Philippines, press release

Davao aims for World-class Tourism Services


Davao is improving its tour guide services to attract more visitors, create more jobs, and put the province on the map as a global travel destination.

“Davao is considered one of safest cities globally, with some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, best seafood, and amazing eco-tourism attractions,” said GeneRose Tecson, president of The Guide Union for Inbound Destination and Ecotourism (GUIDE), Inc. “Tour guides are recognized as important ambassadors, and by providing them with world-class training, we hope to take a big step towards making Davao one of the region’s most desirable cities for tourists.”

To upgrade the quality of its services, GUIDE Davao recently concluded a series of training program on tour guiding services using the tourism skills grant from the Department of Tourism (DOT). Funded by the Government of Canada and administered by Asian Development Bank (ADB) under the Philippines Improving Competitiveness in Tourism (PICTourism) program, it was designed to support the government’s effort to achieve inclusive growth and create employment opportunities in tourism.

“More than providing financial assistance to support professional skills training, the grant will usher in jobs and opportunities for growth for young Davaoeños,” Tecson said. “Using what we learned from the training, we seek to expand training and mentoring to junior tour guides in various cities and municipalities in the Davao region and help develop a new breed of tourism industry workers.”

Tecson said that while members of their group are licensed and accredited by the DOT and have received previous trainings, they seek to benefit from more relevant training courses to achieve world-class status. With the help of the skills grant, they conducted workshops on personality development, quality in
communications, security awareness, train the trainers, and professional tour guiding.

Discover the beauty of Davao with your own personal tour guide! This gentleman hopes to share with guests the many wonders of Davao

Discover the beauty of Davao with your own personal tour guide!

Mock Sea Tour Guiding in Davao

Mock Sea Tour Guiding in Davao

For the personality development, quality in communications, and train the trainers, the group enlisted the services of Davao-based Joji Ilagan Career Center Foundation, Inc. Meanwhile, to improve their skills on tour guiding techniques, the group was trained by U.S.-based multilingual tour manager and tourist guide trainer Maricar Donato.

As a result of the trainings, GUIDE Davao generated more awareness on their group, increasing its membership by up to almost 50 percent. With the help of DOT-ADB-Canada grant, GUIDE Davao hopes to improve its services and training programs to align with the standards of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism as well as the newly-implemented standards of the DOT.

GUIDE Davao also hopes to become a key driving force in making their province known more globally, with tour guides as Davao’s fifth icon. Davao is best known for its Durian fruit, the Waling Orchid, Mount Apo and the Philippine Eagle.


While I was fortunate to tick off Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to my list of go-to places. There are still many wonders of the Philippines that I have yet to see. This includes Bohol, Sagada and Davao. Davao, for one, is considered one of the safest province in the Philippines, with its economy also recognized as one of the fastest growing.

Davao holds a wealth of wonders that I have yet to discover. Who wouldn’t want to see Mt. Apo upclose? Or experience the flurry of colors and the festivities of the Kadayawan Festival?

This recent program surely enhances the touring experience by lending a credible and efficient experience to first-time visitors to Davao. While I seldom join tours (because I prefer exploring things on my own), there are instances when having an insider with you, or someone that has more in-depth knowledge of the place, culture and history, is sure to enhance the experience further. This is something I learned when I signed up for a tour for the Secret Garden of Changdukgung Palace in Korea last November. Without the guide, the palace were nothing but a magnificent fortification. The expert opinion, amazing story telling of history and the direction of an experienced tour guide made all the difference.

Who knows? This might be the opportunity to know the history behind some of Davao’s most famous landmarks. This commendable effort by the local tourism office, the city, the private sector and GUIDE Davao will surely open a lot of opportunities: not only for the tour guides, but also for travelers like me off to brand new adventures.

Philippines, Travel News

Department of Tourism recognizes its “Tourism Stars”

When I started this blog, my reason was to show everyone how going places don’t have to be extensive. I have detailed my travels in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, expressing how by proper planning, one can always go where your wandering can take you without the prohibitive cost. But as time goes on, I noticed that I have been remissed in featuring places from my own country, the Philippines.

