New Year Resolutions for Travelers

Have you thought about all the ways you'd like to get the most out of your future trips?

1. Learn from locals

“I like to skip the concierge and ask true locals — the taxi driver, the bellhop, the security guard, the line cook if you can — for tips on the best bites. They always know where the small, hard-to-find, off-the-tourist-way
gems are.”

Angelo Comsti, cookbook author and event organizer who recently mounted the Asian Culinary Exchange 2018 in Manila, a conference aimed at improving the food and beverage industry in the region

2. Be active.

“I like to travel for my sport — it’s one of the quickest ways to plug into a local  community at a new destination.”

Elaine Abonal, founder of Surfista Travels, a surf school in Siargao

3. Travel light

“I always travel light, just the basics in a small carry-on, so I don’t have to wait for checked luggage.”

Berna Romulo-Puyat is in charge of tourism in the country as Secretary of the Department of Tourism of the Philippines

4. Eat more

“I try to eat everything the way it’s meant to be eaten. I’d hate to be the tourist who says, ‘No spice!’ unless it’s for medical reasons, of course. Instead, eat like a pro and have a glass of milk beside you to neutralize the spice!”

JJ Yulo, founder of Pinoy Eats World, a food and lifestyle events company

5. Look around the market

“I love going to local markets. In Bacolod, for example, locals go to the Central Market for fish, meat and produce, but the dry goods area actually has lots of interesting offerings. Sometimes the markets come to you in the form of traveling fairs — make it a point to visit and meet the artisans and learn more about their craft. Haggling when shopping at these artisanal fairs is not advised.”

Mikka Padua, curator of unique fashion and lifestyle items from all over the country, and the world, on her retail site Seek the Uniq

6. Remember your trip

“Sometimes I invest in a special souvenir rather than spending on a few items you might end up discarding months later. If you’re up for that in the Philippines, find something you can wear by a Filipino designer — most specialize in bespoke services over ready-to-wear, so you’re not really going to find them in the mall (if you are looking for ready-to-wear, drop by Greenbelt 5 in Makati, where a whole wing is dedicated to local high-end fashion brands). If you’re planning to engage a local designer for, say, a new outfit, do it right at the beginning of your trip to allow time for fitting and a round of adjustments.”

Pauline Suaco-Juan, executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), an agency that promotes local design through expos such as Manila FAME

7. Look at art

“Before any trip, we scour the internet for places where we can immerse ourselves in the local art scene — informal gatherings, art fairs, artists’ studios.”

Johanna and Mark Deutsch, founders of Happy Garaje, an award-winning Cebu-based graphic design, illustration and toy-making studio

8. Read up

“I like to read up on the place, the general culture and the different local communities that thrive there — and the relationships between them. Respecting people’s culture and understanding their humanity is a good way of making sure I don’t make careless mistakes in social situations.”

– Xyza Cruz Bacani, award-winning photographer whose works document the lives and struggles of migrant domestic workers

9. Take more photos (not selfies!)

“I take a camera with me wherever I go for a few reasons: to document my trips, interact with people I meet and immerse myself in a new place. I also love teaching photography and  sharing the joy of taking pictures- — it’s a great way of telling stories.”

Chris Linag, lawyer, community worker and executive director of Juan Portrait, a non-profit volunteer group that organizes outreach programs for underprivileged children in remote areas

10. Take a walk

“I love a good, long hike, not so much for what’s at the top — although the view is always mind-blowing — but for what each step of the journey brings.”

Gideon Lasco, physician, medical anthropologist and writer who advocates for health and environmental issues, and author of ‘Day Hikes and Nature Walks from Manila’

11. Leave less behind

“I like to be aware of how much trash I create even when I’m on the move, so I always bring my own BPA-free or stainless steel water bottle that I refill at departure lounge water fountains or dining outlets, after clearing airport security. I try not to print e-tickets; instead, I keep a screenshot of my ticket on my phone, in case I lose WiFi and can’t pull it up on email.”

Tomas Leonor, environmentalist and visual artist who organizes Step Juan, a walking expedition across the Philippines, to raise awareness and funds for children with cancer

12. Plan way ahead

“When a whole town is involved in throwing a party — as in a fiesta, or a music festival — the energy is different; magical. I always plan way ahead for the things I want to experience because airline tickets and hotel rooms tend to go very quickly. There are lists of holidays for the year (some are tucked into long weekends) posted on the government websites.”

Kay Veloso Palisoc, organizer of the annual For the Love of Leyte Music & Arts Festival in San Miguel, Leyte

13. Help others plan ahead, too

“I believe that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is one’s attitude. Nevertheless, I like to plan as much as I can, and I often tell tour operators of any special needs ahead of time — like allergies to certain fabric or food — so they can better prepare. ”

Janet Belarmino-Forney, one of the first three Filipino women to summit Mt Everest; she now leads island boat adventures and expeditions through Belarmino Ventures (

14. Eat adventurously

“I love food-themed trips, such as an adobo tour of the Philippines. Each region has its own way of preparing it — adobo sa gata (in coconut) in Bicol and adobo sa dilaw (with turmeric) in Cavite, for example. It’s a great opportunity to savor these flavors and gain insight into why and how entire provinces come up with variations on a single dish.”

Cheryl Tiu, journalist and founder of Cross Cultures, a platform that promotes cultural exchange through food events

15. Ask permission

“I always ask for permission before taking photos of people. A camera is also a great excuse to strike up a conversation with locals and fellow travelers. I try to learn a few phrases in the local dialect whenever I can. If that’s not possible, there’s the universal language of a smile.”

Francisco Guerrero, travel photographer

16. Do your groceries

“I’m always curious about what people care about and how they consume, so I always spend a good half-hour in the local supermarket, checking out what kinds of products people use on a daily basis. It can be very revealing.”

Henry Motte-Muñoz is the founder and CEO of, an online platform that helps students make empowered decisions about their education, from picking the right schools to choosing a course

17. Sketch

“I always travel with a sketchbook and pen in my bag. Meeting locals and having the chance to sketch their portraits on the spot is always a good experience for both the artist and the model. In 1992, at the beach in Currimao, Ilocos Norte, a curious boy took a peek at my drawings, and I sketched his portrait and gave it to him. In 2009, I returned to Currimao for a solo exhibition, and a young man approached me with a small pencil drawing. He was the young boy I drew that one summer — he’s now an ordained priest. To me, that was priceless.”

Elmer Borlongan, visual artist; his new book Elmer Borlongan: An Ordinary Man/An Extraordinary Life, a two-volume  compilation featuring all his works, is due out in February 2019

18. Go by foot

There’s no better way to explore an area than by foot. I usually mark a starting point and an end point and investigate everything in between. For instance, Manila’s Chinatown is rich in history, with great food and glorious architecture, that you might miss if you rolled by in a car.”

Arts Serrano, architect and founder of One/Zero Design Collective, which organizes events that help revitalize Escolta, once Manila’s most fashionable shopping street

19. Meet creators

“I love visiting independent spaces, studios and shops where you’re most likely to meet the owners and the creatives who run them. Patronizing these helps the local economy and you get an insider’s insights on the local culture, through the artisans you meet. And if I chance upon a workshop — that’s travel gold. It’s a fun way to meet friends and create something unique and special for the folks back home.”

Mansy Abesamis, artist, jewelry designer and entrepreneur at Hey Kessy, a craft materials shop and space for makers and artists

Illustrated by Gela Hachero

Compiled by Tata Mapa & Dang Sering

This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Tata Mapa

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