Monday, January 17, 2011

Traveling as a Learning Tool for Kids: Or Why We Take Joaquin and Enrique to Out-of-Town Trips

My wife (Gina) and I are passionate believers of the philosophy that children’s education is not confined within the four walls of the classroom.

With our modest means we strive to provide our kids, Joaquin (aka Vito, 7 y.o.) and Enrique (aka Manu, 6 y.o.), with learning experiences earned through traveling. So much so perhaps that Joaquin has developed a love for airplanes and flying. Enrique is into nice, comfy hotels, not necessarily luxurious, as long as there is wi-fi (tsk, internet games).

Joaquin first went to Cebu City and Bohol as a toddler, while Enrique was even younger, being a 4-month old baby. We ate dinner at a “sutukil” eatery near Mactan Shrine, while my left hand was cradling a baby, until a waiter volunteered to carry him. (According to, sutukil is a portmanteau of the three ways fish are cooked in eateries near the Mactan Shrine: Su is for sugba or grilled, tu is for tula or prepared into a soup and kil is for kilaw or turned into a raw fish salad.) 

Joaquin ran around the Hilltop and stopped at the iron bell which according to our Cebuana friend, was rung "once for firm partnership, twice for lasting friendship or three times for never-ending love." We boarded the raft in Loboc River in Bohol, and were promptly serenaded by a fine folk musician, and whose songs Joaquin serenely thought were a lullaby – he slept through it all. He climbed the steps all the way up the view deck of Chocolate Hills, where Enrique was befriended (through her Lola) by a cute baby girl.

Our boys have been twice to Cebu since, the last time via Dumaguete. In Dumaguete, the boys enjoyed going around town in a tricycle and playing with local kids at Rizal Boulevard, which was facing the bay. Then we were off to Sumilon Island via an outrigger boat. They tried kayaking in a lagoon while in Sumilon and basked on the infinity pool. We went to Cebu City in an ordinary Ceres bus, marveling at the views of the sea from the right side. In Cebu City, they revisited Fort San Pedro and rode the cannons, cowboy-style, did a bit of shopping at Colon St., and visited the oldest house in the city.

Twice as well, our boys have been to Boracay. Gina and I sought out marriage blessing in a Catholic church there, officiated by a very friendly and warm parish priest, Fr. Magloire.

In Davao City, the boys went to the Philippine Eagle Center, said “hi” to Pag-asa and other eagles, and posed for a picture with a young sea hawk. On the way there, we also dropped by Malagos Garden Resort. We took time to see Samal Island, just lazing around in a resort and with the boys playing ping-pong for the first time.

The boys have also been to Donsol in Sorsogon, caught a glimpse of the whale sharks, and had a night tour of a river where trees on both sides were teeming with fireflies. To think that it was even full moon at that time. They climbed Lignon Hill in Legaspi City, early one cloudless morning, and had a magnificent view of Mt. Mayon on one side, and the airport on the other. Of course, they have been to Cagsawa as well. Bicol is a favorite place because Gina’s from Albay.

When we went to Palawan, the boys toured the St. Paul Subterranean River in Puerto Princesa, and discovered the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. While there, I hired a van for the 7-hour ride to El Nido, where the boys went on an island-hopping tour, and had lunch at an isolated island. I brought them to a small piece of beach-front property that we purchased when Joaquin was just a few months old. Then off to Manila via a very tiny, noisy plane.

In Tagaytay, the boys would enjoy steaming bowls of "bulalo" (stewed beef shanks and marrow bones), fried chicken or cheese pizza, from a restaurant on a ridge overlooking Taal Lake, and with the volcano’s caldera also visible. They had paid a visit to the Caleruega Church, too.

For them, Manila is Ocean Park, Nido Science Discovery Center (they would not leave the flight simulator), the playgrounds and fountains at Bonifacio High St., Fully Booked (especially the one at The Fort), and the Fun Ranch at Tiendesitas (especially the race cars for Enrique, and the bumper boats for Joaquin).

It was in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, where the boys had to trek for an hour to reach a waterfall -- climbing hills, crossing a stream and walking through footpaths softened by carabaos. They had a blast while we were meandering along the Patapat Viaduct.

During the last time that the boys went to Baguio for a New Year celebration, they visited the strawberry farms in La Trinidad and the Tam-awan Village in Asin Road, had late lunch at CafĂ© by the Ruins, and went around Camp John Hay. On a previous trip to Baguio, they went to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), touched the Howitzers and other artillery pieces, climbed the tanks and armored cars. Oh, Joaquin was just a baby and Enrique was just a bump in his mom’s tummy when they first visited the City of Pines.

Sagada, Banaue and Batanes are next in the itinerary of the places that we would like to visit in the Philippines. While Gina and I want to show Joaquin and Enrique our heritage, our rich natural beauty, our pride as a people and a nation, we would like to instill in them the sense of adventure, discipline, and trust with one’s self and other people, among others - through traveling. Hopefully, it also helps form a stronger bond among us, even as we encourage the boys' sense of wonder and wanderlust.

Gladly, it is easier to travel now that the boys are getting older. They are getting more independent, and their luggage would not include too many bottles of distilled water, packs of diapers, and milk boxes, anymore. I remember the time, not so long ago, when I was dragging a large, heavy suitcase with my right hand, and carrying a restless toddler with my left, while going down the stairs of the Hong Kong MTR. Man, I felt like my left arm was about to be torn apart! But that, and other experiences, especially of our travels abroad, as they say, would be another story.


  1. bravo angel and gina. the boys are lucky to have you as parents. to show them the beauty of our country, to encourage pride in our race, is a wonderful thing.

    i try to do the same thing for my girls. and yes, it's much easier now that they're a bit older.

    maybe we should plan a trip to dingalan together! hahahaha....

    keep writing about those trips!

  2. Thanks, Jen. Visiting Dingalan together would be a lot of fun. A side trip to white beach would be great. :-)