We all have our own method of satisfying our wanderlust. Some scale peaks and reach for the skies. Others surf the waves. There are those who trek through lush greenery in search of hidden vistas. And others go on a 12,000-km road trip that crosses an entire archipelago, like The Baconeers.
It started when architects Alfie Agunoy and Francis Sta. Romana discussed a trip that covered the entire Philippines during their own adventure in Mindoro back in 2015. “We envisioned going off the beaten path and that the best way for us to go is by land,” recalled Francis. “There are too many beautiful places in the Philippines but we fail to experience it.”
The Three Baconeers
The Philippine Roadtrip trio, aka “The Baconeers,” is composed of architects Alfie Agunoy, Francis Sta. Romana, and photographer Paul Quiambao.
Bitten by the curiosity bug, Alfie mapped out a 12,000-kilometer road trip that would pass through Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Francis, meanwhile, enrolled himself in a short course to learn more about troubleshooting engines; they will need a trip mechanic, after all.
No itinerary of such proportion would be complete without someone documenting it. They decided to look for a pro to join their adventure. That’s how Paul, a professional landscape photographer, entered the picture.
“Paul and I both attended the College of Architecture in UST though we weren’t in the same barkada,” Alfie said. “He was referred to me, and since we came from the same school, we instantly clicked and he was in.”
With Alfie taking care of the itinerary and logistics, Francis serving as the trip mechanic and Paul assuming the role of documentarist, the Philippine Road Trip plan took shape. Initially, they considered going by motorcycle, but that route would cost them more in accommodation and will have them scrambling for necessary supplies.
“We decided instead to get a vehicle big enough to let the three of us sleep inside and still leave enough space for our equipment,” Francis said. Pooling their money together, they searched for secondhand vans through online classifieds site, OLX.
“When we saw this red, vintage Volkswagen Kombi van, we reached out to the seller and scheduled a meet-up right away. Upon seeing it, the three of us had a kilig moment—it was love at first sight,” shared Alfie.
They sealed the deal with the owner and gained a friend too. “He was honest enough to explain to us what he was selling and how we should deal with eventual kinks,” added Alfie.
They christened the Kombi van and called her Cupcake. “We were looking for a name that brings positive vibes with it and cupcakes bring smiles to everyone, young or old.”
Initially, their plan was to allot four months to cover the entire 12,000 kilometers. But because Cupcake was 47 years old, she broke down several times. Being in it for the journey, the Baconeers found ways to get the van going, enjoying every moment of the trip that lasted 10 months.
“It’s quite rare to find parts in Metro Manila alone, and even more so in the provinces. Every time parts broke down or showed signs of breaking down, we’d go back to OLX and found parts, and had it delivered to where we are going—a strategy we used within the duration of our journey,” shared Alfie.
The delays led to more time to relish experiences as the trio immersed themselves in the different localities they were in.
A Guiding Light
Days leading to their trip’s flag off, they felt something was amiss. “We felt this adventure should create social impact to affect lives, not just ours but also those who we come across as we see the sights and experience the local culture,” said Paul.
The Baconeers approached the My Shelter Foundation and were connected with Illac Diaz, founder of Liter of Light who provides sustainable solar lamps to areas without electricity. Their trip would take them to far-flung places and they can best help the cause.
When they reached towns that didn’t have electricity, they distributed solar lamps and taught the locals how to use them. What they saw along the way made it even more worthwhile.
“Nung nakarating kami sa Mountain Province, nakita namin yung kids walking at the edge of the rice terraces at night, yung moon lang ang ilaw nila! May ibang communities naman sa Babuyan Islands, mga painted stones naman ang reflector nila sa roads pag gabi,” shared Francis.
“By sharing with them the solar lamps and teaching them how to build it, they have prolonged their productive hours,” added Paul. “Kids can study longer at night without having to use gas lamps that affect both their health and the environment. People can now walk at night in their communities lit by solar lamp posts.”
Seeing smiles from lamp recipients instilled deep feelings of gratitude among the Baconeers. The people whose lives they touched also unknowingly helped them finish their trip.
“Their reactions in receiving an unexpected solar lamp they badly need is really priceless. In return, they gave us rice, bananas, or any other food to show their gratitude which helped us too,” Alfie said.
An Enriching Journey
Long months away from their professional lives, the trip had to end. While the amazing views they saw and cultures they experienced have enriched their lives further, they also learned more about the best way to live moving forward.
“Purchasing Cupcake and taking her in this adventure proved to us that new isn’t always better,” stressed Alfie. “Also, like the solar lamps we distributed, it helped us realize the need to conserve resources, recycle, and look for sustainable ways to live.”
We all travel to unwind and reset the mindset. But take it from the Baconeers: A purpose-driven trip and traveling sustainably go a long way in enriching your life. Who knows, your own epic experience is just a road trip, and a secondhand Kombi van from OLX away too.