Safely rediscovering WOW by overlanding

Published October 14, 2020, 10:32 AM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

For those wondering, overlanding is described as “a self-reliant overland  travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, it is accomplished with mechanized off-road capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping, often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and spanning international boundaries”.

Historically, overlanding is described by several sources as an Australian term to denote the droving of livestock over very long distances to open up new country or to take livestock to market far from grazing grounds. Between 1906 and 1910 Alfred Canning opened up the Canning Stock Route. In Australia overlanding was inspired to a large degree by Len Beadell who, in the 1940s and 1950s, constructed many of the roads that opened up the Australian Outback.

In recent times, overlanding has been more for recreation rather than necessity.  A way of discovering the beauty of the countryside, instead of just flying to your destination.  “Car camping” is another way to describe it.

Overlanding is a relatively new phenomenon in the Philippines.  Though I know several people who’ve been doing it for decades.  Personally I’ve been driving around the Philippines for a couple of years now, and until the pandemic hit earlier this year, I noticed that there was a significant surge in the number of people who’d drive to their vacation spots, instead of flying in. Some choose to camp out and some sleep inside their vehicle. Personally, I don’t sleep in my vehicle, or camp out, like what others do.  I prefer to stay in a hotel at night in the locality where I end up in.  Experience has taught me that having a good night’s rest will do wonders in making the journey more pleasurable.

An important factor why more people are driving around the Philippines now is the nautical highway launched during the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  That was a game changer because it made island hopping from Luzon all the way to Mindanao, passing Western Visayas, so much more convenient. Now there’s more consistent travel schedules, better ro-ro vessels, and streamlined processing at the ports when loading your vehicle on the ship.

I remember driving to the Visayas way back in 1996 (Manila to Leyte). The ferry schedules were erratic, there were no decent places to stay in the port (in case you missed the ferry), and the roads in Samar Island was full of huge potholes (as a general rule, I never drive at night).  Driving in recent years is much more convenient.  You can pre-book and prepay your ferry tickets, and the roads are much better.

With the pandemic not expected to end anytime soon, overlanding can be a good option for Filipinos who wish to go to a destination, without having to take a commercial flight.

A prime example is taking a vacation to Boracay.  I assume many want to go to the island, but are afraid to take a commercial flight, due to health concerns.  As I was discussing with a pilot friend, new aircraft use hospital-grade filtration systems, but the concern is not only while in the aircraft, but the process of getting there.  From entering the airport terminal, checking in, passing security, and waiting in the pre-departure area, the chances of you mingling with others is very high. On the other hand, if you drive to Boracay, you can be in the island in less than 15 hours.  Yes, it’s much longer, but the time you’ll be travelling, you’ll be mostly in your vehicle by yourself or with one or two other people.  The chances of interacting with others in transit is much lower, as compared to you taking a commercial flight.  If you leave Manila at 11 p.m., you’ll be in Caticlan by around 1 p.m. of the following day.

I have to re-emphasize though that the health and safety of you and your loved ones is of paramount importance.  So follow all health protocols and act responsibly.  Secure all permits and get all tests necessary and required by the government. Driving to your destination is an option that can be considered, which may be a safer way to travel, and rediscover the Philippines.

I’ve personally discovered amazing places all over the Philippines. At times, I have to pinch myself because of how beautiful the countryside is (or how delicious the food is in a restaurant on my way to my next stop). Places, locations, and delicacies. I would have never discovered the Wealth of Wonders (WOW Philippines – a Philippine tourism campaign conceptualized by then Tourism Secretary Gordon in 2002) the Philippines has to offer, had I just taken a flight to my destination.  In overlanding, the journey itself is part of the adventure.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Drive Safely.