It starts out with a dream. There’s always a vision for a company. There are goals and objectives to achieve, and difficulties to overcome. Xplorra had a lot of potential for a startup travel company.
It aims to be a complete travel experience platform for local discovery and travel planning: explore places, book experiences and engage with the locals—whenever, wherever. Its mission is to transform your travel journey into smaller, simpler, and happier experiences by building relationships between thousands of attractions, vacation rentals, events, and activities in every city, town, and province.
It wants you to explore local.
When you look at the #XplorraStory hashtag on social media, you’ll get a lot of travel stories from different people such as this one:
However, the stories you’ve never heard of are within the company itself. It all started with Luisa Dalafu’s Facebook post:
She urges Perry Sumakote, the vice president of the company, to prioritize the payment of the company’s employees. “Pag deadlines ng website kaylangan matapos, pero pag sa sahod wala ng pansinan.”
She shares with We the Pvblic her story, a payment that has been impending for almost a year already:
“Developer ako sakanila for almost a year. And project ko yung Xplorra na site together w[ith] 3 na freelance. Na hindi siya bayad or wala akong commission kung san mang client niya yun kinuha. Yung last cut off ko hindi na bayaran.”
Someone anonymous also gave us the experience of dealing with the CEO of Xplorra, JR.
“For me naman, I still planned to stay on because I really needed the money but things started to get toxic na like sometimes we’d go out to lunch tapos when we got back, one of our officemates cubicles got trashed (we suspected it was JR because he was the only one there), I wanted to get my ass out of the company na. I submitted a letter of resignation so many times na but he just wouldn’t let me go.
There was even that one time he confronted all of us in a meeting and he said that they were still not registered in BIR because they had “problems” with their financial status and papers but we all knew that was just bullshit.”
“I will never forget that one time he took it out on me. That was one of the scariest moments in my life. He knew I was the youngest in the staff. He asked me to go to the rooftop by myself and no one else. I was expecting something like a pep-talk or an interrogation. To my shock, he started screaming at me. At that time, I really wanted to cry and jump off the building because I was so scared and I felt so helpless no one was there with me… Even now when I think about it, it makes me shiver and cry. It left a huge scar on me emotionally.”
“What’s worse is, he didn’t give me my one month’s worth of salary + separation pay. He never gave me a single centavo… After I’ve worked 3 magazines and a ton of other client work for him before he decided to axe me.”
A Marvin Estacio also shared his experience:
“I have worked for travelibre/xplorra for 1 year and 6 months, noong unang part ng employment: maganda naman ang trato sa akin, nagwowork ako sa bahay lang then nagmemeet kami kapag kukuhain ko na yung allowance ko and kapag may importante kaming paguusapan. Di nagtagal, ay nakita kong parang umuunlad na kami gawa ng naghihire na siya ng OJT’s, developers, at nakakuha pa kami ng opisina sa kaparehong building ng flat niya. Dahil sa expansion, kinakalingan ko nang pumasok araw-araw sa opisina. Ito na yung latter-part ng employment ko with them at dahil ito rin yung panahon na tinaasan niya ng bahagya yung allowance na binibigay niya sa akin.”
“Itong second part ng employment ko, napansin kong mas lumala na. Kasi kung dating weeks na delay lang ang pagbibigay ng allowance ko, ngayon ay buwan na. Dahil doon nagpasya akong kausapin si JR para tanungin kung anong nangyayari. Nalaman ko na mayroon siyang financial crisis na kinakaharap. Bilang solusyon ng sitwasyon na aming kinakaharap, nabuo ang ‘Thundervault’ na company.”
He mentions that he plans to move to Australia with his girlfriend to marry her. “Hindi naging maganda ang resulta ng paguusap namin noon, dahil ayaw niya akong payagan na umalis, pinapili pa ako kung xplorra ba o gf ko. Tapos nalaman ko pa na trabahador lang ang turing sa akin dahil nabanggit niya ang mga katagang: ‘Kaya hindi kita magawang gawing co-founder/CTO dahil hindi ko makita ang commitment mo eh.’”
“Ngayon andito na ako sa Australia with my wife, hindi pa rin nababayaran sa mga delayed allowances, hindi pa rin nababayaran ng commission under ‘Thundervault’.”
Lastly, Jonah Sergio shared her #XplorraStory:
“By October, JR hired me as a Content Development Associate. All were fine, he was giving our wages on time until December of 2015, I think that was the time he started giving our salaries late, in my case, half of my salary that month wasn’t paid until I left. When I officially joined Xplorra, JR had already hired two web developers under Marvin.”
“By summer the next year, I was planning to leave Xplorra bc (because) I figured it wasn’t progressing, but I couldn’t because I felt sorry for JR since there were only four of us left. So I stayed there, still willing to give my best – I even invited two of my friends to help us, they were fresh grads and were looking for experiences so they interned for us.”
“My respect for him as a friend was still there, but I knew I Xplorra was a sunk cost. Pero dahil I was a friend, I stayed pa for a while kasi Ayen and Deanna left after only a month of working with us (they left bc JR blamed them for the unsuccessful events while Josh didn’t even claim any responsibility, kahit si JR actually he didnt really help them). And somehow I felt responsible kasi I referred them.”
“Eto yung recurring feeling sa Xplorra, kahit hindi mo naman kasalanan, iisipin mo kasalanan mo, most of the time dahil kay JR. Na master nya ang gaslighting technique.”
“By May, pinasok ni JR si Perry Sumakote, he’s now the VP and head din sa marketing, may new editor din na kinuha. That time parang I felt hope na gaganda na takbo ng Xplorra.”
“By May, pinasok ni JR si Perry Sumakote, he’s now the VP and head din sa marketing, may new editor din na kinuha, Lyra Reyes. That time parang I felt hope na gaganda na takbo ng Xplorra.
Again I felt bad for JR. That same day na nawalan kami ng office, I was about to ask him for my salary kasi late nanaman. Pero yun yung nangyari so wth. I only had 100 pesos with me, JR asked Perry to give me 500 pesos just to get me through for ilang days. Very depressing.”
“I was becoming more stressed and more cynical sa office, I also became more distant with JR (we were super close before, tapos naging si Perry bc nga I wasn’t always agreeing with him). So feel na feel na ni JR that he lost control of me and that worried him. September ako nung umalis, I was planning to leave quietly and mag submit pa din ng resignation with 30 days’ notice pero JR and I had a fight one night. He was lashing out on me dahil umattitude daw ako sa kanya the other day sa meeting when I only defended why hindi pa tapos uploading ng website kasi the task was handed to me only a few days earlier. So after that night, I didn’t show up at work, I also emailed them for my immediate resignation.”
“So ayun after a few weeks, I emailed JR and asked for my salary. JR never answered, he was always a coward, so laging sumasagot when it comes to singilan or other confrontation ay si Perry. They agreed to pay me pero the condition was I had to meet with Ate Vina sa SM Megamall, I went for it kasi gusto ko na lang matapos ang lahat.”
“So I received the money naman. Ang alam ko, out of everyone who asked for their salaries, ako lang nabigyan. Maybe because I was the only one who sent an email and threatened I’d go to DOLE. Ayen and Deanna did the exact same thing after I was paid, Ayen received her reimbursment pay pero yung half of her salary na hinihingi nya, wala pa din while Deanna didnt receive a single reply. Same with Luisa.”
We asked for comment from VP Perry:
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