Entrevista: Travelling with a purpose

by Evans Yonson

(Note: Rowel Merez has a communication degree from Letran College in Manila. He is a semi-retired TV writer and producer. Currently, he is doing freelance work in Manila and nearby regions.)

The Light Traveller (TLT): What circumstances brought you to where you are now?

Rowel Merez (RW): Working for TV has become routinary for me. I got bored after 10 years of working in the media industry and decided that I needed to do something different, take a break and try to learn more of what life has to offer for me. I’m not getting any younger which means I have to live life to the fullest.

TLT: How often do you travel?

RW: I travel whenever I feel the need to escape… especially when I needed some time off from the hustle and bustle of city life. I usually travel to climb mountain ranges or sail the yonder as I wade in pristine waters while drinking a bottle of ice-cold beer on a beach.

TLT: Would you travel alone? with your family, or with your friends? Why?

RW: It’s on a case-to-case basis. If I feel the need for self-exploration, then I would definitely travel solo. But majority of the time, I share my travel experiences with my friends.

TLT: How do you travel? By car, bus, plane, boat? Please explain.

RW: I both enjoy traveling by bus and by plane. I love traveling by plane because you can get to your destination faster… plus I’ve always wanted to be like Wonder Woman and having my own Invisible Jet when I was a kid. Just the idea of flying and the feeling of being among the clouds is exciting. On the other hand, I also love traveling by bus because it gives that feeling of adventure. I really enjoy stopovers… eating rice porridge during pit stops and looking for public toilets during those sticky and uncalled for moments.

TLT: What is the farthest place that you ever traveled and why the distance?

RW: The farthest place I’ve been to was in Tawi-Tawi. I’m a big fan of Batibot when I was a kid. I remember in one of their episodes I saw a man drawing a Vinta… My yaya (nanny) is from a fishing village in Tawi-Tawi. She would often tell me stories about Mindanao folklore and how she used to see hundreds of Vintas floating near their home when she was little. From that day on, I was curious and fascinated on how Mindanao looks like… its people and its culture.

TLT: What are your preferred places to visit, why?

RW: Aside from mountains and beaches, I also love museumS. Museums give me rare glimpse of the history and the culture of that place. It gives you an insight on their culture and lifestyle through their art.

TLT: Tell us about you group? When and who started it? And what is the goal and purpose of this group?

RW: Guys4Mountains, Inc. is a privately-run, non-profit organization founded in August 2005 and based in the Philippines dedicated to providing men with alternative lifestyles the means to learn and experience the outdoors for recreational and social-environmental purposes through classroom and hands-on instructions in backpacking, hiking and mountaineering.

Its goal is to provide a safe and fun environment for its members and instill in them an appreciation for outdoors and its accompanying responsibilities. The group is also open to other outdoor activities other than mountain climbing.

Guys4Mountains is a gender-friendly organization that advocates diversity and equality and upholds social and environmental awareness. It is duly registered with the Philippines Securities & Exchange Commission, Registration CN200810537.

TLT: Do you buy souvenir items when you travel?

RW: Yes, I buy them as pasalubong (souvenir) for my family and friends.

TLT: Do you take photographs when you travel?

RW: I love photography and I have taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs. I like taking pictures maybe because I like the idea of a scene or a moment frozen in time and immortalizing it in a single frame. It’s also my way to make a statement that “I was here. I existed” The proof is in the pictures.  I like to document our travel experiences, not necessarily for the purpose of sharing them with others, but more as mental slide shows to help us recall with greater clarity, the experiences of our lives. In essence, pictures help us remember. They are the closest we have yet come to true time travel, to allow us to go back and experience the feelings we had, and remember.

TLT: Travel light/ travel heavy?

RW: I like to travel light. I don’t bring that much when I go out. unless there is a mountain to climb in my agenda.

TLT: Backpack or luggage?

RW: Backpack and make-up kit!

TLT: What is in your backpack when you travel? Complete details please.

RW: Hmmmm! Let me see… I have my clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sandals, trekking shoes, an ID, wallet, mobile phone, camera and a pack of condoms and a bottle of lubricant just in case, hehehe!.

TLT: How many days are the longest time when you travel?

RW: I usually travel for six to eight days. But I don’t explore the place all in one travel. I leave some so that I have reason to go back.

TLT: When and where was your last travel and for how long?

RW: The last place I’ve been to was in Aurora Province for a book drive. We stayed in Baler for four days, drunk and wasted. And did some surfer-dude hunting, hahaha!

TLT: When and where will be your next planned travel and why?

RW: I want to travel within Southeast Asia. I don’t know yet where, but I’m thinking of Cambodia because of the Angkor Wat, or Vietnam to trace my roots. Probably meet a few relatives there. I just hope they speak English.

TLT: Do you always plan what to do when you travel or are you spontaneous and why?

RW: I always like the idea of getting lost. There is a certain thrill that comes to not knowing where you are. It gives you a chance to explore the world around you without nothing to think off (except how you’ll get to your hotel room safely). From there, you learn something new about your friends and about yourself.

TLT: Describe the feeling (is it satisfaction or exhaustion) you get after each travel.

RW: I always feel satisfied after each travel because I know that I got to discover a new place. Exhausted? Maybe a little bit… but that is nothing compared to the smiles I get everytime I look at our photos.