The Land of Promise

Ever since my younger years, I’ve always heard of this tagline affixed to the second largest island in the country because of its bounty of natural resources.  

The succeeding years further convinced me of Mindanao’s economic well-being, having learned that most of our agro-industrial exports come from this island. In fact, I read somewhere that the island is self-sufficient, it doesn’t need the rest of the country for its sustenance.

But when you ask people what they know of Mindanao, they’ll probably immediately mention only the Muslim culture, Mt Apo, the Philippine eagle, or that smelly, spike-y, heavenly-tasting Durian. Of course, there’s a lot more that this large island offers, as enumerated the other day by its Department of Tourism (DOT) regional directors who were invited by the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) to update virtually our industry’s stakeholders.

The colorful vintas of Zamboanga is certainly a sight to behold. (Photos from Wikimedia Commons)
The session started with TCP president Jose Clemente III announcing the good news that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is now studying the feasibility of establishing “green lanes” or “tourist bubbles” to allow domestic travelers from areas with low-risk for COVID contamination to go to other low-risk areas in the country. When approved, this will be implemented slowly and carefully to ensure it won’t cause another surge in cases.

Earlier that day, the DOT happily announced that residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) are now allowed to travel to areas under modified general community quarantine and corresponding commercial flights will now be operating. But those below 18 and above 65 years old, even if fully vaccinated, need to present valid proof of a negative RT-PCR test result, an IATF ruling that I find discriminatory, but I’m reserving my sentiments on this for a future column.

Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) chief operating officer Mark Lapid, who was the event’s guest speaker, reported that the pandemic’s restrictions on travel resulted in an 83 percent decrease in Travel Tax collections. This is quite disturbing because 40 percent of such collection goes to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and 10 percent goes to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). 

The presentation on Mindanao started with Tourism Asec. Myra Paz Abubakar of the Zamboanga Peninsula or Region IX (Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay) who told us about their highly commendable KAKUSA (KAlikasan, KUltura, SAmahan) Tourism Circuit which spans all three provinces and aims to develop community-based tourism anchored on nature so that impoverished barangays in these provinces may experience sustainable growth. 

Tourism Director Marie Elaine Unchuan of Northern Mindanao or Region X (Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte) invited everyone to enjoy their “limitless adventures” which include a visit to the Taglucop Strawberry Hills in Bukidnon where one can pick and enjoy his own supply of the delicious fruit, for a pittance.  

The Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, got its name from the late diplomat Modesto Farolan who wrote a poem about it.
Divers will also be awed by the rich marine life of the Agutayan Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Misamis Oriental. Trekkers will delight in scaling the slopes of Mt. Kitanglad, an inactive volcano in Bukidnon, and adventure travelers will find challenge in conquering the towering Katibawasan Falls in Camiguin.

Region XI (Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao Occidental, Davao de Oro), also known as Davao Region, has a sustainable economic landscape due to its vast natural resources, reliable facilities, and conducive business environment. Tourism Director Tanya Virginia Rabat-Tan highlighted its islands-to-highlands tourism attractions which include farm tourism, nature, health and wellness, marine sports, and culture tourism.

SOCCSKSARGEN or Region XII (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos) boasts of its world-class diving in Sarangani Bay, the exciting Zipline at 7 Waterfalls in South Cotabato, the thrilling White Water River Tubing in Sarangani, and the famous buko halo-halo in South Cotabato, among many others. Regional Director Shalimar Hofer Tamano, who is also in-charge of Region VII in a concurrent capacity, invited stressed out individuals to experience the calming ambience of the breathtaking Lake Sebu.

Regional Director Nelia Arina of Region XIII (Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur) or the Caraga Region invited everyone to visit and commune with nature.  

In Dinagat Islands, there is Lake Bababu, which has a 650-meter-long underwater cave that connects the fresh water of the lake to the salt water of the sea, and Mt. Redondo, famous for its 100-hectare century-old bonsai forest. Of course, there’s also the Enchanted River in Surigao del Sur, supposedly protected by magical beings responsible for its unique sapphire and jade colors, and local fisherfolk report seeing fish that can never be caught through any means.

With all these attractions I learned from this virtual tourism session, I promise the “Land of Promise” that I’ll be heading that way once all travel restrictions ease up.


I have a joke about time travel but I’m not going to share it because you guys didn’t like it.  

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Topics: Jose Clemente III , Department of Tourism , Tourism Congress of the Philippines , Inter-Agency Task Force , Mindanao , COVID-19
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