Interview: Light Manuel. Diver, Volunteer, Traveler

Interview: Light Manuel. Diver, Volunteer, Traveler

Light, also a software developer, was one of the people I met on our Surfing trips in La Union when I was just starting to love traveling. A fun loving person and a really good surfer I tell you. Now besides traveling, she focuses her energy and time on diving, volunteering and ‘voluntouring’. A philanthropist in the making, she is part of the group ‘Project Lingap’ that holds several outreach programs all over the Philippines. Let us know this Travel Junkie and soul surfer more in my interview with her.

Tell us something about yourself

My name is Munira, which means enlightening in Arabic, hence one of my nicknames is Light. On weekdays mostly I am a Software Developer working in a company that specializes in developing Video-On-Demand systems. My main interests are traveling, surfing, scuba diving, and volunteering.

Something about you that many people doesn’t know about – I correct their wrong grammar in my mind. For this one, it’s ” something about you that many people don’t know about”. Kidding aside,  I want to become a philanthropist someday. When the interest from my investments are big enough to cover my traveling expenses and to help fund charities and volunteer organizations – that would be the ultimate.

I’m also on couchsurfing (, by the way.

Biking in Nami Island South Korea

Biking in Nami Island, South Korea

Related: Nami Island; Walking in Nature’s Art

I know travelling is your passion. So when did you seriously travel?

As soon as I got out of college and landed a job and got my salary. I wanted to trek to Pinatubo and surf in La Union (though not in one trip) way back in college, but my friends and I didn’t have the funds yet so we were always just talking about doing this and that. After graduating and securing a job, I was able to do the stuff we talked about with the same friends.

What do you prefer more, traveling solo or with a group?

Depends really. For me, when I have been traveling with groups a lot for awhile I tell myself , “I think it’s time again to travel solo.”  When I just want to let loose from the work and city life – I mean the daily traffic in EDSA can really take its toll on you – a weekend with a group of friends is nice. But there are also times when I crave for some solitude and not much into interacting with people, maybe because I have been a loner for so long, I just want to go out by myself. I remember a lot more moments from my solo trips.

Can you tell us more about the pros and cons of travelling solo? Especially for girls?

Pros:  You can be flexible with time and the activities that you do. There is no one waiting for you and you don’t have to wait for anyone else especially in making decisions. You can do whatever you want as long as it is within your limits – physically, financially, and all other aspects.
Cons:  There is no one there to help you out with your luggage. Could burn a hole in your pocket sometimes as expenses that could easily be divided among a group, you’d have to shoulder the entire cost. Security would also be an issue but as much as possible I really do my research first on my solo trips and be sure to stay alert and avoid the notorious places.

Paragliding in Cavite

Paragliding in Cavite

Of all the places you’ve been to, what is your most favorite and why?

Rio de Janeiro.  Rio is an amazing city; vibrant, rich in culture, awesome cites. I love their beaches and I also love to dance to the Samba music they play. I attended a bbq party of my friend there and they  had  a churrascaria setup, the meat was super delicious. I went there July 2014 on the day of the World Cup finale, it was crazy crowd in Copacabana beach. I want to go back, wait, I need to go back and experience more of Brazil that is such a huge country. I also want to explore other parts of South America.

Hang Gliding in Rio

Hang Gliding in Rio

The Philippines obviously has a lot to offer to Tourists. What are the ideas/things that you can suggest to help boost our Tourism?

Improvement of infrastructure. Currently, I would call it “infrustrature”  as in infrastructure that is frustrating. Our run-down roads and public transportation that is lacking in maintenance, i.e. the MRT that is breaking down from time to time, really needs improvement for safer and faster commuting. More airports, more runways to lessen airport traffic congestion. I hope to see the day that there would be a MRT station right next to national airport. If I don’t live to see that day, well a girl can dream.

We should also patronize ecotourism to help local communities and the sustain the environment. Ecotourism is good as long as the principles are met and the practices are implemented properly by that local community.

Haribon tree planting activity

Haribon tree planting activity

Social media and word of mouth. When I am conversing with someone who has never been to the Philippines, I tell them how beautiful the beaches are, the marine life is so diverse, and that the traveling and seafood is really affordable.

How do you plan and budget your travels? Do you have a list of all the places you’re planning to visit in the future? Or do you just book whatever comes to mind?

If it’s a big trip I budget and plan like crazy; read, read, read and research on the Internet. Whenever I am planning my itinerary, I get this crazy excited endorphin rush I can’t seem to specifically put into words. To the point that I am so giddy I can’t even get some proper sleep from over-excitement. I also ask friends to email me their itineraries if they have already been to the place I am about to visit for the first time. I am always on the lookout for seat sales and lodging promos and I am willing to sacrifice hotel and airplane bookings because I would rather spend money on exploring the place and eating good food. On budgeting, most of my savings fall into two categories only: investments and travel. For long out-of-the-country trips I put away travel savings months to a year before the actual trip. For short local trips, just a month of putting away travel funds will do. I do have a list of places I plan to travel to next year so I don’t think I ever just book what comes to mind. Usually, a future destination is already set in my head and I just snatch up the tickets for that trip on the next seat sale.

