For many reasons, 2020 has definitely been the most Iconik year thus far. Despite the many challenges, we remain hopeful that things will get better in time, and we remain steadfast in our belief that together, we can get through this.
Check out what the Iconik team has been up to in this first half of the year.
“Tara” which translates to “let’s go” is an invitation to venture into the iconik three-time “most beautiful island in the world”.
Tara, let us take you around our most beloved island!
Palawan, an island found at the Southwestern most part of the Philippines, has always been a must-visit island, not only for Filipinos but for tourists all over the world. It is most known for the Underground River, hailed as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and one of the longest navigable river-traversed caves. But, this isn’t the only attraction to see. You can choose to stay atop a mountain, marveling at the cleanest lake in the country called Kayangan Lake in Coron, or go deep underwater to explore the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tubattaha reefs.
Second to these world wonders, Palawan is likewise a haven of world-class beaches — from its long stretches of sand to the pristine view of the crystal-clear turquoise waters as you look into the horizon. You can choose to surf, island hop, dive, or simply spend a warm day under the sun, with some beaches only having a number of tourists alongside you. Definitely sounds like a dream!
When you’re not at shore enjoying the waters, you might as well be in the middle of the streets during Palawan’s long list of festivals. There’s practically a festival for everything – from bountiful harvests and planting endemic trees to showcasing the locals and their produce.
Like any other Philippine destination, Palawan does not sit out in the food competition with some dishes that are only found specifically in the island, like Nido Soup from bird nests of swiftlets, Tamilok or woodworms from mangroves, to a warm bowl of Chao Long, a Vietnamese noodle soup shared by refugees who once inhabited the island after the world war.
The island though is more than just a destination, but a home to many types of locals. In fact, because of its geography, many groups of Indigenous People (IP) reside here — rounding a total of 8 distinct groups: Batak, Kagayanen, Tau’t Bato, Palaw’an, Molbog, Tagbanua, and Agutaynen.
There is still a lot more to see and explore in the “Last Frontier of the Philippines” and we urge you to take this journey with us through Tara Palawan!.
It is the first regional deck of the country and a follow-up to the original Philippine version created by Tara Baraha. It takes you on a visual tour that allows you to learn and enjoy all at the same time. The travel is even made more meaningful as the adorable and eye-catching artwork on each card is a labor of love of three young and amazing creatives — Brian Yatco, Mia Almorfe, and Fritz Asuncion, bound by their love for their hometown and an even stronger passion to showcase the local talent of the islands.
Photo taken on the day the Tara Palawan artists first saw the printed deck
From left to right (L-R): Fritz Asuncion, Brian Yatco, and Mia Almorfe
Fritz Asuncion is a portrait, caricature, pixel, and digital artist. His love for art began as soon as he could pick up a pencil after watching hours and hours of cartoons and anime when he was still young. He dreams that art as a profession will not be looked down upon and that artists like him will never have to get discriminated for their passion and profession.
Brian Yatco creates art through a variety of methods and forms — tradigital, pen and ink, conceptual illustrations, and graphic designs. His art is his fingerprint and being part of this project cements his greater purpose as an artist to contribute to the local Palawan art scene in telling the island’s unique story.
Mia Almorfe is a calligrapher, portrait artist, watercolor illustrator, and a newbie digital artist. Mia continues to pursue, learn and refine her style in order to serve as an inspiration to other artists to keep in mind “progress, not perfection”. The work she has done in Tara Palawan! only adds a chapter to her continuous miamorphosis.
Aside from it being made by locals, it is also made for locals. Tara Palawan! is a yet another project of Iconik Travels and Events that aims to help and support local communities.
What are you waiting for? Tara Palawan!
Photos were taken by Rain Beltran, Mel Balmaceda, and Camille Conanan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has possibly been one of the most difficult situations the entire world has ever gone through. As we have experienced crawling weeks of lockdown, we realize that the crisis is not only health-related, but also economic, and the tourism industry took one of its hardest hits.
Travelling is restricted for almost all of us. While it’s difficult that our #wanderlust fantasies are temporarily postponed, the travel bans have affected the travel and events industry most of all. Artists and photographers have no gigs and events to cover while the communities managing the tourist sites, especially in provinces that heavily rely on tourism such as Palawan, are denied of any source of income. Because of this, the crisis is even more apparent when daily wage workers struggle to place food on the table and to survive such difficult times. Iconik Travels and Events understand this deeply and we are one with the communities during this uncertainty. By partnering with three talented artists, we are launching Padayon.
There are currently 28 Community-based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) sites in Palawan, and we have selected the five (5) communities that we work with as Padayon’s beneficiaries. Sabang Falls, Sabang Jungle Trail, Batak Center and Cultural Village, Olangoan Falls, and Hundred Caves are located in four (4) different barangays and are comprised of 164 daily wage workers and families.
Every purchase of portraits and art bundles will allow us to provide a small income to the artists and relief food packs of rice and vegetables to 164 families of 5 tourist sites in the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Sourcing and distribution will be facilitated by our partner, Go Palengke.
Dubbed as a “nostalgic photographer”, JL is known for her dreamy portrait photoshoots and crisp picture-perfect shots of couples and families. Her style often invokes feelings and memories that somehow brings you back to a different place and time.
