6: Glen Santillan of Escape Manila on Oversleeping in a Train, Surviving Afghanistan, & Promoting Mindanao

Calaguas Talicud


This is #6 of interview with a traveler series with some of the most followed travelers in the blogosphere. Our aim is to pick a portion of their traveling minds to inspire you to get on the traveling lifestyle and help you acquire a wider perspective on life while life happens to you.


Glen Santillan is the Davaoeño traveler and photographer behind Escape Manila. He’s on a mission to showcase everything outside the Philippine capital deep in to the more relaxed side of the country. More importantly, he’s out to promote Mindanao and change the way the world sees the beautiful island. He’s been to the safest (Batanes) and the scariest (Afghanistan) and back, perpetually escaping Manila.


Learn a thing or two, and as Seth Godin would say, more importantly, do something about it.


Interview with a Traveler #6: Glen Santillan


Someone walks up to you somewhere in travel and asks you, “What do you do that makes you feel alive?” What would your 10 second answer be?

I travel to live. I live to travel.

Glen in Basco, Batanes Airport

Glen in Basco, Batanes Airport


How did you get into the point of being a true blue traveler (and not just a weekend tripper/vacationer)? Bring us to that moment.

It was in 2009 that I embraced traveling. I was vacationing at my friend’s place in Singapore and out of the blue I came across a blog about backpacking. Then, I suddenly want to travel around Southeast Asia so I read more blogs. After a couple of days, I found myself in a bus going to Johor Bahru in Malaysia. It was the beginning of my 15-day trip to Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

What was holding you back from being a traveler?

Financial matters and commitment with my current job.

What are the top 3 things you never travel without (excluding basic necessities)?

I can’t travel without my

  • menthol cone
  • headware
  • external HD

What’s the first 90 minutes of your day in travel like?

My first 90 minutes are usually spent learning a little bit more about the town/city I am visiting. It means, I walk around and just see what’s in store for me.

What’s that traveling habit/skill you wished you have?

Mountain climbing skill, I haven’t climbed a mountain yet.

Glen in Gigantes Lighthouse

Glen in Gigantes Lighthouse

What’s your worst traveler moment?

The worst traveler moment I’ve had was when I overslept in a train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. I wasn’t able to alight in Penang and I already passed two stations. It was around 3 am and I don’t have a clue about the place I was in that time. The next trip from that train station back to Penang will be late in the morning so I had to look for other alternatives to go back to Penang.

How did you get away/around it?

I followed the locals and walked from the train station to the market. It was dark and I was a bit scared. The first trip of the local transport to Penang was at around 5am so I stayed in a cafeteria.

What’s your biggest takeaway from that experience?

I met some locals and had a good chat with them.

What’ your biggest weakness as a traveler?

I can’t swim and I have a fear of heights but I am already trying to overcome it.

Glen falls IMG_4531

What’s your biggest strength as a traveler that makes you the best to travel with?

I am an outgoing person so I can easily mingle with different types of people. If you’re with me, we can easily tag along with new friends.

Cagayan de Oro  white water rafting

Cagayan de Oro white water rafting

Give us one aha moment you had while in travel.

When I landed in Kabul International Airport. It was like… so this is how Afghanistan looks like (click for his travel account).

Currently, how are you generating income?

  • I work as a freelance HR consultant.
  • Writing travel articles
  • Advertising from my blogs

Of all the things you’re doing, what’s the one thing that has you most fired up right now?

I am really excited to write more about Mindanao. I want Mindanao to shine in terms of local tourism. There is much more to see and experience in the Island.

Surigao Tinuy-an Falls IMG_7096

Glen in Surigao’s Tinuy-an Falls


What is a personal habit that you think contributes to your success?

I am determined. I have a goal and I do my best to reach the stars. haha

Tricycle IMG_0948

Internet resource that has been useful for you in travel

One book you highly recommend

Not travel related but it talks much about life – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (click to download free copy).

If you were to live again with a clean slate, give us a visual of how your life will look like.

I’d probably do the same path as I have now. It’s not that smooth but I learned a lot from my mistakes and misadventures.



To end this interview, what’s your one parting piece of guidance?

Always travel within your means. You don’t have to travel far to have fun. There’s more to experience in your town/city that you might have not done yet. -@escapemanila

What’s the best way we can connect with you?

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @escapemanila or Like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/escapemanila


Thank you, Glen for your generosity with your time and insights! Safe travels wherever you are today and we hope you continue to come home changed!


If Afghanistan was the riskiest place Glen has been in, what was yours? Share your experiences in the comments section for all risk and adventure junkies to explore, too!

All photos are from Glen of Escape Manila


If you’re feeling inspired to travel, here’s a FREE Travel Itinerary Template to get you started planning your next trip!