Among the achievements that wasn’t given much limelight in Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s recently concluded State of the Nation Address (SONA) was the success story of Philippine tourism.
Arroyo mentioned it briefly yet powerfully:
“In the last four years tourism almost doubled. It is now a $5 billion industry.”
Many critics of Arroyo are still in doubt over the accuracy of the economic figures she mentioned in her SONA. But observers, especially in the travel and tourism sector, could never deny the sudden growth and liveliness of Philippine Tourism these past few years. This is due to an aggressive and relentless advertising campaign by the Department of Tourism, led by Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, to promote the country not only to foreigners but to Filipinos as well. It is because the DOT is knowledgeable of the fact that thousands of Filipinos are themselves foreigners in their own country.
Many years ago, it was the dream of countless Filipinos to travel abroad not really for work but just for the sake of traveling. Nowadays, however, Filipinos have already set their eyes at home. Why travel to other parts of the world when there are as many breathtaking sights to discover as there are in other countries? Besides, there are still many scenic spots left unphotographed nor visited by the mainstream public.
Take the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan or the white coastlines of Caramóan, Camarines Sur, for instance. These two, now a favorite of many locals as well as foreigners, were virtual unknowns as compared to the mammoth popularity of, say, Mayón Volcano of Albay and the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. The previous decade, Palawan’s underground river and Caramóan’s beaches were almost unknown. But now both places are in the mainstream of public consciousness.
Aside from the laudable projects of the Mr. Durano and the Department of Tourism, the local tourism sector has several anonymous people to thank for. And these are the online advocates of tourism (not to mention patriotism), the webloggers!
Travel writer and heritage advocate Ivan Henares and his hugely popular website IVAN ABOUT TOWN leads this online group of travel freaks who relentessly walk the endless mile of Philippine paradise. The website won The Best Travel Blog for 2007 in the inaugural The Philippine Blog Awards which I and my daughter were fortunate enough to witness. But unfortunately, Ivan wasn’t there to collect his trophy (he was out traveling! LOL!).
There’s no need for further introductions for Mr. Henares (he is also a member of the Heritage Conservation Society); all he needs to do is to take a bow and do some more traveling here in the Philippines because recently, I began to notice that he has included foreign trips in his blog as well. In my point of view, I don’t find it appropriate for a Philippine travel blog (especially since a rabid nationalism has been rubbed off on me by works of nationalist writers I follow). But of course, it’s his prerogative to do that and I have no right to meddle. He’s still doing a fantastic job for the local tourism sector as well as heritage conservation.
Next is PINOY TRAVEL BLOG, another popular travel blog which also focuses on local travel and tourism destinations. It is maintained by some of the best young writers/bloggers in the country today: Palanca Awardee and netrepreneur Abe Olandrés (popularly known as “Yuga” in the local internet scene), Marc “Hoop” Avellana, Arnold Zafra, and a host of others.
PHILIPPINE TRAVEL BLOG, much like PINOY TRAVEL BLOG, is also maintained by a host of contributors who have made traveling the archipelago their passion. Some of the contributors are Melo Villareal (travel photojournalist and online publisher), Jocelyn Dimaculangan, and Enrico Dee (who also contributes for PINOY TRAVEL BLOG).
We also have TRAVELER ON FOOT which also has a strong following. I had the pleasure of meeting this rather “mysterious traveler” last year. I said mysterious because, up to now, he still refuses to show himself up in his website! Instead, Mr. Traveler usually brings his son along with him and takes pictures of the latter in front of any scenic spot on hand. Quite unique and intriguing.
And of course, there’s WITH ONE’S PAST by my dear friend and fellow hispanista Arnold Arnáiz. Although his blog deals mainly with Philippine history and occasional socio-political commentary, “Arnaldo” is also using it as a platform to familiarize his readers with a rich historico-travel information on Philippine provinces. He’s currently based in Cebú and has already traveled to many Visayan provinces.
One of my favorites is PINOY MOUNTAINEER (especially since I’m a mountaineer myself). Although not exactly a travel blog, it somehow falls under this category because it’s proprietor, Gideon Lasco, travels, climbs, and documents almost every mountain there is in the Philippines. As of this writing, he has climbed over 50 mountains in the Philippines. This website (launched with the help of Ivan Henares) is a gold mine of information about Philippine mountains, popular or not, as well as a rich source of mountaineering knowledge.
LAKWATSERA DE PRIMERA (and it’s true… it’s not just another travel blog!) is another interesting online travel diary. This one is highly recommended since it contains awesome and much larger photographs of the places featured in it. You’ll also enjoy reading this particular blog post taken from the said travel blog: 100 THINGS I AM PROUD ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES.
My own, ALAS FILIPINAS, tries to become a travel blog, too. But due to time constraints, it remains mainly as my angst bin, hahaha! But seriously speaking, whenever I have time, I travel to different places and blog about it for the reading consumption of the Spanish-speaking netizens. Try this link, for instance.
I am sure there are still lots of local travel blogs around. And there will be many more to come. Wittingly or unwittingly, they should now be cognizant of the fact that they have made themselves Philippine online heroes because they have featured many places, cultures, and other aspects about the Philippines that have never been shown to the world before. Furthermore, travel advocacy promotes ecotourism and environmentalism, two very important attributes in Philippine tourism.
To all of you out there, thank you very much your travel advocacies and for patronizing our own. Helping out Philippine tourism is tantamount to saving the country as well.