Rhyan JOE Sianquita travels for a living. As a professional travel organizer, he has already explored many beautiful destinations across the country. But his recent trip to Marawi, where Islamic State-inspired militants laid siege last year, was a truly special one.
“I travel every week because of my job,” said Sianquita. “But what made this trip so different is the destination. All the blogs called Marawi the ‘city of no return,’ but at the airport, I met so many wonderful people who made me realize that it wasn’t true. They were even inviting me into their homes!”
Last week marked the first anniversary of the five-month-long armed conflict in the city. Filipinos commemorated the many lives lost, remembered the chaos and damages—estimated at P17 billion—it brought, and celebrated the bravery of our soldiers and resiliency of its residents whose lives have been disrupted.
This were the very things that inspired Sianquita to go to the southern city of Marawi, despite the risk of entering what was once a warzone.
“Every time I travel, it’s important to have a picture-perfect adventure. As I walked through the warzone in Marawi, the angst of being there was real; it’s not a perfect picture,” he wrote in the caption of his photo taken in the city.
He continued, “Along with the 1st Scout Ranger Company, I crossed through the memorable sites of ground zero carrying the memories and stories before and during the war. We felt the anguish and pain of losing a fellow comrade. But something sparked in me what only eyes of the heart and soul can see.”
“Beyond the chaos and hostility is a promise of HOPE. Rubbles turned into building dreams of a better Marawi, where faith and camaraderie from each and every Filipino will make this land rise from the ashes,” he enthused after his three-day trip.
His photo and its caption earned him the 2018 True Wanderer award from denim brand Wrangler.
Sianquita and nine other finalists were sent on a three-day journey to different places in the Philippines. They had to undergo three different challenges and share photos and stories behind them using the hashtags #TrueFoodie, #TrueCulture, and #TrueAdventure.
“I was up against many professional photographers, and their captions were also so good,” he shared. “As the day of the announcement came closer I became more worried, but decided to just tell myself that I already won through the experience.”
Sianquita’s #TrueAdventure entry stood out from among the many other great photos and captions.
He won P500,000 worth of prizes, including a three-day/two-night all-expense-paid trip for four to any Philippine destination, as well as travel gear, one drone camera, one tablet, and Wrangler gift certificates.
He is particularly excited about the drone camera because he wants to take more spectacular shots while on his travels.
“I’m a hiker, so I want to be able to hike in mountains abroad like the Everest base camp and Kinabalu. But for my upcoming True Wanderer trip, I’m thinking of going to Bohol,” he shared. “My mother has never been on a plane so I want to bring her with me, along with my graduating sister and my wife.”
Sianquita encourages everyone to wander and explore the many destinations of the Philippines—popular tourist spot or not.
“It’s really not about your destination but it’s about the memories you make along the way.”