The Backpack

For my very first Field Notes post, I think it’s fitting to talk about packing up for my trip to the Philippines. This will be no ordinary vacation because I’ll be roving through all three main islands to conduct an investigative reportage project on corruption, human rights violations, as well as illegal mining, logging and land grabbing.

Due to the nature of my project and the type of terrain I will be traversing, my gear list might look a lot different compared to yours.


  • Slim high-quality backpack
  • Smartphone
  • 20000 mAh Power Bank


  • 12-inch 256GB Macbook (because it’s lighter than my favored VAIO laptop)
  • iPad Pro (easier to handle when taking multimedia notes out on the field)
  • Foreign cash (ATM withdrawals abroad is a pain in the ass due to fees; cash is king. Just be sure that you don’t go over $10,000 USD when going through TSA. Bank of America makes it easy for you to order foreign currency so that you don’t have to deal with exchange fees abroad. Mine shipped from Los Angeles and got it the next day. Be sure to keep the invoice it came with in case authorities question you on where you got the money from because you’ll look like a drug dealer, well-financed terrorist or CIA clandestine operative).


That’s Philippine Pesos, Singapore Dollars and Russian Rubles. The PHP wins because it looks like Monopoly money.
  • First Aid kit
  • Pens and notepads
  • Nikon D7200 DSLR
  • Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
  • Satellite phone


  • Multitool and pocket knife (check your destination country’s laws on the maximum length you’re legally allowed to carry)
  • Maps and compass (because you can’t depend on GPS that could die on you in the middle of nowhere)
  • Specially encrypted Blackberry Bold with remote swipe (for secured calls and texting highly-sensitive information)
  • Light hiking boots (Adidas makes some great ones. This will allow you to comfortably go through different environments, from trekking down a mountain to dodging police tear gas in an urban riot).



  • Tor Browser
  • VSCO + Lightroom (get the Adobe Cloud package to save a lot of money)
  • Final Cut Pro X
  • TunnelBear VPN
  • WhatsApp + Skype (so you can make international voice and video calls back to the U.S. without charges. The U.S. Embassy in Manila has a Skype ID).


Although it seems like a lot, my gear set is actually quite light and is tech-centric. In fact, I might not even use my DSLR and Zoom recorder that much since the new iPhone 7 Plus will have a dual lens camera and has a pretty decent audio recorder app. So I will test it out in the field and see if my mobile solo-journalism methods are good enough to get the job done.

Also, being a dual American-Philippine citizen, I only use and take out my U.S. passport when I’m going to countries that benefit Americans, such as more relaxed tourism visa requirements (or lack thereof). However, I use my Philippine passport when going to countries and territories that are hostile towards Americans.

Well, folks, that’s about it for now. I might update my gear list later on, but that’s pretty much a good peek inside my backpack.

This WordPress blog will be my home for a while since I’ll be posting field notes, features, photo essays, and snippets of my project(s) throughout my stay in Asia. ‘Til next time.