The Making of Lakbayan (Part 1)

3:41 pm PHT

As promised, here’s the follow-up post for those interested in the technical and behind the scenes details of Lakbayan. This goes out especially to all those people who have been asking me how I implemented the grading system.

I’ve divided this post into two parts because the details are quite long. (I’ve noticed that I like to ramble a lot. Hehehe.)  :)

An Idea Was Born

I mentioned in my launch blog entry that Lakbayan was inspired by the Visited Countries application. Well, that’s just half the story. I came across Visited Countries last year but the idea to create a Philippine version did not come to me then.

The idea for what was to become Lakbayan just popped into my head when I read this blog travel entry by my fellow Wikipedian TheCoffee over four months ago. In that entry, his last line says “I can now say I have been to 8 of our 7,107 islands.”

That got me thinking, “How sad, I’ve only been to three islands: Luzon, Mindoro, and Negros.” (Well, four, if you count my trip to San Antonio Island in Puerto Galera where the Long Beach is located.) That was the moment I had the cool idea to create an application that lets you make a tally of the Philippine islands you’ve been to. I quickly ditched the islands part (since Luzon and Mindanao are far too big) and tried the provinces strategy. That didn’t pan out as well since there are a lot of cities that aren’t part of any province, like Baguio, Zamboanga, and Davao. I went instead with a hybrid approach of dividing the country into “travel units,” splitting the provinces into their component tourist spots, major cities, and islands. I’ll talk about that in a little while.

The idea for Lakbayan was born then but I only spent very little time during the intervening months thinking about it. Most of the thinking time was spent on creating the list of places and planning the implementation details. The bulk of the actual construction time was during the long weekend prior to Lakbayan’s launch.

Dividing Up the Archipelago

The list of places I drew up is probably one of the two most contentious parts of Lakbayan (the other being the grading system). I wanted a list that was representative but wasn’t too long. As I mentioned above, just having a list of 81 provinces and Metro Manila is not enough. There are a lot of cities that don’t have provinces and I don’t want people who’ve been to Boracay claim the whole of Aklan already.

A few people have suggested that I go down to the city and municipal level, but with 1,600+ towns and cities, I’m sure you’ll agree that the list would become prohibitively long and tortuous to answer. (Several people are already saying that my current list is already toxic to fill out). Besides, I don’t expect people to know that Boracay is part of the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, or that the Subic Bay Freeport Zone is divided between Olongapo City and Morong, Bataan, or that Amanpulo is part of Agutaya, Palawan. And really, do you remember what towns you’ve passed through going from Manila to Baguio? (Taray. Hehehe.)

Most people already don’t have a good grasp of Philippine geography so I think my current list of 160 “travel units” is pretty much in the correct balance zone. I might separate a few more tourist spots but I think this is enough for now.

The problem I have is explaining what comprises the “remainder” of most provinces and what constitutes “eastern” and “western” Laguna, for example. A planned enhancement to Lakbayan is the addition of pop-up boxes explaining what towns, cities, and tourists sposts comprise a given location.

Grading Your Travels

Ah, the grading system. I originally did not plan to give out a travel grade; I just wanted to display a map since I’m really fond of maps. But I figured that giving out a grade would make the Lakbayan much, much more viral. And I was right! People talked about the Lakbayan and compared their grades. I’m not quite so sure Lakbayan would generate the same amount of buzz if there wasn’t any grade.

So before I explain the grading system, I’d like to point out that the grading system for Lakbayan is my sole prerogative. Think of me as a teacher who gives out a quiz and how I grade the quiz is my decision alone. This is to head off all those who think their grade is unfair.

That said, I will admit that the original grading system I had when I launched Lakbayan was too unforgiving. Too many people were getting D’s and F’s and they weren’t differentiated much.

So I overhauled the grading system after two days of getting some actual data. The new grades are now how I expect them to be. I can now actually just quickly look at a map and then predict the grade with a high accuracy. I’m now quite satisfied with the grading system and it’s unlikely that I will tweak it drastically anymore.

So how do I compute your grade? I’ve already explained this to Abe and Rico when they asked about it during the Bayanihan Blog Network Meet-up, so I’ll just write down what I said. First, you get 1 credit for each of the travel units you have visited at least once. For the locations you’ve just passed through, you get 1/3 credit. Next, you group the travel units into Luzon, Palawan, Visayas, and Mindanao. Divide the credits you received in each group with the total number of travel units in each group. (There are 76 units in Luzon, 9 in Palawan, 31 in the Visayas, and 44 in Mindanao.) Halve the Palawan quotient and then get the sum of the four groups’ quotients. Divide the total by 3.5 and you get the final percentage.

The conversion from percentage to the letter grade is as follows:

  • 85–100 - A+

  • 73–85 - A

  • 61–73 - A-

  • 50–61 - B+

  • 40–50 - B

  • 31–40 - B-

  • 23–31 - C+

  • 16–23 - C

  • 10–16 - C-

  • 5–10 - D

  • 0–5 - F

The grading system is slightly curved in favor of the lower grades because that’s where most people are. This way, there is more differentiation between those getting C’s, D’s, and F’s.

So why do 76 Luzon units collectively have the same weight as 31 Visayas units? Well, it’s generally harder to travel the Visayas unlike Luzon where you just take road trips. Therefore, a Visayas unit is essentially equal to about two Luzon units. This also means that a Palawan unit is equivalent to about four Luzon units.

Palawan is a special case because, after all, it is the Philippines’ last frontier, is the country’s largest province, and its islands are quite spread out. (Have you ever been to Tubbataha Reef in the middle of the Sulu Sea?) So a tip for those wanting a higher grade? Go and explore the Palawan archipelago to get maximum points!

If you still think that the system is unfair or it’s not objective or I’m not considering other factors, just remember that you shouldn’t take the grade seriously. It’s all in the spirit of fun! Don’t be grade-conscious! Nothing’s on the line here except some playful teasing amongst friends. Hehehe.

That’s it for part 1. Stay tuned in for part 2.  :)

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