Boracay…a case of abused tourism

BORACAY…a case of abused tourism

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

I was tempted to use the title, THE RAPE OF BORACAY”, but on second thought, I opted to use the subtle, “abuse”…

 

More than five decades ago, Boracay was a pristine island with sugary-white fine sands and littering the shores, were bleached to whiteness corals and sponges. The shores were sparsely dotted with lean-to shelters of fishermen. During the 70s, the puka and heshi shells were discovered by enterprising locals and made them into exotic bracelets and necklaces. Soon enough, its shores got pockmarked with diggings that were as deep as three feet down. The accessories and jewelries from the stringed shells were so much in great demand in Europe, that many villages as far as Tablas island of Romblon became engaged in this “cottage industry”. That was the time when I came to this part of the archipelago as a new recruit of Philippines….and I saw them all.

 

From where we stayed, Alcantara and later Looc, we would wait for calm seas under the full moon during which we would venture out to Boracay on pump boats, stopping for a short sojourn on the Carabao Island which was along the way.

 

Philippine Airlines through its Tours and Promotions Office was advocating some kind of a “backyard tourism” in which local residents were encouraged to accommodate incoming tourists in their homes or put up simply- furnished cottages preferably made of local materials, especially, bamboo. That was what we counseled the local officials of Aklan which has a jurisdiction over Boracay, every time we were invited during their tourism-related seminars. That was what the late Governor of Antique, Evelio Javier also advocated. He proudly guided me around Boracay despite my having told him that I had made previous visits to the island when I was assigned in Tablas station of Philippine Airlines.

 

A few years later, resorts that started with two or three cottages were built, followed by bigger structures, until in so short a time, the whole island literally got covered with modern accommodation facilities. Septic tanks leaked with the waste flowing to the sea encouraging the growth of algae. Prostitutions reached its peak as practically, the island throbbed with activities for 24 hours….drugs followed.

 

Where did the revenue of the touristic facilities, with some owned by foreign investors go?  Part of it of course found their way to the maintenance and wages. But does the remaining chunk, ever find its way to the local banks or are there any other investments in other parts of the province for tangible projects?…or siphoned to the investors’ banks in Manila and later diverted to their home country!

 

Practically, Boracay has been “raped” by investors as what happened to islands mined of their natural wealth such as black sands, copper, nickel, etc. The colonies of bacteria from the septic tanks that flowed into the shallow waters of Boracay shall be there forever…as manifested by the thick growth of algae washed to the shores every morning.

 

It took a guy with a firm resolve from a guy, Rodrigo Duterte to put a stop to the abuse of tourism that has destroyed Boracay. It is a shame that what he did could be done by local officials but they did not lift a finger….a big question that they, themselves, can answer!

The Sad Plight of the Philippine Tourism Industry

The Sad Plight of the Philippine Tourism Industry

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

I find it unnecessary to hire Consultants who would come up with “tourism plan” for LGU units that are already with potential tourist destinations. Why the need for a Consultant when all that the tourists need are ONLY clean accommodation facilities, exotic foods and honest tricycle or taxi drivers? And, worse, with the Consultant coming yet, from outside the community being promoted!

 

Is it difficult for a local government to require stallholders in the public market to maintain cleanliness?…for restaurant owners to have clean restrooms, tidy halls, and staff clothed in clean uniform and with a ready smile? Or, is it difficult for a local government to call on the drivers of public conveyances to be courteous and be honest?…why the need for a Consultant to dictate what to do when all the things that should be done are supposed to be just dictated by COMMON SENSE?

 

Puerto Galera in Mindoro did not become famous because of Consultants, and so are Boracay, the scuba diving sites around the country, the mountains, the caves and the festivals. PHILIPPINE AIRLINES DID A LOT IN PROMOTING THEM AS PART OF ITS AIR TRAVEL EDUCATION PROGRAM. The Department of Tourism just “researched” on them so that they can have something to print in their brochures that they displayed in their “field” offices around the country and some cities around the world. They literally picked up easily the “opportunities” of already famous tourist attractions of the country.

 

CONSULTANTS WERE NEVER HIRED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO MAKE WHAT THEY HAVE AS TOURIST ATTRACTIONS BECOME FAMOUS. UNFORTUNATELY, THE LACK OF CONCERN FROM THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO PRESERVE THEIR PRISTINE BEAUTY AND THE GREED FOR MONEY OF INVESTORS, PRACTICALLY, SPOILED THEM….AND, BORACAY  IS THE BIG PROOF!

