Wander: Magnifying Metro Manila

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Sightseeing in Metro Manila can be a bewildering experience for locals and foreigners alike. Features in international travel magazines are woefully few and far between and even the usually reliable Google Maps can falter. For the explorer wanting to conquer this urban jungle, a city guide is his weapon of choice.

Wander, a recently launched local microguide, is the first of its kind in the country. The back-to-back spread is a convenient and unorthodox trip advisor that focuses on one local city per issue.

Its first release, which zeroed in on Manila, highlighted the city’s offbeat sights with itineraries suggested by the Manila locals themselves. Unlike most travel books that are overloaded with text or burdensome to carry, Wander more closely resembles a brochure and is filled with quirky illustrations and unexpected trivia.

The creative individual behind Wander include editors and curators Kissa Castañeda-McDermott and Dang Sering, who work alongside map and editorial illustrator Dan Matutina, photographer Charles Buenconsejo and project coordinator Grace Buenconsejo.

By channeling their love for travel and design as well as their nostalgia for print into their microguide, they’ve turned Wander into one of the most novel and eye-opening ways to explore Metro Manila.

Collaboration central

A wandering mind can arrive at the most creative ideas. Castañeda-McDermott, a curator and editor at Elle Decoration and Preview, conceptualized Wander several years ago during her postgraduate stint in Japan.

It was there that she came across Tokyo by Tokyo, a guidebook for the city written by its own locals. Inspired, she asked herself, “Why not make one for the cities of Metro Manila?” She initially arrived at the idea of Curious Cities, intending it to be a general guidebook as well.

But upon returning home, she saw that her plan wasn’t meant to be a solo effort; her friends Buenconsejo, Sering and Matutina also wanted a fresh take on travelling with ideas similar to her own.

However, finding a willing publisher for this venture was tough. Wander meant to distribute its copies for free, the way brochures and maps are circulated in airports. But as this isn’t exactly a formula for moneymaking, the team had to shelf the project temporarily.

Things picked up again once they partnered with creative duo behind Inksurge, Jois Tai and Rex Advincula. It was through the Inksurge team that Wander finally found a publisher that supported their vision: 5 Ports Publishing.

They settled on following a microguide format, a more convenient and focused alternative to the guidebook plan of Curious Cities. The transition also led to changing the project’s name to Wander. Explaining the new title, Castañeda-McDermott says, “This one’s more of playfulness. I guess it also involves the charm of discovery.”

The Wander team is always open to collaboration in terms of both distribution and content. “I have a lot of photographer friends who said, ‘Hey, if you’re doing this area, I can cover it,’” mentions Castañeda-McDermott. “We were excited about the project, so that was infectious.” To cover sales, Wander has partnered with Heima and Fully Booked.

Oh, the places you’ll go

While the usual guidebook is by nature a tourist item, the content in Wander is a natural magnet for even those who have lived here all their lives. By featuring Manila’s hidden gems, like the Dapitan Arcade and Tower Recto, Wander has disproven the notion that there is nothing new to discover about the city.

The first issue shared itinerary suggestions from five locals who built careers in the arts, fashion, food and architecture industries. They provide unique takes on the city by suggesting not only the tourist hotspots but also places that fellow locals themselves might not know of.

The Wander team not only hopes to let travelers view the Philippines in a different light, but also to help locals see that there is much more to explore right at home. Castañeda-McDermott confesses that even she was not well acquainted with some of the featured places.

In the first issue, Liza Ilarde, editor of Manila Bulletin’s Style Weekend, herself a Malate resident, wrote about the Baywalk on Roxas Boulevard. “To be surrounded by people from all walks of life who come just to see the sunset will make you glad you came to see it. People actually clap when you get a good sunset. How can that not put you in a good mood?” she wrote.

Through these residents’ voices, tourists are also shown a side of the city not everyone sees.

Commenting on what other local travelogues lack, John Lagdameo, a business consultant for 5 Ports Publishing and a part-time lecturer of the Department of Marketing and Law, says, “There are a lot of eating places [in the city], there are a lot of stores that you can visit, but what about the architecture? What about history?”

Written content aside, the team’s travel philosophy is executed perfectly in Wander’s contemporary design. The microguide format encourages travelers to savor the flavor of the city one landmark at a time. Colorful infographics accompany historical fun facts of popular destinations like the National Museum, as well as old haunts like the Manila Hotel.

Risk takers

Nowadays, much attention has been directed towards the so-called “end of print era” and the rise of online publications. For Elgene Feliciano, a faculty member of the Communication Department, the debate is not as clear cut. “There are still individuals and even entire professions that prefer the tactile feel of paper. I would argue that when it comes to the travel industry, print media remains indispensable.”

The Wander team shares Feliciano’s sentiment, as it won’t be joining the online bandwagon and abandoning print any time soon. “I guess our generation, we’re like the cusp of print and digital, so we’re nostalgic about it,” muses Castañeda-McDermott. In her eyes, Wander has already succeeded in creating its own niche in the print world by focusing on travel and design.

One of the main concepts that shaped Wander’s final form was the idea of it becoming a collectible, a memento of one’s trip. “[People] still like to hold, touch, keep in their pocket, refer to [something tangible] compared to something which is readily available on the smartphone,” notes Lagdameo.

Miguel Nacianceno (AB Comm ’01), co-founder of 5 Ports Publishing, also shares that he sees his company’s partnership with Wander as a natural fit, given that both parties are strong supporters of the print medium.

However, this doesn’t mean that Wander will be avoiding the online platform entirely. The key to success, Castañeda-McDermott believes, is a balance of both. Their website will soon contain downloadable content for those unable to grab a physical copy.

Wanderlust

It’s easy to get lost when exploring Metro Manila: The points of interest are numerous and navigating around them is never a simple task. To wander about its streets and cities offers adventure in itself, though only few have the time and resources to go around and about without a guide.

After taking on Manila, the Wander team plans on writing about Makati in their next quarterly issue. “That’s the objective [of Wander], the vision: To have a brochure about every place,” Lagdameo says.

The dream is also to be able to give out free copies in airports, seaports and, as Lagdameo says, every port of call. Wander is ready to set sail outward into the hands of foreign travelers and, just as surely, inward, into the locals’ own appreciation of Metro Manila.

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