TACLOBAN CITY – Reviving to full swing the tourism industry of Eastern Visayas after super-typhoon Yolanda devastated the region, the Department of Tourism (DOT) here launched “Summer Fun”, a familiarization tour of tourism stakeholders in the region, to bring in more tourists.
DOT regional director Karen Tiopes said familiarization tours would be done in the six provinces of the region.
The first took off on March 30 in Macrohon, with the Southern Leyte leg.
The familiarization tour in So. Leyte was officially launched at the first stop in Molopolo-Sta. Cruz Fish Sanctuary with the presence of Macrohon mayor Fe Edillo, Ms Tiopes, tourism development officer for Southern Leyte Rina Mendoza Apostol, tourism consultant Antonio “Toto” Cinco, Macrohon officials, Maasin City tourism staff, officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), tour operators and members of the tri-media.
Mayor Edillo said that, “this is a dream come true for the people of Macrohon”, to be included as one of the major destinations in the province as well as holding the launching in the municipality.
To welcome the guests was a band singing native songs like “Si Felimon,” “Tong-tong-tong pakitong kitong” and other Visayan songs.
The Molopolo-Sta. Cruz Fish and Bird Sanctuary is home to virgin coral reefs, which host a variety of marine life such as twin giant clams, manta rays, sharks, 40 species of fish, Philippine ducks and different species of migratory birds.
It won 3rd place in the 2012 Para Del Sol (For the Sea) awards in Manila, out of 300 entries from the country.
The award-winning sanctuary became more popular because of its fish feeding activity with specially baked bread in the Municipal Protected Area (MPA). It has a 2-hectare mangrove plantation.
Other activities during the launch were the cooking demonstration of the famous “Tres Marias” suman sticky rice roll of 3 different varieties of sticky rice), fish feeding and mangrove planting.
After Macrohon, the group went to the Maasin Zoo, Monte Cueva, and Cacao Mountain Resort. The group also joined the procession of Duaw Sto. Niño to the Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral, capping the first day.
On the second day of the familiarization tour, the group went to Padre Burgos as jump-off point going to Pintuyan for the exciting whaleshark interaction.
The two-hour boat ride didn’t disappoint as two whale sharks showed up.
After the Southern Leyte launch, the Northern Samar province tour will be on April 7-9. It will be launched in San Vicente, Northern Samar and will be held in Pink Beach, tucked in Sila island, away from tourist commercialism.
It will be followed by a tour of the unspoiled white beaches of San Antonio, then to Biri municipality, home of the awesome rock formations which is considered one of the “emerging gems” in the country. A visit to the mangrove plantation in Lavezares will cap the Northern Samar leg.
The other tours will be in Leyte province on April 11-13, Biliran on April 17-18, Samar Province on April 19-21 and Eastern Samar on April 24-25.
Each province has coined its slogan for the summer fun.
Director Tiopes said that the governors and mayors are very supportive of the “Summer Fun” launch. She said the DOT would give its full technical support.
Tiopes, who was the first to zip during the launching of the 880-feet long zipline in Sogod, Southern Leyte in 2011, also led in interaction with the whalesharks in Pintuyan in the launching of Southern Leyte Summer Fun.
“This summer, we are marketing those sites with something to offer. These are tourism products that are ready in terms of booking, fun and adventure activities, and accommodation. Just because Yolanda has badly hit us, it doesn’t mean we should not bounce back and tourism is the answer,” she told reporters.