 

The word-of-mouth system of promotion also did a lot…made by satisfied travelers who told their friends when they went back to their countries. THERE WAS NO PLAN. What is worse that is happening today is the idiotization of festivals of different cities and towns that differ only in outlandish costumes but with street dancers moving to the same rhythm and beat copied from the Ati-atihan of Ibajay in Aklan and later, Kalibo, as well as the Binirayan of Antique. In fairness to some of them,  however, there are many towns who are steadfast in coming up with costumes symbolic of their festival or celebration. But generally, the general impression about the festivals is “…if you have seen one, you have seen them all…” WHICH IS NOT GOOD AND SHOULD SERVE AS A STRONG SIGNAL TO THE DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM TO DO SOMETHING.

 

The Philippines is lagging behind the rest of the traditional destinations in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore with even those that had a late start-up like Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia catching up. It should be noted that even Singapore is making to full use the “colors” of its rich multi-faceted culture that include street foods and market scenes. On the other hand, the rest of the highly-attractive nations are also doing the same with the same pride. Meanwhile, the Philippine tourism guys think that the country MUST hold an international pageant to make her popular!

 

The country should be thankful to Duterte whose feisty and rhetorical statements have earned added curiosity of the world and the respect of many nations….but to the guys who are salaried to work for such purpose?…WELL…!#$@^&%$!

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The Threat of Uncontrolled Tourism…signals the downfall of Philippines’ Last Hope

The Threat of Uncontrolled Tourism

…signals the downfall of Philippines’ last hope

By Apolinario Villalobos

Due to the unbecoming effort of the Philippines to become a prime tourist destination in Asia, it disregarded one important factor in this kind of industry – control of infrastructure. One glaring ruthless result of this is the virtual “rape” of Boracay Island. The tiny island fringed with white sand beaches is now suffering from the onslaught of the uncontrolled rise of 5-star hotels and resorts that resulted to the pollution of its water due to overflowing septic tanks. The once pristine and clear waters are now covered with layers of muck and algae.

What happened to Boracay can happen to any other touristic destinations around the country. The problem lies in the failure of the Department of Tourism to spearhead and advocate eco-tourism which is what the Philippines, as a third-world country, needs. The people behind the desks in the offices of the agency seem to have forgotten that not all tourists require luxurious hotels and resorts. These people thought that for a destination to be attractive, it must have 5-star luxurious facilities, that is why, they keep on encouraging investors to put these up in prospective and thriving destinations.

During the 70’s, “backyard tourism”, the precursor of “eco-tourism” has been advocated, primarily, by Philippine Airlines in cooperation with travel agents and the earlier eco-oriented personnel of the Department of Tourism. The idea was to give the opportunity of managing the needs of the tourists to the locals. In line with this, establishment of comfortable facilities, not the type of multi-storied hotels and expensive resorts, were encouraged. The backyard tourism was conceptualized to preserve the exemplar setting of the destination, thereby, preventing the drastic alteration of its landscape. Also, the locals are given the chance to show what the real Filipino hospitality is like. But those former people of the agency are gone, supplanted by another set of personnel with a different outlook.

With agriculture gone because of the once rice fields giving way to malls and condo buildings, slumping fishing due to the problem with China in the West Philippine Sea, denuding of forests due to careless logging, and exhaustion of mineral deposits due to incessant ventures of foreign stake holders, the only hope left is with tourism…but at the rate another form of abuse is going, the Philippines will be finally left with nothing else that can be seriously called “industry”, and which Filipinos can be proud of.

Rediscover the Philippines Through Scuba Diving

Rediscover the Philippines

Through Scuba Diving

By Apolinario Villalobos

The Philippine archipelago that comprises more than seven thousand islands and islets, is something to behold from air – islands fringed with white beaches, rolling hills, mountains capped with green, with some hills and valleys showing patches of green and brown , strewn between the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. During the 80’s, the joint effort of the national government and the private sector comprised of Philippine Airlines, scuba diving outfits and travel agencies, resulted to the creation of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, with the Special Committee for the Development and Promotion of Underwater Diving Tourism as its action arm. From the end of Philippine Airlines, the representative was its Tours and Promotions Division, with its personnel, Edgar Buensuceso, Julio Luz and Thelma Villaseῆor. That was the outlook of dive tourism when the industry was yet, kicking high.

Today, with or without joint effort between the government and private sector, the country deserves to be re-discovered because of the vast paradise that covers its ocean floor. With some 34,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the Philippines could well be dubbed as the scuba diver’s haven. From the northern islands down to the atolls of the south, what the country brags virtually make it the ultimate destination for this aquatic sport. The geography of the country may make one’s movement seemed hampered. But who cares if at the end of a grueling cruise or a combined air and land travel a submarine paradise beckons?

