Explorer of the World Q&A Series – Kakay Oloroso and I AM HIP

What could be better than traveling the world? Well, traveling AND doing good infinitely increases the pleasures and joy of travel. Whether it’s building houses for a community, teaching English, or organizing fund drives, volunteering isn’t just fun, but is also a rewarding, fulfilling, and life-changing experience.

10615640_1470467046544201_2588193995759853385_nPhotograph courtesy of I Am HIP’s Facebook Page

For this installment of Hostelfy.me’s Explorer of the World Series, we are excited to feature 31-year-old Kareen “Kakay” Oloroso, a traveler who has not only journeyed to some of the most exciting places in the world, but through her organization I AM HIP (Helping Islets in the Philippines) has paved the way for people from all over the world to volunteer in the Philippines and share their skills and expertise to communities in need.

2013-11-30 10.06.52Photograph courtesy of Kareen Oloroso

 

Read on to learn more about what drives this inspired—and truly inspiring—traveler, what makes life as a volunteer worthwhile, and what YOU can do to help.

 

Where are you from? What place do you call ‘home’? Questions like “where are you from?” and “where is home?” are in some way confusing for me and for friends. I always say I am from the Philippines. However, at a very young age, I was [already] moving to and living in different places. I have [people I consider as] mom and dads from all-over [the globe]. I can say that my home is the world.

traveller-349963_1280Photograph via Pixabay

How many places have you traveled to? What do you love most about travel? What is your favorite travel destination and why? 

 

I have traveled to 15 countries; most of which have been in Southeast Asia and Europe. I have covered most of the Philippines since I have been—and am still—jumping to and from different islands. I love feeling the breeze on my face while crossing the seas, the sound of the waves, the smiles from children’s faces, the strange yet familiar food, the simplicity that is the islets, the kiss from the sun when you crawl out of your tent in the morning, the silence of the evenings and the blinking lights of the fireflies. My favorite destination is Negros Island. It has been home for almost half my life and most of my good friends are there. It’s so easy to go around the island. I can always find campsites along the coast and up the mountains. It is a one-stop station for adventure. And the food? Simply amazing.

 

Tell us about your organization. What is I Am HIP? And how did the idea come about?

 


HIP or Helping Islets in the Philippines is a private initiative that I started immediately after Typhoon Yolanda.

 

1526369_1381933112064262_1210715217_n (1)

(Ed’s note: Typhoon Yolanda, also known as ‘Haiyan’, occurred on November 8, 2013 and is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record. The typhoon killed over 6,300 people, left countless people homeless and injured. As of this writing, there are still bodies being found and people considered missing.)

10800156554_c166f9c692_zEffect of Typhoon Yolanda. Photograph by Arlynn Aquino and posted on ECHO Flickr page. Photograph via Flickr Creative Commons. 

 

Before Yolanda, I regularly organized outreach activities with friends and acquaintances. I do it once or twice a year and do them in remote areas (coastal and mountain communities). When the news about Yolanda broke, lots of my friends started calling and asking [me for advice on] what we could do to help. They were willing to share some money. It was a difficult time for me as I myself was in a bit of a shock. I just missed Yolanda by a day. I managed to take the first flight out of Tacloban a day before the typhoon hit land. I initially collected around 600 Euros from friends when I told them I would like to spend Christmas in a community affected by Yolonda. The main purpose was to keep Christmas going inspite of the disaster. With all the focus in Leyte, there was not much news about the other places. A friend of mine told me to check the situation of the local government of Bantayan. With lots of telephone exchanges and validation with the help of the locals and the municipal government, the first site for HIP was identified – the tiny island of Silagon with 300 residents.

1896871_1405679789689594_890337210_nPhotograph via I Am HIP’s Facebook Page

 

From Makati, I organized everything with the help of my friends in Bacolod who are my constant volunteers for all the outreach that I do. And for the slogan, it just came one night when I was brainstorming with another friend. I was so tired and just wrote her, “what do you think about I am HIP = I am Helping Islets in the Philippines? It is a bit kitschy but it is also simple and catchy.” And that was it. I worked on the blog t (www.help-islets.blogspot.com) all night and a designer from Germany volunteered to make the logo. It’s really is so hip, right?!

