Monday, May 30, 2011


Even before I left, a friend of a friend (as soon as she found out about my travels to the Philippines) asked me to look for the grave or the cemetery where her grandfather was buried and pay respects on her behalf. I didn't know how to react to it. How am I supposed to find it? I didn't hesitate, and say yes knowing that it would mean alot to her. She only gave me two information, his name--Ernest Wade and Corregidor.  He was killed in the Philippines during the last years of the Second World War.

During the whole duration of the trip, I kept my promise and his name in my head, and I wasn't going to come back home without locating the location of his remains or at least an answer where his resting place could be. Since my friend told me about Corregidor, I made sure that this island was in my itinerary.

I remember going to Corregidor with the confident that I would find it there. Looked everywhere, and even asked the tour guide if there is even such thing in the island. I learned that most of the bodies were moved to Manila American Memorial and Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio/Global City in Metro Manila. It was a relief knowing that there is a possibility of finding his grave.

As soon as I got back to the city, I hopped in a taxi cab and went to Manila American Memorial and Cemetery. The cemetery is strictly guarded, but it is open to public everyday between 9 am to 5 pm. You need to be respectful and dress appropriately before going in there--no sandals. The place is clean, quiet, and very peaceful. There are thousands upon thousands of perfectly aligned white marble headstones placed over each US and Philippine personnel as well as those of other allied nations who lost their lives for our freedom during the Second World War. The cemetery is a great remembrance and memorial in honor of those brave soldiers who died for peace.

Upon arriving, I was told by the guards to check the visitors center if I had questions. So I went in there and asked this lovely lady that I was looking for the grave of Ernest Wade. My heart was pounding to the beat of each keystroke. Will I be able to find his grave? I didn't know what I was feeling. And then, the lady comes out and tells me that Lt Commander Ernest Wade remains were never uncovered. He was either Missing in Action or Buried at Sea. He died on January 21, 1945, seven months before the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. He doesn't have a headstone, but his name is listed on the walls of the missing.

It's a shame really not knowing what happened to his body...

And then, there it is...his name.

I stood there for a few minutes, looking at his name reflecting and thanking him for what he's done for the country.

Coming back from Corregidor and then seeing this, I just couldn't imagine what mankind is capable of doing...I guess it's just something I could never understand.

Thanks for Protecting our Freedom
Lt Commander Ernest Wade
May You Rest In Peace.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Budget Backpacker: CORREGIDOR. Entry: Wednesday May 18, 2011


By Dom (the Host) and Matthieu (the AD)

The crew suited up for their final segment on the Philippines: The Isle of Corregidor.

Corregidor is an island located 45km off the coast and was the main waypoint in and out of the city of Manila by sea. Its primary purpose was defense against imposing enemies. The island is now a memorial dedicated to the battles fought during WWII between the Japanese, Americans and Filipinos.

It was hard to believe that such a beautiful island had once been the scene for so much bloodshed. 
While looking around at the massive gun turrets, chilling barrack ruins, and powerful memorial sites, I could see tourists posing and smiling for pictures. The contrasted surroundings felt unfitting to me, as I was still in shock of what I was seeing.

During the islands tour, we walked through the Malinta tunnel, which was used as a last stronghold for both sides during the war. Through the dark lit tunnel you could sense how bleak life must have been hiding out from the opposing enemy while repeated bomb after bomb was hailed from the sky.

This was by far the most haunting part of the tour. As we left the tunnel I begun to feel a little weary, maybe it was all the carnage we were experiencing?

After a break for lunch I was feeling better and ready to go on with the last part of the tour. We crossed a statue of the American general MacArthur while on our way to the beach and his famous words “I shall return” were written in stone.  

This made me think of our trip and whether we would return?

My hope is ‘yes’. However, if there were one thing that I did not enjoy about my trip to the Philippines, it was that it was too short. The people have been exceptionally friendly and there has been so much to be in awe of, the history, the culture and most importantly the hospitality, which makes you want to keep coming back!

Budget Backpacker: INTRAMUROS. Entry: Wednesday May 18, 2011

The Walled City (by Kenneth Yanga the DP)

I got a chance to learn some more history of the Philippines. Even though I am Filipino, being away from the homeland for a while kind of made me forget the history (unfortunately). But it was great relearning it again--even the dark past.

Intramuros is located in Manila right next to the Pasig River. It's real close to Luneta Park and the famous Manila Hotel. You can easily get there by Jeepney or taxi. Whichever mode of transportation do you prefer. They're both really cheap, but Jeepney is more fun and way cheaper!