If one may start with the northern islands, there’s Fuga to try. It is a part of the northernmost province – Batanes. Then going down to Pangasinan, there’s Santiago Island off Bolinao. On the eastern cost of northern Luzon are Polilio Islands of Quezon Province. All these are accessible via land transport, except for Fuga, going to which would need a chartered plane.

South of Manila are dive sites which are accessible via Batangas City. The veritable subaquatic gardens of Nasugbu, Balayan Bay, Verde Island, Anilao coast, and Sigayan Bay, practically fringe the coast of Batangas province.

Mindoro, an island of two provinces south of Batangas, also has colorfully-alive marine parks to offer. These areas are those around Lubang Islands, Apo Reef and Semirara, all on the western side of Mindoro. On the eastern side are the equally colorful coral beds of Puerto Galera and Buyallo.

Marinduque, the “Moriones Island”, has Tres Reyes and Mompog to offer. The island province is accessible by air and combined land and water transport, either through Lucena City or Gasan.

The surrounding waters of Visayas region are replete with motley colonies of corals inhabited by pelagic fishes. Romblon, for instance, has Dos Hermanas and Cresta de Gallo; Antique and Aklan with their Batbatan and Boracay. Cresta de Gallo and Sicogon Islands of Iloilo, also have memorable dive experience to offer, and there’s yet, Nagas Island to complete this old province’s list of dive spots.

A marine sanctuary, Sumilon Island, is easily reached from Dumaguete City, although, it is geographically part of Cebu. The sanctuary is being maintained by the Silliman University. Another island which is frequented by divers in this part of the country is Apo which is also just a short distance from Dumaguete.

Cebu, the country’s seat of Christianity prides in its dive sites that attract hordes of divers throughout the year, except for Capitancillo, an islet which is at its best from April to October. From Mactan Island in the north to Pescador Island in the southwest and the Danajon Banks, there seemed to be not just enough time for exploration. A popular snorkeling and diving destination among shoestring-budget tourists in this island is Moalboal which is noted for its laid back atmosphere.

From Cebu, Bohol is just a few hours on a ferry. This Chocolate Hills-famed island-province has added two of its islets, Cabilao and Panglao to the already long list of destinations which divers have been frequenting. Both are resplendent with colorful marine life throughout the year. Aside from the ferries from Cebu, the island-province is also accessible from Manila on regular daily flights.

The diagonally-lying island of Palawan is gifted by Nature with atolls and islets, some of which are not yet thoroughly explored. These are the Calamianes Island, Cuyo Islands, Cagayan Islands, Green Island Bay, Bacuit Bay, Ulugan Bay, Honda Bay, Balabac Island, Taytay Bay, and Tubbataha Reef. Down south in Mindanao, divers will delight in Davao’s Talikud Island, Zamboanga’s Sta. Cruz Island and the island sanctuary of Camiguin.

Most of the dive sites in the Philippines are yet in their unspoiled stage, thanks to their almost impossible accessibility. The rest, however, are frequently visited, so that concerned local governments have already started to impose strict regulations.

Interested parties are advised to make advance arrangement with dive shops if they intend to visit islands and reefs so that necessary coordination and clearances can be made with concerned government agencies. Dive packages are also offered by some tour agencies. Some resorts, however, such as those in Anilao (Batangas), Boracay, and Puerto Galera, offer on- the- spot arrangements. Seaside hotels Cebu can assist visitors with their dive requirements.

With tourism as among the last resort revenue earning industries of the Philippines, much effort is exerted by both the national government through the Department of Tourism and the different concerned private sectors in regulating it along the line of ecology.

Rediscover the Philippines Through Scuba Diving

Rediscover the Philippines

Through Scuba Diving

By Apolinario Villalobos

The Philippine archipelago that comprises more than seven thousand islands and islets, is something to behold from air – islands fringed with white beaches, rolling hills, mountains capped with green, with some hills and valleys showing patches of green and brown , strewn between the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. During the 80’s, the joint effort of the national government and the private sector comprised of Philippine Airlines, scuba diving outfits and travel agencies, resulted to the creation of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, with the Special Committee for the Development and Promotion of Underwater Diving Tourism as its action arm. From the end of Philippine Airlines, the representative was its Tours and Promotions Division, with its personnel, Edgar Buensuceso, Julio Luz and Thelma Villaseῆor. That was the outlook of dive tourism when the industry was yet, kicking high.

