Directing the ‘center of gravity’ of PH tourism

“I hit the ground running,” remarked Shalimar Hofer Tamano of his assignment as Region 7 Director of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Region 7—Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor—is Shalimar’s first field assignment. He sees Cebu has its beach resorts, dolphin watching attraction, Basilica del Santo Niño and stone churches. Oriental Negros has its Apo Island and Manjuyod sand bar. Dumaguete was recently named by the DOT as a retirement center of the country, and it is where he walks the city’s popular boulevard incognito and enjoys a sidewalk massage. Siquijor is developing to be a hideaway for some of the very rich people in Manila. Bohol has its beautiful beaches. And with the new international airport, there will be more tourists bound for that area.

“My first day in Cebu was last year, Jan. 4, and that was a busy time for Sinulog preparations. Then there was Ironman, then the inauguration of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and shortly after, the inauguration of the Bohol-Panglao International airport,” Tamano recalled. “Do you know there are 26 airlines that land in Mactan, some of them you may never have heard of before?”

He had been working in the DOT main office since 2006, initially to head the department’s Halal Development Program. In 2011, he was chairman of the DOT Economic Cluster of Legislative Liaison System. In 2016, he was head of DOT’s Legislative Liaison Office, and concurrently held that position with the DOT Office of Internal Audit Service at the time he was assigned to Region 7—a region he is familiar with since his mother, Marlene Hofer, comes from Ginatilan, Cebu.

If his name, Shalimar, is exotic to Visayan natives, so is his birthplace, Cairo, where his parents, both academicians, were taking further studies. His father, Salipada Tamano, is chancellor of the King Faisal Center of Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, and his mother, a Towns awardee, was dean of the College of Business Administration of the same university.

Growing up, MSU was home for Shalimar where he had his grade school, high school and college education. He has a degree in business administration and was the recipient of the College Leadership Award. He was also the Marawi City ROTC Corps Commander back in the day. After college, he dabbled in various things, including taking up law in Ateneo de Manila—but did not finish—and running for Congress, but lost (of this he wryly commented, “I thought I was one of the Spice Boys.”) He passed the Career Service Executive Examination in 2005 and joined the Department of Tourism a year later.

Of his last assignment in Manila, he said it was difficult because he had to liaison with 300 representatives who served their districts.

“I had to know their background, their mandate. But still I enjoyed my work, though it was not easy. I still communicate with some of them,” he shared. “This Cebu assignment is wonderful. I have a very competent staff.”

After an eventful year, he expects 2019 to be equally, if not more, busy with several conventions to be hosted in the region: Routes Asia (a high-end aviation industry gathering), Capa - Centre for Aviation and Pata (Pacific Asia Travel Association).

A sports enthusiast himself—he was into basketball in school and is a judo black belter (he won a bronze medal in a black belt competition)—Shalimar wants to focus on sports tourism like beach volleyball and arnis. In 2020, arnis will have an international tournament in Cebu.

“People pay top money to view a sumo match in Japan. Why not for an arnis fight in Cebu?”

Shalimar may have “hit the ground running” when he assumed his post as DOT Region 7 Director but he certainly has not flagged down and has kept his pace well and good in the region which he considers the “center of gravity of tourism” in the Philippines.

“I am thankful I was assigned here because I now realize that here is the center of gravity as far as tourism is concerned. That is why we have to work harder. Everything has to be world-class; transportation, accommodation. And most important is safety. A happy tourist is one who arrives and departs safely.” (S)


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