The Great Big Story Features Apo Whang-od In New Video

The Great Big Story (GBS), a New York-based media company, featured Apo Whang-od Oggay in a new video, saying, "people travel from all over the world to get marked by the master." 

"At 101, Whang-od is the last remaining manbabatok -- a tattoo artist in the Philippines using traditional hand-tap methods," GBS captioned to their Facebook post on September 25.

The video is a little over two minutes long. However, it showcases Apo Whang-od's tattooing process and a short introduction about her and why she's so special among travelers around the world.

"In the village of Buscalan, lives a woman who is the last of her kind," the video starts, fitting a description for the living legend. It is noted that the traditional hand-tap method was originally meant for the warriors.

“To apply a tattoo, you first need to get a coal, thorns, and then wipes. The hammer I use is from a coffee tree. The thorn I use is from calamansi or pomelo fruit trees," Apo Whang-od shares on the video.

Meanwhile, Apo Whang-od ended the interview, saying, "this traditional tattoo will last forever".

In June, Apo Whang-od was awarded the Dangal ng Haraya by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

According to the NCCA, the Dangal ng Haraya is given to living Filipino artists, cultural workers and historians; artistic or cultural groups, historical societies, institutions, foundations and councils, to recognize their outstanding achievements in relevant fields that have made an impact and significant contribution to Philippine culture and arts.

As of this writing, the GBS's Facebook video had almost half million views.

By the way, I've started a petition online to declare Apo Whang-od as one of our National Living Treasures. You can sign the petition HERE.

Boracay To Reopen On October 26th

After shuttering the Boracay Island for six months, the Department of Tourism (DOT) confirmed that the island is set to open on October 26th, saying, "a better and more sustainable Boracay is set to welcome back visitors."

"October is only a soft opening... we are managing expectations. It will be open but don't expect all the roads to be completed," DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The DOT chief added that five thousand hotel rooms will be ready by October 26 but overall, Boracay isn't expected to fully be rehabilitated until the end of 2019. The "no drinking or smoking" rule for white beaches will be more strictly enforced, and no casinos will be allowed on the island, despite earlier reports.

It is expected that the famous "LaBoracay" Labor Day weekend celebrations that drew 60,000 to 70,000 visitors to the island each year won't fly anymore, per the Philippine Inquirer report.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda says that as of today, 78 establishments have secured Environmental Compliance Certificate. The certificate serves as a requirement for establishment to operate come reopening day.

Owners of the compliant hotels, resort, and other establishments say they are more than excited to reopen. In fact, some of them have already accepted bookings for October 26 and beyond.

Meanwhile, Antiporda is confident that the rehabilitation efforts on the island's main road will be completed in time for the soft opening. However, he admitted that a lot of work still has to be done beyond deadline.

"The problem with Boracay is that it was called a cesspool. We are happy to say that we have solved the problem. Boracay is now very clean," DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu told the press during the Inter-Agency Task Force meeting today, September 28, in Boracay.

Some tourists may be able to relax and enjoy Boracay earlier than the formal opening on October 26. According to Cimatu, the inter-agency task force will hold a dry run from October 15 to 25 for local tourists. Local tourists from Aklan will be prioritized for the soft-opening.

Boracay has been voted the world's best island by Conde Nast Traveler in 2017.

DFA Shortens Passport Releasing Period

The long wait is over!

Starting next month, applicants will no longer wait for almost a month to receive their passports. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced today that passports will be released as early as six working days.

"We made a promise to the President and to our kababayan that we will work hard to give them fast, efficient, and secure passport services. Shortening the length of time our kababayan would have to wait before they could receive their passports is part of that promise," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said in a statement. He is currently attending the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Beginning Monday, October 1st, applicants at DFA Consular Offices in Metro Manila who pay the regular processing fee of Php 950 can receive their passports after 12 working days instead of 15 working days. On the other hand, applicants who pay the express processing fee of Php 1,200 can receive their passports after six working days instead of seven working days.


Meanwhile, applicants in DFA Consular Offices outside Metro Manila can receive their passports after 12 working days instead of 20 working days for regular processing and seven working days instead of 10 working days for applicants who pay the expedited processing fee.

"Providing better passport services is the heart of our work at the DFA," Cayetano said. He assured the public that the agency will continue to work hard to further improve the delivery of passport services. 

It is noted that in May 2017, the agency processes 9,500 passports daily. Cayetano said that they have increased their capacity to almost 20,000 passports a day and is hoping to increase this number to 30,000 by the end of the year.

