Our team left our official station at 1 o’clock in the afternoon last Wednesday, September 30 and we arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) the following day at around 5 in the morning. Our flight was supposed to be at 7AM but, as unfortunate as we could get, our flight was delayed for three (3) hours. We were able to depart at about 10AM and arrive at Davao at past 12noon.
We were greeted by an ethnic band playing a familiar sound that we often hear during the celebration of their annual Kadayawan Festival. The rhythmic sounds gave us the feeling that we have finally arrived at Davao.
The convention kicked-off with the Parade of Regions wherein the delegates had to wear their respective regional/traditional attires. It was such a delight to see all the costumes of the participants that are filled with magnificent colours and socially-relevant stories. It was like seeing the whole of the Philippines in one room that as you pass by each table, you’re travelling from one region to another.
It was followed by the formal opening of the ATOP 16th National Convention by its incumbent president, Mr. Alphonsus Tesoro, the Provincial Tourism Officer of Capiz.
The dinner for that night was hosted by no less than the Davao City Mayor himself, Hon. Rodrigo Duterte. He was greeted by his oh-so-eager fans wanting to have a selfie with him. He obviously wasn’t feeling well that night but came nonetheless to officially welcome the delegates to his jurisdiction.
Notorious, frank, fearless. These are just some of the words commonly used to describe Mayor Duterte. Well, he is who he is. It’s not every day that you get to see a high-ranking official in all his glory, use foul language in his speeches and actually admit to the public that he indeed stained his hands with, as he stressed, criminals’ blood. It’s no surprise that a lot of people are being frightened of him. He is Machiavellian in some sense. As he said in his speech, “People must not only obey you. They must fear you.”
The second day of the convention was opened by ATOP’s Founder, Mr. Catalino “Butch” Chan, who was emotional during his speech as he looked back to when they were just starting, to when they had barely enough funds, and to when conferences were only attended by a small number of delegates.
The day went on with a series of lectures from various personalities who excelled in the field of tourism. Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the country is one of the most, if not the most important tourist destination in Davao. It is only essential then that they protect it and the DOT, DENR, USAID, Davao Region, along with other agencies have done a pretty good job at it. Manifestation of this is the lecture of Ms. Rebecca Carter, the Deputy Director of the Office of Environment, Energy nd Climate Change of USAID Philippines on the USAID and DENR Collaboration in Strengthening Policy and Practice in Mt. Apo Natural Park; and of that of Mr. Eduardo Ragasa, Mt. Apo Natural Park-Protected Area Operations Superintendent on Strengthening Policy and Practice in Protected Area Management and Biodiversity Conservation: The Mt. Apo Natural Park Success.
Another interesting lecture is that of Ms. Rita Pilarca, the Senior Adviser of Promotion of Green Economic Development wherein she talked about Greening the Tourism Value Chain: Ensuring Resiliency for a Sustainable Future. Tourism is anchored on having a beautiful, peaceful, and placid environment. She gave profound insights on the benefits of greening the environment towards a more progressive tourism in the Philippines.
Ms. Yuhaini Yusoff’s discussion on Islamic/Halal Tourism was an eye-opener one. She is the Director of the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) of Malaysia. Halal Tourism, broadly defined is the type of tourism that adheres to the values of Islam (Hassan, 2007). It is good to know that there now exist a brand of tourism that caters our Muslim brothers and sisters.
ATOP also gave way for an open forum where the audience were able to throw questions to the distinguished lecturers.
During the night, Mr. Mark Lapid, Chief Operating Officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority graced the event and gave a short message to all the delegates. The Governor’s Night was hosted by the four (4) Governors of Davao Region: Hon. Rodolfo Del Rosario of Davao del Norte, Hon. Claude Bautista of Davao del Sur, Hon. Corazon Nuñez – Malanyaon, and Hon. Arturo Uy of Compostela Valley. Mr. Lapid was supposed to deliver a keynote address with the theme, “One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities: The Philippine Context” but due to the six-hour delay of his flight, he came in late.
The third day was spent for the benchmarking tour around Davao Region. The delegates were given six (6) choices of tour packages: 1) Davao City Tour – D’Bone Collector Museum, Public Safety & Security Command Center, Central 911, Crocodile Park, Tribu K’Mindanawan; 2) Davao Royalties – Waling-Waling, Philippine Eagle, Sul Orchids, Malagos Garden Resort, Glory Fountain; 3) Sun and Sand: Island Garden City of Samal at Davao del Norte, Hagimit Falls, Monfort Bat Cave, Taklobo (Giant Clams) Tours; 4) Agri-Cultural Industrial Tour at Davao del Sur – Mindanao Baptist Rural Learning Center, Lao Integrated Farm, San Miguel Brewery, Therma South, Inc.; 5) Plantation Tour at Davao del Norte – Banana Beach Hijo Plantation, Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (TADECO); and 6) Adventure Tour at Compostella Valley – Camp Manuel T. Yan Ecotourism Park, Mahayahay Cave.
The conference was concluded with the 10th ATOP-DOT Pearl Awards where the provinces, cities and municipalities with best tourism practices are being recognized. It was also the night to announce the venue of the 17th ATOP National Convention which will be at the Province of Pampanga. Guess we’ll have to ready our stomachs for the famous Kapampangan cuisine.
The entire region is filled with stunning sceneries, vibrant fabrics, sumptuous delicacies, garden-fresh fruits and impressive agricultural and industrial technologies. There’s just so much to see, so much to taste and so much to experience, it will leave you wanting to go back over and over again.
Laag Tauy sa Dabaw!