FROM initially tapping Filipino communities living in the US to come home during the Sinulog Festival, the Balik Cebu program has already captured other foreign countries in the last 15 years, according to Tetta Baad, chairperson of the Balik Cebu committee.
In an interview yesterday, Baad admitted they already lost count of balikbayans coming home to participate in the weeklong Sinulog celebration as figures increase year on year.
Some, she said, arrive during the Christmas season and stay until Sinulog and book Sinulog activities on their own. Others, on the other hand, arrive in time for Sinulog.
“We now have balikbayans coming from all over the world like Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and the US. We used to tie up with tour operators in the US to ensure we have returnees but in the past years, a lot have travelled on their own,” said Baad, also chair of the Cebu City Tourism Commission (CCTC).
The Balik Cebu program aims to offer tourists and returnees an “unparalleled Cebu experience.” The program is sponsored by Ayala Center Cebu and Cebu Holdings Inc. in partnership with the CCTC, Department of Tourism, Sinulog Foundation Inc., and some volunteers from the private sectors.
Yesterday, the committee unveiled the Balik Cebu booth located at Rotunda 1 beside the concierge of the Ayala Center Cebu.
The booth, which is open from Jan. 6 to 17, will serve as an information center for Sinulog events. It will sell tickets for the Balik Cebu Homecoming Dinner at The Terraces, seats at the Sinulog grandstand during the parade or reserve a slot to tour the province during the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo.
For the past 15 years, Baad said, they had stuck with the formula that worked well with the Balik Cebu program as this has attracted more overseas Filipinos and even foreign tourists to visit Cebu during the Sinulog before they proceed to other local destinations.
Balikbayans, she said, take advantage of the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo tours, which are being offered right after Sinulog or embark on countryside day trip tours in Bohol.
Asked what’s new this year, Baad said, Cebu’s new tourism brand “Cebu: Where Your Heart Sings” will be the theme for the welcome dinner party on Jan. 14 at the Ayala Cebu Terraces.
Baad said she thinks the Balik Cebu Homecoming is one of the perfect avenues to roll out Cebu’s new tourism brand to encourage balikbayans to also become ambassadors for Cebu abroad.
During the homecoming party, balikbayans will be treated to various musical numbers, among others, which are uniquely Cebuano.