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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Pacete: Another trend in guided tours

WE ARE happy to know that in February there are Fil-Canadian and Malaysian tourists coming to Negros to see the so many wonderful things and events in our “Land of Sweet Surprises.” That is our “come-on” strategy in addition to “sugar and more.”

Local and foreign tourists coming to Negros are not just interested to swim in our beaches, eat our food, and enjoy our festivals. Some professionals, media men, researchers, book writers and television program producers want to know what’s behind the life of Negrosanons, our social classes, the semi-feudal “haciendas,” the kind of election in Sugarland, the role of women, and more.

A guided tour is more than “just tour guiding.” We have to admit that we have just a “handful” of qualified guides in Negros. Some are simply minor guides, escorts, daring tour operators (who act like guides), and taunting entertainers. To be an accredited tour guide is easy… just comply the requirements of the Department of Tourism. To be a competent tour guide is one big thing.

Competent tour guides are not just “masters” on what could be found “to your left and to your right.” They should be the salesmen of tourism and culture. Negros is a sugar and heritage province. Politics made our sugar sweet. Politics also caused the downfall of the industry. Sugar plus people equals Negros. We do not end with Negros. Negrosanons create a landmark.

We need to re-educate fellow Negrosanons on their perception that Negros is just sugar. Some are made to believe that without our “pureza,” we will all die. Tour guides do not speak of death and the end of the industry. They should tell the tourists that Negros is a province of many hopes.

When George Zulueta was still a professor in the Hospitality Management of the University of St. La Salle, we created a Silay Tourism Office- USLS “Tourism Classroom on Wheels.” It was a new concept in making the students learn. We conduct lecture while the bus is in motion. We stop in specific areas to discuss history, culture, economics, religion, politics, conflict and we identify solutions to the problems. That earned a prestigious national award for Silay.

I hope other tourism colleges and universities can take off from where we left off. Negros should be our huge laboratory for tourism. Other things could be learned in hotels, museums, resorts, and restaurants. There are certain things that should be designed based on our cultural heritage. Tour guiding is not a serious undertaking. The tour guide should be alive and flexible.

Tour guiding is not over-reacting but it should be acting. A tour guide should be a theater performer to be convincing. Others do not agree with me because they are dry. If you don’t want to follow me just stay in your shell. Tour guiding is a romantic and historic journey. Tourists should not just listen to you. A tour guide is guiding them to be imaginative.

When I was still in office, lawyer Helen Catalbas (DOT-Western Visayas regional director) requested me to screen tour guide applicants. Only few qualified. They believed they are nervous and not willing to leave their “safe zone.” A tour guide trainee should experience a “Jumanji” adventure and take a risk with the unknown elements. After passing the fantasy, reality will just come easy.

I am not a tour guide. If you want my services, hire me as a resource person. We will travel together and share the fun. Very recently (2018), I was with a group of college professors and administrators from other regions. The tour trip started from La Castellana up to Silay (and back). I love their company. They are very appreciative but meticulous.

They asked good questions. How come that there is no house guide at the Pope’s Tower? (The elevator is not functioning.) What are the “hacenderos” doing to liberate their “hacienda” workers from the bondage of poverty? Why are some “hacendero” mayors running their LGUs like their “haciendas”? Lacson and Araneta are Negros heroes. How about Papa Isyo?

Negros is a sugar province. Is sugar technology a part of your curriculum? Your capital city has congested sidewalks. Is that part of tourism program? You campaign for anti- smoke belching but your sugar mills have chimneys that emit black smoke and your sugarcane fields are burned after the harvest. Can you justify?

These are just some of the questions. I gave them the answers based on truth without compromising tourism. We can always learn from each other to be in the new trend in tour guiding. Join the game.

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