I am a passionate travel blogger. I had the most amazing time of my life travelling the world before I was operated on ruptured Brain Aneurysm more than four years ago. I love meeting people be it here in the Philippines or abroad. I always travel like a local. I remember the first time I went to Bohol. I was at the Tagbilaran airport with no itinerary. I went out and chatted with several tricycle drivers and was only charged with the “local fare” and was told to try a famous local restaurant. In General Santos City, I met and was adopted for a night by the assistant municipal treasurer Ate Melins in her house and was even toured to Manny Pacquiao’s restaurant and Jinkee Pacquiao’s boutique. And ate Melins and were treated to a free dinner by Kuya Gary, a restaurant owner in Gen San. We happened to learn during our conversation with his wife that Kuya Gary is the first cousin of the husband of my first cousin. What a small world! In Palawan, I was adopted for two nights by a co-passenger and his family. His whole family and I had a blast when I asked them to join me on my island tour. ( They are from Palawan but never had a chance to do an island tour, I am happy that I made them happy in my own little way). In Tacloban, I was toured by Tita Ludette to the different famous landmarks in Leyte and even had a U-turn in Samar via the world-famous San Juanico Bridge. In Singapore, I entered a restaurant and engaged the owner and the chef in a conversation and I even celebrated New Year’s eve with them. In a Thailand temple, I had a cultural exchange with one of the caretakers. Anyway, this space would not be enough if I summarize all the people whose lives I touched and who touched mine during my travel days. I think that is so cool. Right? I got to meet new amazing people and I think that is the best thing about traveling.
Tales from these chance meetings are what a group of travel photographers and storytellers are chronicling through Juan of a Kind Stories, (www.facebook.com/JuanOfAKindStories). A project of Cebu Pacific Air, this online initiative showcases snippets of people’s lives from different corners of the globe, celebrating travel, connections, differences in culture, and the candid encounters with people one can meet in one’s journeys. From the heartwarming to the humorous, each anecdote captures the aspirations, quirks and passions of people from various backgrounds.
Among the participating storytellers for Juan of a Kind Stories is travel photojournalist Lester Ledesma, who has been writing about and photographing Asia for over 14 years. “I like that Juan of a Kind Stories focuses on people and not the places. Travel is always more fulfilling if you meet somebody along the way,” said Lester. “This project gives our readers the experience of meeting someone from another place.”
Another storyteller, Aaron Articulo traveled to three Southeast Asian countries and 10 provinces in the Philippines the past few months, and met people from all walks of life, gender, race, religion, and social class. He shared, “It has made me realize that at the end of the day, we are all truly equal—we are human beings, with the same desires, same aspirations, and the same dignity.”
Places, people, perspectives
Capturing unique stories through photos and videos, while traveling, is nothing new for Lester and Aaron. But Juan of a Kind Stories remains an exciting and fascinating project for both because of the variety of subjects they meet.
Lester counted Peter Chua of Malaysia among his favorite subjects for Juan of a Kind Stories. “I was peeking into the window of a closed magic shop in Johor when a man—Peter—called out to me from a cafe. It turned out that he owned the store and was a famous magician in the city,” Lester shared.
His new friend regaled him with magic tricks right at the café and even invited him into his shop. “I filmed him performing the first trick he ever learned,” said Lester. “For a famous magician to give you a private show for one – man, that was quite an experience!”
Meanwhile, Aaron said that one of his most inspiring Juan of a Kind Stories was that of Trio, an 11-year-old professional surfer from Bali. “The boy came from a broken family and ran away from home at a young age. He starved for a few days on the streets, until a good Samaritan fed, clothed and adopted him, even though the man had his own children,” he shared.
Aaron added that Trio’s newfound father turned out to be a surf instructor in Kuta Beach. “When Trio was ‘old enough,’ he brought him to the beach and taught him how to surf. In a few months’ time, the boy became a professional surfer, won pro-level surfing competitions, and now teaches at their mini-surf school in Kuta Beach. It’s like Trio found new life at the beach,” Aaron recounted.
Lester and Aaron join other storytellers Ferdz Decena, Hub Pacheco and Jojo Pensica in discovering the wonderful stories of people from around the world. Visit JuanOfAKindStories.com and follow its official Facebook and Instagram pages (@JuanOfAKindStories) for more.