Fewer tourists in Bantayan; recovery from Yolanda shows

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Saturday, April 19, 2014


BANTAYAN — Fewer tourists visited Sta. Fe town in Bantayan Island during the Holy Week, officials observed.

In Cebu City and the rest of Central Visayas, fewer petty crimes in religious sites were reported during Holy Thursday and Good Friday this year compared to 2013.

Seventeen road accidents were reported in Cebu City alone, but the authorities said these were all minor and quickly addressed, like the brief spells of heavy traffic near religious sites.

Sta. Fe Mayor Jose Esgana estimated the decrease in his town’s tourist arrivals at 30 to 35 percent.

The town, he said, used to have 350 rooms for visitors but fewer than 300 were available this week as the rehabilitation of some resorts is still underway.

With a 7.2-kilometer stretch of white sand beach and 31 resorts, Sta. Fe is the center of tourism in the island.

When super typhoon Yolanda hit the island last November 8, all resorts were devastated. After a month, only 12 resorts reopened, said Councilor Joan Pasasadaba.

Holy Week in Bantayan
THE LIGHT ON THE ISLAND. A family releases lanterns into the sky, while spending the Holy Week taking in the white sand beaches and other attractions of Santa Fe in Bantayan Island. The words “Holy Week” were dug in the sand, then illuminated by candles. (Sun.Star Foto/Alex Badayos)


Pasasadaba said that several locals were affected as many resorts were forced to lay off workers or reduce their work hours.

Esgana said it may take two to three years before the town’s tourism industry fully recovers, with the help of the National Government.

Branding

“If we don’t receive assistance for our infrastructure needs, maybe it will take us five to 10 years to recover,” he told reporters.

The municipal government is taking steps to help the tourism sector recover.

It recently partnered with an international pilot who is also a local and a photographer for a tourism branding effort.

Capt. Lindo Gigante has made efforts online to promote Sta. Fe, mainly by sharing pictures. He said Sta. Fe, is the main destination for tourists in the island, needs to have its own brand of tourism.

“I would like to bring something that will brand the face of tourism in Bantayan,” he said.
As part of the tourism campaign, Gigante shares online pictures of girls, including his daughter, with kalachuchi blossoms on their ears as a way of giving a face to the town’s tourism. He also wants the town be identified with intricately painted native hats and small paddles with carved designs.

Apart from the branding effort, the town has also partnered with a nongovernment organization to train local emergency responders and lifeguards.

Safe visits

“This is in line with the mayor’s vision to promote accountable tourism,” said Larry Joie Alag, secretary general of the Philippine Life-Saving Inc., which is training 20 volunteers to become professional lifeguards.

“Promoting tourism carries with it the responsibility to make sure tourists are safe and we want Sta. Fe to be known as a safe place for tourists,” he added.

In Cebu City, Chief Insp. Romeo Santander, head of the Cebu City Police Office’s City Intelligence Branch, said the presence of civilian volunteers thwarted the plans of criminals.

“Everything was orderly and there were no major crime incidents,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Civilian volunteers watched over churches, Stations of the Cross and the street play “Buhing Kalbaryo”.

Police personnel also monitored businesses and financial institutions that were still open last Thursday, following the string of robbery incidents involving courier outlets last month.

Good weather

The rest of Central Visayas also celebrated Holy Week peacefully.

“There was no major crime incident reported. It was generally peaceful, just like last year,” said Supt. Renato Dugan, chief of Police Regional Office (PRO) 7’s Regional Public Information Office.

Mayor Michael Rama, who participated in most of the major activities in the city during Holy Thursday and Good Friday, said everything went well as the weather cooperated.

“There was an element of surprise and excitement for the public because after all, it was a beautiful weather,” Rama told Sun.Star Cebu.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-asa) had expected a rainy Holy Week.

Easter

No untoward incident was reported in the city, said Rama, who continued
to monitor the city’s command post while also directing the City’s police
officers to man the Lenten activities.

“I hope the good weather and the success of all the religious activities will continue until Easter,” Rama said.

Activities such as the Sugat or the ritual celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ will be held in different churches in the city today, Sunday.

There was also no major road incident since Holy Thursday, reported the City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) office.

Citom Executive Director Rafael Christopher Yap said 12 minor road accidents were reported last Thursday while five were reported last Friday.

Traffic congestion was experienced during processions but Yap said it immediately dispersed once the procession passed.

The Visita Iglesia or the traditional church visits also added to some congestion. Traffic enforcers were deployed in areas of the city where Holy Week activities were held. (With Razel V. Cuizon and Davinci S. Maru of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 20, 2014.

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