To travel is to live, to live is to discover life, not just how you live it, but also how others do

Discovering your country doesn’t always involve a ride on a car or a bus or a boat or a plane, especially now that the pandemic has yet to ease off restrictions on travel completely.

All it takes is honest-to-goodness curiosity, the desire to find out why things are the way they are.

The Philippines is a whole new country. The lockdown has forced us to look inward, to see with eyes wide open what is within our borders, and many of the stories that now fascinate us are local, whether it is an indigenous fabric we can use daily, even as material or design on our face masks, or bibingka prepared from an heirloom recipe on the delivery or pickup or takeout menu of a new entrepreneurial venture borne out of the socio-economic challenges of the pandemic.

Even our history, though it is all in the past, is the realm of discovery, of new things. Not many know, for instance, though Jose Rizal wrote about it in his essay “The Indolence of the Filipinos” in 1890, that “in that very year 1521 when (the Spaniards) first came to the islands, there were already natives of Luzon who understood Castilian” and that, in fact, as the National Geographic reported in 2019, it might have been a slave, and not Ferdinand Magellan, who was first to circumnavigate the world. The slave Enrique, purportedly purchased by Magellan before he sailed off to the west, instead of the east, was with him when he arrived in, and not discovered, the islands we now call the Philippines.

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life!

—Alfred Tennyson

Also launched recently, a project of the International Information and Networking Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (ICHCAP) under the auspices of The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization or UNESCO, are 10 video documentaries on different Philippine cultural heritage elements, such as the Buklog ritual of the Subanen of Zamboanga Peninsula, the traditional dance of the Sama people of Tawi-Tawi, and the giant Christmas lanterns of San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Each of these videos, like the stories we hear of the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids of Giza or the geishas of Japan, should trigger wanderlust and make any of us want to explore more, experience more, see more of the many mysteries in our archipelago of 7,641 islands.

Reading is a jump-off point to every adventure—or if you are not one to read (and read voraciously because there is so much to know in this world that we may never see in person even if we travel physically every day), just keep your ear on the ground. Listen to the stories of the people around you.

Incidentally, the podcast scene in the Philippines is dramatically on the rise. Recently, the Swedish audio streaming service Spotify has released 10 Filipino podcast exclusives, such as Pia Wurtzbach’s “Between Us Queens” and YouTuber Benedict Cua and his manager Kristian Somera’s “Growing Up with Ben and Kris, to join the ranks of international hits like The Michelle Obama Podcast, Nas Talks, the Joe Rogan Experience, and Archewell Audio. Give these Filipino podcasts a listen. There is no better way to discover how others live their lives today than to hear them talk about it.

To travel is to live, to live is to discover life, not just how you live it, but also how others do. But in this time of travel restrictions, when getting on board a plane or a ship or even a provincial bus is a possible encounter, up close and personal, with a still viscous, invisible enemy, the coronavirus, remember you can always travel without having to move, just through your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your mind.