Related: Trabaho Ipon Travel Enjoy

You seem to travel like every month. How do you manage to travel and have a full time job at the same time? How many Vacation leaves do you have? I’m envious lol.

I haven’t really formed a conscious thought about me traveling almost every month until a lot of my friends have been commenting that lately. I’ve been working in my company for quite a while now so I have 20 VLs annually. I usually plan my vacation during holidays, and it seems that here in the Philippines there are holidays almost every month. I take advantage of the long weekends by filing leaves either at the start or end of the long weekend or both.  Again of course, the tickets I purchase are usually on sale. So it basically boils down to planning ahead and saving early.

Masskara Festival in Bacolod

Masskara Festival in Bacolod

What’s your second most favorite thing to do after traveling?

Now it’s volunteering. Had you asked me years earlier, I would have said surfing. Surfing is my first love, even before traveling, even if I have not become a pro at it.

On volunteering, I try to do something productive every free weekend I have when I am in the city so I volunteer at  CARA a pet shelter for dogs and cats and Save the Laguna Pitbulls

Laguna Pit Bulls

Volunteering by walking the rescued dogs of Save the Laguna Pit Bulls

I am also affiliated with a “voluntouring” (volunteer and touring) group called Project Lingap. We hold outreach programs by visiting indigenous groups  and have activities such as a feeding program, medical mission, play with the kids and distribute school supplies. We also listen to the issues these people are faced with and come up with solutions to address these. I know it’s kind of cliche this “good for you and good for the community” but with everything I have experienced, I just want to give back to the Universe. Making a difference in people’s lives, seeing a kid smile for receiving a backpack with some school supplies in it; it makes me want to do more and I know I am capable of giving something back.

Project Lingap

Voluntouring with Project Lingap

What’s the most extreme thing you did in one of your travels?

Not to scare anyone, but on my way to my second deep dive down to 100 feet I seemed to have over exerted in trying to equalize as quickly as possible then experienced some kind of panic and difficulty in breathing. But I have been going on diving trips recently and the more dives I do the more fun and exciting it is for me. I find diving challenging, being able to determine the limits of my body underwater and at the same time be awe-struck of all the wondrous aquatic life thriving under the sea. I realized also it can be quite calming even zen once you get to perfect your buoyancy and just breathe normally.  I got my PADI Open Water Certification last year and plan to finish my Advanced Open Water certification this year. To deeper and more adventurous dives!

Scuba Diving in Anilao Batangas

Scuba Diving in Anilao Batangas

Do you plan on doing long term traveling like a year or so?

For now, no. Taking a few days off monthly is fine with me. I got to work for the money. Who knows in the future I might take a month off, and then we’ll see if it could lead to a year or years of traveling.

Related: To Quit or Not to Quit your Job to Travel… That is the question

What’s the most important thing that Traveling taught you?

In traveling, you have to learn to be open, courageous,  and flexible to try new things. Things may not always go your way, learn to let go of the things you can’t control and just go with the flow. Just immerse yourself out there.

Bonus Questions:

What are the characteristics of Mr. Right for you?

He should love to travel and volunteer (he has compassion to help others, humans or animals) and he uses his money wisely. Knowing how to scuba dive and having a great sense of humor are plus points.

Related: 5 Reasons to Marry A Guy Who Travels

What if you found Mr. Right but he doesn’t like to Travel. Would that be fine to you?

Please see number 13.  Who doesn’t like to travel? That’s just absurd. Or maybe I could slowly influence him by taking him on trips that we both would enjoy. That might change his outlook on traveling for the better.

Related: 10 Reasons Why I Love Traveling With My Wife

If you will meet your future self today (30 years older), what one question do you want to ask her?

Have you been to Mars? If you haven’t, why the heck not? (Di na ako umaasa kung may MRT na ba sa may airport natin so hindi ko na yun tatanungin. LOL)

Any awesome tips or message to all travelers and aspiring ones out there?

To all travelers and aspiring travelers out there, good vibes to you all! Plan your travel, and travel your plan. Be alert of seat sales and promos in the places you’re going to. Most of them are easy to google and if you’re lucky or if you’re early you might just be able to get yourself a good deal. If you book ahead most likely you’ll save more. If you are a foodie like me, go and try out the local cuisine. Go where the locals eat. As with most of the things in your control, if your heart’s in it you’re bound to do whatever it is you want.

Taking the plunge at E.A.T. Danao, Bohol

Taking the plunge at E.A.T. Danao, Bohol

Read: 20 Budget Travel Tips: South East Asia

Munira’s Next Travel: Bantayan Island in Cebu


He is a programmer by profession but has a soul of a traveler. Aside from his ultimate dream of travelling around the world, he loves to eat, drink, listen to music, talk about aliens and the occasional secret guilty pleasure of singing love songs in videoke. His favorite superpower is to teleport from one place to another. I guess you know why.