I’m a late bloomer in many things it took me decades to find out I’m a hobbit.

My first attempt to travel, and I mean not just go places but go places with curious eyes, was in 2008. A friend from Taiwan asked me to tour him and his wife in the Philippines. That was my first try in planning an itinerary (the usual where to go, how to get there, what to do) almost everything lifted from different travel blogs. At first, I was a proud Filipino who showed them around Camiguin, Manila, Subic, and Ilocos. Nice countryside. But after missing two of our flights, I knew I totally messed up as a tour guide. 

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Fast forward to 2013. It was a turning point. Work dried up all my enthusiasm and a roller coaster love affair ended to a heartbreak. I needed a reboot, a fresh start. That’s when I gave travel a serious thought. To escape. To get lost. Totally lost. But where to get lost? That was the difficult part. There were many options, until this black and white photo of Caramoan showed up. At first look, it’s adorable even in its plain and simple form. I made it the wallpaper of my laptop, and on Facebook I posted “I want to see you in colors”. It was so powerful it woke up my soul to a new world, and then one day I found myself in the remote islands of the Caramoan peninsula.

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One of the rock formations in Caramoan | Photo Credit: Tim Dueñas

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The same rock formation, taken during my second visit in 2015.

After the Caramoan trip, my fascination for nature was at its height. I wanted to see more of the countryside and take a lot of photos. I wanted more adventures, rain or shine, with or without company. I went to Calaguas, trekked to Taal Volcano and Mount Pinatubo, explored the province of Rizal, journeyed to Cagayan and Palaui.

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With a crude Cherry Mobile Flare, it was challenging to take decent photos. I tried anyway. Shortly, my Facebook photos caught attention until more and more friends urged me to put up a blog. That gave birth to D’yan lang and I started writing as the “hobbit”. (Yes, I’m an LOTR super fan.) Before moving to Cebu in 2014, I got invited to pick grapes at the Gapuz Farm in La Union. That became my first piece on Choose Philippines.

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THE JOURNEY TO D’YAN LANG.
I thought of blogging as a bad idea for a trying hard writer like me. First, there are already a hundred of travel blogs out there. Second, I might be able to start it, but it might not pick up. After failing to immortalize a few blogs—I tried anything under the sun, drop-dead PowerPoint presentations, career talk, and more—I didn’t want to try again. But these four bloggers, plus the friends who really wanted to see my work online, became my inspiration to explore the world and write.

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The Walks of Kulot
Among the many blogs I’ve seen, it was Martin’s works that really challenged me to explore photography. Seeing the “Walks of Kulot” watermark on his photos gave me that little dream that one day, I would also have photos as great as his with a watermark bearing my name. I dropped some comments in a number of his articles until we got to exchange some thoughts about photography. As though it was the greatest secret in the world, he shared that it’s not purely the equipment that makes great photos. It’s the photographer, his imagination, his art, his passion. Those words gave me so much faith in my phone camera–and myself.


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YOSHKE.COM
Before I knew about the famous Poor Traveler blog, I was already a fan of Yoshke.com. I came across his blog from a Blog Awards list, where Yoshke was the Best Personal Blog of 2010. What caught my attention was exactly that—the “personal” touch. It’s very human. His straightforward storytelling, of the adventures and drama of his life, offers an interesting point of view. The About Me section tells you that the blog was born out of romantic love, making you believe in love again and the good things that come with it. The template design, the font, and of course the photos, all are artistically presented for a good read.

“Write passionately like it’s your first time to write. Write meaningfully like it’s your last. Write mindfully like everyone is reading. Write soulfully like no one is. Write to express yourself, not to impress others. Write with no other goal but to write something good. Blog because you want to write.”
–Ed Dimen, Yoshke.com


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The Travelling Dork
The dork who keeps two blogs–The Travelling Dork and The Creative Dorkis Robbie Bautista, an illustrator and character designer, UI designer for mobile apps and games, and frequent traveler. It was actually his graphic design work that convinced me he’s worth my time and attention. This guy is unbeatable in the creative department. He knows his craft, from choice of font, to the use of space, text, color, and everything. “Having a kickass portfolio is what really matters,” his piece of advice to me when I asked about studying graphic design.


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Two2Travel
Stunning and world-class photography is what this blog is all about. The photographers, Owen Ballesteros and Nikka Corsino will leave you breathless in their impeccable shots, no wonder this duo has been well-published and awarded. Besides the great collection of photos (you can buy some of their works), the blog also offers photography tips, guides, and videos. Their words of wisdom resonates clearly to me: “It’s a big world, and there’s so much to learn from it. There’s really nothing more to do but embrace adventure, embrace it fully, embrace it happy.”


Truly, inspiration is everywhere. One only needs to know himself, what he loves doing and what he’s good at, then pull enough courage to live outside the comfort zone. Go out and see the world. Take photos. Keep a journal. Never let your creative self die. Perhaps, those were the best lessons I learned from those who inspired me, the photographers and writers who gave me so much to admire. Thanks to them for waking up the hobbit in me–one who says, “Seize the day, because a hobbit lives only once.”

“It’s not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to better days, but revelations and lavishness…of someone’s soul, inspired and ablaze.”

The Fire Starter Sessions, Danielle LaPorte

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ArisMape

ArisMape is a travel insider at ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines. He loves orange, halo-halo, and PowerPoint, and hates beef, slow internet, and long taxi lines. His pastime is watching people watch other people. He swears on the power of smartphone. His half-life? Thirty.