 

 

How does I am Hip work? Why do you think it stands apart from all the other volunteer organizations out there? HIP gets its funds from friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers. One hundred percent of all the funds go to the communities that we help. As for the overhead, I get it from selling shirts and bags… and my savings. HIP supports the local economy, too, so even in December, even when the markets in Bantayan are not yet back 100%, we managed to get almost 50% of all our needs for the Christmas Party there.

 

1012420_1405685499689023_2024312486_nPhotograph via I Am HIP’s Facebook Page

Volunteering with HIP is not complicated. I do the screening of the volunteers and the community have the final say if they want them. I only send volunteers to the area when there is work to be done.

 

How many volunteers do you usually have? What countries do they usually come from? What’s their age range?  

The biggest group was 20 during the Christmas break but I had volunteers who stayed by themselves on the islets. There are also now homestays where the volunteers live with the foster family, share meals with them and help with some household chores before they head to work. It makes things easier for me and for all and I am really happy that there were no complaints about the volunteers. In my estimate, 50% or more of the volunteers are Germans. Some are interns here in the country, some are doing volunteer work for other organizations, most are my acquaintances and friends. The youngest volunteer would be my 17-year-old nephew (better to start them off early, right?) and the eldest would be a woodwork expert from Germany (50+) who stayed for almost three weeks on Panitugan Islet and helped a lot with the repairs of the elementary school there. The average would be around 25 years old.

16084_1472579972999575_3075805952273209680_nPhotograph via I Am Hip’s Facebook page

Why do you think so many people have participated in your program? 

They believe in volunteerism and that they can do something to uplift the community’s spirit. The mere presence of volunteers in these remote areas sends a message that the people of the community have not been forgotten; having volunteers around reminds them that they are not alone. The volunteers, I believe, don’t feel intimidated since they are welcomed as they are. When I first called for volunteers, I asked them to write me about what they can possibly contribute to the community and they have lots of talents and skills to offer. The community accepted them with open arms—volunteers feel like a part of the family immediately upon setting foot on the islets.

10522154_925214427494388_5120150527368652308_nPhotograph by Yo Pastrana and courtesy of Kareen Oloroso

What areas / regions does I AM HIP cover?  At the moment, we are working with these three islets that belong to Bantayan Town in Cebu Province. We are now on the weaning out phase. We have help repair a daycare center (Silagon Islet), build one (Panitugan Islet) and also help in the repair of the elementary school in Moamboc Islet. The only projects there now are on building up the libraries. So, I am still collecting books.

There is a new site that I am working on at the moment, which is an indigenous people’s community in the south of Palawan.

11581_1405636889693884_1949915571_nPhotograph via I Am HIP’s Facebook page

How does your organization merge travel and volunteer work? Why did you decide to incorporate travel into your organization? 

It is more like the traveling off the beaten track. The experience the volunteers gain from it is extremely different from what other travelers experience. You live with the community, so you also have to deal with the same “limitations” or obstacles that the locals face: no electricity, no water source, and waiting for the tide each day so that you can move to the next islet or the main land. But this is something that can keep you in the present moment: there’s no internet, no phone service, and you also learn to become more patient as you wait for the tide to come. I guess this is one of the best ways to understand how living in an archipelago works and it is something most of our tourists won’t be able to experience. I am not saying, though, that I am necessarily promoting voluntourism. I am just more for volunteerism and the organization welcomes tourists who would like to help. 1524267_1409835839273989_59336933_oPhotograph via I Am HIP’s Facebook Page

 

All my free time and vacation leave from work since Yolanda has been devoted to HIP. However, even before Yolanda hit, I had already been devoting most of my free time to the communities. I don’t see it as work, rather as a homecoming. And I believe it was the same to the people in the barangay and the community who are continuing to assist me even during holidays or weekends.

 

Why do you think travel is so important? Do you think it has the power to change lives? How so?

