From Fried Frog Legs to Founding an Online Travel Shop

Old house in San Nicolas
“What the heck is that?” I asked Peer, a former coworker while staring at a photo from his mobile screen. He replied “Can’t you see? Fried frog legs. Taste like chicken!” I added. “I know. I meant what are you doing with that blonde – haired guy beside you?” He continued. “Oh he’s German. He’s here in the country for a month to see our best beaches. I am showing him around the metro because he wants to try exotic dishes.” 

The next thing I knew is he introduced a website. It’s like a Facebook for travelers.   “But I don’t travel that much.”I said. “You will soon.” He replied.  I was hesitant to sign up. But what is there to lose if I try?  That happened in November of 2010. How can I forget that moment? That was the start of a life – changing story that transformed me to a person who left her 8 – year old job, got featured in a local magazine, fell in love to the idea of a location – independent lifestyle and now a bootstrapping entrepreneur dreaming to put up a startup for an online travel shop.


No I did not morphed overnight to what I am today. Let me tell you how bit by bit. Just a month after I signed up via that site, I received a message from a Canadian girl. She was looking for someone to show her around while in Manila because she wants to get a glimpse of our culture. When she came, I brought her to Intramuros and Rizal Park. The night before, I was googling like crazy of where to bring her specifically and even memorized some trivia to make sure everything is worth it.  I became a tour guide in an instant! Then, a lot more foreign travelers followed. They are mostly looking for locals to give them tips that they can’t probably find online while in the country or looking for a cheap / free place to stay. There was this Swiss guy who while on a trip he was giving toys to kids he meet. Then this Taiwanese couple who wanted to go to Boracay by land from Manila because they want to experience riding a jeep or an ordinary bus. The most memorable of them is Mike, the half – American and half – Italian digital nomad who inspired me about entrepreneurship, apps and startups. 


Bangui Windmills Ilocos Photo credit: Lyn Danao 
Year  2011, I met a dozen more travelers (local and foreign) who exposed me to the idea of going places. I became more passionate about blogging and online marketing that are the building blocks for me to start a blog – based business. I was reading tons of blogs of different travelers every single day and night wondering how it is like to be one. I joined countless meetups around the metro that are about travel and tourism hoping to get connected with the leaders in this industry.


Miag - ao Church, Iloilo
Year 2012, armed with only 15 vacation leaves (I have work during holidays in my previous job), I started to travel around the Philippines. I went to Ilocos in January. Spent my birthday in Cebu and Bohol  in February. I backpacked Bacolod, Iloilo and Guimaras  in July. I spent a weekend in Cagayan de Oro and Camiguin in October. Then I went back to Ilocos in November to join the International Conference in Cultural Tourism as I am serious about starting a business in the Tourism industry. I wish to travel more but my full – time job is the biggest hindrance.  


Malasag Eco - tourism Village, Cagayan De Oro

Year 2013, I spent my birthday in El Nido and Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The following months I made serious money out of my blog and tour packages. That is why I was able to fund my first out of the country trips to Singapore and Malaysia . I also went back to Ilocos for a free trip given by a travel partner in October. Then December, I went on another free trip to Sagada, Banaue and Benguet courtesy of another travel partner. 

At the same time, a lot of events and trips came my way.  I lacked sleep and rest. I knew the time has come I have to choose between my full - time job and my online shop.  I chose to follow a life that is not a slave of alarm clock and no boss. Someone who can work anywhere and anytime. I chose what makes me happy. So I left my job no matter how stable it is and the pay is fine in August to pursue a freelance career. 

Batu Caves, Malaysia

Selfie shot in Singapore


While the majority of the travel blogging industry advocates going off the beaten path,  I realized there will always be a market for those who prefer the canned way so I took the other way around by helping others who have no time and resources to prepare their own trips.  This is the reason why I  promote tours. 



Our fourth batch of Binondo Food tour from Negros and Australia
This year to date,  I am also hoping to shake the market of Manila’s walking city tours particularly Binondo and Intramuros. Last Chinese New Year, I just started a Binondo Food tour in collaboration with a tour guide.  Weeks ago I was in Baguio for a free trip courtesy of a travel partner to see the Panagbenga Festival. This is me now… an online entrepreneur. I would rather be in a small boat rowing it myself to anywhere I want than in a US – navy like ship but I am only receiving instructions and a servant inside. 

I want to thank Peer for that moment. Actually until now he has no idea how that picture of fried frog legs led me to go travelling  up to founding an online travel shop . What he only knew is whenever I would buy a stuff in the mall, I would always compare it to a flight ticket cost first before I decide to buy it. 

6 comments

  1. I was stumbled upon this story, you are lucky to have your coworker. You are now an entrepreneur at the same time a traveller. You are not just a travaller, you also exposed yourself towards the nation's gems and learned to appreciate it... and show also shared it,, as guiding tours

    Keep on posting inspiring stories... I will follow you and add you in my roll Hope to meet you someday and travel simultaneously. I love meeting people with same interest

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    1. Thank you :) Quite difficult though but once you pass through all of it, you will never be the same again. Hope to bump shoulders with you too some other time

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  2. you're a great person rona! wish you the best.

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    1. wish you have identified yourself! salamat :)

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  3. "No I did not morphed overnight to what I am today."

    I've always thought so. No one can succeed overnight. Stay as an inspiration, Rona.

    Have you been to Cebu?

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  4. Thank you.

    Yes I've been to Cebu for only 48 hrs :) It was my birthday in Feb. of 2012, I booked the flight just a a week before my trip there. I miss taking my favorite breakfast at Table Chocolate Cafe.

    Hope to come back.

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