Today, with or without joint effort between the government and private sector, the country deserves to be re-discovered because of the vast paradise that covers its ocean floor. With some 34,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the Philippines could well be dubbed as the scuba diver’s haven. From the northern islands down to the atolls of the south, what the country brags virtually make it the ultimate destination for this aquatic sport. The geography of the country may make one’s movement seemed hampered. But who cares if at the end of a grueling cruise or a combined air and land travel a submarine paradise beckons?

If one may start with the northern islands, there’s Fuga to try. It is a part of the northernmost province – Batanes. Then going down to Pangasinan, there’s Santiago Island off Bolinao. On the eastern cost of northern Luzon are Polilio Islands of Quezon Province. All these are accessible via land transport, except for Fuga, going to which would need a chartered plane.

South of Manila are dive sites which are accessible via Batangas City. The veritable subaquatic gardens of Nasugbu, Balayan Bay, Verde Island, Anilao coast, and Sigayan Bay, practically fringe the coast of Batangas province.

Mindoro, an island of two provinces south of Batangas, also has colorfully-alive marine parks to offer. These areas are those around Lubang Islands, Apo Reef and Semirara, all on the western side of Mindoro. On the eastern side are the equally colorful coral beds of Puerto Galera and Buyallo.

Marinduque, the “Moriones Island”, has Tres Reyes and Mompog to offer. The island province is accessible by air and combined land and water transport, either through Lucena City or Gasan.

The surrounding waters of Visayas region are replete with motley colonies of corals inhabited by pelagic fishes. Romblon, for instance, has Dos Hermanas and Cresta de Gallo; Antique and Aklan with their Batbatan and Boracay. Cresta de Gallo and Sicogon Islands of Iloilo, also have memorable dive experience to offer, and there’s yet, Nagas Island to complete this old province’s list of dive spots.

A marine sanctuary, Sumilon Island, is easily reached from Dumaguete City, although, it is geographically part of Cebu. The sanctuary is being maintained by the Silliman University. Another island which is frequented by divers in this part of the country is Apo which is also just a short distance from Dumaguete.

Cebu, the country’s seat of Christianity prides in its dive sites that attract hordes of divers throughout the year, except for Capitancillo, an islet which is at its best from April to October. From Mactan Island in the north to Pescador Island in the southwest and the Danajon Banks, there seemed to be not just enough time for exploration. A popular snorkeling and diving destination among shoestring-budget tourists in this island is Moalboal which is noted for its laid back atmosphere.

From Cebu, Bohol is just a few hours on a ferry. This Chocolate Hills-famed island-province has added two of its islets, Cabilao and Panglao to the already long list of destinations which divers have been frequenting. Both are resplendent with colorful marine life throughout the year. Aside from the ferries from Cebu, the island-province is also accessible from Manila on regular daily flights.

The diagonally-lying island of Palawan is gifted by Nature with atolls and islets, some of which are not yet thoroughly explored. These are the Calamianes Island, Cuyo Islands, Cagayan Islands, Green Island Bay, Bacuit Bay, Ulugan Bay, Honda Bay, Balabac Island, Taytay Bay, and Tubbataha Reef. Down south in Mindanao, divers will delight in Davao’s Talikud Island, Zamboanga’s Sta. Cruz Island and the island sanctuary of Camiguin.

Most of the dive sites in the Philippines are yet in their unspoiled stage, thanks to their almost impossible accessibility. The rest, however, are frequently visited, so that concerned local governments have already started to impose strict regulations.

Interested parties are advised to make advance arrangement with dive shops if they intend to visit islands and reefs so that necessary coordination and clearances can be made with concerned government agencies. Dive packages are also offered by some tour agencies. Some resorts, however, such as those in Anilao (Batangas), Boracay, and Puerto Galera, offer on- the- spot arrangements. Seaside hotels Cebu can assist visitors with their dive requirements.

With tourism as among the last resort revenue earning industries of the Philippines, much effort is exerted by both the national government through the Department of Tourism and the different concerned private sectors in regulating it along the line of ecology.

Aklan (Visayas Region, Philippines)

Aklan
By Apolinario Villalobos

Aklan, which was known before as “Akean” could be considered as both the youngest and the oldest province of the Philippines. Together with what is now Capiz, it was established as the “Minuro it Akean” by settlers from Borneo in 1213. The location of the capital of Aklan was changed several times. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, the capital was moved to the present site of Batan which was captured by a group of Chinese adventurers led by Datu Kalantiaw in 1399 from Datu Dinagandan. Kalantiaw’s son, Kalantiaw III, set down in 1433, a written moral code which has come to be known as Code of Kalantiaw. The short-lived Kalantiaw Dynasty ended when Kalantiaw III was slain in a duel with Datu Manduyog, a legitimate successor to Datu Dinagandan. The new leader moved the capital to Bakan (Banga) in 1437. Several datus succeeded Manduyog, and when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi landed in Batan in 1565, Datu Kabanyag was ruling Aklan from what is now Barrio Guadalupe in Libacao.