How To Score Free Accommodation When You Travel?

Imagine this: The world has millions of people with full of adventurous souls, traveling, exploring and discovering new and exciting things to do to certain places. And, many of these souls are doing it solo. Solo backpacking is very rewarding and the experience alone is very much fulfilling.

Backpacking is one of the most cheapest ways to take a trip to certain destinations. In uncertain economic environment, you're in good hands when you adopt the mindset of a backpacker. They teach us about packing an ultra-light bag to finding affordable food and accommodations.

This time, let me share with you some ways on how to score a free accommodation when you travel.

Get hosted by locals through CouchSurfing

Trust me, there are many people who are willing to host visitors for few days for free in their homes. It may sound unreal but sleeping on your host's couches, sofas, spare beds or air mattresses has been one of the most useful ways to travel. And, if you're lucky, you might end up sleeping in their spare room! 

CouchSurfing is very much popular here in the Philippines. In fact, most of my friends has CouchSurfing accounts and they've attested how wonderful this hospitality exchange network is.

I understand about your safety concerns. Generally, use your common sense and then follow these steps to avoid bad experience while hosting or is being hosted.
  • Read the user's detailed profile very carefully.
  • Do not entertain users with blank profiles. That's not a good sign.
  • Check the references left by other hosts and guests.
  • Chat with them. Then, have a look at their Facebook or Instagram accounts. You might find some surprising mutual friends!

Aside from CouchSurfing, here are other several hospitality exchange networks you might consider: BeWelcome, Warm Showers (for cyclists, bike tourists), and Trustroots.

Housesitting and Petsitting

Housesitting and petsitting at people's houses while they're away is another way to find free accommodation. Housesitting is generally free. The house owner needs someone to take care of their house while they're away or on a holiday.

TrustedHousesitters is probably the most popular website offering such services. However, when I checked their website and specifically searched for housesitters and petsitters here in the Philippines, the results showed nothing.

Other websites offering the same service include MindMyHouse, House Carers, and Nomador.

Work and Skills Opportunities

Just in case CouchSurfing and Housesitting isn't for you, this might be your last option. There's a wide range of opportunities to exchange your work and skills for a place to stay while on travel.

You can work on farms, hostels and restaurants for few hours in exchange of free accommodation every night. It may also include using your skills from building a website to teaching a language.

WWOOF (Willing Worker On Organic Farm) is the most popular website for such services here in the Philippines. You can stay to a certain destination, help the farm owner for few hours and in exchange, you get an accommodation for free. 

The Happy House Farm, located in Rosario, La Union, offers such services. According to their website, they've hosted over 200 WWOOF work exchange volunteers over the last two years.

Aside from WWOOF, other websites to look for work exchange opportunities are WorkAway, HelpX, Worldpackers, HippoHelp, and TalkTalkbnb.

Scoring a free accommodation isn't just about free accommodation. Being hosted by a stranger makes travel a lot more fun as you meet new friends along the way and you'll get a chance to know more about the local life.

As with hospitality exchange, please show your gratitude to people hosting you. Invite your hosts to a restaurant, buy them chocolates or get them a personalized gift. If you're on a tight budget, help them around the house, cook food, share your skills or simply offer to host them when they visit your place.

The Philippines Tops Participation In International Coastal Cleanups

With over 200,000 volunteers, the Philippines ranks first among the top 25 countries that participated in international coastal cleanup activities around the world, according to the Ocean Conservatory 2018 Report.

The volunteers, who joined the international coastal cleanups last year, were able to gather more than 230,000 kilograms of trash from beaches and waterways or equivalent to over 1,200 kilometers.

It is noted that the Philippines is the world's third biggest dumper of ocean plastic, according to the 2015 report on plastic pollution by the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

The research found out that more than half of the plastic leaking into the ocean comes from just five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is noted that an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste leaks into the ocean every year. An immediate action from these countries could stem that tide.

Globally, cigarette butts remain to top the world's coastal trash, increasing in number from 1.8 million pieces in 2016 to over 2.4 million in 2017. On the average, cigarette butts take at least 10 years to rot while plastic products will need five centuries to a thousand years to decompose.

Last year, a nearly 1 million food wrappers were found here in the Philippines, making it the most common coastal trash in the country today.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) spearheaded this month's national cleanup activities, inviting several organizations and individuals to join thousand of volunteers around the Philippines.

Meanwhile, environmental group Greenpeace Philippines spearheaded the Manila Bay Coastal Cleanup on September 22nd as part of their #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign. 

