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Life and travel in the time of Covid-19

On the move at the time of the pandemic.

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By Carol Esguerra Colborn

When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, my husband and I cut short our annual three-month, all-inclusive vacation at a resort in Mazatlan, Mexico. When we left, the statistics were pretty grim and the US had become the new epicenter (still remains as such). But home is the best place to do self-isolation, not on a cruise ship out at sea or a hotel room in a foreign country.

Our Extended Time at Home

There were a few things we have learned to do to make our extended time at home a more meaningful pause. The new normal had begun to take shape. It includes things like online shopping, picking up groceries, cooking with substitute ingredients, exercising with videos, new levels of cleaning, watching movies on demand, and consulting with doctors through telehealth.

Zoom participation also exploded, fostering online activities that replaced physical interactions. We had kept engaged with family and friends while we were RVing for eight years around North America. It was no different during the time of Covid-19. Since most schools were closed, I thought it best to help with the kids. I conducted an hour-long session three times a week with my grandsons, aged four to six, and another once a week with those ages thirteen to fourteen. I was so happy that I got more engaged with my family, considering that my three daughters live in three different countries.

Upgrading my Zoom to “pro” to enable longer meetings—the free version is maxed at 40 minutes—I was even able to launch Zoom parties for residents of Viewpoint Golf Resort in Arizona where we live, playing online bingo and trivial pursuit. We did the same with meetings, parties, and fundraisers of our University of the Philippines Alumni Association in Arizona and America. Soon, our Christmas Party will feature Charades and a Silent Auction on Zoom, respectively. And then, as before, I found a project that made the time more productive. The last time, when my husband and I decided to stay apart for more than a month, my first book Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream was born. This time, during the Covid-19 lockdown, I was able to write my second travel book, Cruising Past Seventy. It’s Not Only about Outer Journeys. It’s Also about Inner Ones (I did not change the title to “Cruising with Coronavirus”). This is what I call a flagship project, big enough to consume one’s energy, to be fueled by one’s passion, and to be worthy of your time. I have found that finding a flagship project has been a great antidote to any over-arching problem I have encountered.

New Ways of Traveling

But, with a traveler’s soul, we had to find ways to continue encountering fresh places and ideas. As soon as the lockdown was lifted, we considered our car an extension of our home; it is a place we can keep as clean as we do our home. We created a short list of places where we could go, breathe good fresh air, and practice natural social distancing, like the state, regional, and national parks around us that were still open. When we didn’t see people on the trails, we got out of the car and walked a little. If not, we just continued driving. The operative principle was to distance ourselves from others, but not from nature. Taal Lake and Volcano, Hidden Valley Springs, Pagsanjan Falls, Pinatubo Crater, Lake Caliraya, and Villa Escudero around Manila come to mind.

In fact, when there was a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Arizona, we decided that we should actually go from our higher risk home to lower risk areas that accepted us. We went to three mountain retreats in Utah, Colorado, and California, and invited our children to meet with us there. Maybe Baguio does not meet the requirements for a mountain retreat because it is so crowded but maybe Hundred Islands or Subic Bay may qualify. But since the family members we met were not in our bubble—the people you live with and share daily activities with, like my husband and I are for each other—we developed certain rules to follow when we were with them. Those rules followed the principles of avoiding crowds, social distancing, preferring to be outdoors, frequent hand washing, and the wearing of masks.

In the process, we developed new rules for keeping safe visiting with loved ones during this time. For the foreseeable future, especially when we are still under the threat of viral diseases, we will follow these practices, especially numbers one to five. We still hope these rules can be relaxed later; but the sixth we hope we can do away with sooner, especially with loved ones.

1. Go to areas with lower incidences of Covid-19.

It is good that there are plenty of data to drill down to, even to zip codes. We have selected restaurants, groceries, mountain retreats, towns, counties, and states, this way.

2. Meet only in uncrowded open-air spaces.

Stick to patio seating for eating out, drive-in theaters for watching movies, outdoor services for worship, and hiking at off-the-beaten-path trails as a preferred activity.

