|Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: MTV, MTV Asia)
By Sonia Mao
Few have had the privilege of taking a 'dream' holiday under the cover of work.
But Taya Rogers was one such blessed being, who got to spend an entire week in the Philippines on assignment where "work" consisted of comprehensive shopping trips in Manila and swimming with whale sharks in Donsol.
The project between Music Television Asia (MTV Asia) - where Taya is a VJ - and Tourism Philippines has made the 24-year-old an 'ambassador' of sorts for the country.
As part of the campaign, Taya has been fronting several vignettes as the picture of happiness and fun, filmed with the aim of promoting the Philippines to thrill-seekers and adventurous souls.
The vignettes are part of a "Remix" competition currently running until May 24 on the MTV Asia website, where travel hopefuls cut and paste their favourite parts of the clips to create their own dream holiday in hopes of winning it.
One can swim with the whale sharks in the waters of Donsol, Philippines.
Taya, despite her young age, is no foreign face to the entertainment industry. The bubbly girl is already a veteran in the entertainment industry, having been talent scouted when she was only 12-years-old - of American and Thai descent, she is a model, actress and MTV veejay.
Tourism Philippines leveraging on Taya's celebrity appeal is perfect for their target audience of 18- to 35-year olds.
Here, she shares with AsiaOne on how her trip to the Philippines went.
Hi Taya, how long did you spend in the Philippines?
I spent over a week exploring and filming in Philippines and it was way too short of a trip- there's SO much to do and see there!
What was the best moment during your trip to Philippines?
Wow, choosing a single best moment is just about impossible. However, since I'm a big nature lover, I was most taken by the beach at Boracay with its powdery white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters. The beach there is simply amazing - it's really paradise! In my opinion, Philippines could very well be Asia's Beach Capital, what with 7,107 islands, and a spectacular coastline that's home to rare and exotic sea flora and fauna, and an immense variety of marine life- I'd love to go back just to dive around all the different islands!
What was the lowest point of the trip?
As cliché as it sounds, the lowest point was when I had to leave. After immersing myself in the culture and way of living in the Philippines for so long, I was really reluctant to leave.
What was the strangest thing you did?
Borcay, Philippines makes for great diving.
Not the strangest, but maybe the hardest thing I had to do for the filming of the video vignette was the helicopter trip. I am a little afraid of heights so I was nervous about getting up in the helicopter... But once I was up there, I saw the most amazing things! Like the Banaue Rice Terraces, Eighth Wonder of the World, carved from the high Cordilleras over 2,000 years ago; and the majestic 1,268 Chocolate Hills of Bohol. The sights were just too awe-inspiring - I forgot my fear. After we landed, I wished the helicopter trip had been longer!
What was the wildest thing you did?
Nothing wild enough for me! If you are a thrill-seeker, a nature-lover, a history fanatic - then Philippines has so much to offer you! I am definitely going back again. They've got great white water rafting spots and I would love to try a few more trips down a river! And they told me huge schools of whale sharks have been visiting the mouth of Donsol River , Sorsogon, for generations- we got to go swimming alongside the world's largest fish, over 50 feet in length and 13 tons in weight, in the wondrous waters of Donsol! Swimming with whale sharks... does it get any wilder?! It was INSANE!
How is the service in Philippines ie at hotels, shops, airports, restaurants etc?
Filipino hospitality is well known and I must say - it's true! The Filipinos are so warm and so genuinely real! The service everywhere was just first-class. I was pleasantly surprised by how warm and hospitable everyone was. People seemed genuinely interested in knowing more about you, where you come from, etc and striking up conversation seems like a very natural habit to them. And the smiles!? I'm in love with a culture so prone to smiling :)
Is language a major obstacle to getting around?
No not at all. Many Philippinos speak basic to good English and if all else fails, a warm smile and hand signs always works! Spending my time with them, I learnt a few phrases and some words. Like 'Kumusta ka?' - How are you? And ' Mabuti naman.' - I am fine. And of course thank you - 'Salamat'! I took pleasure in practicing my new vocabulary everywhere I went, to much amusement of some people.
What were some of the cultural aspects you enjoyed?
The capital has its charms and plenty of things to discover. For example, the Intamuros, a 'Walled City' comprised of European buildings and churches situated right in the heart of Manila; the Spanish built it in 1571. Today it is one of the world's best preserved medieval cities. It is a "city within a city"-old walls, dungeons, churches, bulwarks, and plazas. Wandering through it was like being transported to another world and another time!
If you could have brought one more person along with you, who would it have been and why?
The Banaue rice terraces, carved out from the mountain by the Igorot tribes people some 5,000 years ago, is located in Banaue town in northern Ifugao province, Philippines.
It would be my best friend. She shares my enthusiasm for nature. I thought of her when we were in Palawan. I think she would have simply loved Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan. Now that I've been there, I understand why it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It covers 5,349 hectares of lush forest, dark mountains, caves, and white beaches. We paddled through eight kilometers of a snaking, underground river leading to a breathtakingly clear lagoon. Too beautiful for words!
In the vignettes, you were shown diving, kayaking, etc. In your opinon, what is the:
Best spot for a beach rat?
Panglao. Panglao is a perfect for a great dive and beach holiday. It is a small island in the Philippines southwest of the bigger island, Bohol. On the southern beach of Panglao there are several resorts that line up on the beach- a great spot to kick it in the sand and soak up some sunshine.
Best spot for a family?
I recommend Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan. Even if your kids don't already find it cool that it's a UNESCO World Heritage site, after paddling through, they are sure to change their minds.
Best spot for a romantic trip for two?
Boracay with its perfect beaches is already a popular spot for couples. Nothing beats the feeling of strolling down the beach hand in hand with a loved one or sitting at a little beach-side bar watching the world go by and of course, rediscovering each other as the sun sets... I adore Boracay!
The shopping in Manila is just unbelievable! The sheer variety of goods and products available is mind-boggling. There are so many knick knacks and products handcrafted in the Philippines, from weaves, baskets, and brassware to hand-embroidered piña cloth, wood figurines, and all sorts of custom-made furniture, clothes, wedding gowns, shoes, embroidery items, and many other accessories. There's surely something for everyone- I bought tons of gifts for my friends and family!