At 24, she’s been to 51 out of 81 provinces in the Philippines. How many have you been to?
People dream of traveling all the time, and yet, there’s always something that stops us. Money, company, time, fear, but mostly money. Why does it seem so hard to get away for a weekend, or even for a day?
One 24-year-old Filipina has made it her journey and passion to eliminate the common excuses for not exploring the regions of the Philippines. April Cuenca only really started traveling in 2012, but since then, she has never stopped. She’s even managed to pull off the holy grail of travel-junkies: get paid to explore and see the country.
“My turning point was when I worked for a travel show in 2012 and had the chance to travel extensively,” said Cuenca.
“I wasn’t jumping from destination to destination. I took my time and spent as long as two weeks in a province. From sharing a toro bench in Sorsogon, to caving in Samar, hiking with the Mal-Os in Romblon, to judging a beauty contest in Paluan, Occidental Mindoro, and sleeping on a hammock with the Amihan Boys of Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental.
“That was when I truly began to appreciate the Philippines for its natural beauty and warmth of our people.”
Traveling solo is a big part of Cuenca’s experiences. For all the worries that a single female may have about unknown places and languages, she actually enjoys solo travel and even calls it cathartic. The freedom of having your own schedule and itinerary, and not having to worry about anyone else’s comfort zone has steeled Cuenca. It’s also forced her to connect to locals, who she credits for making the most out of each trip.
“Filipinos, to me, are very social people,” she said.
“I’m sure most people have experienced failed trip planning because nobody takes the lead to research and book everything, or even worse, people back out of a trip.”
Today, as the CEO of travel-platform FlipTrip, she’s on a mission to help make the rest of the Philippines more accessible. Slowly but surely, Cuenca and FlipTrip have a built a network of local partners in six different provinces to make adventure less confusing for travelers.
Cuenca and her team work to connect off-the-beaten path destinations to the online world, allowing travelers to find them and helping to distribute the benefits of growing tourism to smaller businesses. FlipTrip allows users to book tours, accommodations, and transportation from several local partners, many of which you won’t find online, or can only read about in blogs.
For 2015, Cuenca hopes to complete her goal by visiting the remaining provinces on her list. (That’s 30 provinces in 52 weeks, more than what most people have visited their entire lives.) This month, she’s off to Abra first, and then to Cagayan Valley. While her trips aren’t all about fun — most of her time is spent connecting with the community and finding more local partners — she still gets to enjoy an office view of the sea or mountains.
As for her favorite destinations, Cuenca can’t have enough of these three:
This destination is most known for surfing, but every time I go there, I find or am led to wander off and explore new places. We’ve helped to organize snorkeling activities at Dibutunan Marine Sanctuary, and we’ll soon work with the local tourism office to open up new places to diversify the activities in Aurora.
My second favorite, because of the amazing surf there, and the overwhelming reggae beach vibe. It’s so easy to interact with people there. The moment you enter General Luna, you enter a ready community of surf and beach lovers. When I don’t want to surf, I can easily just grab a motorbike and ride inland and savor the landscape of Siargao. It is simply beautiful.
- Sibuyan, Romblon
They have the most pristine rainforest in the country, with beautiful waterfalls that are a welcoming greet after your long hikes. I love that when I go out into the river near my favorite resort to just enjoy the cool water, I can gaze at the mountain top of the majestic Mt. Guiting-Guiting. There is just so much to love about Sibuyan