Reel Philippines: Volcanoes and National Parks

This year, as part of our groundbreaking Reel Philippines series, we sent Josh Cowan and Jack Harries of JacksGap to The Philippines to film incredible volcanoes and National Parks.

While the videos speak for themselves, what about the story behind the lens? Watch the video with Josh’s director’s commentary below and read on for an insider’s glimpse in exploring, and filming, in the Philippines.

Reel Philippines: Volcanoes and National Parks

Though I’d been to the Philippines last year for my brother’s wedding (I went swimming with the whales in Boracay – amazing!), I’d never explored the main island and honestly knew nothing about it. I asked Jack to come along to be featured in the piece and help film and, once we heard it would be focusing on volcanoes and National Parks, it was a no brainer really. Something genuinely new and different in an incredible location, what’s not to love?

Mount Pinatubo

First stop was a town called Angeles, three hours north of Manila. The surrounding area is such a deserted location, it felt like the people living there had popped from nowhere to watch us film before disappearing back into the landscape. But that’s the thing with The Philippines, so few people from the outside know about it that it retains an incredible magical quality, as if anything could happen.

We’re not in Chiswick any more

We woke up early the next morning and drove three hours through a desert of ash, stopping half way to get the drone shots. The drone was a hit wherever we went and whole villages would come out to see it fly. We played around and flew it over the heads of the local kids who totally loved it. We did try to be careful with it, it’s not a cheap piece of kit, but to get some shots we had to go pretty high and we actually nearly lost it a few times – but that’s all part of the adventure. Also we’ve nearly lost it in Chiswick so you never know.

The Eighth Wonder of the World

From Angeles we travelled for 8 hours on a public bus, stopped off in the middle of nowhere, and hired a minivan for the rest of the way. Not on purpose. There were no buses till the morning. Another 8 hours travelling brought us to Banaue and the “Eighth Wonder of the World” – the rice terraces.

We stayed in a guest house in the middle of the fields and flew the drone from the roof to get the overhead shots. We followed this with a ride through the terraces where we sat on the roof of a truck with our guide Romeo. It was, surprisingly, really relaxing! Bumpy but serene with an amazing view and a good breeze to cool us in the heat of the day.

The volcano watches

Another highlight from the trip was dream-like Legaspi, which features towards the end of the film. The volcano looms over everything and you can see it from pretty much every point in the city. Given that it was getting more active by the day at the time we arrived it felt more than a little ominous. Once again it seemed we were one of the only outsiders there – but this remoteness is not going to last forever. Apparently Zac Efron filmed here last year, so it’s only a matter of time before the hordes descend…

Filmmaker Josh Cowan – as told to Anna Corbett

Watch the original video from Jack and Josh, as well as the other videos in our Reel Philippines series focusing on beaches, island hopping and social tourism, and discover a part of the world you never even realised existed…