These 4 Best Friends' Love For Travel Deepens Their Friendship

In this first installment of our sisterhood stories, we explore the lives of Catherine, Gina, Ellen, and Mary Ann. Their enduring friendship demonstrates that the right friends are always there for the laughter, tears, and unforgettable memories life brings.

Travel can take you to new and exciting places, but for these four best friends, it has also been a journey of discovery and deepening friendship.

Catherine Tan, Gina Tecson, Ellen Pinga, and Mary Ann Dy first met through their husbands, but their friendship solidified through their shared zest for life.

Twice a year, these globe-trotters set out on unforgettable trips, exploring the world and strengthening their bond with every mile.

From spontaneous getaways to premier destinations across the globe, Catherine, Gina, Ellen, and Mary Ann have built a unique sisterhood that goes beyond borders and cultures.

Whether they’re laughing over a funny story in Bali or sharing secrets in their hotel rooms, their travels are more than just sightseeing. Their adventures are a shared language of their lives, filled with inside jokes and life-changing experiences.

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A Friendship Built to Last

Gina Tecson and Ellen Pinga (Standing) / Mary Ann Dy and Catherine Tan (Seated)

As I stepped into the house, I was greeted by a warm, inviting atmosphere. Laughter and light conversation drifted from the kitchen, where I spotted the four friends seated at the table, sipping drinks and enjoying each other’s company.

Gina said, “Our group started with the husbands being golf buddies. Since then, we’ve become friends. And when my husband died in 2008, somehow we bonded more than our husbands.”

“Over the years, our personalities blended and we jived. When you travel together, when you sleep in the same room, that’s when you realize that these will be your friends for keeps,” she added.

Gina is known as the principal of the group. She keeps everyone in line when things get too rowdy and funny.

Gina Tecson

She continued, explaining how their friendship strengthened during the pandemic when they relied on each other for emotional support.

The four of them mentioned that while they were part of a larger group, the four of them got along the most. “We’re called the awesome foursome,” Gina said, and they all laughed.

Sun, Sea, and Sisterhood

The group’s name, Awesome Foursome, was coined by a tour guide during their trip to Australia.

From all their travels, there’s always one moment that stands out as memorable. Catherine talked about their visit to Sunlight Ecotourism Island Resort (SETIR). They all enjoyed the yacht experience. Mary Ann recalled their kids starting the music, leading everyone to dance. 

Mary Ann also mentioned, “We make it a point to go to Balesin once a year. That’s our bonding place.” She mentioned that they all love the beach, especially Gina and Ellen. “Not Catherine,” Mary Ann said, and they all laughed.

“Catherine hates sunlight. The three of us, but mostly Gina and Ellen, love the sun and the beach. Ellen would wake up at 5 am to walk from one end of Balesin to the other,” Mary Ann added.

Gina said, “Ellen is the most adventurous one.” Then, they talked about each other’s distinct traits. Mary Ann said, “Our group has different personalities. Catherine is the funny one.” Gina added, “and the maarte one!” They all laughed, noting Catherine’s role as their stylist.

For Gina, Mary Ann said, “Gina’s the strict one. Our principal.” Catherine noted that Ellen is their tour guide and treasurer. When asked about Mary Ann, Ellen replied, “The Madame,” and they all laughed again.

Mary Ann Dy

A Toast to Friendship

When traveling, there’s always one thing that stays the same no matter where you go. For Catherine, Gina, Ellen, and Mary Ann, it’s finding a good breakfast spot.

Gina said, “Every trip has something funny, and it depends on who has a major problem. We cry together, laugh together. These memories are embedded in each trip.” Mary Ann added, “Yeah, and every day brings a new adventure in a different place.”

As frequent travelers, you might wonder who chooses their destinations and how they agree on one place. The answer is simple: “When we’re drinking.”

Gina explained, “We come up with these crazy trip ideas when we’re drinking together.” They all agreed that aside from finding a good brunch place and exploring, one thing they love about traveling is shopping. But their greatest joy is bonding together, whether at home or abroad, talking about everything and giving advice.

While discussing their close bond, Ellen opened up, “During the pandemic, I lost my husband.” There was a moment of silence before she continued, “This group is forever. They really helped me during that time, even if it was just by telephone. There was no one else I could turn to because of the pandemic, but they were there for me.” The others looked at Ellen, who said, “I can lose everyone, but these three? I can’t.” Everyone got teary-eyed at her words.

