DEPARTMENT of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo said that our country could focus on faith tourism considering our diversity-rich religious culture. (I can’t understand faith but I have faith in God and I want to remain faithful to my wife.)
The secretary added, “The Philippines is an ideal destination of religious pilgrimage, not only for sight-seeing but to actually experience time-honored Filipino traditions dating back to pre-Spanish era.” The Philippines is a destination with unique spiritual significance that will attract millions of pilgrims from all corners of the world.
Faith tourism is already here in Negros. To follow the suggestion of Secretary Tulfo, probably we can just beef up our existing program. We expect that our Negros leaders will first maintain their faith in their “political relationship,” especially in the capital city and in the Provincial Capitol. Like charity, faith begins at home.
In Silay City, faith tourism is part of our tour package. We bring tourists inside San Diego Pro-Cathedral, the only pro-cathedral outside of Metro Manila designed by an Italian architect, Lucio Bernasconi. It resembles St. Peter Basilica in Rome. We also showcase the ruins of the old church, and a portion of that has been converted into a prayer room.
Every December, we convert our public plaza into a Christmas Village that features Filipino Christmas icons like the Negros brand “belen,” Christmas “arko” and the visitors are encouraged to have their Christmas pilgrimage in Silay.
At times, we have also emphasized our Sto. Nino de Silay celebration, San Roque procession, Flores de Mayo festival, and the religious Santacruzan (St. Helena’s search for the cross) as inspired by Msgr. Guillermo Gaston. San Diego fiesta every November 13 always takes center stage.
The San Sebastian Cathedral and the Bishop’s House in Bacolod are “must- see” for tourists. That “museum” in the convent is added attraction for the visitors to understand the “growth of faith” in Bacolod. San Sebastian Day should not be buried with Masskara celebration in October.
Bacolod artists could stage a play at the plaza, featuring the masked arrow shooters responsible for the martyrdom of San Sebastian. City officials (also former officials) should come and reflect.
The Pope’s Tower is also an attraction. Faded pictures are telling the stories about the visit of Pope John Paul II. We hope that an interesting tour guide could be assigned there and someone could sponsor the repair of the elevator. If you are on top of the tower, you will see the landscape of Bacolod and the mounds of uncollected garbage (also scattering) in the reclamation area.
San Nicolas de Tolentino church in Talisay has wonderful “stories of faith” to tell. The “palapak kay Senor San Vicente” is the “best seller” every first Friday. Some believe that “that piece of wood” has a healing power. The San Vicente Ferrer in Vito, Sagay is also popular for its version of “palapak.” Many politicians go there before election time “to be faithfully stepped over.” Many did not win. Some were just lucky.
In Victorias, the Church of St. Joseph the Worker at Victorias Milling Company features Filipino works of art and the main attraction there is the mural backdrop of the altar, “Jesus Christ with craggy face.” That psychedelic painting is oftentimes thought as the “Angry Christ.” You are wrong because for one who has studied liturgical arts, all the symbols are about love, forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation, and faith.
The Chapel of Cartwheels is “Pinoy na Pinoy.” Priest, architect, artist, musician, preacher, cook… rolled into one, Msgr. Guillermo Gaston created that to remind us that Jesus Christ is one of us… a laborer in the sugarcane field. Christ was crucified in the cartwheel to remind the “hacenderos” that the sugarcane workers were also made to the “the image and likeness of God.” That could be faith also!
In Santa Clara Subdivision, Bacolod, we have the Chapel of Seashells (Birhen sang Barangay) designed by Norman Campos and decorated by Letecia Sia Ledesma. The altar backdrop is the mural mosaic of the Birhen sang Barangay (9x21) having 25,000 pieces of polished shell in their natural color.
We have other things to feature about faith in Negros… our colorful “Semana Santa” procession (Good Friday); the centennial bell; the Church of our Lady of Guadalupe in Valladolid (the biggest in Negros); the unfinished church in Canetown, Victorias… and many more.
Faith is tourism. Let us have faith in our faith tourism. People in the tourism industry should put their “faith” together to faithfully implement tourism. Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible. Have faith in your faith.