By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman
MOST FILIPINOS are currently addicted to two things. One, the lure of travel and adventure thanks to promos and sales. Second is the penchant for blow-by-blow documentation and sharing of the travel experiences, whether here or abroad, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
A tie-up between a tour company and a major communications company now makes both possible.
Thanks to our 7,107 islands filled with pristine forests, mountains, and beaches, nobody is short of adventure travel options.
Gido Sarreal, the founder of Trail AdvenTours, one of the country’s leading outdoor adventure providers, was just a boy in 1997 when he realized he had a passion for nature activities — he climbed Mt. Halcon in Mindoro together with his younger brother, Coby. Now 28, Mr. Sarreal’s most recent climb, done with his brother and some friends, was hiking through two of Taiwan’s highest peaks, the Jade and Snow Mountains.
In 2010, the Sarreal brothers started the Trail AdvenTours, with Mt. Pinatubo as its first climb. From three climbers, the team now has 40 professional climber-tour guides.
It is one of Trail AdvenTours’ main goals to promote the seemingly under-appreciated beauty of the country. As a senior climber and tour guide, Mr. Sarreal notes sadly that often groups of Filipino adventurers say things like: “Ang ganda naman, parang wala ka sa Pilipinas!” (It’s so beautiful it feels like you’re not in the Philippines.)
“While we don’t have winter, the Philippines is a beautiful and rich country. Everything you need is here,” he pointed out.
The group offers more than 40 expert-guided hikes and adventures in the country. The destinations include Pico de Loro in Cavite, Mt. Batulao in Batangas, Batad in Ifugao, Mt. Apo in Davao, and Mt. Daraitan in Rizal.
Mr. Sarreal said that while mountain climbing is good exercise and the perfect excuse to bond with friends, perhaps more importantly it is an opportunity to be one with nature and appreciate its beauty amid the fast pace of modern life.
“We don’t want anyone worrying about their Internet connection when on the summit — and mostly likely there’s no signal up there. What we want is for the hikers to appreciate the beauty of the moment, the clouds, the rainbow. After all, you hiked for more than eight hours. Posting [on your social media accounts] could wait,” he said.
But most Filipino netizens want to share (or humble brag?) their adventures on their social media accounts in real time and not wait until they have gone down the mountain to get a signal. This is where Smart Communications comes in. These social media addicts can post their selfies and #unfiltered pictures on Instagram and Facebook in real time thanks to a tie-up between Smart and Trail AdvenTours — they get a 20% discount on all trails offered by Trail AdvenTours as long as they present their Smart Bro pocket Wi-Fi and prepaid 4G. The promo runs until November 2016.
Before securing their gadgets, however, Mr. Sarreal said that first-time hikers should prepare their other gear, food, and selves. He said the most important hiking tip is to check one’s fitness.
Day tours range from P1,600 to P2,100 per person while an overnight adventure costs around P4,100 per person, inclusive of transportation fee, tolls, and tour guide fee. Climbing gear and food, however, are not provided by the company.