During the time of Legazpi, Aklan was divided into five “enconmiendas” which were distributed among his followers. Settlements along the Aklan river were administered by Antonio Flores; those in the area of Mambusao, by Gaspar Ruiz de Morales; those in the present- day Ibajay, by Pedro Sarmiento; those in the area of Batan by Francisco de Rivera; and those in the area of Panay, by Pedro Gullen de Lievena.

Along with political changes, the Spaniards introduced Christianity that resulted to the conversion of thousands of Aklanons, and who, were baptized by Father Andres de Aguirre. Towns were laid out following the Spanish system -each organized around a plaza surrounded by the church, municipal building and the school. Roads were also carved from forests to connect the principal towns to each other. In 1716, the area of the old Aklan was administered together with Capiz, as one province, but with the central government based at the latter.

In 1896, an Aklanon member of Bonifacio’s Katipunan arrived in Batan to organize the local struggle for freedom. The battles fought are commemorated today by numerous municipal holidays, with New Washington’s “Pacto de Sangre” as one. Having developed an identity of their own, including a distinct dialect, the people of Aklan did not feel it right that they should be governed from Capiz whose inhabitants spoke a different dialect.

When the Spaniards ceded the Philippines to the Americans, the Aklanons petitioned for their separation from Capiz. In 1901, upon the arrival of the Taft Commission in Capiz for the inauguration of the new civil government under the Americans, the Aklan delegation, headed by Natalio B. Acevedo, presented a formal request for the separation. The request was not denied outright, nor was it acted upon immediately. As a compromise, however, the Americans promised to set up a separate Court of First Instance for Aklan at Batan, and appointed Simeon Mobo Reyes as the first Provincial Secretary.

The struggle for separation became more intense, with the sentiment expressed in the “Akeanon”, a publication which initially saw print in 1914. Aklanons in Congress filed numerous bills, such as the Urquiola-Alba Bill in 1920, the Laserna-Suner Bills in 1925 and 1930, and the Tumbokon Bill in 1934.

Aklan, finally became an independent province when the late President Ramon Magsaysay signed into law on April 25, 1956, the RA 1414, separating it from Capiz. This law was authored by then Congressman Godofredo P. Ramos who, together with Augusto B. Legaspi, were chosen as delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention later on. The province was officially inaugurated on November 8, 1956, with Jose Raz Menez appointed by President Ramon Magsaysay, as the first Governor, and who, served until December 30, 1959. In 1960, Godofredo P. Ramos became the first elected governor, but upon his resignation due to his intention to run for Congress, he was succeeded by the vice-governor, Virgilio S. Patricio.

The Aklanons speak a distinct “karay-a” dialect much different from those spoken in other parts of Panay Island, and the accent is likewise unique. Most noticeable is the pronunciation of letter “l” as “y”. Just like the rest of Visayans, they however, are noted for their hospitality, kindness and charm. As for culture, theirs is also of a diverse blend of the Hispanic, American, and Malay.

Being a coastal province, Aklan is never without delightful beaches to boast, with those located at Numancia and Mabilo as the most proximate to the capital town of Kalibo. For spelunkers, there’s Tigayon Cave to explore.

Around seven kilometers from Kalibo is Banga with its Manduyog hill which was once used as a lookout against the marauding pirates. It is now the site of the Aklan Agricultural College. The hill also features life-size images depicting the twelve stations of the Cross, distributed along the winding trail cut from the side of the hill. From the crest, one can have a commanding view of the plains below, as well as, the Sibuyan Sea.

The province’s past is preserved at a shrine in Batan that serves as repository or museum of historical mementos attesting to its rich past. Batan was the seat of government of Datu Kalantiaw III, author of the famous moral code named after him. At Songkolan, four kilometers from the poblacion, is Ob-ob Hill where one can have a view of the Tinagong Dagat (Hidden Sea).

At Tangalan, an hour’s drive from Kalibo is Jawili Falls, a beautiful seven-tiered falls, set in a picturesque lush surrounding of trees and palms. Going farther northwest, one can reach the elevated town of Ibajay. And, several kilometers from it is Campo Verde, the pine-covered reforestation project of the province.

