Liwliwa, March 2016

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Right before the Lent break last month, we drove one late evening to Katipunan to meet hostel co-owner Raf Dionisio, loaded his 15 sacks of ube seedlings into the back of a 4×4 pickup, breezed through EDSA and TPLEX, and spent a day among several Aeta communities in Liwliwa, Zambales. His story, along with 2 other people who for us exemplify what being “built tough” means, shall be published in Rappler this month. 

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I have always equated this province with quick beach getaways and it was only in this trip where I learned that it had a laid back surf culture as well. Raf, along with his business partners at Circle, have always been keen to establish communities for others who are just as in love with surfing and traveling as they are. Now he also wants to promote social tourism and prove that “doing good is good business.” On the day that we trailed him around, he was not only delivering seedlings that the Aetas could plant for food and profit – he was also discussing with the Aeta chieftains plans for rainforest rehabilitation, building homestays, and bringing in teachers to revive the villages’ single-room schools. He shall do all of these, of course, with the help of volunteer tourists. If he will amplify his passion with a guided social enterprise strategy, and pull in the right people, I’m positive that he will succeed.

For me, the sensory highlights of the trip were meeting kind and funny Aeta folks, eating the sweetest freshly-boiled kamote, having adobo, tilapia, and vegetables under a mango tree (and sampling those huge kinalabaw mangoes afterwards), enjoying the bumpy ride at the back of the pick-up, enjoying the sunset as our photographers Karen and Angelo took their final shots, and generally relishing the feeling of being away from the concrete jungle on am otherwise perfectly normal work day.

All photos shot with a Samsung Note 5 and edited with the VSCO app

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