Story and photos by CHELSEA BIEN, CorrespondentSURIGAO CITY — The 7th National Tour Guides Convention and General Assembly, with the theme Tour Guides CAN: Ambassadors of Culture, Adventure and Nature was held on June 18 to 20 at the Philippine Gateway Hotel here.
The Philippine Federation of Professional Tour Guide Associations, Inc. was founded on June 28, 2010, and is composed of different tour guide associations from all over the country with a vision, “A federation of professional tour guides with global standards.” Its mission is “to become a prime mover for sustainable tourism through organizational development, adaptability and social responsibility for global competitiveness.”
Some 200 tour guide professionals attended the convention, coinciding with the National Tour Guides Day, which is celebrated annually on the third Monday of the month of June.
The convention was also attended by various member-associations of the Tour Guides Federation (TGFED).
The then Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez though was unable to attend the event he was capable of sending a message through a video and challenged the tour guides by giving three tasks: to make everyone feels welcome, to make them feel the significance and understand the place, and lastly, to make them remember the experience. And also, he stressed out that only professional tour guides know what the tourist needs. He added that tourism is a pride of every Filipino and the people is what makes the difference. Lastly, he encouraged the tour guides to never stop learning, acquiring new skills and to be the best guide because not everyone can be a tour guide.
During the convention, there were two topics and invited guest speakers. The first topic was about World War II as Key to Tourism Development by Johann Jake Miranda, managing director of Tavern Hotel, and a former Philippine Navy soldier. He said that it is very important to have a special guide for World War II history and the guide should tell a story vividly and clearly, to communicate the battles in a very respectful manner; impartial and inclusive, to lean on heroism. And he also cited the difference between commemoration and celebration.
On the other hand, the second topic talked about the Principles of Sustainable Tourism by Gabriel Malvar, who started the TV documentary Island Insiders – a show approved by National Geographic and Department of Tourism (DOT), Travelife writer and editor-at-large. In his talk, he gave examples logically that stirred the mind of the audience and by asking questions like how much is the carrying capacity of a specific destination, are we able to conserve, protect and preserve the place, does the local community and the place ready enough to receive a big capacity. And also, he stated that planning between the stakeholders together with the local community is a must for a better result of the plan.
As winning bidder for next year’s convention, Manila will host the 8th National Tour Guides Convention and General Assembly next year.
This year’s host, Surigao City, is the provincial capital of Surigao del Norte, and was known during the Spanish era as “Banahao”. It became a chartered city on August 31, 1970, and has since then continued its march in developing into one of the favorite destinations in Mindanao.
Participants to this year’s convention were divided into three: cultural tour, adventure tour and nature tour. Each tour was given the chance to explore the host city for its divergent tourism potentials.
The cultural tour highlighted Surigao City’s walk through the historic first raising of the Philippine flag, a stroll at the Luneta Park, a tree-lined promenade plaza and a playground for everyone’s recreation and visiting the Battle of Surigao Strait (BOSS) museum.
The adventure tour went island-hopping, visiting Basul Island. Basul was taken from the Visayan word “mamasul” which means to catch fish. Also visited was Hikdop Island and Pagkawasan Beach which boasts of fine white sand and clear blue waters. Added to the list of tourist attraction visited by the Adventure Tour group was Buenavista Cave which depicts the illusionary image of a grand king’s court, complemented by stalactites and stalagmites.
Meanwhile, the nature tour group went on an exploration of the city’s ecotourism destinations. The group visited Silop Cave Complex, a unique cave system with various entrances leading to one big chamber and with impressive limestone formation of naturally carved stalagmites and stalactites. Also visited was the Mabua Stone Beach, which has a kilometer-long stretch of beach full of multi-sized pebbles, and clear blue water, where tourists can also see the magnificent sunset. The Day-asan water village and Mangrove Forest, dubbed as “Little Venice” because of its narrow channels of water; it is a must-see destination in which the houses are erected on wooden stilts, bedded rocks and a vast mangrove plants.
The officers of Philippine Federation of Professional Tour Guide Associations Inc. for 2014-2016, who made the convention possible, are as follows: GeneRose Tecson (GUIDE Davao) –President , Erwin Valenzuela (PAATGLI Luzon) –Vice-president, Lenieto Millan (CATG Visayas) –Vice-president, Gina Amador Cuerdo (RANGERS Mindanao) –Vice-president, Karla Ortega (CATG) –Secretary, Milber Cantiberos (Guide Davao) –Treasurer, Agnes Ytac (BITGAP) – Auditor. And the newly elected officers of the Philippine Federation of Professional Tour Guide Associations Inc. 2016-2018, are as follows: GeneRose Tecson (GUIDE Davao) –President, Erwin Valenzuela (PAATGLI Luzon) –Vice-president, Danny Nazareno (BITGAP Visayas) –Vice-president, Tryll Chiu (CARTOGA Mindanao) –Vice-president, Jennylind Demerre (ATON) Secretary, Zandro Zabalo (PPPTGA) t–Treasurer, Ricky Enriquez (PTGA) – Auditor.
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