3. Do not spend unreasonably long time with others.

CDC says more than fifteen minutes is too long. But, as long as we are socially distanced and masked, we have extended this to a maximum of two hours.

4. Do not ride with others in the same vehicle.

This makes us stick to our car as our preferred mode of travel. We are currently eliminating planes, ships, trains, and buses as options for travel.

5. Do not share rooms with people not in your bubbles

So we no longer stay in our children’s homes and no longer book multi-bedroom units but keep to separate units if we stay in the same hotel or resort. We also stick to our timeshares. As owners, we feel better taken care of. For example they keep twelve hours between check out and check in and do not send anyone, cleaners or technicians into the room during our entire stay.

6. Do not shake hands or hug.

When we cannot help it and want to express some warmth, we elbow-bump for a second.

We canceled our trips in April but resumed our travels in July. And we still intend to go to Mexico for our annual stay in January, if therapeutics and vaccines advance. Self-isolation helped flatten the curve for our community and the world when we had to do it.

Creative ideas helped us remain productive during our extended time at home. And with new rules, we have found a way to continue traveling and still be safe.

Believing that everyone's perspective is important, Zest Magazine has opted to provide an avenue for these perspectives to be known. care to hear the publication's contributing writers; or better yet, do some contributing yourself by contacting info@zestmag.com.

Destinations

Greenfield District in Mandaluyong kicks off its holiday celebration

To mark the beginning of the district-wide yuletide merry-making, the event kicked off recently with the traditional lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree at the Greenfield District Central Park,. followed by a magical display of fireworks and Christmas caroling by a 20-piece chorale , setting the mood for guests to get into the holiday spirit.

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Greenfield District, the smart and connected urban center of Greenfield Development Corporation (GDC) in Mandaluyong City, transformed into a holiday wonderland with the launch of GDC’s annual Christmas festivities called “A Christmas for Generations”. 

To mark the beginning of the district-wide yuletide merry-making, the event kicked off recently with the traditional lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree at the Greenfield District Central Park,.  followed by a magical display of fireworks and Christmas caroling by a 20-piece chorale , setting the mood for guests to get into the holiday spirit.

“After two years of not having face-to-face yuletide celebrations, Filipinos are surely excited to once again gather with their loved ones to celebrate the country’s festive Christmas season,” said GDC President and Chairman Jeffrey D.Y. Campos.  “Greenfield District is a venue where different generations, from senior citizen grandparents to Gen Z kids, can bond with each other by taking part in the fun holiday activities of the District,” he added.

Ongoing  until December 25, Filipinos of all ages are in for a lot of holiday fun at the District. On December 17, families, especially kids are invited to come and meet  Santa Claus at Greenfield District’s “A Night with Santa” , which will feature merry activities and gift giving.

Meanwhile, adults can start their holiday shopping early as the Greenfield District Central Park will showcase weekend bazaars starting this month until December. Shoppers can look forward to discovering value for money gift ideas, trendy fashion pieces, delicious treats and more. While shopping, visitors can also enjoy a quick food trip and engage in Arts and Crafts activities while immersing at the bazaars dressed in colorful Christmas decorations. 

With a mission to build future-ready and sustainable communities for generations of Filipinos, GDC upholds its tradition of organizing events that promote the value of togetherness and spending quality time with the family.

“At GDC, we are committed to not only building properties for generations but also creating verdant, spacious neighborhoods where Filipino families can create beautiful memories together throughout the years. Christmas is a special occasion for many Filipinos, and we want Greenfield District to be part of their memorable Christmas experience every year,” said GDC Executive Vice President and General Manager Atty. Duane A.X. Santos. 

Located at the corner of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard, Greenfield District is accessible to the public through various routes and roadways from the main business districts of Metro Manila, making it an ideal destination for recreational activities, get-togethers, and shopping this yuletide season.

Visit the Greenfield District with friends and family this holiday season.  To know more about the activities at Greenfield District, visit https://www.facebook.com/greenfielddistrict.

