This was originally published here: http://www.philstar.com/sunday-life/229824/have-book-will-travel . I won a 5,000 gift card from National Book Store for this. Yay!
Accidentally found the article through Google. I'm posting this now in my blog for the sake of posterity, and maybe also to convince you get a copy, a copy you can wear out as you travel up, down, far, wide, through these beautiful Philippine islands.
Have book. Will travel.
For what seemed like five full seconds I was frozen, suspended in the murky Donsol waters. I was awestruck, immobile, and were it not for the need to keep my snorkel in place, my mouth would have been open in amazement at this magnificent creature gliding in front of me. And then, the moment was gone. The speckled whale shark known for its bashfulness spotted the neon fins, realized it had company, and disappeared into the plankton haze underneath. It was time to heave our bodies back into the boat, which would once more cruise the sea looking for more butandings for us to interact with and marvel at.
Back at the resort I was lamenting the fact that I had no underwater camera to capture what our eyes feasted upon some hours back. Giving me consolation was the book I had in my hands. Lonely Planet Philippines supplied me with a black and white sketch of the whale shark along with some information about its size, habitat, and characteristics. It wasn't quite as good as a real photograph, but it still helped recreate the image in my mind. This much-treasured book of mine also helped me appreciate the creatures more with its mention that despite their magnitude, whale sharks are gentle, harmless giants.
Later in the trip, that dog-eared, sand-marked, kare-kare-stained paperback would guide us around the sights of Bicol and would help us find a decent place to stay in when we decided to move to another hotel.
My Lonely Planet Philippines book is my second favorite travel companion. It would be my favorite if only it could drive, carry my luggage, give me shopping money, and cap my vacation days with a back rub the way my husband, a.k.a. number one favorite traveling companion, could. Like him, this book is reliable, entertaining, informative, and can get me out of navigation predicaments. Unlike my husband, it encourages frequent stopovers for scenic breaks and does not complain about my avarice for photo opportunities.
It's multi-purpose too. In its green waterproof casing, it can function as a pillow when I'm roughing it up and napping on a beach blanket somewhere.
Lonely Planet Philippines has taken me through the cobbled streets of Vigan, guided me through a tricycle tour of Tacloban, led my famished stomach to Las Vegas Canteen and Restaurant in Banaue, showed me the way to Pagudpod, gave me a preview of Tagbilaran and Panglao, advised me where to stay the night before the Pahiyas festival, pointed me towards the charming hideaway of Café Kamarikutan in Puerto Princesa, clued me in on Baguio's Tam-Awan Village, advised me where to find Internet connections in Sorsogon, and directed me towards places where I could buy wicker baskets, burnay pots, and binagol.
Lonely Planet represents my two biggest passions--traveling and reading. Yes, these two activities are in opposite extremes in the activity scale. One requires you to stay stationary and lets your eyes do the roving, while the other drives you out of comforts of your couch and gets your body moving from point A to point B, on to point C, and so on. This book bridges that gap between seemingly disparate activities, both of which make my life full and interesting.
Another thing that these two activities have in common is how they facilitate learning. Both expand the mind, open the eyes, and enlarge the soul. Reading transports me to different dimensions, brings me to awareness of my environment, of art, science, cultures, life, love, and lore. In like manner, travel exposes me to diverse cultures, introduces my palette to a gamut of flavors, opens me up to a multitude of experiences, and orients me to infinite possibilities.
The infinite possibilities keep me reaching for my Lonely Planet. I leaf through its pages and let it whet my wanderlust and feed my imagination. It weaves text and images to fill my heart with longing, my feet with the itching desire to leave the city and go as far as I can, and my mind with plans of traveling to places I have yet to visit like Batanes, Siargao, Camiguin, Dumaguete, and the rest of our 7,100 islands.
In the city, the concrete walls, halls, and malls confine me in an oppressive tangle of must-dos, must-haves, must-buys, must-calls, must-meets, and must-submit-budget-report-by-Friday-or-else-I-die. All these I am obliged to do for urban survival and career enhancement.
Lonely Planet's 504 pages tell me of places I must see, cuisine I must try, cultures I must encounter, and festivals I must experience not because they are do-or-die obligations. But more like do-and-live-life-to-the-fullest.