Wednesday, September 5, 2012

ECOTOURISM: The Philippine's Under-Explored Pearl of Great Price

In continuation (click to view the previous)...

In recognition of the country’s great potential to compete with the world’s established ecotourism sites, Executive Order No. 111 was issued calling for the formulation of the National Ecotourism Strategy (NES)1, in order to provide an integrated management plan for the development of ecotourism in the Philippines. The NES identified key sites for ecotourism development classified as banner, emerging or potential sites (Figure 1, in bold are the banner sites). Banner key sites are envisioned to serve as models for developing ecotourism. On the other hand, emerging key sites are those that are already in the initial phase of development while potential key sites are those that have not yet undergone any development and are not suitable for promotion. Brushing off the conceptual discussion of ecotourism, let us look into what the Pearl of the Orient Seas has to offer by exploring these under-explored key sites.

Ruins in Barangay Savidug, Sabtang, Batanes. Photo by R.A.Natanauan
The Batanes group of islands [1] (click here for a video)—a jagged, rocky home to the kind Ivatans—is the northernmost tip of Luzon lying some 180 kilometers from the mainland. Being isolated from the mainland is its most endearing quality. Batanes has its share of old Spanish churches and villages strewn with traditional stone houses well-adapted to its windy climate and an abundance of beautiful sceneries.

Basco Lighthouse and the Rolling Hills of Batanes.  Photo by R.A.Natanauan

Crisologo Street, Vigan.
Vigan [2] (click here for the video), being a remnant of all that was Spanish in the north, is a perfect epitome of an enduring cultural heritage earning the UNESCO’s World Heritage City title. Getting there is like a back-to-the-past experience, a culture-shock in 18th century Spanish Philippines. Vigan’s most popular attractions are, of course, its centuries-old houses, antiques, stone-paved streets, clippety-clop calesas and baroque churches, which have survived the ups and down of Philippine history. It is eight hours, 400 kilometers away from its walled version—the Intramuros.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ECOTOURISM: The Philippine's Under-Explored Pearl of Great Price

Ecotourism is a significant tool of development that sustains both the natural and cultural resources of the country. In fact, the tourism industry, in general, thrives and prospers in so far as these resources are properly conserved and responsibly developed.  The Bohol Congress in 1999, following the Global Agenda 21 and its local counterpart the Philippine Agenda 21, adopted the concept of ecotourism as a form of sustainable tourism within a natural and cultural heritage area where community participation, protection and management of natural resources, culture, and indigenous knowledge and practices, environmental education and ethics, as well as economic benefits are fostered and pursued for the enrichment of host communities and the satisfaction of visitors. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as a responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people. It is therefore more of an attitude, a way of life, than an industry striking a balance between the preservation of cultural heritage and environmental integrity and the pursuit of economic growth beneficial for both the host communities and the visitors.

A new species of Nembrotha nudibranch (also known as sea slug) that was discovered during the California Academy of Sciences' 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. These brightly colored mollusks don't need shells for protection--instead they produce powerful toxins to keep potential predators at bay. Photo Credit: Terry Gosliner / California Academy of Sciences
The original inhabitants of Baguio are the Igorots, Kankana-eys and 
Ibalois.  These are Igorots in a street dancing competition during 
Panabenga Festival.

With 7,107 islands, the Philippines is the world’s second largest archipelago making it unsurprisingly rich in both natural and cultural resources. The Philippines, together with Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo and Papua New Guinea, forms the Coral Triangle, the most diverse marine habitat of the tropics with more coral reef fish diversity than anywhere else in the world—37%  (2,228) of the world’s coral reef fish species (6,000), and 56% of the coral reef fishes in the Indo-Pacific region (4,050). It has 15 regionally endemic coral species, which is found nowhere else in the world, and shares 41 regional endemic species with Asia . The reefs of Sulu and Sulawesi seas are home to about 580 of the world’s 793 species of reef-building corals, compared to just 50 in the Caribbean and 300 in the Great Barrier Reef. There are over 19 identified species of marine mammals and 1,200 varieties of reef fish, including the plankton-feeding whale shark, the world’s largest fish.  The natural resource base for ecotourism encompasses seascapes, rivers, lakes, wetlands, volcanoes, caves, and cliffs harboring a rich variety of plants and animals. In the forest, fields and mountains about 500 species of birds have been recorded, of which 172 species are found only in these islands. The Philippines is considered both a mega-diversity country and one of the world’s highest priority hot spots for the conservation of nature.  The country is culturally as diverse as its natural resources  being home to over 180 indigenous ethnic groups, over half of which represent unique linguistic groups,  and countless non-indigenous groups who are of Hispanic, Chinese, American, Arab, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and other groups of foreign origin (Wikipedia, 2009).  These diversity brought about distinct, unique and enumerable blends of creative expressions—from fashion to culinary, from visual to performing arts, from architecture to artifacts, from rituals to festivals—within and beyond the boundaries of ethnic communities.  While it is true that the country is a melting pot of the West and the East, it has traditional villages all over the archipelago with all their unique cultures fully intact—these fusions and conservation form into a beautiful cultural mosaic that is distinctively Filipino.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tourism promotes brotherhood among peoples of diverse cultures