Ellen Pinga

The four friends have been together for decades. They even have matching mugs. Catherine mentioned that even without talking, they seem to share the same mind, like telepathy. They coordinate effortlessly, bringing speakers, waking up at the same time, and using the bathroom in rotation without discussing it. This kind of friendship is something everyone desires. “We’re like a jigsaw puzzle,” Gina said.

They compromise, share suggestions, and resolve everything. Their dynamic is so smooth that, as Gina noted, “When there’s a slight problem, we talk about it.”

The Traveling Formula

Since they’ve been traveling together for a long time, I asked the four friends for their advice to new groups of friends who want to travel and strengthen their bonds through travel.

Mary Ann advised, “You really have to adjust to each other, everyone.” Ellen added, “Just be yourself. You have to adjust.” 

Catherine chimed in, “I agree with everything they said,” and they all laughed.

Catherine Tan

Gina, sounding more serious, said, “Honestly, I feel really lucky to have found my group. It’s hard. Not everyone finds such a close group of friends.” The three friends nodded in agreement and smiled at each other.

When they’re not traveling, they often like to visit each other’s houses. Mary Ann, a chef, loves to cook and bond with each other’s company, enjoying conversations over drinks.

When asked about a special talent they don’t usually share, Catherine replied, “Nothing. At this point, we don’t have any secrets anymore.” When I asked if any of them were good at dancing or singing, Mary Ann responded with a laugh, hinting that she’s a singer, though not in a professional capacity.

Bond Beyond Material Wealth

Moving to a more serious topic, I asked them how they define true wealth and luxury. Gina replied, “To be able to travel wherever you want.” They all agreed and she added, “Good health, and good friends. Friends you can rely on when you need someone to cry on.”

Catherine agreed, “True wealth for me is my friends. It is and will always be.” Mary Ann added, “It cannot be separated. Without your friends, I don’t know if your life will be at peace and complete.” She also said, “I believe that you’re a different person with your family and when you’re with your friends. I can’t imagine life without friends.”

Ellen said luxury for her is traveling solo. “I love going out solo. At this point in life, that’s kind of the path I try to take,” Gina added, “She wants to find herself.”

It’s amazing to see how they all travel together but also support Ellen when she travels solo because they understand her need to do it sometimes. Ellen, being the adventurous one, needs to have her own time to explore as well, and Gina, Catherine, and Mary Ann support her without hesitation.

Gina said if there’s something she does alone, it’s usually to exercise. Mary Ann mentioned that her “solo” activity is taking care of her grandchildren, which she’s super excited about.

Friendship is all about…

Lifestyle Asia asked Catherine, Gina, Ellen, and Mary Ann to complete the phrase “Friendship is all about…” 

Ellen’s one-word response was, “Respect. Friendships are all about respect.” Mary Ann said, “Friendship is life.” Catherine shared, “Friendship is all about being a good listener.” Finally, Gina expressed, “Friendship is all about finding the right people to go through life with you,” a sweet sentiment. 

The Treasure of True Friendship

Ellen Pinga, Catherine Tan, Mary Ann Dy, and Gina Tecson

As we navigate life’s ups and downs, our priorities often change, making it hard to keep up with things we used to do, like catching up with friends. 

Life’s constant evolution often pulls us in different directions, making it difficult to maintain the connections we once treasured. But those who weather the storm, who stick by our side through thick and thin, are the ones who truly shine in our hearts.

No matter what happens over the years or decades of friendship, if you truly fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, as Gina said, you’ll still be together decades from now.

Friends who understand the journey, who know when to laugh, when to hold your hand, and when to just sit silently by your side, are a rare and beautiful gift. They remind us that life is not just about what we do, but who we do it with.

The friendship of Catherine, Gina, Ellen, and Mary Ann is inspiring. It shows that friendship isn’t something you leave behind in your 30s or even your 20s. If it’s real, it lasts a lifetime. 

It’s in these moments, when friends gather over drinks and conversations flow effortlessly, that we see the beauty and simplicity of a connection that transcends time and circumstance. If this is not a dream worth pursuing, then what is?

Look forward to the next installment, where we’ll explore the adventures and strong bonds of another group of friends.


Photos Excel Panlaque of KLIQ, Inc.

Sittings Editor Candy Dizon

Shoot Coordination Mae Talaid

Videographer Kim Santos of KLIQ, Inc.

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