When I was younger, I had the pleasure of being able to go places just because I work for Negros Navigation (now 2Go Shipping), which was one of the country’s longest-serving inter-island shipping company. My stay with Negros Navigation allowed me to see Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, Roxas City, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu, Aklan, Boracay, Marawi and Iligan all while serving thousands and thousands of Filipinos who still travel and traverse this country and its many islands through passenger ships. I met a lot of wonderful people–dedicated people actually–whose living was directly correlated to Tourism. They were the many tour guides, ship captains, stewards & F&B people, the tourism officers who welcomed us to their offices and even the local businesses who never ceased to provide exceptional service to their guests.

When I left Negros Navigation, my local travel also diminished greatly. The advent of low fares, plus my obsession with budget traveling, has made going to foreign countries more possible, and yes more affordable. This year, I vowed to visit the country more and make my version of traveling on a budget locally.

This decision was amplified when I had the opportunity to attend the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s awarding of its first-ever batch of “Tourism Stars” – comprised of a select group of individuals who was nominated and voted by the public who displayed commitment and dedication in promoting Philippine tourism.

tourismStar awards-Screengrab from DOT's Instagram Account
The first batch of Tourism Star awardees, from L to R: Albay Governor Joey Salceda; media personality and host of Biyahe ni Drew, Drew Arellano; blogger Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet; diver Bobby Andrao and young tourist guide Gerry Bie Dalimag (PHOTO GRAB FROM DOT INSTAGRAM PAGE)

The Department of Tourism (DOT) honors today the first batch of individuals who have exemplified excellence and dedication in driving the Philippine tourism industry forward, under the Tourism Star Philippines (TSP) program.

Tourism Star Philippines is a recognition program developed to celebrate the valuable contribution of Filipinos from the tourism industry, media, and local government units. Through TSP, DOT seeks to underscore the distinct Filipino brand of warm hospitality that marks our culture of tourism.

The very first roster of Tourism Stars include Gerry BieDalimag and Bobby Adrao for the Individual Category; Drew Arellano of Biyaheni Drew in GMA-7 and Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet for the Media Category; and Governor Joey Salceda of Albay for the Local Chief Executive (LCE) Category.


Dalimag, a college student who serves as a local volunteer guide around the famous Callao Caves in Cagayan. At a very young age, he has helped in boosting the province’s local tourism by taking his guiding responsibilities to heart, which earned him the respect and commendation from various people and even the media.


Adrao, on the other hand, is a licensed Butanding interaction officer and a dive master in Donsol, Sorsogon. In addition to advocating safe and environment-friendly diving practices, Adrao represents a Filipino tourism frontliner who goes beyond the call of duty to save the lives of an Australian couple who went adrift in the rough seas while diving due to inclement weather.

Popular celebrity Arellano headlines a local TV show called Biyaheni Drew, which features fun travel adventures in different Philippine destination every week. Known for his quirky and entertaining brand of hosting, Arellano successfully embodies the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” concept. Diaz, meanwhile, is the man behind Our Awesome Planet (, a top lifestyle blog that showcases the best of food and travel destinations in the Philippines. Founded in 2005, it has generated thousands of followers and readers that are able to share his experiences and discoveries in various places in the country.

Governor Salceda, who is receiving the award in the LCE category, led the Albay region’s phenomenal growth in tourism as it rose from the ruins of disasters that stunted the province for decades. As former economic adviser to previous presidents, Governor Salceda has successfully implemented a comprehensive tourism work program in Albay, bringing to the fore various regulations and investment projects to achieve significant tourism development.

Anchored on DOT’s It’s more fun in the Philippines campaign, the Tourism Star Philippines also marks a significant milestone for the agency, as it is part of the full implementation of the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) which leverages on public-private sector partnerships to improve competitiveness of tourism facilities and services, capacitate local government units, ensure sustainable tourism development and initiate focused marketing and promotions.

Among the nominees received from February to June 2014, DOT implemented a rigorous selection process for those who demonstrated the strongest and deepest commitment to promote the country’s tourism in their own ways. For the Individual Category, nominations were received through the program website and through drop boxes located at domestic airport terminals nationwide. Meanwhile, Local Tourism Councils nominated their mayors or governors for the LCE Category by submitting the completely filled out nomination form with the documentary requirements to concerned DOT Regional Offices. Nominations for the Media Category, which was added two months after the launch, were solicited from Tourism and Travel Associations nationwide.