 

Traveling is one way to be wise. As Jostien Gaarder puts it: “There are two ways of becoming wise. One is to travel out into the world and to see as much as possible of God’s creation. The other is to put down roots in one spot and to study everything that happens there in as much detail as you can. The trouble is that it’s impossible to do both at the same time.” 

 

 

1900080_1405638733027033_1645872382_nPhotograph via I Am HIP’s Facebook page

And I am still on the first way and I still am planning to see more of the world before putting down roots. Growing up, I never have thought that I would be able to explore the Philippines or even other countries. Looking back, it was the best thing that has happened to me. Traveling widened my understanding of the world and of people. And it made me gain so many friends and families all over the world. I always send postcards to my nephews and nieces and they are loving it. Every time I visit them, they would ask me about the things I saw and experience in the place that I’ve been and they would start planning their own trips. These are kids who around 6 to 11 year old, and I can’t wait to bring them on their first camping trip.

 

10448214_925213920827772_8064070367703364811_nPhotograph by Yo Pastrana and courtesy of Kareen Oloroso

Want to know more about Kakay and her organization I Am HIP? Check out the official I AM HIP blog or their Facebook page. Interested in becoming a volunteer? Contact Kakay through the I Am HIP Facebook page or send her an email at kareen.oloroso@gmail.com.

 

We’re scouring the globe in search of intrepid travelers to feature on the Hostelfy.me blog! If you love to travel, have a ton of stories, experiences, and advice to share just send us an email at lola@hostelfy.me with “Traveler Q&A” on the subject line. 

City Profile: Kuala Lumpur Food Trip

www.stuckincustoms.com

Photograph by Trey Ratcliff via Flickr Commons

If there is anything more adventurous and satisfying in traveling through Southeast Asia, it’s testing out the diverse, unique and interesting selection of food. Kuala Lumpur is one of the hottest and most exciting locations for food lovers, taste bud adventurers and fans of cooking travel shows such as Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour.” The plethora of eateries and dishes will make you sweat­from the humid Malaysian weather, the full­bodied spices and most of all, from the excitement of having so many distinct and delicious options laid out before you.

With a cuisine that reflects the multi­cultural history and influences of Malaysia, there is more than one way to eat in KL. The country’s food options have been derived, fused and influenced by Indian, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Arab and Portuguese cultures which makes it entirely possible not to eat the same thing twice.

So take this gastronomic adventure through the city where you’ll not only have your mouth watering for more, you’ll also learn more about the country’s rich history and culture as well as the most intriguing sections in the city.

Some helpful keywords to use on your adventure:

ayam ­ chicken
ikan ­ fish
garpu ­ fork
lembu ­ lamb
mee/mi ­ noodles takeaway ­ food to go roti ­ bread

Terima kasih ­ Thank you teh ­ tea
teko ­ teapot
teksi ­ taxi

Selamat datang ­ You’re welcome Selamat tinggal ­ goodbye

Here, a guide to everything you need to know about Malaysian cuisine.

Malaysian Indian 

Kuala_Lumpur_Little_India_0009Photograph of Little India by Stefan Fussan via Wikimedia Commons

The country was and is still highly influenced by the Indian culture. With a historical relationship dating back to the 3rd century B.C., wherein Indian traders and fishermen came to Malaysia to trade with the locals and the Chinese. For true Indian cuisine, Brickfield’s is the area to be. This section of Kuala Lumpur is also known as “Little India” and is where you’ll find the best banana leaf rice cantinas, chapati breads and thosai (South Indian pancake).

Mamak

118531534_24c9c061e2_o

 Photograph by Krista via Flickr Commons

Mamak, which refers to Indian Muslims, have created their own distinctly Malaysian­Indian fusion of food. One of the most popular category of food is the “nasi kandar,” which originates from Penang.