The twenty-kilometer Tulingan Cave is found at Nabas which stretches from Barrio Libertad of the town to Barrio Patris of Pandan town in the neighboring province of Antique. It features clear pools and guano deposits.

Passing through Buruanga, an historically significant town, being the temporary settlement of the early settlers during the Glacial Period, once can reach Caticlan, a barrio of Malay, and where pumpboats can be taken for Boracay, a world-renown island, for its powder- white sandy beaches. Due to the significant influx of tourists to the island, Caticlan has now an airport that can accommodate flights from Manila and other major cities.

Aside from Boracay, Aklan is also noted for its Ati-Atihan Festival celebrated at Kalibo every January, although it is alleged by some locals that the original festival was held at Ibajay. During the three-day celebration, the air reverberates with the shouts of “Hala Bira!” and “Viva, Sr. Santo Niῆo”. The feeling, as one is carried by the current of swaying and dancing devotees, is just ecstatic. No word is enough to describe the contaminating emotion amidst the deafening shouts, shrill sounds of whistles and ever increasing crescendo of beaten drums. One day is reserved for street dancing competition among “tribes”, during which the different local groups and some from other provinces show their dancing prowess and colorful costumes.

Kalibo, the capital town is served by different domestic airlines, shipping lines and ferries. Buses and aircon vans for Caticlan are available for those who would like to make a side trip to Boracay. The capital town was actually, the traditional jump-off point in going to Caticlan, until the latter’s airport was finally constructed to accommodate direct flights from Manila and other major cities.

Rediscover the Philippines through Scuba Diving

Rediscover the Philippines

Through Scuba Diving

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The Philippine archipelago that comprises more than seven thousand islands and islets, is something to behold from air – islands fringed with white beaches, rolling hills, mountains capped with green, with some hills and valleys showing patches of green and brown , strewn between the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. During the 80’s, the joint effort of the national government and the private sector comprised of Philippine Airlines, scuba diving outfits and travel agencies, resulted to the creation of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving, with the Special Committee for the Development and Promotion of Underwater Diving Tourism as its action arm. From the end of Philippine Airlines, the representative was its Tours and Promotions Division, with its personnel, Edgar Buensuceso, Julio Luz and Thelma Villaseῆor. That was the outlook of dive tourism when the industry was yet, kicking high.

 

Today, with or without joint effort between the government and private sector, the country deserves to be re-discovered because of the vast paradise that covers its ocean floor. With some 34,000 square kilometers of coral reef, the Philippines could well be dubbed as the scuba diver’s haven. From the northern islands down to the atolls of the south, what the country brags virtually make it the ultimate destination for this aquatic sport. The geography of the country may make one’s movement seemed hampered. But who cares if at the end of a grueling cruise or a combined air and land travel a submarine paradise beckons?

 

If one may start with the northern islands, there’s Fuga to try. It is a part of the northernmost province – Batanes. Then going down to Pangasinan, there’s Santiago Island off Bolinao. On the eastern cost of northern Luzon are Polilio Islands of Quezon Province. All these are accessible via land transport, except for Fuga, going to which would need a chartered plane.

 

South of Manila are dive sites which are accessible via Batangas City. The veritable subaquatic gardens of Nasugbu, Balayan Bay, Verde Island, Anilao coast, and Sigayan Bay, practically fringe the coast of Batangas province.

 

Mindoro, an island of two provinces south of Batangas, also has colorfully-alive marine parks to offer. These areas are those around Lubang Islands, Apo Reef and Semirara, all on the western side of Mindoro. On the eastern side are the equally colorful coral beds of Puerto Galera and Buyallo.

 

Marinduque, the “Moriones Island”, has Tres Reyes and Mompog to offer. The island province is accessible by air and combined land and water transport, either through Lucena City or Gasan.

 

The surrounding waters of Visayas region are replete with motley colonies of corals inhabited by pelagic fishes. Romblon, for instance, has Dos Hermanas and Cresta de Gallo; Antique and Aklan with their Batbatan and Boracay. Cresta de Gallo and Sicogon Islands of Iloilo, also have memorable dive experience to offer, and there’s yet, Nagas Island to complete this old province’s list of dive spots.

 

A marine sanctuary, Sumilon Island, is easily reached from Dumaguete City, although, it is geographically part of Cebu. The sanctuary is being maintained by the Silliman University. Another island which is frequented by divers in this part of the country is Apo which is also just a short distance from Dumaguete.