After the screening process, a final evaluation was conducted by the TSP Screening Committee composed of representatives from the DOT’s Office of the Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination, and Resource Generation (TRCRG) and Office of Tourism Standards and Regulation (OTSR), as well as the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), one of the program’s institutional partners. All submitted documentary requirements were validated through the help of the DOT Regional Offices and the local tourism offices. For the LCE Category, documents were rated using the following criteria: Institutional, promotions, planning and product development, regulatory, investments, and centrepiece projects with additional points in consideration of their support to DOT advocacies. Media nominees, on the other hand, were chosen based on the votes they received through online voting; content and substance and relevance of work to the Philippine tourism industry; impact and significant contribution to the It’s More Fun in the Philippines campaign; creativity and uniqueness of shows/ articles and information presented.

Awardees of Tourism Stars Philippines will receive trophies and medals, as well as gifts from program partners: a pre-loaded More Fun Prepaid card from the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), scholarship from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), phones and tablets from MyPhone, and a kabuhayan package from Duty Free Philippines (DFP).


“The Philippine tourism is undoubtedly the fastest growing industry in the country, taking on a significant role in our economy. We believe that we owe this tremendous growth to our people. Without them, our destinations would only be a mere landscape. It is our people that give these beautiful destinations life and meaning. And the Tourism Star Program honors these individuals who truly make it more fun in the Philippines,” DOT Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. said.

Article is part of my coverage of the recently concluded Tourism Star Awards, made possible through the invitation of the DOT.

Travel News

Conde Nast Traveler names The Philippines as one of the “Travel Destinations” to watch in 2013

Oh my! Conde Nast Traveler, one of the premiere travel magazines in the world today, has included good ol’ PH as one of the destinations to watch in 2013.

See here the amazing recommendation for the Philippines:

“For travellers willing to go the extra thousand miles for a deserted beach, the Philippines has around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world. It’s still not the most obvious beach-holiday destination, but it soon will be.

It’s becoming particularly popular among serious divers, who come for the incredible underwater life, unspoilt coral gardens with rainbow-bright fish, green sea turtles and dugongs. In Bicol you can swim with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. While fish-fans of a different nature can go deep-sea fishing in one of the deepest trenches in the oceans, not far from the little-known island of Siargao.

The archipelago of Palawan ticks all the boxes: palm-fringed white-powder beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, natural lagoons for wild swimming on Miniloc Island – all of it protected by UNESCO. Its Bacuit Bay is something like Halong Bay in Vietnam, only without all the tourists – for the time being, at least. There are just a handful of resorts, which are tasteful and deliberately low-key. Two of the newest are Ariara Island and El Nido Pangulasian Island, a private-island resort with palm-thatched villas, a spa, its own dive centre, and sea views to melt the heart.

Another super-stylish new opening is Dedon Island, on Siargao; it’s owned and designed by contemporary furniture brand Dedon. And a perennial favourite is Amanpulo, yet another high-design private-island hotel on Pamalican Island. Or sail around them all on Alila’s new boat, the Phinsi.”

The current online issue also includes a guide to discovering the many facets of the Philippines.

That indeed is good news. Considering the hard work being put in by the Department of Tourism (DOT) which seemed to experience a resurgence following the appointment of Secretary Ramon Jimenez. A former ad man, Secretary Jimenez was able to bring interest back to this country of 7,000 islands. Maybe it’s the catchy campaign, “Its More Fun in the Philippines” or the fact that our best beaches are being discovered by the rest of the world just now. Truth is, the emergence of the Philippines as a top travel destination is something that this government should take seriously.

Here are the things that should be our top priority:

1. The Airport
On top of our obvious concerns would be that danged prehistoric building called, “The Ninoy Aquino Internal Airport, Terminal I.” The reputation of this terminal is lower than the Marianas Trench. It’s been called the worst by some of the world’s leading travel sites and yet still, it is still in operation (leaky faucets, unappetizing lounge food, stomach-churning arrivals waiting area and all.)

