We’re delighted to share our new Culture with Travel interview series featuring travelers sharing their authentic local perspectives on their respective countries.
The first interview is with Estan Cabigas, an avid traveler, a writer, blogger/digital influencer and photographer. He’s the owner of the travel blog called “Langyaw”. Langyaw is Cebuano* for an outsider or a foreigner in a local place. It also means a visitor, or even more so, a traveler.
“Travel is a discovery not only of a place and what it has to offer but is also a discovery of oneself. Here in Langyaw I will focus on my travels and experiences usually around the country and some forays abroad.” – Estan Cabigas
Langyaw has also been awarded Best Travel Blog and Digital Tribe Awardee (Philippine Blog Awards 2009), Best Single Post – Travel (Philippine Blog Awards 2009) and Winner, Culture and Heritage, Wandering Juan Travel Blog Awards and many more.
To start with, tell us a bit about yourself! Why do you love travel? How do you think travel unites us or teaches us more about the world?
I’m Estan Cabigas, an architecture photographer, travel blogger and digital influencer from the Philippines. I’m very much curious with the world, its people, culture, heritage, architecture and natural wonders and travel gives me this chance to experience and quench this thirst. But the more I travel, the more I hunger, thus, its a never ending yearning to know more. Travel teaches me to be humble and open to possibilities. It’s a great teacher of the world and enables me to know more of myself. I get cranky whenever I’m stuck for far too long at home.
The Philippines is often characterized as a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. In which ways do you think this is true, and how do you think the country has its own unique culture?
The Philippines is a country with a unique position in Asia. As they say, it spent 300 years in the convent (Spanish colonial period) and 50 years in Hollywood (American colonial period). But even before that, Chinese, Arabs, Japanese and other races have already known the islands as a trading ground. Thus, it is quiet Western in outlook but still Asian in habits. The food is a mish mash of influences that has been nurtured through centuries to come up with its own: the Chinese for noodles and dimsum, the Mexicans with their tamales and given us New World fruits and vegetables. Spain has influenced our palate with known Iberian dishes but with local ingredients, the US with fast food and twists to it. But the basic Philippine cuisine is still Malay cooked with spices, coconut milk.
As for Religion, we are dominantly Catholic and the heritage churches, although western in concept is a unique adaptation to the climate, prevalence of earthquakes and environment of the country to become Philippine earthquake baroque.
What surprising aspect of culture do you love about the Philippines (or your specific town/city) that travelers may not be aware of?
Although many tourists and visitors credit us with overflowing hospitality, Filipinos are really resilient to a fault. This can be a good thing, when it comes to crises and calamities, the Filipino spirit, like the bamboo, bends forward and backward but never breaks. Being from Cebu, we are fiercely independent and proud Visayans with our own language and culture different from Manila in Luzon.
Which dish do you feel best represents where you’re specifically from? Share a picture and tell us why you love it!
The best lechon (roast pig) comes from Cebu and the best in Cebu comes from Talisay, my hometown. In every gathering, the lechon is the star of the feast and many local tourists come to my province just to have a taste of its succulent and flavorful meat as well as the red and crisp skin. Traditionally, we have it on most Sunday lunches and whenever I come home from travels around the country or Asia, I always make it a point to drop by at a popular lechon joint to have my fill.
Growing up in the Philippines, what’s something that you believe makes it unlike anywhere else in the world?
Two: the people and the food. One thing that really surprises foreigners is the hospitable people that they often encounter around the country and the ease in communicating with them. English is a major language and you can just travel anywhere in the islands.
The food is true fusion cuisine. With so many islands and influences, each region has unique dishes that makes traveling around the country a gustatory delight beyond the adobo. The Bicol region is known for its many volcanoes as well as fiery cuisine with a preference for cooking with chilis and coconut milk. Coastal communities have a rich seafood milieu. Muslim Mindanao is known for sate, rendang and other Malay food that might be familiar in Indonesia and Malaysia. Mountainous areas have game food. Because coconuts and rice is quiet abundant, expect to taste different kinds of rice cakes and desserts, flavors and colors across the Philippines.
How important is spirituality and religion in your daily life? What do you do to celebrate the two?
Although I’m born and bred as a Catholic, I’m more secular and a non practicing Catholic. But. As a Photographer, I am very much interested with Catholic heritage architecture in the form of churches. In fact, 3 of 4 coffeetable books that I have worked on are related to this archtiecture. Catholic rituals that blends both the Christian and Paganist as well as current practices have been the bulk of my photography exhibited around Europe and Asia.
Art and dance can tell a deeper story about local culture. Tell us the story of a specific artwork or dance that has a meaning for you. (It can be anything from street art to a festival to a painting to architecture to woven art work, to woodworking, a family heirloom, etc.)
Heritage churches in the Philippines, especially those built during the Spanish colonial period is architecture unique to the Philippines. It’s western in DNA but because of the many typhoons and earthquakes in the country, it has evolved into an architecture purely Filipino. Carcar Church (find attached) is one of the many Spanish colonial era churches built in the Philippines. it is not as lofty as those in Europe because earthquakes often happen that’s why these churches are usually low or squat. It is made from coral stone blocks mined from the sea and since cement is unheard of before, it is common to use egg whites with other ingredients as a binder for these stones! (This might also be the reason why there are many desserts that are egg yolk base). The facade of the church is a fusion of several architectural styles: baroque, neoclassic and Muslim (bulbous domes for the belfry and the iwan like entrance usually found in mosques).
Languages not only give us the power to communicate, but also can unite us across cultures. What’s something you love about the multitude of languages spoken in the Philippines? Share a favorite saying you have, or teach us something in your native language.
Because of the many languages in the Philippines (although rooted in the Indo-Malayan language tree, it has words borrowed from Spanish, Chinese, Aztec [by way of Mexico]), it might be difficult to communicate. But that is not the case. Filipino, the national language unites us and is taught in every school around the country. It is based in Tagalog, the lingua franca of Manila and surrounding provinces but has also words borrowed from the rest of the languages in the country. I myself am Bisaya with our own language: Cebuano. I speak it as well as Tagalog. I can also understand Hiligaynon, another Bisaya language. It makes me smile when traveling around Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia as we have several words that are common to these countries.
English: I love you
Tagalog: Mahal Kita
Cebuano: Gihigugma tika
What local spot in your city/town do you love most? Why is it personally important to you?
I love driving down the southeastern side of Cebu, my home province. Not only has it beautiful beaches, great seascape, waterfalls and canyons, it has one of the country’s best preserved Spanish colonial era churches and watchtowers.
Unfortunately, stereotypes exist in the world. What are some common misconceptions you’ve heard about the Philippines? What is considered disrespectful in your culture that visitors should be aware of?
The Philippines is unfortunately considered a very dangerous place for foreigners with the many kidnappings, murders, corruption and crimes. But generally, those are highlighted more than the many beautiful things about the country. It’s actually safe to go around except for select areas in the south.
We are a very tolerant people, especially with foreigners. But please, don’t insult Filipinos or you will get the Filipino lashing offline and online.