MANILA, Philippines – “The more we see, the more we realize that there is more to see. This reflects the global trend towards micro guides, and we wanted to give Filipinos (and tourists to the Philippines, of course) a chance to have this at hand.”
Kissa Castaneda-McDermott is talking about Wander, a newly-launched series of city guides. Wander takes the micro guide format (the first of its kind locally), with each issue focusing on a specific city. It folds out to reveal beautiful maps and illustrations, insider tidbits and other interesting facts.
The team behind Wander reads like a roll call of seasoned creatives: Kissa, a lifestyle editor and writer, spearheads the content production, curation and editing with fellow writer-editor Dang Sering. “We are working with some of the most well-respected and dynamic visual creatives in the field: Inksurge, graphic designer and illustrator Dan Matutina and photographer Charles Buenconsejo,” says Kissa.
“We hope to collaborate with guest designers and artists along the way.”
Design plays a special role in Wander’s production, not only because of who makes the team, but because of their belief that design is transformative when given a primary role.
“Through design, we can immediately communicate and engage with our readers,” adds Kissa.
A closer look at the Philippines, one city at a time
It is a love for travel, print and design that brings the Wander team together.
“We don’t even have a decent city map at the airport so there’s really a gap and an opportunity,” Kissa says, pointing out a most obvious need back home. “In cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo, there are a lot of foldable and portable guides and maps but there was nothing of the sort here.”
Wander tugs at (and counts on) people’s innate curiosity, especially when piqued by insightful and surprising information. Each micro guide presents a city through the different points of view of 5 city locals, who give suggestions and itineraries for the reader-traveler to explore.
These locals were selected because they “know the city well; meaning, they really live there and are real residents of the city,” Kissa explains. “We also try to choose from different disciplines and inclinations so they can offer a distinct perspective.
“We are also conscious of their ‘specialty’ (e.g. one geographical area) so we can paint a comprehensive picture of the city. We put a lot of thought in the people we chose — they have to have lived there and know the city well — so that we cover all bases, from history to art to food.”
Manila, where it all began
Wander’s first issue celebrates a rediscovery of the city of Manila.
Kissa says that such a movement is apparent, taking note of “98B’s Hola Escolta initiative and Manuel Ocampo moving his art gallery to Mabini. Adaptive reuse and restoration is just starting and will only continue if the public also expresses interest.
“I hope they use Wander to explore and realize there is much to see as well as improve in Manila. It’s on the verge of a positive turn and I hope it will continue.”
The first issue demonstrates how the micro guide format allows Wander to go in-depth in their explorations. Instead of impersonal tourism cliches and overviews, Wander presents, for now, the city of Manila through bits of write-ups, itineraries with Q&A and attractive illustrations, mostly generated from Wander’s own interactions with Manila’s local residents.
This focus on a city at a time (instead of looking at the whole Metro Manila region, for instance) gives Wander the ideal platform to showcase the city’s distinctive personality, its quirks and nuances.
Explains Kissa, “Each city, even those belonging to Metro Manila, have different characteristics, and we hope to put that forward by focusing on it. For example, Manila is definitely more historical, while a guide for a city like San Juan might be more food-centric.”
Wander also attempts to invite tourists to take a real look at the city, to stop and truly see, says Dang.
Kissa admits that working on Wander made her see Manila in a new light, too.
“I was able to explore Escolta, even go to the rooftop of a Beaux Arts building and see a mesmerizing view of Pasig and the Post Office. “
Exploring a city, after all, should not be an invitation to foreigners alone. Both locals and tourists can learn something new and interesting, given the right perspective and effort.
Local production, local love
Wander’s all-Filipino team is supported by like-minded sponsors who willingly invested in the idea.
“Our publisher, Five Ports, relishes the idea that we want Wander to be primarily a print product and they are helping us explore fresh ways in which to render print.”
Even more good news: Wander is distributed for free, although copies are limited.
More goodies come in the form of free postcards, produced in collaboration with Kape Maria to celebrate their Maynila house blend coffee, as well as Wander’s first issue.
Wander is best experienced in its print form, but is also visible online via www.letswander.ph and on Instagram (@wanderph). The print copies are available at Heima Brixton, LRI Design Plaza Makati and Fully Booked High Street and Rockwell (among others) with more distributions points being added to the roster. – Rappler.com