Adventure Road Leads to Cebu Pacific's #JuanForFun2015 Backpacking Challenge

When people probe me about the source of my wanderlust genes, I always tell them how my father traded any opportunity of travel to playing on casino tables but proudly narrate how my mom went on a few solo trips to Taiwan and Japan during her single-hood years. Sandwiched between decades of raising two children, she would pause to travel until she reaches her late 40’s when she stayed for ten years shuttling between four states in the United States. That is how far my lineage influenced me with traveling. I guess my addiction to life on the road originated from outside interference, such as travel shows and literature - and one catapult period, which I trace back to my college years searching for adventure with the UST Mountaineering Club.

This is the reason why I have been a staunch follower of Cebu Pacific's Juan for Fun Backpacking Challenge for the last three years. I could almost feel the same thrill I felt during my mountaineering days in college, every time I would see the participating teams set out for their race. Imagine going nowhere but on family trips beforehand, and now they are given this rare opportunity to wander without a leash with the only rule they should follow is to experience as much adventure as they can. If you do not call that life-changing, then nothing will ever be.

Meet the Celebrity Adventure Coaches: #CoachJude, #CoachBogart, #CoachIya, #CoachChamp & #CoachJoyce
I can't help but get nostalgic when I listened while some of the past participants shared their experiences during the Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge 2015 Media Edition held at Coco Grove at Siquijor Island last week, with the cooperation of PDOT-7I totally get it when Gian Paglinawan of the 2014 Team Juanabees said "It changed my perspective about life, It made me want to explore the world more, and meet people. I have now realized that there's more to learning than what occurs inside the classroom" or how Mara Sy, member of the three woman team Juanderlust finds that the world "isn't as scary as I thought it would be". In a way, I saw my younger self at them - at a time when I'm still at the cusp of discovering the many amazing wonders about travel. 

Past participants of Juan for Fun shares their life changing experiences
Juan for Fun Season Four

“This is our fourth year holding the Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge, and every year, we get inspired by the enthusiasm, resourcefulness and energy of the student teams who audition. We look forward to watching their videos, and taking them on an adventure that can start a lifetime of adventures,” Cebu Pacific Vice President for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog said. And for four years, teams of young college students are plucked out of their comfort zones and are set free to fend for themselves commuting to their destinations, getting lost, plotting their IT and a lot of other things that the road beckons at us. 

Myself and Coach Joyce Pring during the mini-challenge in Siquijor
Siquijor Mini-Challenge

To get a feel of what the lucky chosen teams will experience on the 9-day backpacking challenge which will start on June 23 and culminates on July 1, the #JuanForFun2015 celebrity coaches were paired with members of the online and print media for a mini challenge race in the island province of Siquijor. 

Bogart the Explorer and Jonel Uy of
I got teamed up with Ruth and DJ / Singer Joyce Pring and from the get-go of the race we firmly believe we will vanquish the opposition. The first challenge at Capilay Spring Park was a walk-in-the-park for all teams as we almost simultaneously solved the map puzzle of describing how to go to Siquijor from Manila. 

Food fight!
We were still in the thick of the race during the second challenge which requires us to chow-down a plateful of sea urchins and some native delicacies. I quickly told the girls I'd take care of the sea urchins so they can concentrate on the puto-like food on the other plate. I found out later it was the wrong time to try and be a gentleman because I almost threw up - but good thing Joyce and Ruth helped me finish the plate of sea urchin. 

Iya Villania is prettier in person. She's pictured here with Aleah of Solitary Wanderer
To cut the narrative short, we lost by a few strands of hairs and finished fourth place in a hotly contested race decided by the slowness of our multi-cab ride and the fast and furious inspired engines of the other four team's ride. We lost distance on the way to the Century Old Balete Tree which could have given us a bigger chance of keeping up with the winning team led by Coach Jude Bacalso. 

Melo of OutofTownBlog, Enzo of JuanManila and Coach Champ of the band Hale
Win or lose and almost swearing off eating slimy seafoods for years, it was a great experience getting a feel of what Juan for Challenge is all about. And with an added bonus of meeting this year's celebrity adventure coaches; actress-host Iya Villania, Hale frontman Champ Lui Pio, Travel show host Bogart the Explorer, travel writer Jude Bacalso and radio DJ-host Joyce Pring.

the winning team led by Jude Bacalso - who also coached last year's Juan for Fun winners
Celebrity Adventure Coaches Mouths of Good Advice

Eager to call out plays on the road, our Juan for Fun celebrity coaches have these to say. Bogart the Explorer says in an Aussie accent that its a must to "get the opportunity to learn something about the places they visit, enabling them to view that destination from a unique perspective." Iya Villania meanwhile cited the importance of joyful competitiveness “I want my team to challenge themselves by preparing to make some sacrifices and conquering a few fears, all while having fun of course!” to which Joyce Pring agrees on “I feel like I’ll be a very competitive coach, but at the end of the day, I just want everyone to have fun and experience what it’s like to travel to someplace new.”

Jude Bacalso, the returning coach of last year's Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge winning Team Juanderlust, reminds future participants the importance of focusing on the experience as a whole "You are never too sure that you are able to guide the teams to the best of your ability. By the end of the competition, it became clear that learning is a two way street: I was reminded that letting loose and enjoying the moment is just as important as winning. It really is the journey, not the destination.”, while Champ Lui Pio echoes why we all yearn of going to places by simply stating "traveling, in my opinion, is food for the soul.”

Here's the drill on how to join this year's Juan for Fun Backpacking Challenge

See the video above? that was team Juanderlust's audition video for last year. If you could form a three-member team and create something like that by also creatively answering this question “What makes you the team to beat in this year’s Juan for Fun?” then you might have a shot to of getting included in this year's Juan for Fun Backpacking Challenge. Just upload your audition video at before the deadline on May 2, 2015.

All images are all from Cebu Pacific Air