Experience Philippines is an unconventional travel group owned and run by the equally non-conformist Giancarlo Gallegos. Its main advocacy is for locals and tourists to grow a love for the Philippines by showing them the parts of the country that don’t usually end up in tourists’ itineraries. Gallegos’ and Experience PH’s travel philosophy is plainly stated on their website, effectively catching the eye of travelers sharing the same perspective: “We are about unique adventures. We are a travel group that organizes random road trips where the destination is a secret and the activities are a surprise.”
Take, for instance, Experience PH’s concept for one of their more popular trips: cooking class road trips. When Gallegos takes his guests on these throughout the Philippines, he doesn’t book professional chefs to get the job done. Instead, he takes his guests into the homes of locals. In their cramped but aromatic kitchens, local residents with a talent for cooking let their tourist “students” taste traditional Filipino flavors that they otherwise wouldn’t find in the usual kitchens.
“You’d be amazed at how these mothers in the provinces can cook up dishes that are really good without using all those fancy ingredients,” says Gallegos. “Everyone’s used to eating pasta and rice bowls. But what dishes can you come up with using ingredients you’re not used to tasting?”
Apart from trips for foodies, Gallegos organizes trips for specific groups. These include the LGBTQ community, singles, families, bikers, photographers, etc. The common denominator is that all of Experience PH’s customers have an appetite for adventure.
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Traveling without expectations
Home from his studies abroad, Gallegos was sharing a meal with some foreign friends when the question came up, “How do you bring people out of their shell, breaking the wall that they created themselves? How do you make people fall in love with the Philippines that’s not normally seen on social media?” Gallegos’ simple answer: traveling without expectations. “I thought that if I started taking people on random road trips where they didn’t know anything about their destination, something magical would happen.”
It did. And it continues to do so. “They didn’t just discover these off-the-beaten-track destinations that we took them to and that made them fall in love with the Philippines,” Gallegos says. “They also discovered something about themselves. They realized that they were capable of something more, that they can take risks.”
Indeed, there is “something more” that Gallegos and his fellow travel managers ensure their guests get on their random road trips. For instance, Gallegos likes to arrange a wide range of modes of transportation for their different trips throughout the Philippines—from a five-seater plane in Isabela to carabaos in Quezon. He’s taken his guests to hidden waterfalls that require military security to get to; they’ve also traveled to quiet beaches that are lacking in the usual comforts that at night, the group’s only sources of light are the moon and a bonfire.
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Love for the Philippines
Contrary to what his guests might think, Gallegos doesn’t consider himself a traveler. “I just really love the Philippines,” he says. “It’s this love, and not itchy feet, that pushed me to do this. It still is. I had all the opportunities to live and work abroad. But then, when I was there, I met a lot of smart, talented, amazing Filipinos living there. And I thought, ‘If everyone moves abroad, who’d be left in the Philippines?’”
As expected, Experience PH has developed a passionate group of travelers. But it definitely doesn’t stop here. Gallegos has now extended this passion for travel and risky adventures to corporate clients for team-building activities. He has also tied up with a local airline carrier, giving Experience PH guests free flight points with the airline whenever they book trips with Experience PH.
“We’re not a tour organizer,” Gallegos says. “We’re more of your best friends on the road.” More specifically, they’re your best friends who hold the compass that will lead to the best trips of your life.
Photos from Giancarlo Gallegos’ Facebook wall, by Winston Sumalia, Dianne Munez Acio (group shot with waterfalls), Isang Zabat (solo shot of Gallegos)