 

Cebu, the country’s seat of Christianity prides in its dive sites that attract hordes of divers throughout the year, except for Capitancillo, an islet which is at its best from April to October. From Mactan Island in the north to Pescador Island in the southwest and the Danajon Banks, there seemed to be not just enough time for exploration. A popular snorkeling and diving destination among shoestring-budget tourists in this island is Moalboal which is noted for its laid back atmosphere.

 

From Cebu, Bohol is just a few hours on a ferry. This Chocolate Hills-famed island-province has added two of its islets, Cabilao and Panglao to the already long list of destinations which divers have been frequenting. Both are resplendent with colorful marine life throughout the year. Aside from the ferries from Cebu, the island-province is also accessible from Manila on regular daily flights.

 

The diagonally-lying island of Palawan is gifted by Nature with atolls and islets, some of which are not yet thoroughly explored. These are the Calamianes Island, Cuyo Islands, Cagayan Islands, Green Island Bay, Bacuit Bay, Ulugan Bay, Honda Bay, Balabac Island, Taytay Bay, and Tubbataha Reef. Down south in Mindanao, divers will delight in Davao’s Talikud Island, Zamboanga’s Sta. Cruz Island and the island sanctuary of Camiguin.

 

Most of the dive sites in the Philippines are yet in their unspoiled stage, thanks to their almost impossible accessibility. The rest, however, are frequently visited, so that concerned local governments have already started to impose strict regulations.

 

Interested parties are advised to make advance arrangement with dive shops if they intend to visit islands and reefs so that necessary coordination and clearances can be made with concerned government agencies. Dive packages are also offered by some tour agencies. Some resorts, however, such as those in Anilao (Batangas), Boracay, and Puerto Galera, offer on- the- spot arrangements. Seaside hotels Cebu can assist visitors with their dive requirements.

 

With tourism as among the last resort revenue earning industries of the Philippines, much effort is exerted by both the national government through the Department of Tourism and the different concerned private sectors in regulating it along the line of ecology.

 

 

The Forgotten Role of Philippine Airlines (PAL) in Air Travel and Tourism Development in the Philippines

The Forgotten Role of Philippine Airlines (PAL)

In Air Travel and Tourism Development in the Philippines

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When I joined the Marketing and Sales Department of Phippine Airlines in 1975, its Public Relations Office (currently, Corporate Communications) was already actively conducting air travel familiarization tours for groups, particularly, students and civic organizations. The groups were shown the airline’s facilities at the airport (the old Domestic airport), especially, the interior of the aircrafts which at that time were DC-3, HS748, YS11, and later, BAC1-11. Fare discounts were given to frequently traveling groups and individuals. The ulterior motive here was to educate the public about the advantages, especially, the comfort of air travel.

 

The Tours and Promotions-Philippines (TPP) headed by Vic Bernardino as manager, regularly conducted surveys, practically, throughout the Philippines – from Batanes to Tawi-tawi, to gather information on their touristic attractions, and other information that could lure travelers. The airline was then servicing Tawi-tawi and Sulu, via Zamboanga, while Batanes had straight flights from Manila and on other days, via Tuguegarao. The hubs of air travel were Manila for Luzon provinces, Cebu for Visayas and some Mindanao provinces, and Davao for the rest of Mindanao provinces. The Tours and Promotions-Philippines printed and distributed a regularly updated Philippine hotel directory, and the bi-monthly TOPIC Magazine which contained information on touristic destinations, hotels, resorts, festivals, and outdoor sports, such as diving, mountain climbing, spelunking (cave exploration), trekking and birdwatching. The hotel directory and magazine were distributed among schools, hotels, organizations, embassies and consulates.

 

The Tours and Promotions-Philippines office also conceived and developed an encompassing tour program that practically covered all facets of travel – educational, convention and seminar, outdoor sports, and charter. The travel market was segmented into sectors to identify their specific needs and requirements. This was called the PALakbayan Tour Program. Coordination within the marketing and sales departments of the airline was closely knit, so that a mere phone inquiries on destinations, be they serviced by PAL or not was quickly satisfied. The staff of Tours and Promotions office were all adept about travel within the Philippines so that they were regularly requested as resource speakers in tourism forums and seminars. For free, they also helped tour and convention/seminar organizers in coming up with realistic packages that their clients could afford.

