The Guerilla Travel Guide for Ilonggos

By Harren Fegarido

[Editor: Unlike the previous guides we published for Dinagyang, Valentine’s Day, and the “general” travel article from April 17th , what you’ll read below is pretty extensive. So, I suggest you bookmark this page so you can refer to it anytime you’re on the road with your smartphone or tablet. Now, let’s get this show on the road!]

“Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before”, as the Dalai Lama would have put it. As a traveler, I have experienced and learned the different ways there is to travelling. It is with this knowledge that I present to you, dear veteran and/or novice travelers, the Guerilla Travel Guide for Ilonggos.

Why did I title this guide as such, though? Well, because we’re in the middle of the summer vacation, and the recent income tax return filings dictate that we should be budget-conscious. It is a simple guide for simple travelers, soul searchers and those looking for a more adventurous and challenging experience that you won’t get from your typical click-and-book travel packages. Consider your travels as your personal “revolution”, and may the words I wrote below be your principles:

1. Travel DIY (Do-It-Yourself)

We’re fond of searching the internet for our next ultimate travel destinations, and we end up mostly booking package tours. In one hand, it’s convenient: we pay, then we have all comforts of travelling in one go: the food, tour guide, shuttle bus and a hotel.

On other though, I believe there’s beauty to “getting lost”. Here, you don’t pay for a guided tour; you are your own guide, you eat and sleep wherever you want, and you’ve got no curfews and call times to answer to. The only thing you need here is common sense and to simply ASK. Want to go somewhere to eat? Ask the locals. Need a ride? The common transport’s an easy go.

DIY is more challenging and fun, though you need guts to be “less prepared” and more courageous to talk to strangers. However, the money you pay using the DIY route goes directly to the driver, your instant guide, the market vendors and lodging houses.

2. January is an Important Month

The first month of the year is critical in planning for your travel activities (and not just because it’s Dinagyang season, see). Specifically, check for holidays, especially those falling on a Friday or Monday. If you see one, then that means you can plan your long weekend travel. Thank you, holidays!

The first quarter of the year is also the month where promo fares get very cheap for travel dates between June to December. You can also check promo fares during the months of June for travel dates between January to May. Be vigilant in checking for promo fares regularly or subscribe to newsletters and updates. Payments are made through credit cards though, so keep that in mind.

3. Itinerary

After deciding where to go, you can now make your itinerary. This is the most important thing in all of your travels, since planning ahead (which we recommend you do so from 3-6 months to a year, depending on where you want to go) will help you maximize your time throughout your travels. You have to abide strictly on your itinerary though, since there is no official call time and bus waiting for you, unlike those in packaged tours.

While there are some itineraries to be found in the internet—and they’re mostly made by fellow travelers who are willing to share their experiences with you—I recommend that you still make your own. Take note of the following below:

  • Number of travel days from ETD (estimated time of departure) Point of origin to ETA (estimated time of arrival) Point of Origin
  • Cost: transport, lodging, food, fees, guides, miscellaneous
  • Tourist destinations, tourist spots, activities
  • Details of itinerary: travel time, meal time, hours in each activity
  • Specific places with strict opening and closing hours.

4. Budget

The guerilla style of travelling is for the budget-conscious, but you still can expect to spend sums of money when doing so. Thus, it should be helpful if you know how to make a budget. Here are tips below:

  • Compute ALL expenses for transport, lodging, fees (terminal fees, entrance fees,) and guides. Most of your money will be spent on either of these.
  • Honestly, you do not have to include food in your budget. Meals eat up most of your budget if you don’t plan ahead on what and where to eat. Don’t spend too much on usual meals if there is nothing “new” to eat; instead, choose cheaper restaurants or go to a karinderya. Ask where the local delicacies and restaurants are. Sometimes, the best food you can find in your travels is also where the locals eat. If you are planning to eat out, know how much to spend beforehand. Personally, I budget my food P200.00 per meal times the number of meals for the whole trip.
  • ALWAYS STICK TO THE BUDGET. As far as I can remember, I never went much past P3,000.00 – P4,000.00 (not including airfare since I already paid for it in advance) for the entire travel period.

5. Transportation

Since you are in guerilla mode, take note of alternate ways on how to reach to your destination; it may either be by bus or even jeepney. Book ahead and reserve your seats, since some bus liners are fully booked, especially during summer. Get your driver’s name and his or her (or the operator’s) contact numbers for easy communication just in case you might you go back to the place in the future.

If you’ll travel in groups, you can hire a van or a vehicle, but it’s important to know the standard rates for travelers. Some places, it must be said, have different rates for locals and tourists. Compute all fares and other transportation expenses and include it in your budget, but it is also important to confirm all reservations first. Always follow the schedule of buses and jeepneys—some places only have 1 or 2 trips per day—and the konduktor won’t definitely wait for you.