When Filipinos See Their Surroundings As One-Big Trash Can

The Philippines is world's third largest contributor to ocean plastic

The 2015 report on plastic pollution by the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment reveals that the Philippines is the world's third biggest dumper of ocean plastic.


The research found out that more than half of the plastic leaking into the ocean comes from just five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is noted that an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste leaks into the ocean every year. An immediate action from these countries could stem that tide.

As an immediate priority, the organization believe that there is an opportunity to reduce plastic-waste leakage by 65 percent in these five countries, resulting in a 45 percent reduction globally. These countries are expected to implement measures including closing the leakage points within the collection system, increasing waste-collection rates, using a variety of technologies to treat waste, and manually sorting high-value plastic waste.


The report also revealed that the amount of unmanaged plastic waste entering the ocean has reached crisis levels. On current trends, the global quantity of plastic in the ocean could nearly double to 250 million metric tons by 2025 or one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish.

The critical finding of a joint report by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment can be downloaded HERE.

On June 15, Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to tap other nations' technology for turning plastics into construction materials for the homeless.

"I urge the DENR and other research agencies of the government to reverse the cycle of plastic pollution by working with other countries to lessen, if not eliminate, it's toxic impact on human health and ecology," Barbers said.

He added that this plastic pollution has been choking waterways across the country and worsens disaster, particularly during rainy season.


Meanwhile, Greenpeace Philippines reported that an equivalent of one truckload of plastics enter our oceans every minute. Plastic has become a major scourge for Metro Manila's waterways, clogging our drainage and causing flooding of our roadways and thoroughfares.

"We can do better. Little by little, we are realizing that plastics is not all convenient. It threatens our rights to a clean, healthy environment and our very lives and livelihoods," Greenpeace Philippines said through a Facebook post.

Unfortunately, plastic found inside a dead whale shark near Tagum in Davao del Norte on August 8th. Darrel Blatchley, who works with the Marine Wildlife Strandings in Davao Gulf, uploaded the photos.

"Nothing changes. The posts get shared. You get the sad faces but when the trash still gets dropped," Blatchley said.


After few days, another whale shark found dead in Navotas Fish Port. You can watch the viral video HERE.

And, just recently, a female dugong found dead in the waters of Barangay Dalayawan Araceli, Palawan on September 8th. The International Union for Conservation listed dugong under the vulnerable category and was declared a protected marine mammal under DENR administrative order 55 of 1991.
Noel On The Road sincerely hope that all Filipinos should continue with proper waste disposal and garbage segregation. We can lessen the impact of plastic pollution through our coordinated action. Let's all be Earth warriors, alright? 

Books, Pens & More: A Campaign To Build A Reading Center

Together We Share was coined to enrich the young minds, especially the Aeta children -- heightening their interest to reading and to trigger their artistic sides through the books and school supplies we have donated. 

However, we have identified several factors affecting their education. Thus, we have included food, groceries, toiletries, flashlights, medicines, slippers, and pre-loved clothes on our donation drives.

With the success of the past Together We Share events, this time, on our fourth leg, we'll be sustaining what we've started in April 2017. Yes, we're ready to adopt this Aeta Community in Sitio Rapuli in Santa Ana, Cagayan for a longer period of time. 

The number of out of school youth in the community is becoming an issue. According to their tribal chieftain, no one have reached college or at least finished high school in their community. After finishing their primary education, the students start working for their daily needs until they get married and have their own families. 

We've launched Books, Pens & More, a campaign to solicit funds so we can build a reading center for the Aeta Community, benefiting the 27 families in the area. Thank you. 

You can share your blessings HERE

Thank you in advance and God bless your lovely souls! ❤

Happy 2nd Blogiversary, Noel On The Road


Hey, you! Thank you for being here. Because of you, Noel On The Road is still up and running. Today, September 20th, marks our second year together. I couldn't be prouder of all the accomplishments this blog has helped me achieve this past year. So, thank you very much.

What's next with Noel On The Road?

I've got exciting news for you! In the next coming weeks, I'll be launching a promotion as my way of saying thank you for growing with me. I've collaborated with travel agencies and private individuals for the exciting prizes! Stay tuned for the mechanics.

I'm so happy to announce that this page is now being followed by 14.7K awesome people! Yassss!

Also, through Noel On The Road, we'll be going back to Santa Ana, Cagayan next year to build a reading center for an Aeta Community. A non-government organization based in Canada granted Together We Share a certain amount so we can continue adopting this community for longer period of time. To all of you, thank you and God bless your lovely souls.