JL recalls, however, that this hasn’t always been how things were. Her journey as a photographer started from experimenting with tissue rolls as fisheye lenses and feeling ecstatic with her first Kodak digital camera in high school. She used to play around with her study lamp at home and worn-out stockings to get various effects as she taught herself photography, all while using it as her emotional outlet growing up. Memories flood in as JL remembers what a crazy journey it has been before becoming one of Palawan’s go-to photographers. She got into multiple jobs — an admin staff, a teacher — until she realized that her heart is enlivened by the way the lens is able to capture ideas and emotions, allowing people to feel connected.
As JL continues to journey through every place and time with multiple bags of equipment and her time-travel device, she hopes that her art connects and motivates people, especially during this time of social isolation and disconnection. Her collection, “Love Kite”, is her offering to remind people that despite seemingly dark times, there exists hope, love, and light.
Fritz is not your typical artist. He may draw portraits and caricatures, and render some digital art, but he is also a soon-to-be architect. His bold and colorful artworks draw inspiration from his childhood, where he would often watch cartoons all day and try to mimic the characters he has seen. He used to want to be an animator because of his fascination for anime, but ended up taking a course in architecture to practice art in a different way.
Fritz, while often timid and reserved in person, is such a contrast to the art that he creates. The playfulness in his style choices and color preferences would often feel like cartoons coming to life on paper. He attributes much inspiration from his idol, Akira Toriyama, a Japanese manga artist and cartoonist, popular for his work and character designs like Dragonball Z. Like Toriyama, Fritz hopes to make people smile with his art and serve as an inspiration to other artists like him.
Whether it’s creating portraits or intricate blueprints, Fritz is an artist through and through, and he only wishes that like him, more artists get into the craft and are not discriminated against or looked down upon. For him, being an artist is both a passion and a profession.
Mia is a calligrapher, portrait artist, watercolor illustrator, and a newbie digital artist. Every type of art Mia creates adds a chapter into her — as her wittingly coined Instagram handle reveals — miamorphosis.
Mia’s beginning was as crude as that of a calligrapher on her first day — unsure and all over the place. At that time, she was uncertain about which path to take, and she deeply struggled in identifying what passion makes her come alive. Like calligraphy, it took lots of practice and much more convincing for her to get her parents and family onboard. Right then, she knew that she had found the purpose she wants to fulfill for the rest of her life.
Being a portrait artist, Mia finds great inspiration in people and emotions. After having pursued a life in the arts, she has vowed to make the faces of her parents happy and proud. Whenever she feels that her growth is stunting, she reminds herself of what a fellow calligrapher and artist named Abbey Sy once prescribed — “[to not merely] sit here [and wait] for something to arrive”. Because of this, Mia continues to press on.
Mia’s artistic journey tells a tale of discovery and experiment, much like watercolor illustration. She continuously tries different styles and explores various techniques to truly find the mixes and blends that suit her work. She sometimes paints picturesque sunsets or ethereal, mythical women that often push her imagination.
Most recently, Mia delved into the world of digital art. While still new to the craft, she is challenged by this unfamiliar style and how technology could greatly be used to impact and inspire others. You would often find her uploading videos and behind the scenes of the art she creates because every canvas represents a story she constantly wants to share.
As Mia pursues to learn and refine her style, this young artist’s journey embodies the mantra she always strives to live by — “progress, not perfection” — and that’s what narrates her continuous miamorphosis.
Should you be interested to know more about Iconik Travels and Events or Padayon, please feel free to email us at email@example.com
Over the past few days, the team has been out the door before sunrise, taking the first step of each day towards one of the reasons why Iconik exists in the first place. From 6:00am, to 5:30, to 4:45, we woke up half-asleep yet fully awakened by the purpose of why we do what we do.
For three days, together with our partners from Local Government Units (LGUs) and the City Tourism Office of Palawan, we ventured into different towns and sites to meet with local communities, be blown away by the views their areas had to offer, and discuss various ways on how we could work together.
You see, Iconik Travels and Events, is not a mere tour provider and operator, but more of a development partner — working hand-in-hand in identifying challenges among local community tourist sites, creating solutions to address them, and hustling to ensure that they come into fruition.
How can Iconik do this, you ask?
While “sustainable tourism” is a buzz word often thrown around the industry, there is still much room in clearly identifying what it is and how it should be done. UNESCO defines it as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”, but Iconik Travels and Events wishes to commit to a much bigger purpose than what this definition offers. Inspired by the move of the city government of Puerto Princesa who pushed for the Community-based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) advocacy since 2012, Iconik hopes to not only respect local people, cultural heritage, and the environment, but to also help build them. We envision a tourism industry that local communities have the same – or even more influential – hand in directing the livelihood and economy of their people and areas. With the help of various partners and collaborations, Iconik believes that sustainable tourism in this regard will be possible in the near future.
After spending our mornings and afternoons hiking, trekking, and engaging in conversations with the locals, the Iconik team found an even more renewed spirit in supporting and advocating for CBST. Aside from getting to know the locals’ needs and understanding them more deeply, it allowed us to create meaningful shared experiences that we wish all of our guests and clients would have in their own respective trips.
We are so excited to be beginning our community partnerships soon and we can’t wait until we can share all these breathtaking new tourist sites for you to enjoy. Stay tuned for more updates!
Should you also wish to know more about our CBST efforts and to partner with us in this advocacy, please feel free to send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org.