When a grade school friend invited me to speak before a group of students for a Travel Photography and Blogging Workshop, I never hesitated to say “YES” even if it was scheduled on the week after my 10-day ASEAN trip. I have two reasons for affirming. First, it will be held at Kalsangi Clubhouse of DOLE Philippines in Polomolok which I have longed to come back since my first visit in 2005 and the second and most significant, I’m taking another opportunity to share and inspire young individuals with my tales on the road and the humble learning I got from these unceasing travels.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (26)
The imposing view of Mt. Matutum from the vast DOLE pineapple plantation.

Polomolok is richest municipality in South Cotabato. In fact, it is said to be to the richest in Mindanao. The biggest contributing factor to the town’s great wealth is the presence of DOLE Philippines Incorporated, the world’s largest producer of bananas and pineapples. Majority of the company’s pineapple production facilities are located in town. Thus, Polomolok becomes synonymous to DOLE Philippines.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (1)
Old trees surrounding Dole Philippines School.

My invitation to conduct a Travel Photography and Blogging Workshop was from the DOLE Philippines School (DPS). The school is administered by the DOLE Philippines Foundation and most of its students are children of DOLE Phil employees. Through my friend Alner Fernandez, the school PTA President and DOLE Logistics Manager, this workshop was made possible.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (2)
DPS is situated inside the exclusive DOLE’s Kalsangi Housing Facilities

I had conducted workshops and trainings in the past with other resource speakers but doing it alone for the whole day was my first. Though I knew it’ll a lot of work and talk, I was gladly excited as my topic will spin around travel photography, travel stories and lessons I learned from the road – things that I’m all passionate about. And the thought of inspiring other people with these stories is something that I look forward to.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (3)
My students at Travel Photography and Blogging Workshop.

The workshop was attended by 28 students mainly from Grades 7 and up. They were one of smartest kids I ever met and I’m just glad they were attentive and keen about learning the basics of photography and blogging. I talked about traveling around the country and some parts of Asia and how it changed me as a person. I shared to them how all these unceasing travels started – from elementary dreams to realizing them. I’m so delighted to be able to inspire these little souls to start sowing their dreams and nurture them. At the end of day, I’ve got to see the output of my workshop through the photos they individually took while applying some of the tips I discussed during the workshop. Seeing those lovely photos was my greatest reward for that day.

DOLE Polomolok (2) DOLE Polomolok (4)Since I was housed at no less than the beautiful house facilities of Kalsangi, I also took time enjoying the cool atmosphere of the place and lavished myself sightseeing the imposing landscape that surrounds Kalsangi.

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (5)Kalsangi is an exclusive place where expats and top management of DOLE Philippines reside. It is nestled on the foot of the grandiose Mt. Matutum in Polomolok brilliantly designed with beautiful lawn, pine trees, cool breeze, American style houses, restaurant, and a 9-hole golf course – all in the middle of  the picturesque 10,000 thousand hectares of DOLE pineapple plantation. Though I’ve visited this beautiful community sometime in 2005, I was still fascinated by its captivating ambience like a first time guest. And by the way, I tasted the fresh pineapple of DOLE. Refreshing!

DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (4) DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (8)DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (23) DOLE Kalsangi, Polomolok (24)On Sunday, Alner and his family brought me to Trappistine Monastery of the Our Lady of Mt. Matutum situated on the highlands of Landan. The quaint monastery is run by the Trappistine nuns, a congregation under the Cistercian Order which started in France around 1098. The monastery is tranquil place of prayer, meditation and reflection. On Sunday, the monastery church is open to the public for the Sunday Mass.

Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (1) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (2) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (3) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (5) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (7) Trappistine Monastery, Polomolok (8)Thanks to DOLE Philippines School (DPS) through Alner Fernandez, I had one worthwhile weekend at Polomolok not only because I got to marvel at vast pineapple plantation of DOLE and that majestic Mt. Matutum but because I had the chance inspiring other people with all tales and learning I’ve learned photographing and blogging about places I’ve been . To be able to inspire young souls is I think the highlight of this recent worthwhile weekend trip.

With Ate Maia, Alner's eldest and one of my students at the workshop.
With Ate Maia, Alner’s eldest and one of my students at the workshop.
Thanks Al for the wonderful weekend.
Thanks Al for the wonderful weekend.

To Alner and Ann and their beautiful kids, my deepest gratitude!