To the rabbit hole

It’s almost a year since I’ve joined the Mabuhay Guides program of the Philippines’ Department of Tourism. It feels like yesterday. I saw the announcement posted on Carlos Celdran’s blog. (Note: Though I’ve never been to his tours, I heard that it’s good and what I like about him is his passion for Manila and his sharp wit. It reflects on his blog. Soon, I hope that I can take his offer to join one of his tours. My wife told me that Celdran’s Imelda Tours are topnotch. I can’t wait.)


The training program lined up the leading figures in Philippine art, cultural identity, history, heritage, architecture, music, geography, dance, and ecological tourism. It’s like taking a very good curriculum and having these men and women as your teachers.

It also provides on-site training by instructors from the London Blue Badge. A Blue Badge is the British national standard guiding qualification. It is recognized internationally as a benchmark of excellence.

The compensation didn’t hurt either. It’s P2,000 for a half day tour and P4,000 for the whole day. An additional P1,000 will be given if one can speak another language aside from English.

I’ve been reading a whole lot about my country’s history. I’ve always been fascinated by its patriots, have been curious about its present condition, and have had the urge to answer those who have felt strongly against this being called “Filipino”.

I know some of the important things that were needed to be said and I believe that it’s my duty to share it with guests whether they’re foreign or local. I want to improve personally and financially by setting the course of my life as a professional tour guide.

I’ve been reading a whole lot about my country’s history. I’ve always been fascinated by its people and its patriots, have been curious about its present condition, and have had the urge to answer those who have felt strongly against this being called “Filipino”.

* * *

The stage was set. After taking an exhausting timed written exam, I got word that I have a slot for panel interviews. It was like an American Idol audition (Images below from TravelTime).

The atmosphere was thick and tense. We were waiting outside and nobody knew when he/she will be called inside the auditorium. I was probably called midway.

When I got in, I was asked to sit on the middle and face the panel.

It’s also my first time to encounter Ms. Susan Calo-Medina, a famous TV host who’s now an institution in Philippine travel. Man, she grilled me.

She was tough on me. It felt like she was challenging me to know how committed I am in pursuing the program. It made me blurt out words that still echo up to this day:

“I’m serious about this. I really want this.”

After two days, I got a notification that I made it to the program. 25 trainees were picked out of 200 applicants. One of them backed out on the first day after going through the curriculum outline, which demands time and commitment. It is understandable because most of us have day jobs and have bills to pay.

We started the training with some introductions from Marilen Sandejas of Baron Travel and from Ms. Susan Calo-Medina. To show the Department of Tourism’s seriousness with the program, we were asked to sign an agreement to finish the course (Read: we cannot be absent) or pay up a substantial amount of money.

It was an easy decision to put my signature on that piece paper. It’s going to be one heck of an experience listening to the best, sharing with the best, and learning from the best. I look at my colleagues as partners in improving myself. We were all in high spirits but nobody knew what was about to come.

-End of Part 1-