In the slew of upgraded selfies, beautiful sceneries paired with overused travel quotes, and a bunch of one-person minimalist photography, there are those who pursue Instagram beyond just aesthetic. Though there’s nothing wrong with being focused solely on visual appreciation, I believe that with such opportunity to influence, there’s a responsibility to be a little more thoughtful than usual. With feeds looking like mood boards more than a personal album of memories, it's influenced quite a bunch of people to document life differently, moreover changing their way of life altogether. A few of those people are the founders of SinoPinas. Established by four local Instagram heavyweights; Raniel Hernandez (@rayniyel), Karl Ivan Presentacion (@larkvain), Alexis Lim (@sinosijuan), and John Austria (@mvltiple), their brainchild grew to become the number one Instagram destination for Philippine travel and photography, while also being able to pursue a life of traveling.
The idea is genius, the play on words and its execution, impeccable. Their name, SinoPinas (Who is the Philippines? - when translated in english) explains exactly what they want to achieve; to simply introduce the Philippines. And the brilliant part, they don’t exactly do all the introducing. They encourage everyone to do it with them, using #Si(name of location) to label their photos accordingly. “Si” an english translation of "this is", is used as an introduction to each location, and a mark of the SinoPinas ingenuity. Try searching for #SiCoron, #SiBatangas, #SiBaguio, and more on Instagram to know what I mean. Each hashtag is full of photos that showcase the destinations, just imagine a Philippine travel photo library meticulously organized online, particularly on Instagram - you get the amazing SinoPinas network.
Personally, I would always recommend their account and hashtags to everyone who’s looking for reference about Philippine travel and destinations. It’s convenient, authentic (Because it's crowdsourced, some are actually from locals who know each destination best) and most especially, visually appealing. And to get to know them a little further, we’ve engaged them for a short interview about the concept of SinoPinas and local travel.
"We travel because we want to earn a fresh insight and form a different sense of happiness."
We asked them to introduce themselves separately, and here are the things they shared.
Raniel Hernandez: I graduated from the University of Asia and the Pacific with a degree in Information Technology, and then I studied a year course in Professional Photography at the College of Saint Benilde. During weekdays, I work as a multimedia designer for AirAsia Philippines and during weekends, I do freelance photography projects. I became one of Instagram's Suggested Users and has worked with local and international brands. My ultimate goal is to travel for work.
Alexis Lim: I'm a social media manager by profession who enjoys traveling as much as I love photography. I graduated with a degree in Management Accounting from UST, but pursued photography right after that. I studied Professional Photography in CSB to know how the industry works. Through Yabang Pinoy as a Social Media Manager, I was able to develop a sense of pride of being a Filipino, and I learned to support PH-made products more than ever. And as part of Sino Pinas, I was able to become a traveler that I always imagined myself to be.
Karl Ivan Presentacion: I think it would be fitting to share that I don't have any creative background at all and I graduated with Bachelor’s degree in English. I used to practice Human Resources until I decided to pursue my creative career. Back when I was in school I really loved art (drawing and crafts) and taking pictures. I have no formal training or background as an artist or photographer but my willingness to learn, and being inspired urged me to take my creative skills to the next level. I was deeply captivated to both medium because of its astounding ability on making me feel great as a person. Today, as an art and photography enthusiast I got a chance to be involved in a community who share the same passion as mine, and it opened a lot of opportunity for me to explore and get more creative.
John Austria: I am currently working in Thomson Reuters’ Financial & Risk sector as a client support executive for Investment Banking. Despite the complexity of my current job, I still managed to develop my creative side. I started with Instagram curating a mix of creative portrait and landscape from my adventures. Funny thing [for the past two years of taking photos], I still do not have my own camera [DSLR] but I’m considering to have one soon. But I'm lucky to have worked with local and international brands despite the shortcoming.
After the short introductions we head on to an interview with John, he answered in behalf of the Sino Pinas team.
Our attitude towards traveling has developed continuously because there is a certain kind of fulfillment we want to achieve. One of the core reasons why we travel is because we want to invest in experience - may it be breaking our routine, meeting new people, learning new ways of living, disconnecting from the city’s hustle and bustle, or what have you.
We travel because we want to earn a fresh insight and form a different sense of happiness. When we start realizing this, a stronger connection is built within our community. It becomes a domino effect as it reaches one person after another. We become more appreciative of the simple joy that our nature brings, we are reminded on how to value time by lightening up, we learn to respect culture as we become aware of it, we boost our self-confidence especially in situations that are out of our comfort zone. We become more educated and we find out that there are so many scenes to explore. We have shaped a new set of perspectives which catalyze changes. Above all, we start to discover ourselves even better.
Travelers nowadays don't travel just for the sake of traveling, it seems like there's more purpose to it. You are also a believer of this, can you share to us your thoughts?
Traveling with purpose is like searching. It’s easy to say that as humans, we always search for something that validates our existence – something that reminds us whether or not the things we do are still making sense. It measures our ability to grow and become better individuals.
So we say - traveling always comes with a purpose. It does not have to be grand but it always exists. It’s running through our veins. If you travel for no apparent reason, you'll discover why as you go along.
What do you want SinoPinas to achieve?
To be an established travel brand that promotes creativity and social responsibility.
We built this community not knowing where this would lead us. All we knew was we wanted to share our creativity through photography. We wanted to connect with people who share the same interest as ours until it grew to something bigger – an advocacy. We want to equally inspire and get inspired by the community we lead. We want to discover and introduce places anew.
Simple as it may sound, we want to advocate in boosting local tourism and encourage people to travel. We want a certain amount of creativity while going out for adventures. More importantly, we want to educate people on how to become responsible when – learning how to respect nature as much as respecting others’ culture.
I'm curious, what are your top five places to visit in the Philippines?
We always love to look back to places where we’ve shared great times with our community and we have it in five prongs:
1. Biri, Samar
2. Siargao, Surigao del Norte
4. Batad Rice Terraces, Ifugao
5. Islas de Gigantes, Iloilo
Where do you recommend a person to start to be able to fully appreciate the Philippines?
This one’s the most difficult question and rather debatable.
There are so many places around the Philippines where one can start to fully appreciate it. It’s kind of subjective because we all have different point of views but what we can say is start from your home – your comfort zone. Take a moment to revisit all corners of your home before making a decision to go out of it.
In our case – Manila. This is where SinoPinas was born. For the many of us, it’s the Philippines. Explore the Philippines first before you jump out of the country and be reminded that there is no place like home.
Lastly, what are your future plans for SinoPinas? Any upcoming plans we should look forward to?
This year is all about planning and execution. We have planned to work with brands that support our advocacy. Our campaign is to deliver series of content covering every aspect of traveling – from the physical attribute to culture and even conflicts that revolve around places. We also plan to expand our team by working with people as contributors. We plan to launch our website this year so people will have better visibility of our content.
We are also considering to be recognized by the Department of Tourism and work for some projects with them. Our second anniversary in November will define how we’re gonna move forward for the succeeding years.