 

The The TPP, through its Representative, John Fortes, organized the PAL Mountaineering Club which promoted and developed the sport in the country. To encourage mountaineering, he organized summer climbs to well-known mountains in the country, such as, Mt. Apo (between Davao and Cotabato), Mt. Hibok-Hibok (Camiguin), Mt. Madja-as (Antique), Mt. Pulog (Benguet), Mt. Mayon (Albay), Mt. Dos Cuernos (Tuguegarao),  Mt. Kanlaon (Negros Occ.). Treks were organized for Mt. Banahaw, Mt. Makiling, and Taal. With the increasing mountaineering clubs in campuses and provinces, Mr. Fortes initiated the formation of the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines (NMFP).  Simultaneously, Jun Luz, another TPP Representative handled the promotion of diving programs around the country. He was in touch with the different dive operators and groups in other countries to promote the dive sites that later graced the pages of international travel magazines and dive brochures.

 

On the other hand, Ed Buensuceso, section supervisor of TPP developed birdwatching areas around the country, an effort which brought to fore the plight of the Philippine Eagle, known before as monkety-eating eagle. He was a member of the scientific team from the United States that documented the life of the eagles, from their airborne mating to breeding. The first documentary was printed in National Geographic Magazine. Ed Buensuceso was also instrumental in the first survey of the Puerto Princesa Underground River conducted by an Australian environmentalist group. As an important information, the underground river is originally attributed to Palawan province, not Puerto Princesa city, hence, its original name was St. Paul Sub-terranean Park of Palawan. The effort of Mr. Buensuceso in developing Palawan as a tourist destination was extended to the Batak tribe which for long was not known among the rest of the Filipinos. He also spearheaded surveys of off-the-beaten-track destinations that brought to light the hidden touristc treasures of Caramoan peninsula in Bicol, the corals around the islets of Mindoro, Dumaguete and the now-famous Tubbataha Reef. The big waves of Siargao, Surigao, Aurora, and southern portion of Bicol were already captured in slides when Ed Buensuceso surveyed them for promotion in other countries whose tourists were interested in outdoor activities.

 

During the Marcos administration, there was a great demand for hotel rooms because Manila and other major cities in the provinces were peaking up as convention destinations in Asia. It was during this time that the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was built together with the rest of the facilities within the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex, that included Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, Philtrade, and Film Center. The TPP of PAL on its part, actively worked with convention organizers to help them with their packages that included airfare discount and representation with provincial hotels for group discounts. Student groups were flown to provinces for educational tours, as well as,  international groups that were regularly flown in by PAL and other airlines. Tie-ups were made with shipping lines and bus companies for tour packages, and of course, hotels at destinations.

 

Later on, the PALakbayan tour program gave birth to “illegitimate” tour programs developed by other tourism agencies. Unfortunately, the copycats failed to bring to life the essence of the program which is founded on the “total care” of customers, specifically, the “Total Passenger Care”. By “ total”, the airline even took care of the traveller’s other needs that do not concern its direct service, such as onward booking until the day of his departure, referral to other agencies, and giving of necessary information at destination, such as things that can be done on his own.

 

Every time, the TPP staff had a chance to speak to local government officials, the latter were encouraged to organize their own “local tourism office”, to handle what we called “backyard tourism”, or local small-scale tourism business in line with the eco-tourism concept. The Department of Tourism during that time, was aware of this effort. It was explained to them that having DOT field offices in major cities was not enough. There was yet, the need to fully coordinate with local government units in the implementation or promotion of programs. PAL already recognized this need that is why its station supervisors and managers were mandated to be closely in touch with local officials, even those located far from PAL stations. Also, practically, the staff in all domestic stations played important roles as coordinators to prevent hitches, especially, in the handling of groups.

 

The energetic promotion of tourism from the end of PAL came from Mr. Ricardo Paloma, Regional Vice-President/Philippines and Guam, who initiated efforts in touching base with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and government agencies concerned about environment conservation. Practically, the DOT involved the airline in all its touristic ventures. On the other hand, the airline furnished the DOT with all the input that the staff of the TPP gathered from their surveys. Mr. Paloma conceptualized the “eco-tourism” which is the basis of the government in the promotion of local tourism today. There was much effort in preserving the laid back image of the country as a touristic destination in Asia. That early, the “tourism think tank” of PAL was apprehensive about the destruction of the natural endowments of dive spots and mountains, as are happening now. The once pristine Boracay island is now a sorry site with no reliable waste disposal system, the mountains become garbage dumps after climbs, coral “gardens” are littered with plastic bottles, etc.

 

Today, tourism industry in the country is kicking high. The unsung PALers  who did their part as conceptualizers, coordinators, guides, resource speakers, and who formed the early family of Philippine Airlines could just smile and utter a silent thank that the country’s flag carrier is still flying…and, at last, the less beaten tracks towards the hidden gems of the country are now heavily trodden by sneakers and mountaineering boots of eager tourists…