A quest to explore 7,107 islands
perhaps dozens of them. It was probably these playful marine creatures swimming along the side of the ship he rode in the 1960s that made Michael Marasigan, a precocious kid back then, make a vow that some day he will go to every island in the Philippines. All 7,107 of them.
Now, at 53, the travel photographer and travelogue producer admits that it may be quite impossible to visit every island, but it hasn’t stopped him from exploring countless of them over the years – from Batanes up north, to the corners of Sarangani down south. Even the contentious Spratly Islands, which is in the middle of an international tug-of-war, didn’t escape his fancy.
Could the dolphins he saw in the sixties have anything to do with this predilection?
“They could have. It was as if the dolphins wanted to escort us every time we were on board a ship, whenever our family went back to Manila from Iloilo every vacation,” recalled Michael.
“I remember how my father would take me along on his ‘sea trials’ of the boats he fixed. We hopped from one island to another at a time when Boracay was not even a tourist destination,” shared Michael.
In that decade, his family had to relocate to Iloilo because his dad was assigned to a shipyard there. While most kids would throw a tantrum at the thought of moving to a new place, the young Michael embraced the idea. It meant more “sea trials” for him.
His love for travel intensified when he started working as a journalist and researcher in 1977. As fate would have it, he was assigned to a beat that involved a lot of inter-island journeys.
“When I started my journalism career with the defunct Business Day, I was first assigned to the shipping beat, which meant traveling to the provinces and visiting various ports in the country,” he said. “Then, it was the agriculture beat, which also meant traveling to provinces to visit various farms.”
These trips allowed him to explore photojournalism. He had already been dabbling in photography through a showbiz rag in the early ‘80s, taking portraits of stars like Tetchie Agbayani, Jean Saburit, and “softdrink beauties” Sarsi Emanuelle and Pepsi Paloma. Going on these trips was an opportunity for him to hone his craft. While it was exciting to take shots of beautiful starlets, there was an unexplainable high in being on the road and capturing interesting scenery in the Philippines.
He also took his photography elsewhere. As an editor for BusinessWorld in the ‘90s, his job involved traveling across the globe. This made him realize how unparalleled our country is.
“I was able to compare our local destinations with other countries and I could say that we have a lot of world-class destinations,” he observed. “If we could only develop our destinations properly, I’m sure our tourism can compete with other countries.”
In love more than ever with his homeland, he was compelled to stop traveling abroad. He decided to focus on local tourism and to see more of the Philippines. He wanted to visit as many islands as possible.
This time, he was no longer contented with just bringing home still images of his adventures. He wanted more, and a handycam could bring him more. It could document the animated glory of each of his exploits. This eventually led him to produce travelogues.
“First, I produced them for bworldonline.com when I was still its online editor, and later for the Living Asia Channel after I retired from BusinessWorld in 2004,” he shared. “There, as an independent broadcast producer, I featured travelogues and documentaries.”
Even after his stint with Living Asia, he felt the need to document each of his inter-island adventures. He thought it was a crime not to share to the world awe-inspiring scenes from seldom-explored and promoted islands in the country.
“Have you heard about Malcapuya? Monsonon? Dibutunay? Banol? These are magnificent islands found in the Calamianes, Northern Palawan,” shared Michael excitedly. “You can also check out Gumasa in Glan, Sarangani. It is like Boracay during the early 1980s when Boracay was still undeveloped.”
To continue sharing his adventures in these yet to be explored destinations, he conceptualized ourphilippines.tv in 2008. Ourphilippines.tv is the country’s first online travel television.
“Through high-quality videos, I’d like to highlight everything that is good and interesting in the country,” explained Michael.
“In South Cotabato, we were able to document a B’laan wedding, from the negotiations for the dowry up to the wedding itself. It was extraordinary in the sense that the wedding almost did not push through because the groom’s family could not come up with the remaining P5,000 worth of dowry being demanded by the bride’s family,” recalled Michael. “Finally, we decided to chip in for the P5,000 just so the wedding would push through.”
Now, even though he’s still too young to retire, he’s starting to pass on his legacy to his kids: the three twenty-something professionals already have a knack for either travel photography or videography. More than anything, Michael has imparted to them the importance of loving and appreciating the country. Every single bit about it.
“I think it’s important that we avoid, as much as possible, highlighting the negative things about our country. If we continuously show the good things about our country, the rest of the world will start to have a different view of the Philippines,” explained Michael.
He said, “I am not saying that our country is devoid of negative traits, but it’s always best that we highlight the engaging, gorgeous, graceful, elegant, lovely, artistic, and magnificent traits of the Filipinos and our 7,107 islands.” - By RHEA M. CATADA GMANews.TV