I really hope the government can do something about this airport, and not just be proud of the fact that “travelers are out of the NAIA in 25 minutes flat.” I don’t know what this tourism executive is smoking, but I can assure him that given the facilities in that airport, I’ll strive to be out of there too in 25 minutes flat, maybe 20 minutes if I am really desperate. If you have nothing to do inside the dimly-lit, aging building, would you want to stay there?

I can understand the hesitation to leave if there’s no available facility to use, but we have the humongous Terminal 3 gathering dust and sorely underutilized. I hope that this year, more international flights will get transferred to T3.

2. Reliable transportation system to get in and out of the airports
The few countries I’ve been to had one thing in common: an efficient transportation system that allows travelers to get in and out of the airport using their transpo of choice. Meaning, they are not stuck with cabs — and can opt to use the MRT (linked directly to the airport, like in HK and SG) or by bus with direct routes to the airport (in Seoul and Busan). Unfortunately, right now, all we can offer are “official” airport cabs that will charge you an arm and a leg just to be able to travel. Let’s not make it hard for the tourists. While we are at it, can we do something about dilapidated cabs that smelled like a forgotten public rest room.

3. Safety!
Every country has its security and safety problem. But, it gets really embarrassing whenever we hear tourists being mugged or taken for a ride by touts. I hope that the government will make tourists feel more secure traveling our country. After all, it’s the memories they make that will either keep them coming back or make them stay away for good.

These are the things that are on top of my mind. I know that they’re basic requirements for every traveler, something that can make or break a trip.


The Philippine Travel Mart: The Philippines is On Sale!

travel mart

The Philippine Travel Mart 2012

Philippine Travel Mart

Welcome to the Philippines! We got 7,000 plus islands to explore!

There is a Filipino saying, “Huwag Maging Dayuhan sa Sariling Bayan” (Don’t be a foreigner in your own country) that should be hold dear by every Filipino travel junkie. I know that the Philippines might look like a pretty intimidating place–and I won’t be lying–and for a newbie, it really is. Thing is, usually the intimidating part of the country, the beautiful chaos and the rhythmic noise, is concentrated in the country’s capital, Manila.

But Philippine travel is beyond Manila. In fact, this country has 7,000 plus islands to explore and love! This is the premise behind this year’s “Philippine Travel Mart” organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association in coordination with the Department of Tourism (DOT).

With a renewed vigor in the Philippine travel industry courtesy of a new department rallying cry, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, the latest edition of the travel mart saw a full house of visitors during the three day affair.

As you can see, anything that would entail me to pack my bags is a serious matter to me. Somehow, my past travels to some of the cities in the Philippines is still not enough since I still have a lot of ground to cover (*see: 7,000 islands). So far, if my memory serves me right, here are the places I’ve been to: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur (Vigan), a few provinces in Central Luzon (Pampanga, Quezon, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan), Laguna, Batangas, Baguio, Palawan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Boracay (Aklan), Roxas City (Capiz), Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Mizamis. But I haven’t been to Bohol (and saw the Chocolate Hills) and even my paternal side of the family’s birth province, Bicol (been there as a baby so that doesn’t count!)

Went around the exhibit areas and was impressed with the beautiful booths from the Southern Tagalog Region and Ilocos. There were a lot of must-sees: the aforementioned Bohol and their beautiful Chocolate Hills; the Rice Terraces and Sagada in Mt. Province; the waves of Siargao. This country has so much to offer!

philippine travel mart

The booth for Southern Tagalog featuring one of their beautiful Higantes

Philippine Travel Mart

Pretty native flowers and miniature beds. Asked the old lady for one of the birds, and she relented!

I love the booth from Southern Tagalog. They featured an old lady who was creative miniature flowers and birds from a banig strip. It was so pretty and the old lady was so skilled and her hands so dexterous that I spent a few minutes just watching. When my nosy self couldn’t help it anymore, I asked for one of the miniature birds and she gave me one! Score!

I didn’t buy any travel package this time because my family and I are HK-bound in October, and planning another trip–even if domestic–is already out of our budget. However, got vacation and birthday ideas for next year. Like maybe a leisurely trip in Corregidor, Bataan or finally the much-awaited Sagada trip?

Anyway, the exhibit made me realize that the Philippines have too much to offer, and too much beauty to share. I hope our foreign friends can give us a chance and look beyond the chaos of the capital. You will love it here, I promise. 🙂