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PTPC – Philippines Tourism Photography Competition
Residents of the Philippines. Photographers! this is your chance to share your interesting story with the world and submit your photos to the Philippines Tourism Photography Competition.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when faced with immaculate beaches, virgin forests, and crisp, fresh air among 7,107 islands, how can anyone deny such unparalleled wonder? From the jam-packed shores of Boracay to the quieter, less-travelled, and less-paved roads of Batad, the Philippines has an undeniable charm that both foreigners and locals are in awe of. But without proper tourism efforts, how can hidden gems be more well-known, or natural beauty be preserved?
The Impact of Tourism in the Country
As an economic sector, tourism is considered one of the fastest growing, especially when it comes to developing countries. With its power to advance local economic development, industrialization, and alleviation of poverty, tourism is as effective as can be in boosting a country’s overall well-being. For instance, an influx of tourists can wildly influence the country’s economic growth in terms of attractive foreign exchange investment (real estate, IT, agriculture, and the like), welcoming more and more international businesses to establish their roots in the country. We’ve all experienced (and warmly welcomed) the introduction of various foreign leisure and entertainment businesses in the Philippines, from the European high-fashion brands to the Asian milk tea craze—and why not? Globalization is always a good thing, and the more open our country can be, the better.
Tourism stimulates the growth of the export industry as well. Dried mangoes, for example, have always been a Philippine staple, and foreigners far and wide flock to the country in droves just to get a taste of the fresh sweetness of the summer fruit. Even the smallest homemade handicraft can be exported for a premium price—not to mention that the factories where these handicrafts are made also become tourist attractions in themselves. It can be anything from a mainstream guitar factory in Cebu to a more intimate bagoong-making backyard business in Pangasinan. What was once a less-populated town can easily become the next big thing on an eager traveller’s itinerary, mainly because tourists thirst for meaningful experiences rather than manufactured tours. A simple yet genuine homemade product can make tourists travel to even the most remote locations if only to appreciate the wealth of culture that the site holds.
On a more localized scale, tourism can also greatly assist in uplifting the lives of the people in the rural areas for the better. Regional development not only influences the diversification of the local economy, but it also means more employment opportunities for local residents, leading to more income which allows even small Mom-and-Pop businesses to thrive. Imagine a humble seller of soy pudding (known locally as taho) who peddles his homemade wares in a food cart. If a tourist stumbles upon his recipe and enjoys it, there will be more demand for his taho, prompting him to increase his production to cater to more customers. Fellow locals can also begin to increase their own supply to meet outside demand, attracting more tourists to the area, and eventually leading to improved infrastructure, accommodation solutions, and better business opportunities. This kind of “snowball effect” also leads to better health services in the area, as more investors contribute to the development of a once-rural spot. In turn, domestic household consumption increases, the government provides more funding to develop roads in the area, and better commercial services become available, contributing to the improvement of a family’s quality of life.
Challenges That Need to be Overcome
Of course, all of these factors come with their own set of problems that need to be solved. There are undoubtedly a myriad of challenges to be faced and hurdles that need to be addressed if we are to foster and endorse better tourism in the country.
To start, not all local tourist spots receive proper support from the government, and sometimes even from fellow residents. Often, the lesser-known tourist spots are plagued with bad infrastructure, insufficient funding, poor communications, lack of electricity and water supply, inaccessible sources of fresh food, and lack of awareness from the public. To cite an example, ordering a warm, freshly cooked meal in a cafeteria in the mountains of Batad can take approximately two hours, so the order must be made in advance. In other sites, families are often steeped in poverty, and because these hidden gems aren’t as widely advertised as the other more mainstream tourist spots in the country, they are seldom visited by foreigners. Moreover, if by the slim chance that a wayward traveller does stumble upon the location, the spot is so inaccessible and so hard to reach that people usually no longer return, much less promote the area to their family and friends even by word of mouth.
A perfect example is the Quitinday Green Hills Formation Reserve in Albay. Bicol is more commonly known for the majestic and perfect cone of Mount Mayon, but what not a lot of casual tourists know is that there is a different hill formation that also deserves attention. Known as the “Chocolate Hills of Albay”, the Quitinday Green Hills also boast of adorable, round-topped hills with lush foliage that can be seen across a wide expanse of green. The problem here is that to get to the top of the hills, one would need to travel up an underdeveloped mountainside with a severe lack of signs that direct you to your destination. Roads are narrow, confusing, and can be quite terrifying for the lone first-timer, and when you finally reach the landing by car, you are simply met with a makeshift booth with unprofessionally clad (albeit very friendly) attendants. The climb by foot to the very top is also quite unsafe, as there are no metal handrails (only makeshift bamboos) to support you should you slip and fall. Of course, the breathtaking view at the very top is definitely a marvel, and an experience that’s one for the books—it’s just too bad that there is a lack of funding and promotion for the spot itself.
Solutions Toward More Sustainable Tourism
The goal here, of course, is to present solutions that we can all strive for in order to achieve a more sustainable tourism in the country. If we are to maintain world-class tourist destinations to drive more overall development for the country and its people, then we should take drastic steps to protect the Philippines’ best-kept tourist spots, natural assets, and cultural gems.
A big step would be for both the local government and the residents to formulate an integrated strategy for comprehensive tourism development, including marketing, funding, training, public awareness, and local participation. The positive role of tourism in an area should be made known to all, so that each and every citizen will work with each other to promote tourism and local businesses, which, in turn, will lead to better development of roads and infrastructure in the area. Coordinated efforts need to be made to create events and various partnerships with organizations to attract foreign visitors.
Damage to the environment and the irreversibility of our carbon footprint can be seen perfectly in Boracay, the pristine shores of which became so polluted that the government had to forcibly shut the area down for half a year for rehabilitation. Manila Bay, a famous landmark located in the heart of the capital, is now currently undergoing rehabilitation as well, with both private and public sectors tirelessly working together for the clean-up in hopes of solving the Bay’s long-festering problems. To keep this from happening and to prevent overcrowding, better awareness programs must be put in place to advertise the lesser-known tourists spots. This is to successfully divert the vacationers and crowds elsewhere and to help them uncover the undiscovered gems. For instance, the rainforest-covered Danjugan Island in Cauayan, Negros Occidental is not only a marine sanctuary, but is also a protected area where fishing is not allowed. Only a limited number of guests are accepted daily, ensuring the island’s survival for a long, long time.
Most importantly, everyone should do his or her part in environmental protection (e.g. strict implementation of the required coastal setback, international standards, and the protection of endangered species), so that natural resources will be preserved for sustainability in the long run.
How can I help?
What, then, does this mean for us Filipinos? What do we need to do, and how can we contribute our part to develop tourism in the Philippines?
Tourism highlights the uniqueness of our culture, as well as encourages the expansion of small-scale enterprises and local infrastructure. It opens up lines of communication across plenty of networks, and provides revenue to residents and the local baranggay alike. This kind of holistic development also positively affects public safety in the area, access to medical assistance, quality of education, and so much more.
In line with this, isn’t it only natural for us to promote the natural resources of our country? Should we not exert every effort to support our local industries, share our talents to other parts of the region and to other countries, and tell our own stories to the world?
There is a rich diversity of beautiful tourist spots that have yet to be explored, and if we only gather the courage to find our voices, then we can drive more people to come visit. After all, there is great joy in taking the road less travelled, and with local tourism, sharing our stories to the world is the best way to take pride in our Filipino identity
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