MONDAY, what better way to start the week than checking out the next possible tourism hotspots in the region. We have lots, I know, but perhaps it needs a tweak to make a place more interesting and lure in the tourists. The experience, in the words of Mari Kondo, should spark joy. Everything else will follow.

With Tanya Tan, the new Department of Tourism (DOT)-Davao director, we rode towards the south at sunrise. “We’re heading to Lao Integrated Farm. But the reason I asked you to join me was to to see the Tibolo Cultural Village in Sta. Cruz,” she said. She wanted to check the two sites and look into the possibility of turning it into a hotspot.

I have been to Tibolo Cultural Village in 2017 and feasted on the tribe’s specialty: the nilutlot (native chicken slow cooked in coconut milk in a bamboo stalk). I am up to another bout with the dish and welcome the update on how the village has changed since then.

It would be my fist time to visit Lao Integrated Farm. With a necessary change to a healthier diet, I’m looking forward to shop for organic vegetables and other ingredients to shop and take home.

The DOT’s focus is on sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism is defined as the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy. Both the places we were visiting were marked by the DOT.

After driving for two hours, we reached our destination in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. Access to the Lao Integrated Farm was through a narrow, unpaved road flanked by trees.

Impressive is how Lao Integrated Farm can be described. It’s a Filipino company with a humble beginning and today is the country’s leading exporter of coconut syrup. It advocates organic farming and healthy living. It yields healthy and safe produce, which are exported. They protect farmlands via its natural farming techniques (which you should see for yourself), and providing employment to the locals.

Next stop was the Tibolo Cultural Village in Sta. Cruz. This time around we were welcomed with the young boys of the tribe dancing to the beat of the gong. After the introductions, we were taken around the village and given updates on the reconstruction of the village facilities.

The receiving hall was the first structure to be rehabilitated. Thanks to the influx of funding form different institutions, the longhouses and the rooms to accommodate guests will be renovated next.

Will these two be the region’s next tourism hotspots? If groomed well enough, Why not?

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