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Destinations

All Nippon Airways launches ‘Beyond #MissingJapan’ campaign

On 11 October of this year, border restrictions were eased, allowing foreign new arrivals including business travelers, students, and technical trainees to finally enter Japan.

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Prior to the pandemic, the Japan Tourism Agency reported the number of foreign visitors traveling to Japan in 2019 hit an all-time high of 31.9 million, 600k of whom were travelers from the Philippines. In 2020, the number dropped drastically to around 4.12 million due to the stringent travel restrictions throughout the pandemic, making Japan one of the world’s most difficult countries to enter.

On 11 October of this year, border restrictions were eased, allowing foreign new arrivals including business travelers, students, and technical trainees to finally enter Japan. With news of Japan’s plans to reopen the country to international travelers, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest 5-star airline are launching “Beyond #MissingJapan” together.

The campaign was inspired by both social media posts of people yearning to travel to Japan and a strong sense of eagerness amongst ANA’s flight crew to welcome visitors back. And Filipinos are eager to visit the Land of the Rising Sun. According to a 2022 Statista survey, Filipinos chose Japan as their top holiday destination. Countries in the EU and US got the 2nd and 3rd choice, respectively.

‘Beyond #MissingJapan’ aims to excite  travelers for their next trip, give them head start on planning, and an insider’s perspective on the island country. The campaign features Paolo from Tokyo, a famous Filipino YouTuber based in Japan, who shares the best that Japan has to offer to both first-time visitors and seasoned travelers alike.

Paolo’s travels take us to Greater Tokyo and the hidden gems in the areas around the country’s capital. He rediscovers popular landmarks like Asakusa, shopping mecca Don Quijote, and the iconic Tokyo Station to name a few. Paolo also ventures into “New Tokyo” where lesser-known attractions such as Tokorozawa Sakura Town, Sanagi Shinjuku, and GOTEMBA PREMIUM OUTLETS® are located, must-visit spots that opened after 2020 and are within a few hours from Tokyo.

Get a real-life glimpse of Paolo’s experience in this 360 video that takes you inside the awe-inspiring pop culture haven Tokorozawa Sakura Town and walks you through the temples of Asakusa and Miyashita Park, a rooftop oasis in the heart of bustling Shibuya. The 360 video also gives you a feel of the festive vibe at Sanagi Shinjuku and the shopping that awaits at the endless aisles in Japan’s biggest discount store, Don Quijote, and the more upscale complex, Coredo Muromachi. Always growing and evolving, Tokyo still has so much more to offer

Mr. Isao Ono, Vice President of Marketing & Sales, Asia & Oceania from ANA said: “I believe our ‘Beyond #MissingJapan’ campaign will give those who have missed Japan an opportunity to rediscover the country through a series of videos featuring Asia’s most well-loved personalities as well as a 360° first-person perspective of landing in Japan. At ANA, we are committed to providing passengers with the best service in a safe and clean environment. We look forward to welcoming more travelers to Japan soon.”

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Destinations

Travel with your furry friends with Airbnb this festive season

Around the world, Airbnb Hosts have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests and their beloved pets. As the pandemic pet boom continues and travel resumes, guests are increasingly looking for domestic stays that allow them to bring their furry friends along, with ample outdoor space for all to roam around.

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This week marks World Animal Day, an international day celebrating all animals and promoting a better future for animals all over the world. As the festive season rapidly approaches, there’s no better time to start planning a getaway for your loved ones – with fur kids in tow.

Around the world, Airbnb Hosts have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests and their beloved pets. As the pandemic pet boom continues and travel resumes, guests are increasingly looking for domestic stays that allow them to bring their furry friends along, with ample outdoor space for all to roam around.

