Don’t be a stranger in Türkiye

Travel expert Jaison Yang believes that Filipinos are now more ready than ever to travel the path less taken — “Ito yun mga destination na (These are the destinations that) no one was paying attention to because they think it’s difficult to get there; but people are becoming more daring and adventurous compared to before.”

As people gear up for revenge travel, where should they go first?

Sitting down for Daily Tribune’s online show Spotlight with managing editor Dinah Ventura, Jaison Yang, president of Travel Warehouse, Inc., and influencers Kevin Lapeña and Ashley Gosengfiao stopped by to talk about their recent trip to Turkey, also known as Turkiye, their passion for travel, and why Filipinos will love the West Asian destination.

The lively trio call themselves the pandemic travel buddies, having started traveling together in 2020. They continue to aid in the promotion and revival of tourism now that most restrictions have been lifted, in collaboration with the Department of Tourism.

Ashley is a lifestyle content creator with a focus on gaming, and Kevin is a TV and events host by trade, having produced and hosted many travel shows across different networks, all of which led to his friendship with Jai.

The trio, along with a group of media friends and colleagues, recently spent the last 10 days in Turkey experiencing everything under the sun, arranged by Jaison Yang’s own Travel Warehouse, Inc.

Having started his travel agency in 1999, Jai aims to provide experiences beyond photo opportunities, and he believes Filipinos are ready for these kinds of trips. “We have many Filipinos going on Europe trips now,” shares Jaison, adding that trips to more exotic destinations like Central Asia and Greenland are now also in demand among Filipinos, even Antarctica.

“Türkiye is a top-choice destination for Filipino travelers,” shares Jai. “Turkey has everything from A to Z.” In a video filmed and edited by Chris Gids that summarized their 10-day trip, Jai assigned an adjective for every letter of the alphabet. “If you want culture, Turkey has that. If you want a vibrant city, Turkey has that. History and nature, Turkey has that. Not all countries have that.”

All three agree that Turkey was magical. Kevin shares, “I think one of the things that made Turkey a very memorable trip for me, aside from all the destinations and the company that we were with, was the personal touch that Jai really went out of his way to make us experience.”

Better in person

The travel expert says every place they went to was a standard stop on any Turkey itinerary, “but what will make your experience that much more memorable was the hospitality.”

He talks about their experience in Cappadocia, which Ashley mentions was also her favorite part of the trip. “The day we went on a hot air balloon, we woke up at 2 in the morning, so ang aga nag (it really was an early) start; after the trip, pagkabalik namin sa [cave] hotel, sabi ng receptionist(when we got back to the hotel, the receptionist told us), ‘Sir, please proceed to the roof. You have a surprise there.’ Jai had stayed behind and set up one of the most beautiful champagne breakfast setups I’ve ever gotten to see. Kita mo yun buong Cappadocia tapos nag-aalmusal kami ‘dun (We could see the whole Cappadocia while having breakfast). That’s not usually part of trips like this (but) Jai made us really experience it.”

Before the trip, they felt it was right to temper their expectations. Ashley recalls, “When I was googling photos to prepare my outfits, naisip ko, ‘Ang gaganda naman ng mga photos na ‘to, totoo kaya? Baka nasa angle lang ito.’ […] And when you’re there, you would realize na totoo pala. Ganyan pala talaga siya kaganda in person (I thought to myself, ‘These photos look great, but are they real? Maybe it is just in the angle…but when we got there, I saw that it was all true. That was really how beautiful these places were).”

Kevin says, “Para kang nasa (It’s like being in a) postcard.”

Jaison adds, “It’s even better.”

‘Don’t be a tourist’

They believe Turkey’s versatility is one of its most attractive features. “It has everything. It can be a pilgrimage tour, it can be a cultural immersion, it can be a food tour,” shares Jai. He notes the significance of Christian pilgrimage sites like the one in Ephesus, where Mama Mary stayed for her last few years, and traditional food like Turkish Delight and Iskender kebab, a donner kebab meat dish with tomato sauce, bread, fries and yogurt.

Jaison adds that Filipinos tend to travel within their comfort zones. “We just need to give it a chance. If you think a particular food looks strange, just taste it a little, and if you don’t like it then don’t eat it but at least you tried because that’s part of any travel. You haven’t completed your travel if you haven’t tried the local food. For me, it’s a must.”

Kevin shares, “Makikilala mo din yun personality ng isang lugar when you try their food (You also get to know a place better through their cuisine).”

Ashley also admits that before the trip she was never that fond of history. “Totoo yun pupunta lang dun para mag picture (It’s true about people traveling to a place just to get a photo),” she shares. “Now, sobrang nag research talaga ako sa (I really read up on the) history, kasi now I’m appreciating this because napaka-rich talaga ng culture ng Turkey (and I am able to appreciate it better beacuse Turkey really has such a rich history), and it would be a waste and a shame if you don’t immerse yourself.”

Kevin shares, “I was advocating the same as Jai — when you travel, don’t be a tourist. You try to be a traveler where you get to absorb the culture of the place that you’re visiting. Be it the food that they eat, the lifestyle that they live, yun mga pastime nila, and getting to travel with Jai and the rest of the group, especially in a place as beautiful as Turkey, the style of travel that we did for each destination pinuntahan talaga namin, I really felt na kahit for a short snippet within that month at least we were able to experience what it was like to actually be in Turkey.”

“You have to be open-minded, because if you’re always in your comfort zone then I think traveling is not for you,” shares Jaison. “No matter how good your travel agent is, bad things will always happen and you have to manage that and be open about it.”

He continues, “Consider travel an opportunity to learn new things. You don’t travel because you want to have photos and show the world that you’ve been there. It’s more of learning something from the destination. You will immerse and you will also find yourself eventually.”

Jai reminds, “When you travel, aside from finding yourself you will also know more about your companion.”

Kevin also shares that if you want to get to know a person, travel with them. “It builds the bond with the group that you’re a part of. Parang ngayon naging close na lahat,” he says.

Jai invites, “We encourage everyone to visit the amazing and wonderful destination, Turkiye. Travel Warehouse has a nine-day program — everything is there, all you have to do is sit down, relax and enjoy for as low as USD 1,888 per person.”

Flights with Oman Air, accommodation, food, activities, tour guides and private transportation are all included and regular group departures will run until the end of November this year.

“As much as possible, go, because you’re gonna learn so many things,” shares Ashley. “Not just about those particular places but you learn more about yourself. Ang dami mong malalaman na things within yourself that are limiting you. You would learn those things and therefore maybe overcome them through traveling.”

Jai closes with a simple parting statement, “I think the best time to travel is now. We have to make up for lost time. It’s about time to catch up.”

He reiterates, “Travel is a wonderful experience. It will give you a different perspective, it will give you learnings that will surprise you.”

For more information on the nine-day program around Turkey, message @twirista on Instagram, or email at [email protected] Travel Warehouse curates trips all over the world and for more information, visit