Hope springs in Malabuyoc’s sites

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Monday, May 12, 2014


THE local government of Malabuyoc, a fifth-income class town in southern Cebu, is promoting eco-tourism as a means to generate additional income and jobs.

Malabuyoc Mayor Lito Narciso Creus, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, said he believes that the town’s Mainit Springs and Montaneza Waterfalls could be the next big eco-tourism destinations in the south.

“After we subjected these two sites to DOT (Department of Tourism) 7 assessment, we found out these have a huge potential to draw tourism traffic. Long before we developed the area, locals from other towns and foreign tourists frequented these sites; how much more now that we are formally promoting the sites as eco-tourism destinations this year?” he said.

The mayor said the town ventured into community-based eco-tourism to boost the income and create more jobs in the community, which depends mostly on farming and fishing.

Speakers during the recent 5th World Ecotourism Conference held in Cebu urged local government units (LGUs) to create more community-based tourism projects to alleviate poverty.

Open community

Gina Lopez, managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.-Philippines, said she believes reducing poverty requires pro-poor growth and that one sustainable measure is community-based tourism.

A budget of P300,000 was allocated to rehabilitate and develop Mainit Springs and Montaneza Waterfalls for six months after the DOT’s assessment late last year.

Eric Ybas, the town’s tourism officer, said they involved the community in
rehabilitating and developing the tourism sites. To attract community participation, the LGU conducted several meetings and consultations.

“The community was open to further develop the areas, although there were some who were a bit hesitant, but the community was made to understand both the opportunities and challenges of the project. What we stressed, though, is that they have an important role to play in developing the sites,” said Ybas.

The LGU formed the Mainit Ecotourism Association that will oversee operations in the area; it has employed about 36 individuals, including senior citizens.

From 60 guests per month, Ybas reported a surge of tourism traffic. During the first quarter of the year, Malabuyoc recorded over 7,000 tourist arrivals; it also generated income of P260,441 from August 2013 to April 2014.

The mayor expects the income to increase as soon as the project is formally launched and tie-ups with tour operators are realized.

Malabuyoc is located 126 kilometers southwest of Cebu and is a three-hour bus ride from Cebu City.

Upon reaching the area, guests pay a P20 environmental fee, which also serves as an entrance fee to the spring and waterfalls. They are given a briefing, then serenaded by a group of senior citizens.

Hidden no more

The Malabuyoc eco-tourism site has four attractions: the sulfuric hot springs, traditional healing, waterfalls and river.

The Montaneza Falls, on the other hand, locally known as the “seven hidden waterfalls”, are a popular site for adventurous tourists. The falls are surrounded with huge rock formations and cliffs; the seventh waterfall stretches 30 meters high.

To enhance the tourism experience, the LGU has also set up a “therapeutic hut” at the entrance of the site, where guests can try a massage and traditional healing methods and rituals.

Ybas said they intend to keep the traditions of healing like dapo, tayhop and himag so foreign tourists will get to experience these. As for the foot and body massage, Ybas said they have at least six personnel who were trained to give proper massages.

“On top of developing our site, the LGU also invested in manpower skills training. We trained them to become tour guides and massage therapists, but we still need to have continuous education on other types of skills needed such as frontline services and housekeeping, among others,” he noted.

While the tourism site is still a work in progress, the LGU has started tapping investors for various tourism services such as restaurants and accommodations. They are also planning to provide investment incentives for small-scale enterprises to enhance the role of the community in tourism development.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 13, 2014.

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