THE Balik Cebu Committee is setting up a grassroots tourism program in their adopted community in Yolanda-stricken Pilar, Camotes.
Tetta Baad, the chairperson of the Balik Cebu Committee on Wednesday said once the construction of the 30 dwellings in the style of the bahay kubo in Sitio Experanza, Pilar is completed, the team will proceed with their grassroots tourism project to provide sustainable livelihood to the community.
At present, 15 bahay kubos have been erected. Fifteen more are under construction.
The Balik Cebu Committee embarked on a Balik-Balay project in 2014 in response to the victims of typhoon Yolanda, whose houses were wrecked when the strongest typhoon hit Eastern Visayas and Northern Cebu in Nov. 8, 2013.
The committee has reached-out to the balikbayans to pool resources to build houses amounting to P35,000 each. The Balik Balay project aimed to build 50 dwellings.
Baad said until now, donations from balikbayans and project-supporters still keep coming in, which is why they plan to engage the community in community-based tourism initiatives to make the entire project sustainable.
From the donations, the committee will build a community pavilion and three tourist-inns which will be managed by the community. Baad said the residents will also undergo a series of tourism trainings to be handled by the Department of Tourism and environmental best practices to be conducted by Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival.
“Women will be trained to do housekeeping while men will take charge of the maintenance of the facility,” said Baad.
Baad said they picked tourism as the key sector that would generate employment opportunities and livelihood for the community because this is a sector the people of Camotes is familiar with, being one of the province’s top tourist destinations.
Camotes is an island abundant with natural resources, from pristine beaches to underground rivers and caves. In the municipality of Pilar is the Pilar Marine Park, which was awarded one of the best marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Philippines. Reports said it got the highest honor in “Para El MAR”, the MPA Awards and Recognition Event mounted by the Marine Protected Area Support Network in 2009.
“Equipping the community with the right tourism skill and culture will surely boost tourism in Pilar, Camotes, especially among individual travelers or backpackers. Like Boracay Island, which was a backpackers’ paradise in the past,” said Baad.
She said putting in place the tourism facilities will eventually translate to more tourism investments in the long run. “We expect this project to become an invitation for other tourism-related businesses,” said Baad.