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.
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 (https://www.ourawesomeplanet.com), 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.