As soon as we got in Intramuros, we tried the Calesa ride (Horse Carraige). They were pretty much stationed next to the San Agustin Church. It was a decent priced tour, but could've been cheaper if you ask me. We paid about 600 PHP for a one hour ride/tour (roughly $14). I hear that the Carlos Celdran walking tour is the way to go. It's about 1000 PHP per head I think. The whole city is walkable, so if you don't want to pay anything, enjoy the structures and history on foot, just have to sweat it out.

So a bit of a history, Intramuros was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century and is the oldest district of the city of Manila. The name means "within the walls", meaning within the wall enclosure of the city/fortress, also describes its structure as it is surrounded by thick, high walls and moats. During the Spanish colonial period, Intramuros was considered Manila itself. But during World War II, the whole city was pretty much destroyed with only one structure survived.

(Taken from Wikipedia) Filipinos lost an irreplaceable cultural and historical treasure in the resulting carnage and devastation of Manila. The cultural patrimony (including art, literature, and especially architecture) of the Orient's first truly international melting pot - the confluence of Spanish, American and Asian cultures - was eviscerated. Manila, once touted as the "Pearl of the Orient" and famed as a living monument to the meeting of Asian and European cultures, was virtually wiped out.

Whew...I didn't think I was gonna be emotional there. Learning history is quite overwhelming. If you do visit the Philippines, I highly recommend going to Intramuros. It's really awesome! The structures, and buildings, are quite medieval looking. Plus, you get to ride a horse carriage--which to me was the cherry on top of a wonderful trip!

Monday, May 16, 2011

BORACAY: A LITTLE SLICE OF PARADISE. Entry: Monday 5-9-11 through Thursday 5-12-11

By: Matthieu Assistant Director

The Philippines has a way of grabbing traveler’s hands, sucking them in, and taking them for the ride of their life. Your Budget Savvy Travelers found themselves on a breathtaking journey to the isle of Boracay.

A summation of Boracay is difficult but in a nutshell it is paradise… I will do my best to describe its beauty.

The island’s powdered white beaches, crystal blue waters, and cool air breezes erase all worries from the mind and rejuvenate a weary travelers soul. 

Not to mention the most memorable (or not as the case may be) nightlife that makes even the most uncoordinated of people put on their best pair of best boogies shoes and dance until the morning light. Boracay is the closest to paradise many will come across and it is easy to see why so many travelers make a stop here and why some may never leave.

Although Boracay is not the lightest on a traveler’s wallet, its beauty is one that must be seen firsthand and therefore it is up to the budget conscious traveler to find ways to make it affordable.

Easier said than done, but not impossible.

The First Budget Issue: Lodging
There are many expensive resorts around that charge an arm and a leg (even for Philippine standards) but if you do some research you’ll find a plethora of affordable gems.

Your Budget Backpackers #1 choice to rest their head is Frendz Hostel. This so called “hostel” offers a tropical styled bamboo bungalows, 2 minute walk to the beautiful “white beach”, and even have hot water showers (a first so far) all for around 300 pesos per night (~$7 USD) in the off-season. Also this was rated #1 hostel in the Philippines for 2009 and 2010 by Hostel world, not an easy feat.

Another option for the more adventurist traveler is to talk with locals about staying in their apartment for a few nights. Keep in mind it never hurts to ask!

Second Budget Issue: Food
Food is more expensive on Boracay simply because it is an island. However the further you are away from the beachfront the more affordable the food becomes. About 15 minute walk from Frendz Hostel is D’Talipapa, an amazing market with the freshest fish around for very low prices. Scattered around the market are restaurants that will even cook your catch of the day for you!

A meal for our crew consisted of delicious mussels, and succulent Jackfish all for around 550 pesos (250pesos for fish + 300pesoos cooking fee).
Also, it also never hurts to ask a local where their favorite sport to catch a bite to eat is.

Work for Travel
To make things more affordable you may consider offering to work in exchange for lodging, food, or transportation.

Laura, a SCUBA Diving instructor, is an adventurous young lass from England. She decided to leave all of her ties behind, get a SCUBA Diving license, and explore what the world has to offer.  She makes a living SCUBA diving each day, saving up for her next journey…not a bad way to travel.

There are countless testimonies of travelers working their way around the world!