256px-MamakStall001

 

Photograph of Mamak Stall by Krista via Flickr Commons

Mamak stalls (a.k.a. mapley) are widespread throughout the city as well as the rest of Malaysia, wherein some are even open 24 hours a day and is considered as the local “watering hole” where people gather to eat, gossip and watch football games (its extra crazy during the World Cup). You’re bound to come across one of these tiny cantinas or stalls wherein you’ll feel fully satisfied by the freshly made roti canai (thin, flaky bread), Nasi Lemak (rice steamed with coconut milk), Teh tarik (literally, “pulled tea” with condensed milk). These stalls (some even illegal­which makes it more fun) can be found in streets and near parking lots all over the city, but a great spot to find a mass of these eateries is by the busy Jalan Imbi section of Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Chinese

512px-Cook_Making_Char_Kuey_Teow

Photograph by Pavithran via Wikimedia Commons

For those craving some good ol’ Chinese takeout, you’re bound to be delightfully surprised. Though still influenced by the cultural melting pot that is Malaysia, the food remains discernibly Chinese. Though Chinese food is often rife with pork (which is not allowed for Muslims), there are many vegetarian, chicken and halal (ingredients that are allowed in the Islamic religion) options. A good bet to find fabulous Chinese food is obviously, in KL’s Chinatown as well as in the grungy, red ­light district of Chow Kit (Jalan Chow Kit Road) which has an interesting wet market, an Indonesian community, an African community and a night market.

Malaysian Dessert

825484415_63ed150552_b

Photograph by Jonathan Lin via Flickr Commons

For dessert lovers who’ve made a special pact with the tooth ­fairy, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory­–Malaysian style.

Kuih which is Bahasa (language in Malaysia) for sweets and pastries which are made fresh with natural ingredients, can be found in specialty shops all over the city.

Most of Malaysian desserts are made with coconut milk and local fruits. For health buffs and/or fruit lovers, you can find your fix in any local outdoor market and must try delights are: mango, mangosteen, pineapple, rambutan, star fruit, jackfruit, langsat, watermelon, papaya, banana and fresh coconut. For other traditional desserts, try: Cendol ­ Green rice noodles served in chilled coconut milk and gula melaka (coconut palm sugar). Ais Kacang/ Air Batu ­ Shaved ice with sweet corn, red beans, condensed milk and sweet syrups. Sago ­ Rice balls or cubes served in chilled coconut milk. Pengat ­ Tapioca and banana with thick, melted brown sugar mixed with coconut milk, traditional fruits Ondeh­ ondeh ­ Pandan flavored balls of glutinous rice flour which is filled with gula melaka (coconut palm sugar) and rolled in coconut shavings.

Top 10 Adventure Destinations for Travelers

Seeking adventure? Add these top spots to your bucket list!   1. Trek the Himalayas Kathmandu_,_Nepal,Himalayas,Everest (1)

Photograph by ilkerender via Wikimedia Commons

2. Take a Trek Through Chile

3405013981_418401036d_b

Image by Trey Radcliff from the blog www.stuckincustoms.com via Flickr creative commons

3. Take a bike tour through Asia!

5595183074_97c9936f88_b

Photograph by Dan Woods via Flickr Creative Commons

4. River rafting at the Bhote Kosi River, Nepal

Rafting_at_Bhotekoshi_River_(12)

Photograph by Anil Simkhada via Wikimedia Commons

5. Check out the sea life at the Great Barrier Reef

1024px-Blue_Linckia_Starfish

Photograph by By Richard Ling via Wikimedia Commons

6. Skydive in New Zealand

3238724610_386a7921d7_b

Photograph by Mark Houchin via Flickr Creative Commons

7. Hike through the Fish River Canyon in Namibia

Namibie_Fish_River_Canyon_05

Photograph by Namibie Fishriver Canyon Photographie prise par GIRAUD Patrick via Wikimedia Commons

7. Take a walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

SydneyHarbourBridgeandOperaHouse_IB

Photograph via Wikimedia Commons

8. Go whale watching

Whale_watching_Tadoussac_02 (1)

Photograph by By Hans Bernhard (Schnobby) via Wikimedia Commons

9. Take an African safari

African_safari_route_blanc

Photograph by  Simone Roda, derivative work by Jean-Jacques MILAN via Wikimedia Commons

10. Do some extreme Zorbing in New Zealand or the UK

2048px-Zorb_02 (1)

Photograph by Harry Malsch  via Wikimedia Commons

Do you have some adventures that you’d like to suggest? Send us an email at lola@hostelfy.me. We want to hear from you!