‘Philippine Experience Program’ to bring more tourists to Soccsksargen

‘Philippine Experience Program’ to bring more tourists to Soccsksargen
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The Department of Tourism’s “Philippine Experience Program (PEP): Culture, Heritage, and Arts Caravans” kicked off its Soccsksargen leg in General Santos City, on June 5, to showcase the region’s tourism destinations.

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The Department of Tourism (DOT) expressed its aspiration to enhance tourism in Soccsksargen by highlighting the region’s beauty through this program. The Soccsksargen leg of PEP ran from June 4-7, 2024, when the PEP delegates toured the four provinces of the region.

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Over 100 tourism stakeholders, including foreign diplomats and travel and tour agencies, first toured the GenSan Fishport Complex and witnessed the city’s famous tuna. This was followed by a visit to the Pacquiao Private Beach House in the Municipality of Glan, Sarangani Province, where the guests admired the town’s white sand beach.

Then they immersed themselves in the rich culture of the Municipality of Malungon, where they were welcomed by the cultural performances of the Blaan and Tagakaulo tribes. Malungon Mayor Maria Theresa Constantino personally welcomed DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco at the CCT Retreat and Training Center.

The tourism chief expressed her gratitude to the stakeholders for supporting the tourism industry.

“Today we unite under the banner of the PEP, a flagship initiative of our President Bongbong Marcos Jr., implemented by the DOT. The Philippines elevates itself as a tourism powerhouse through the strength of our culture and heritage, and the spirit of our people. And it is only by immersion into our communities that you will get to know the heart and soul of the Filipino,” Frasco said in her keynote speech.

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After that, the delegates toured Pacman Mansion 1, where they learned about the story of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. In the evening, LGU GenSan hosted a fellowship night dubbed “A Tribute Gala for the Champions,” which celebrated individuals who have brought honor to the city. The event was held at Plaza Heneral Santos.

”The Philippine Experience seeks for our international and local tourists to get to know our destinations, apart from our well-known destinations as well as our emerging and lesser-known destinations, by way of visiting your sights, your beaches, your mountain ranges, meeting your indigenous communities, getting to know your local traditions and cultures, and getting to taste your food,” the DOT chief explained, highlighting how the caravan has spotlighted some of the tourism gems of GenSan and the Province of Sarangani.

In gratitude for the warm reception on the inaugural day of PEP-SOX, the DOT secretary distributed gift kits to the tour guides of GenSan and Sarangani Province. These kits are packed with daily necessities such as a hat, bamboo sunglasses, a tumbler, a tour guide journal, sunscreen, and a portable lapel microphone, were well-received. Additionally, the guides were granted complimentary accident insurance coverage worth P50,000.

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On the second day, the PEP delegates paid a brief courtesy visit to Koronadal City Hall, where they were welcomed by local city officials. Afterward, they visited the Municipality of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, where they could immerse themselves in the Tboli culture.

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The PEP delegates visited Punta Isla Lake Resort and experienced the Tboli culture that the town is proud to showcase. There, Sec. Frasco led the distribution of kits and free insurance coverage to the local tour guides of the municipality.

“The target markets are both international and local tourists because even as a Filipino living in Cebu, it’s my first time here in Lake Sebu. That tells you that there is still so much more that our fellow Filipinos can discover should they venture to these parts of the Philippines,” Frasco said in an interview at the Lake Sebu leg of PEP: Soccsksargen on Thursday, June 6.

“This Philippine Experience is also designed to diversify our tourism offerings in the international global tourism market,” she added.

Reflecting on the emerging travel trend in the post-pandemic era, Frasco regards Soccsksargen as an appealing destination for tourists seeking meaningful, hands-on, and deep cultural experiences. She mentioned that DOT is keen on enhancing the region’s culinary tourism, with a particular focus on expanding its offerings of Halal cuisine to cater to Muslim visitors.

The caravan also toured in Sultan Kudarat where the PEP delegates got to taste the coffee and cultural delicacies of the province. They visited Bansada Adventure Agri-Eco Adventure Park and SKSU Coffee Laboratory.

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The Provincial Government of Sultan Kudarat hosted a fellowship night titled “Kalimudan Festival: A Philippine Experience” at the Provincial Capitol Ground. At the event, DOT and the Provincial Government of Sultan Kudarat entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), following the successful groundbreaking of the Tourist Rest Area (TRA) in Tacurong City.

Frasco and Sultan Kudarat Governor Datu Pax Ali S. Mangudadatu signed the agreement, witnessed by Sultan Kudarat 1st District Representative Congresswoman Princess Rihan Mangudadatu-Sakaluran and DOT-12 Regional Director Nelia Arina.

On the third day, PEP delegates visited Cotabato province where they experienced its natural beauty. They first visited Sitio Maupot Resort, at the Municipality of Magpet. Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza welcomed Frasco and the PEP delegates at Museyo Kutawato in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City.

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The Soccsksargen region has received six major tourism projects. Frasco said that she is optimistic that tourism in Soccsksargen will continue to thrive because the people of Soccsksargen are ready to receive tourists from all over the world and from all over the Philippines.

The Philippine Experience program is DOT’s cultural tourism initiative aimed at showcasing and celebrating the rich culture, heritage, and arts of the Philippines. Soccsksargen is the 9th region where PEP has been launched since last year.

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The program facilitates a cultural tourism circuit development focused on heritage, culture, and arts to enhance current tour and domestic circuit offerings, which include: Food and Gastronomy, Pilgrimage and Wellness, Living Cultures and Heritage, and an Arts caravan.

The program aims to diversify the cultural tourism product offerings of the country, equalize opportunities across the regions, support the preservation of the country’s heritage, and artistic resources and assets, and most importantly, instill a sense of pride and patriotism among the Filipino people through a greater appreciation of the country’s inheritance and legacy.

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