“You never really showed me around Manila,” said Neil. I tried to recall all our trips to Manila and concluded he was right. We didn’t get a chance to explore the city where I was from.

I was the first person to take him to Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, Shangri-la, and hotels in Manila, Makati, Paranaque, and Quezon City but we never really explored Manila’s gems together.

To be fair, I planned to take him to the National Museum, Intramuros or even Manila Bay on several occasions: the day we first met in Manila, the time I came home after three and a half years of working in Dubai, and during my father’s 60th birthday this year.

But the coronavirus outbreak thwarted my travel plans.

Besides giving Neil a proper tour of Manila, I also look forward to seeing my family. Most of my trips to Manila were short and we usually spent most of our time at hotels after catching late night flights. We were always in a mad rush to return to Cebu because of work. Weddings and important family events were the reasons I booked quick trips to Manila. On rare occasions, I would squeeze in a meet-up or two with old friends over coffee and awesome food.

I keep hearing that we’d never get back to normal. Travel won’t be the same again and for some, this can be sad news. For me, however, it’s good news.

When I no longer travel the way I used to, it means I’m going to explore slowly, deeply, and with more intention.

During the lockdown, I had time to reflect about the last seven years. I wish I could say I quit jobs to go gallivanting around the Philippines or the world, but that wasn’t my story. I am like the majority of travelers – weekend warriors who only go on trips, local or international, during their spare time.

Post-pandemic travel would be different, I told myself.

First, I’ll take Neil to Luneta to get a “feel” of dating a kolehiyala. Despite its popularity as a dating spot for college students, I never really saw this place as a romantic spot because I didn’t have a boyfriend back then. Even though the park is located just in front of my campus, Philippine Normal University, I didn’t find time to enjoy a walk here. So, I want to take Neil to this place. We once stayed at a hotel near Luneta but his stay was brief and I was a bit scared of walking around Luneta at night. I would take him here, walk hand in hand, look at the big Philippine map, visit the Japanese garden, and perhaps, go straight to Manila bay for sunset viewing.

The next day, maybe we’d consider stopping by Intramuros. Though it’s a popular dating spot for couples, I think Neil would appreciate it more for its rich history. I know the place a lot better now after exploring it alone and once with a friend, Em, so I’m quite confident I’d be a better tour guide this time. I’d skip the pedicab or calesa tour and insist on a slow walk to Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, and St. Augustine Church. Perhaps this time, it would make sense to join Cito Beltran’s walking tour or ride a bamboo bike or Segway and stop by famous sites.

Last but not the least, I’m going to take Neil to the National Museum of Natural History so he could take a good look at the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, also known as Lolong. I can’t wait to see his eyes light up when he sees the magnificent DNA Tree of Life at the center of the building. I can already imagine how he would talk endlessly about it. Knowing him, he will have googled how it was made even before we arrive at the museum. Maybe, I’d let him linger at sections he loves. He also told me how much he wanted to see the Spoliarium so we’ll likely stop by the National Art Gallery, too.

Thinking about these travel plans instantly puts me in a good mood. I know it’s still unsafe to reopen cities for travelers. I agree that roaming around parks and visiting museums aren’t advisable and it’s still best for everyone to stay at home, but there’s no stopping explorers from dreaming of better travel days ahead.

I also can’t wait to do all these with our baby in tow. I’d love to create new travel experiences with Cyd soon.

What are your travel plans after the pandemic? Who are you going to take with you? I’d love to hear what you have to say so share them in the comments.

By Issa

One thought on “Keeping A Promise – A Travel Plan After The Pandemic”

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