The first time I saw master traveler Ferdz Decena post something about a certain Lakbay Norte Tour two years ago at his Ironwulf travel blog, I was totally bowled over. A week-long road trip, checking every nooks and crannies of the upper Philippine archipelago, chowing down local cuisines like there’s no tomorrow and spending the evenings on posh hotels; all these without spending a single centavo; who’d not want to be on that bus?!
I said to myself that I would like to be a part of this tour one day and even pestered Mr. Decena and Ms. Nina Fuentes of Just Wandering as to how such lucky guys and gals could get to participate in such a journey. Alas, I didn’t get any clue as to how.
Fast forward three years later and I'm a newbie Facebook user. Forced to create an account to blog about a European tour, I was added to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers and the PTB Bagets Facebook groups. I soon learned that this is where everything happens; this was where these guys connect and make it possible to travel as a gang. Besides that, I also found that this is the place where travel opportunities arise.
And so it happened that I logged on at the group the night before All Saints’ Day and found a post by Ivan Henares about the third installation of Lakbay Norte; the North Philippines Visitors Bureau was looking for six bloggers to join the media group for this year’s familiarization tour of Northern Luzon. The only problem was, I have less than one hour to fill out their application, create the required blog post and submit everything before the deadline expired.
I scrambled like mad, filling every detail and furiously writing and creating a banner for my blog. I was struck by two questions on the application form though; do I have a Facebook Fanpage and a Twitter account, and how many fans and followers do I have. Uhmm… I have neither of those. I know how much an impact this might have on my application but I went ahead and hoped to heavens that my photo credentials would see me through.
It was a minute before the midnight deadline as I pushed the publish button on my blog and clicked the send icon on my e-mail client. I sighed with relief, a classic buzzer beater.
Weeks passed and I forgot all about the said trip, I joined really for the sake of trying. I’m not really that confident that on getting picked considering how new I was to the travel scene in the country.
A few weeks before Christmas I got one of the best gifts for the season; an e-mail from Karlo de Leon asking for confirmation to the third Lakbay Norte! Woohoo! I was in for a nine days of pure adventure!
The final list was announced some weeks later and I was astounded with the other guys that got picked; Angel Juarez of Lakwatsero, Gael Hilotin of The Pinay Solo Backpacker, Marcos Cayatao of Ambot Ah!, James Betia of Journeying James and Edcel Suyo of Solo FlightEd. My goodness, these guys are travel legends! I’m not sure what prompted the powers that be to include me in this line-up, but I'm certainly not complaining.
The tentative locations for this coming year’s Lakbay Norte include Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tuguegarao, Kalinga, Pagudpud, Laoag, La Union, Baguio, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Subic, Clark, Angeles and Pampanga. I hope further changes would include Sagada, Isabela, Abra, Aurora and Batanes; but I guess that’s asking too much haha.
Lakbay Norte would zoom off the Northern road on the third week of January. I’m excited as hell and I’m hoping to I can bring you guys along the ride through some stories and photos. A big big thank you to the North Philippines Visitors Bureau for having confidence in me, I'll se you guys there!