Transportation costs
Transportation costs can be reduced if your itinerary can spare the time. Instead of a flight from Manila to Boracay, look into taking a ferry (+/- 9hours); Airfare = 3500 pesos($80USD) apposed to ferry = 700 pesos ($16USD). You never know what kind of adventures you run into when you cut corners. A good stategy is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best!


Now on to the best part of the island: the activities. As with any resort island there are a million things to do and most cost money. You can haggle as much as you like but in the end you might have to suck it up and give in. Boracay has amazing SCUBA diving, snorkeling, parasailing, skim boarding, and ATVing. Each offers a unique taste of the island and an unforgettable experience.

Your #1 Budget Backpacker activity of choice is simply lying out and enjoying a sunset! Best of all its FREE!! (Except for the drinks!)

Happy travels!! And good luck!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011



By: Kile Sound Man

There I was…on a small side street in Barrio Santa Maria watching the Pacquiao vs. Mosely fight with 40 or 50 other people.  As I stood there in the rain, with all my sound equipment, in a poncho that was doubling as a portable sauna, I realized something.

Community is huge here.

This particular spot was set up outside someone’s house in the open, with some coverings over a few of the chairs and the televisions.  People had been planning to watch this fight together for a long time, and then suddenly, the day of it starts raining. 

I feel that anywhere else the event would be cancelled and people would watch the fight in their homes by themselves, yet here in Manila everyone stayed! They shared umbrellas, watched from neighbors’ balconies, and even stood in the rain. 

Yes, they probably withstood the weather partly because Manny Pacquioa is a national hero to Filipinos, but I think the major reason was because they wanted to share those moments together.  It was a simple yet beautiful realization for me.

An example of the friendliness and hospitality of Filipinos presented itself later the same day.  We met up with one of the kindest and friendliest people I’ve ever met. 
Dab Samar.

Dab is an avid couch surfer, which is to say he uses the website to find free places to stay with locals in different countries as well as hosting travelers in his home in Manila.   Couch surfing is a great way to find free places to stay in whatever country you’re visiting and a fun way to meet fellow travel enthusiasts.  Dab is the epitome of the couch surfing ideals.  He told us that he likes to host other travelers simply because he likes being helpful.  He likes being a part of the travel community and it’s obvious to me that he’s so open and welcoming because that’s just the Filipino way.

Despite being in a country whose culture and people are completely foreign to me, I’ve felt welcome and at home and I find that pretty amazing.

Monday, May 9, 2011



By Matthieu the Assistant Director

The Philippines is a country that escapes its troubles by watching daytime media, which fantasizes about winning it big.

The Budget Backpackers attended a local TV show called Happy Yippee Yehey and what a scene they caused. 

We showed the Filipinos how rowdy a bunch of American/Brits can get. Yelling at the top of our lungs, jumping until our legs gave out, and just being crazy we all made quite a spectacle. 

Dom was even asked to come up on stage to be aired on live television.

Another passion amongst the Philippines is enjoying the nightlife and so the Backpackers cleaned the mud off their shoes, swapped tank tops for button downs, and scrounged up enough dough to get into one of the ritziest clubs in Manila. The Filipinos know how to get down, party, and have a good time. The Backpackers joined in fun, danced the entire night away, and felt that much closer to the foreign culture.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

BAR IN MAKATI (CENTRAL). Entry: Wednesday 5-5-11


By Matthieu the Assistant Director

The bus coming back from Banaue was 10-hours of frigid vents blowing from all angles accompanied by a restless and sleepless bus ride. We finally arrived in Manila at 4:30 in the morning, so we planned in a little R&R to lighten our travels.

After our power naps, my faithful crew and I set our sights on the nightlife of Manila!  We decided to ease into it with the bar called Central Bar… The scene was scattered with young locals, boogie-dancing waiters, flame sizzling dishes, cheap beer and a whole lot of fun!

As the night progressed, Dom was dragged out to the bar to show off his dancing skills…although not the most impressive moves, he danced his heart out! Way to boogie down with the locals.

Midnight approached before we knew it and had to turn in for the night for tomorrow holds new adventures.

Stay posted for the next blog!!


I must remind my fellow travelers that plumbing may differ when traveling…I experienced this when my stool did not agree with the piping of the common Filipino house. My American poop of steel resisted to go down as I had to borrow a neighbors plunger and plunge as the water in the bowl rose aimlessly. The gods decided to give me a break and eventually allowed the toilet to clear up, but be warned as you venture away from that comforting porcelain bowl of yours at home…