLR camera and other equipment) were on my board, with only a dry bag to protect them. Thankfully, the boards were very sturdy and well-balanced, so the shoot was a success!
But that wasn't even the most challenging part--it was the dreaded mountain bike trail level C (i.e. for advanced bikers)! Being my first time riding a mountain bike where it was mostly uphill and off-road tracks, you'd definitely expect me to have a hard time. But while it was super challenging and I told myself so many times to just give up and go back, the team pushed on to the top, and it was definitely worth it!
There were a lot of new achievements and skills unlocked that week. I'm so happy to have experienced a whole new side of Bohol that I've never seen before!
ZHENGZHOU, CHINA by Abigail Javellana
One of my most memorable experiences was my trip to Zhengzhou, China, the capital of the Henan province.
Being a Filipino-Chinese, it was normal for me to discover another side of my heritage. I've been to China several times, visiting popular destinations like Shanghai, Beijing, and Xiamen. So little did I know my visit to Zhengzhou would show me a different side of China that's all new to me.
Being one of the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China there is no shortage of history lessons here. Take a boat ride to the cradle of civilization, the Yellow River, and visit UNESCO heritage sites like the Longmen Grottoes. You can even hike the picturesque Yuntaishan Mountain, and seriously, who wouldn't want to see the birthplace of ancient Shaolin Kung Fu?
From experiencing flavors new to my palette (disgusting insects included), to seeing these amazing places, this trip was definitely one for the books!
TBEX & TAO EXPEDITION EXPERIENCE by Boom Garcia
My 2016 was extra awesome because of TBEX and Tao Expedition. Meeting a lot of people who share the same passion and experiences as I do really opened my eyes.
My team and I have traveled a lot over the Philippines but Tao Expedition really changed the way I see my own country. It was the only tour I've taken that made me experience what the Philippines could really offer--world-class charm, rich natural resources, and most importantly, the people.
SOUTH CEBU by Juanico Fernandez
The Queen City of the South, Cebu has a very special place in my heart and is probably my favorite destination in 2016!
Why, you ask? Well, aside from being my hometown, it is also home to some of my favorite spots here in the Philippines, like the icy, turquoise waters of Kawasan Falls, the awesome Badian canyoneering, and the famous gentle giants of Oslob. And don’t forget the world renowned Moalboal Sardine Run! Did I mention it's also home to everyone's favorite dried mangoes and the crispy and juicy lechon...Yum!
CAMBODIA by Sean Nolan
If I had to choose my personal highlight from 2016, it would have to be our Trip to Cambodia.
It was Boom's and my first time to visit the Indochina Region. We were fortunate to get to see most of the country in only a month's time.
Cambodia is an amazing country. Besides the legendary temples and the amazing food, the people of Cambodia are warm, welcoming and friendly. Their hospitality seems to even rival that of Filipinos.
Like all developing countries, Cambodia has had its fair share of ups and downs. And despite political turmoil and rapid modernization brought on by a booming economy, the Cambodian people still hold on to tradition. Safron cloaked monks pace the busy roads of the Capital City, Phnom Penh, and traditional Khmer Music could be heard on almost every street corner. Cambodia, to me it seems, is a place frozen in time and slowly catching up with the modern world.
There was one standout moment that really made me fall in love with Cambodia. Yes, the temples are grand and awe-inspiring, and to be honest, I sort of expected to have some kind of "deep" and "meaningful" experience as I gazed in wonder at the ruins of Angkor or Mayon. To make the long story short, my deep, meaningful, spiritual experience never happened--at least not in the way I expected it to.
It was our last night in Siem Reap, Boom and I had just finished a very long and exhausting week of shooting around the province, when we were invited by our now dear friend, Mr. Bot, to chill at the Famous Pub Street and cap off our adventure with a few local beers.
Pub Street Siem Reap is like any other "Pub Street" in the world. Locals and foreigners traverse the sea of people from one bar to the next, shouting over the loud music and the horns of passing Tuk-Tuks, sampling the hundreds of varieties of street foods along the way.
"Been there, done that," so I thought.
At around midnight, a group of foreigners gathered outside of the pub where we had settled in and began to dance in the street. It was a handful of strangers for the first few songs then slowly but surely, more and more people started to join in. Locals and foreigners all gathered outside on the street, took off their shoes and danced barefoot together. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced in my life. Mr. Bot said it was his first time to witness such a thing and he's a local. There were at least 12 countries represented at the improvised street party. Nobody really understood each other besides shouting greetings in broken English and over extremely loud music. Nothing mattered for any of us in that hour or so of dancing. No differences no, shame, no prejudice, just honest camaraderie. It's a memory that I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: We wrote this article with our biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. Look out for Team Our Awesome Planets 'Sojourn Cambodia' series with Boom and me later this month!