For some people, one of the best things about traveling is they get to meet new people. They go out of an airport, and chat with the tricycle driver. They enter a restaurant, and engage the owner or chef in conversation. A temple becomes a place not just for worship, but also for cultural exchange with one of the caretakers.
Even if he had been to a lot of places throughout his career, Lester still feels inspired to keep traveling. “There’s still so much to learn about the world, I feel it will take me a lifetime to discover them all,” he said.
Tales from these chance meetings are what a group of travel photographers and storytellers are chronicling through Juan of a Kind Stories, (www.facebook.com/JuanOfAKindStories). A project of Cebu Pacific Air, this online initiative showcases snippets of people’s lives from different corners of the globe, celebrating travel, connections, differences in culture, and the candid encounters with people one can meet in one’s journeys. From the heartwarming to the humorous, each anecdote captures the aspirations, quirks and passions of people from various backgrounds.
“More than mere movement from one place to another, more than seeing the most breath-taking sunsets of our lives, more than engaging in novelty experiences nowhere to be found back home, travel is a transformative experience,” said travel photographer Aaron Articulo.
Among the participating storytellers for Juan of a Kind Stories is travel photojournalist Lester Ledesma, who has been writing about and photographing Asia for over 14 years. “I like that Juan of a Kind Stories focuses on people and not the places. Travel is always more fulfilling if you meet somebody along the way,” said Lester. “This project gives our readers the experience of meeting someone from another place.”
Another storyteller, Aaron Articulo traveled to three Southeast Asian countries and 10 provinces in the Philippines the past few months, and met people from all walks of life, gender, race, religion, and social class. He shared, “It has made me realize that at the end of the day, we are all truly equal—we are human beings, with the same desires, same aspirations, and the same dignity.”
Among my favorite pictures that I took for Juan of a Kind is this one of Manang Lucila,” said Aaron. “Her smile is so genuine and beautiful.”
Places, people, perspectives
Capturing unique stories through photos and videos, while traveling, is nothing new for Lester and Aaron. But Juan of a Kind Stories remains an exciting and fascinating project for both because of the variety of subjects they meet.
Lester counted Peter Chua of Malaysia among his favorite subjects for Juan of a Kind Stories. “I was peeking into the window of a closed magic shop in Johor when a man—Peter—called out to me from a cafe. It turned out that he owned the store and was a famous magician in the city,” Lester shared.
His new friend regaled him with magic tricks right at the café and even invited him into his shop. “I filmed him performing the first trick he ever learned,” said Lester. “For a famous magician to give you a private show for one – man, that was quite an experience!”
For travel photojournalist Lester Ledesma, Bhutan is one of the most interesting places in the world. “I’ve always been drawn to exotic cultures—the farther from our own, the more interesting. They also have a very strong culture and it’s fascinating to see our world from their point of view,” he said.
Meanwhile, Aaron said that one of his most inspiring Juan of a Kind Stories was that of Trio, an 11-year-old professional surfer from Bali. “The boy came from a broken family and ran away from home at a young age. He starved for a few days on the streets, until a good Samaritan fed, clothed and adopted him, even though the man had his own children,” he shared.
Aaron added that Trio’s newfound father turned out to be a surf instructor in Kuta Beach. “When Trio was ‘old enough,’ he brought him to the beach and taught him how to surf. In a few months’ time, the boy became a professional surfer, won pro-level surfing competitions, and now teaches at their mini-surf school in Kuta Beach. It’s like Trio found new life at the beach,” Aaron recounted.
Lester and Aaron join other storytellers Ferdz Decena, Hub Pacheco and Jojo Pensica in discovering the wonderful stories of people from around the world. Visit JuanOfAKindStories.com and follow its official Facebook and Instagram pages (@JuanOfAKindStories) for more.