The Dragonair aircraft. The airline was voted as the
"Best Regional Airline – SE Asia" in the survey in 2008 and
“World’s Best Regional Airline” in 2010 and 2011.
Established in 1985, the Hong Kong-based airline Dragonair, a member of the Cathay Pacific Group, now operates in the Philippines linking the country through Clark and Hong Kong obviously setting aside the tragic Luneta hostage incident in 2010 as a closed issue. 

This operation was launched in an inaugural ceremony and send-off of the service’s first passengers at the Clark International Airport, Clark, Pampanga, last May this year.

“The introduction of the Clark service is a significant and timely milestone for Dragonair in terms of airline development as it marks its further expansion in the Philippine market, which is a very important passenger segment in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Yam said.

He added, referring nothing to the tragedy,  that the new service would help boost tourism and business in the Philippines. “We hope to strengthen our ties with the Philippines and support its fast-growing economy and rapidly-expanding tourism market by providing travelers the opportunity to visit and explore other nearby top destinations and business districts in this country. Meanwhile, with the extensive global network of Cathay Pacific, travelers are also offered with more options in flying from the Philippines to Hong Kong or more than 160 worldwide destinations via Hong Kong hub.”

Indeed, tourism is an agent of understanding promoting brotherhood among peoples of diverse cultures. 

This blogger believes in the power of tourism
for the country's sustainable development.
"South China Sea or West Philippine Sea?
Let's  have it handled by the DFA.
Tourism is our way."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Raise the Flag! It's More Fun!

Switzerland's 1951 "It's More Fun" tourism campaign had lost its timeliness.  In fact, its current campaign pitch is "Switzerland. get natural." 

Current campaign logo and slogan of Switzerland.

Since, Switzerland is no more claiming to be more fun compared to the rest of the world, it's now our take, our time to claim against the rest of the world, including Switzerland, "It's more fun in the Philippines!"

New tourism campaign logo and slogan launched on January 6, 2012.
I touted  "Should it not be--It's most fun in the Philippines?" for a while because of Switzerland's 60 year-old slogan that suddenly surfaced a few hours after the launch. Convinced of the zest of the "fun" to drive in tourists, the logical action would be to claim the superlative "most". But, as I've pointed out above, it's now our time to claim "It's More Fun".

Let's rise from deep slumber, face the storms unperturbed and, with the flag of our honor and hope raised sky-high, shout to the rest of the's more fun in the Philippines!

In rescuing a Philippine flag, the 12-year-old Janela Lelis of Malinao, Albay,
braved the flood and strong wind at the height of tropical storm Juaning.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's More Fun in the Philippines!

We, Filipinos, know how to make fun even in unlikely situations. Resilient, we can adapt in any environment--we can learn the languages of the world and are great at mimicking the peculiarities of world cultures, a chameleonic adaptability so to speak. Our coping mechanism is so tremendous that other nationalities are tempted to look at us as masochists or aponiacs. To say that Filipinos are more fun to be with is not overstatement but simple truth. Match that with the beauty of 0ur 7,107 islands each'll have 7,107 reasons to be proud of our country to bring in more tourists saying...7,107 islands. It's more fun in the Philippines!

"It's more fun in the Philippines," was launched by the Department of Tourism in January 6, 2012, for international campaign. Far from being insensitive, it is timely as it reminds us of the cherished truth about ourselves--ability to cope and have fun even in the midst of miserable and dangerous situations, which we often find ourselves confronted with but we face with the courage of David and the hope of Job.

Soon after it was launched, a watermarked digital copy of a vintage Swiss ad published in a newspaper in 1951 that says "It's more fun in Switzerland" began circulating rapidly in the social media like a wild fire. While many suddenly became critical of the new slogan, not a few were also defending it for the simple reason that it speaks out, loud and clear, the truth about ourselves, as Filipinos, aside from the fact that it was a very old ad--60 years old at that.

Until now it stands.

No typhoons, no floods, no earthquakes, no tidal waves can ever shaken and take away that simple truth about ourselves for as long as we cling--kapit-tuko--to it with faith and hope in God who strengthens us.

Spread the good news. It is more fun in the Philippines!

Note: all photos were taken from the net.