Olango women cook up ideas for ecotourism drive-A A +A
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
FOUR women were busy preparing puto maya (sweet sticky rice cooked in coconut milk) inside the kitchen of a seaside house.
It was past midnight but they kept themselves awake to provide a tasty breakfast for a group of visitors of Olango Island.
The women, all residents of Barangay Tungasan, were tasked by the former barangay captain to prepare food for dozens of visitors, mostly bloggers, who were given a tour of the island last Sunday.
Jarlinda Taneo couldn’t hide her excitement for the ecotourism program the Lapu-Lapu City Government is soon rolling out for the island, which has 11 barangays.
“Life on the island is hard, with fish getting scarce because of the growing population,” the 50-year-old mother of six said in Cebuano. “Employing us to cook food for tourists is already a great help.”
In July last year, Mayor Paz Radaza announced that the City will develop Olango as an ecotourism hub, with locals serving as tourist guides and providing the needs of the visitors, like foods and accommodation.
“We can easily bring in tour operators, but that is not a sustainable way to develop ecotourism on the island,” said Balbino “Ka Bino” Guerrero Jr., one of the consultants hired by the City to implement the tourism project.
Involving the community, he said, will give them a sense of ownership, which is important for an ecotourism program to be sustainable.
Ka Bino said ecotourism will not only provide alternative livelihood to the locals, but will also encourage them to preserve the environment.
The first step to establish ecotourism in Olango is to make an inventory of the island’s natural and cultural resources, said Boboi Costas, an ecotourism consultant tasked to organize the community.
“In community-based ecotourism, you develop what you have,” he said.
One of the features of the ecotourism in Olango is the culinary tour on bike, where tourists stop in every barangay to eat delicacies and local cuisine as they bike around the island.
Another highlight is the gathering of sea shells at night, locally known as panulo.
Tourists, accompanied by local fishermen, will collect sea shells and catch fish at night with the aid of a flashlight or a lamp.
Jonji Gonzales, Lapu-Lapu City information officer, said the City will officially launch the ecotourism project by the first week of April.
A tour package for a minimum of 10 people will cost P10,000. That consists of an overnight stay in a local inn, two meals, the culinary tour on bike and the panulo.
Of the amount, P100 will go to the City Government while P50 will go to the community fund, which the locals can use for environmental protection and other community development projects.
Costas said an association of the locals will be formed to handle the ecotourism program.
“We will conduct strategic planning to map the direction of the ecotourism program,” he said.
Part of the planning, he said, is to set the “limits of acceptable change in the community.” Costas said ecotourism planners should anticipate the changes that ecotourism may bring to the community.
Costas was behind the ecotourism program of Aloguinsan, Cebu, where a river cruise attracted 4,000 tourists last year, bringing in revenues of about P3 million.
The ecotourism program in Aloguinsan will be re-launched this weekend.
In Olango, ecotourism was introduced to the locals last January, said Gonzales.
“We explained to them the benefits of eco-tourism and we listened to their ideas,” he said.
The locals will soon be trained to become “heritage interpreters.” They will also be taught how to prepare foods for the tourists.
The City Government has also tapped the Sangguniang Kabataan for the ecotourism program.
Triponia Abayan, the former chief of Tungasan, has put up Triponia’s Seaside Inn and Grill in her residence compound.
She has two air-conditioned rooms and two cottages ready for accommodation. She said she will soon have four more air-conditioned rooms.
“This tourism program will help our community a lot,” said Abayan, whose eldest daughter is the chief of the barangay.
Abayan said she also plans to put up in a floating restaurant and floating coffee shop where only locals will be employed.
Majority of the residents of Tungasan, which has more than 400 households, depend on shell craft and fishing for livelihood.
Some locals, like 47-year-old Rose Maranan, have apprehensions. “How can we entertain foreign tourists when we cannot speak English well?” she said in Cebuano.
But Costas said locals should not worry because foreign tourists prefer to have local guides who do not speak English fluently. “That’s part of the local charm,” he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 19, 2013.