This strip of islands in the southwest of the Philippines, surrounded by the West Philippine Sea and the Sulu Sea on either side, is an archipelago of its own. Islets of every size and terrain rest within her slender body, as her earthen pores open into lagoons and rivers that flow back to the vast seas. From being extolled as the last frontier of the Philippines to the countless times she was voted the world’s best island, Palawan has enchanted the whole world, ripe and ready to be explored.
So that’s what we set out to do. By bike, by boat, by seaplane—we take three different trips to the same lavish land and come out with three takes on what this beaut has to offer the traveler on the paths less traveled.
On the (land) cover Gerard Cancio; Photographed by Sonny Thakur
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We have a copy of The Travels of Marco Polo in the GRID office—more than one, probably. We like it because it is a reminder of a long-gone time, all of 800 years ago, when the world was new and unexplored, when every journey was a journey of discovery that might as well have taken them to another planet. When we have the incredible luxury of being able to circumnavigate the globe in comfort and with great speed—and with lost luggage as the greatest danger most of us will ever have to face—it’s important to remember what it took for ancient travelers to discover the world for us. The world will never be that new and that alien again, but we can still hold on to the wonder, the magic and the romance of travel.
But there’s another thing that we like about The Travels: it was very popular when it came out; it was the equivalent of a bestseller, which was even more of an achievement considering that this was centuries before the printing press was invented. Readers hung on every word of Rustichello da Pisa’s retellings of Marco Polo’s journeys down the fabled Silk Road, as he released the stories by chapter. It is proof to me that GRID comes from a long and noble tradition that has sustained the human race for as far back as we can remember. We are not just in the business of adventure or of travel for travel’s sake; we are in it so that we can bring back stories.
(And lest you think this has nothing to do with our own heritage, please make a pilgrimage to the Lopez Museum and Library, and ask to see the oldest known printed book in the Philippines. Note what kind of book it is.)
By now you see that this is not your ordinary GRID magazine issue. This outing reflects a sea change in the way we’re doing things. First off, we are switching from a bimonthly to a quarterly release, which in turn means that we are going to come out with thicker issues every three months, in a format that is more suitable for collecting and revisiting.
We’ve always said from the very beginning that GRID wasn’t your usual travel magazine, and we believe that we’ve lived up to that promise—sometimes in ways that surprise even us. You, our readers, have come to us to tell us what works, what we’ve been doing right, what you’d like to see more of, what we’ve come to mean to all of you. You’ve helped tell us where to go, and where you want to go with us. In that journey, we’ve come to realize that we’ve outgrown the traditional magazine format, and that we ought to fashion ourselves so that our physical form matches the stories we want to tell. The thicker, quarterly format allows us to have more space to tell you those stories, and also gives us more time to go out and gather those stories and realize them more fully on our pages.
Fittingly, for this new format, we’re also doing something new and something big. This relaunch features three different covers, three different takes on the same province. It’s all about Palawan, which will always be known as the last frontier, no matter how popular a travel destination it becomes. We arrive at different places in Palawan through different means—through land, sea, and air—and come back with radically different stories and reflections on the act of journeying and coming home. We can’t think of a better way to reintroduce the GRID mission to you.
For us, this new format is also a leap into uncharted territories. Are we scared? Of course we are, a little bit. But that’s what travel is for: to push us into the unknown, to see who we can become.