Noel On The Road isn't just a travel blog anymore. It is a name, a brand, an identity, becoming a part of who I am and what I stand for. I am thrilled to continue what I've started and to see what lies ahead. I don't want to miss out on amazing new things! This blog is always changing as am I.

Again, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for all the love and support. You guys are the best!

Noel Soriano

Financial Freedom While On Travel

Hello! How are you? It's been a while since I've updated you about my life on the road. However, this time, I'm writing this post not just as a travel blogger but also as a financial consultant of Prulife UK, one of the leading life insurance companies here in the Philippines.

In my previous blog few months ago, I admitted that I was on a mountain of debt leading me to just stay home, applying for new jobs and getting myself back on the grind again. Just like most of you, I never thought of getting a life insurance before. Yes, I was on the road every weekend, enjoying the neck-tingling activities yet I do not have a life insurance. Thank God nothing bad happened to me during those times. Now, I got myself insured and will surely enjoy my life on the road again. 

Most of us, Filipinos, are hesitant to learn the benefits of getting a life insurance. If you doesn't have a policy yet, no worries, I totally understand you. Our mindset -- we work hard to save in order to buy a new house, send our siblings to school, get a car, to be able to travel and so on. When life happens, our savings will be used, we ask financial help from friends and family, we'll call banks for loans and to eventually let go of our properties. You don't have to do all these. Get yourself insured. It's time to secure your health and income. Send me a direct message or call your friends who are connected with life insurance companies and start authoring your life.

Let me emphasize the importance of the following:

INSURANCE - As what I've mentioned earlier, getting a life insurance is very important especially for us, travelers. We're prone to emergency and accident when on travel. Remember that. Your life insurance covers your hospitalization, critical illness, accident and death. Also, when you have a policy, a portion of your money is being invested to stock market allowing your hard-earned money works for you. A life insurance is a pre-requisite in getting in to certain countries.

INVESTMENT - Let your money works for you. My policy with Prulife UK allows me to invest a portion of my premium to the stock market. Instead of just saving your hard-earned money to banks, invest it to life insurance companies offering you to invest it to mutual funds, equity fund, etc. Or, start a new business. Remember these: usually, inflation is around 3-4% annually and banks offer 1% interest per annually. After few years, your hard-earned money saved in the bank will not be enough anymore when you retire.

EMERGENCY FUND - Your emergency fund is the amount of money saved in a bank for emergency purposes such as loss of job, critical illness, or unexpected expenses. This fund should be at least 3 to 6 months worth your expenses. For example, your monthly expenses is around Php 10,000, you are expected to have at least Php 30,000 saved in the bank. Yes, you're only allowed to travel if you have an emergency fund.

RETIREMENT - Now is the perfect time to save for your retirement while we're young and able. Believe me, with the technological advances, most companies will hire a fresh graduate over a 60 year old guy unless you're super good at witty. My cousin started her retirement plan for only Php 3,000 monthly and is being debited from her payroll account. She will be receiving 5 million pesos at age 60 based on the projected investment at 10%.

TRAVEL FUND - Open another bank account for your travels. You can set up an automatic debit from your payroll account for at least Php 1,000 monthly. Or, if you have part time jobs, your salary should be deposited here in case you wouldn't really need it.

LOANS - No, no, no, no, nooooo! If you can't afford it in cash, you can't afford it. Get yourself a job, earn, save then travel. Remember that. 

Be wise. Prepare for your future and never ever be a burden to your family. Yes to financial freedom!

Fighting Depression: Am I Better Off Dead?


Of course not!

Hey, I just called the HOPE hotline; shared my stories; and yes, I've cried a river. It feels great to talk to someone you've never met; someone who doesn't know you at all; and someone who will never judge you. I feel better now.

Depression almost killed me and I'm so happy that I've started seeking help before it's too late. Depression isn't always sadness, emptiness, anger and tiredness. Sometimes, it is a cry for help which isn't so visible. There were times that I fool myself, thinking that it's gone. But, it's there; it's always there.

Believe me, depression isn't a joke.

I'll be on a digital detox for a while. I already started uninstalling my social media apps to get rid with trolls and bullies.

Now, I'm on my way to meet a counselor. I hope everything will get better. I know, for sure, this will pass. If not, please know that I appreciate you and thank you for being a friend. Please check on people. Check how your loved ones are doing. Also, get in touch with your 'happy friends'. I know, some of them aren't really happy.

Kaya ko to. Laban lang!

For your reference, here's the HOPELINES. Remember, you are not alone.

Photo courtesy of Natasha Goulbourn Foundation