More than 3 million pets have checked into Airbnb since last November. As of June 2022, pet-friendly stays make up almost one-fifth of all Philippines listings on Airbnb, a 44% increase compared to June 20192. The top ten destinations for pet-friendly travel in the Philippines in Q2 2022 are:

  • Manila, Metro Manila
  • Baguio, Cordillera
  • Patuto, Calabarzon
  • Quezon City, Metro Manila
  • Taguig, Calabarzon
  • Cebu City, Central Visayas
  • Olongapo, Central Luzon
  • Nasugbu, Calabarzon
  • San Fernando, Ilocos
  • Calamba, Calabarzon

Amanpreet Singh Bajaj, Airbnb’s General Manager for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan said that when it comes to pet-friendly Airbnb stays, owners are seeking stays with additional space for their furry friends, often in locations outside capital cities.

“If you’re an avid pet lover, you’ll know that no holiday is quite complete without taking your family pet along. We have something for even the fussiest four-legged family members, and certainly, homes with spacious yards and deck areas are always among the most popular for guests with pets,” Bajaj added.

In the Philippines, over 15,000 guests have traveled with their pets on Airbnb3. To inspire more fur moms and dads planning to bring their pet friends on their next getaways, here are some amazing pet-friendly listings in the Philippines —  from spacious homes with huge backyards for your pets to roam to stays co-hosted by equally hospitable pooches!

Spacious farms for the zoomies

If you’re itching for a quick weekend away from the 9-to-5 routine, these farm stays that are drivable from Manila can certainly give you and your fur baby that relaxing getaway you both deserved.

  • The Alperi Farm is a newly built private farmhouse in Amadeo sitting on an expansive 2,000 sqm — perfect for non-stop fetch and the occasional zoomies. Offering guests plenty of opportunities to unplug and bond with loved ones (pets included!), the farmhouse comes with entertainment and activity options including a playhouse, bird sanctuary, a gym, and even a theater and arcade room.
  • Another farmstay south of the metro is Campo Canueza, which provides the best of both mountain views and beach access. It has a two-storey air-conditioned bahay kubo, a private pool, and an expansive space where you can freely walk your pets. At night, you can pitch a tent outside and enjoy uninterrupted views of the night sky.

Beachfront homes for the water-loving breeds

While some will just dip a toe, other dogs are born for the water — and will be truly delighted to hit the beach. Head on to these beachfront stays if you and your canine companion are dreaming of sands in your toes and paws.

  • Saya Nest is one of the seven nests hosted by proud fur-mom and Airbnb Host, Tamara. Located in the rainforest of Subic Bay, it lies just a few minutes from the beaches and falls. There is a fenced-in patio so your pets can run off-leash, a bathtub overlooking the forest, an outdoor table and grill, and a hammock by the porch. If you’re lucky, you might even be welcomed by Tamara’s own fur babies!
  • If you and your pet are up for a little island adventure — check out this Beachfront Loft in Palawan. It is located in a 2-hectare beachfront community in Aborlan just south of Puerto Princesa, and sits right by the sandy beach. Go boating with your pet by day and warm up around the bonfire at night while listening to the calming waves.

Breathtaking views for your best bud

Looking for vacation rentals with picturesque views where you can bring your fur babies? Search no further! These homes are not only pet-friendly — they make you want to bask in the scenery and stay for longer.

  • Anto House is a secluded farm nestled in the highlands of Antipolo, offering a 360-degree view overlooking the distant Metro Manila skyline, Angono hills and ridges, and the Laguna de Bay. Featuring two beautiful bamboo casitas that can accommodate up to 14 guests, it’s perfect for family gatherings and even reunions. There are also animals on the property like goats and sheep that both kids and fur kids can interact with.
  • How about calling an entire island your home for the weekend? This rustic, tiny island is right in the middle of Lumot Lake, with astounding views of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. If your fur bud’s love language is quality time, you can set up a mini obstacle course, go swimming at the lake, or simply just watch the world go by.

1 Based on Airbnb internal data from June 30, 2019 to June 30, 2022

2 Based on Airbnb internal data from June 30, 2019 to June 30, 2022

3 Based on Airbnb internal data from November 11, 2019 to June 30, 2022

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