Here’s a personal bonus tip in this regard: believe it or not, thumbing or hitching a ride is actually observed here. During 2009, I made it to Kalibo by hitching a ride from Iloilo. You should try it at least once.

6. Lodging

When doing guerilla-style, the last thing you should look for is comfort. “Guerillas” don’t stay in expensive hotels, endure rooms without air condition and can even manage to sleep without comforters. Always look for the cheapest accommodation—and by that, I mean a place that is “worth” its cheap price.

If you’re travelling solo, nobody will be in your room the whole day except for your bags. But of course, you have to make sure that your accommodation suits your most basic hygienic or personal concerns. Based on my personal experience, I personally forget about the hygienic stuff when I’m travelling (seriously). Other tips to consider below:

  • Room accommodation: clean bedsheets and a comfort room (personal or common)
  • A “fan” room
  • Accommodating staff
  • If travelling to a city or urban area, it would be better if the lodging house is near the city proper or market since most of the bus or jeepney terminals are located at the latter area
  • If you’re going to Boracay, don’t mind where you stay as long as you’re there. The farther the lodging is from the beach front, the cheaper it generally is.

7. What to bring

The stuff you’ll bring depends on, again, where you plan to go and what you’ll do. I usually bring one travel bag (40 kilos capacity) and one small sling bag for my personal belongings. I recommend using a backpack since it balances the weight on your body and frees your hands to do other things. And please pack lightly. Also take note on what not to bring when traveling via plane. Some (yes, only some) airports are strict with their policies regarding hand-carried luggage.

When bringing clothes, create a checklist on what to wear on a specific activity or, say, during nighttimes. Here’s a personal hint: nobody will really notice what you’re wearing on a vacation. You can reuse the same board shorts for four days if you’ll be swimming in the beach, and no one will notice the new flip-flops you’ll be wearing when camping in the mountains. If you want to avoid carrying too many clothes, then DO LAUNDRY if you have to. Lastly, always bring a sarong with you to protect you from the sun and in times you need to go to temples and churches where dress codes are observed.

Here are other things to take note of:

  • Hygiene kit: Bring soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant and any related materials. If possible, bring liquid soap so not to mess your pack, but do transfer all liquids in a small container for convenient usage and dispensing.
  • Miscellaneous stuff: Bring other stuff that you think is necessary like eating utensils, water canteens, or towels. If you left some of them at home, then you can always buy them on the road.

8. Know the locals

Remember to respect the locals of the area, because you’ll need them to guide you on where to go. If possible, speak in their dialect or use a language that you can both understand. Be aware of the people’s culture and practices before you go there, because some places have strict rules or guidelines for this purpose; just because you’re a tourist doesn’t mean you’re exempted from their customs.

In general, be respectful, greet any local you meet and, If possible, befriend some of them. One of the reasons for travelling is to meet new people, and being aware of their culture is essential to breaking the “barriers” between you, the tourist, and the locals. It also helps if you bring a token of appreciation in the form of a scarf or a cap which you can give back to the locals who helped you.

9. Posting photos on social media should come LAST

Breathe in the moment! Dive from a cliff, ride top-load on a jeepney, eat delicacies, or splurge your money. Just enjoy everything even while taking pictures. With that said, POST YOUR PHOTOS ON SOCIAL MEDIA AFTER YOUR TRAVEL, because you shouldn’t travel to show the world what you are doing; rather you’re travelling because you want to see the world!

10. Police stations and hospitals

Know where these places are located since it’s important to know their locations in cases of emergency. In my case, these are the places I could spend overnight when I really nowhere else to stay. Other places you can take note of in any area include 24-hour convenience stores and gas stations.

11. Miscellaneous tips

  • Use a travelers’ lounge if you need to go to a restroom or take a bath.
  • Always bring plastic bags for wet clothes.
  • Bring a utility knife and store it in a check-in baggage.
  • Always bring two IDs or more
  • Have cash on hand always, since ATMs are not available in some places.

And that’s it! These are some of my “few” hints on how to travel guerilla-style. We have many reasons on why we travel, but I believe what is most important is that we travel because we want to see the world, we want to know ourselves, and we want to experience new cultures and food and meet new people.

It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your escapades; the most important thing is you go to places you’ve been dreaming of and do things you really want to do. Money spent is not measured on how well you have travelled, but how you experienced it. So I recommend you pack your bags and see the world, guerilla-style!

Artwork by Chloe Havengaarde

Harren Fegarido is a wanderer