It is irrefutable nowadays that tourism is here to stay, be it in the local or in the international arena. That saying (and as summer is now fast approaching), Palawan takes center stage. Tourism will indeed make the future look brighter  only if we do the right thing, that is. Otherwise, it will be catastrophic to us, to our environment, to our culture, among others. Hence, a sort of caveat emptor will not hurt instead of “takaw-tingin” to all that tourism could offer. We could not afford to have our eyes bigger than our stomach. We will be regretful sooner than later. Tourism could be a culprit then.

Concerted efforts must be called for. Shared ideas should stimulate common good for us local hosts and guests- tourists alike.

From the travels, I have made thus far, the following impress upon me as remarkable as it is helpful in the practice of tourism. In random,

⁃ Tour guides and tour drivers are VIPs. In an accommodation (hotel), they are well-fed and tightly protected. One told me, “We have 50 to 70 people in our hands whenever we work. Their lives depend on us.” Since they are taken care of, they have to be doubly responsible in return. The fact of the matter is they are not allowed to work (drive) for more than 8 hours. Otherwise, they could already be courting danger and death

⁃ Safety is an extreme concern. When I was keeping an eye to my belongings while in a park, an elderly man assured me, “Don’t worry about your things. You are safe here because this is an Arab country.” Another companion of mine left his bag in a restaurant. He was told by the tour guide, “It’s okay. I will make a call and in 5 minutes they will bring back your bag in your hands.” Indeed, it happened. It was done as it was said.

⁃ Security is a top priority. Heard from a tour guide, “We want our guests to be very happy about our place. We take care of every one person as if we are taking care of 100 persons.” Nobody goes to vacation only to worry or be stressed by alerts and warnings, right?

⁃ Nature is priceless premium. It is not only the destination that matters. Getting there must also excite. Along the way, the tour guide would exclaim, “Look at the mountains, how magnificent! Have you seen the beautiful flowers? The seas are crystal clear!”  When our environment is destroyed in the name of progress, it would be like the proverbial killing of the goose that lay the golden eggs.

⁃ I have met a foreigner trying very hard to speak in Tagalog. “Kohmosta kah? Mhagandhang umaga poh.” I was amazed as I was also curious and so I asked him what made him speak the local language. Straightforwardly, he said, “Respect. When you go to a place, you show respect to the people there by talking to them in their native tongue, khahet mhaherap.” Upon hearing him, indeed I have felt honored as a native then and there. Need we say more?

⁃ Last and this must not be the least, leave a mark to our guests. There is no better mark than character. More than fun, food, and those fancies, it is our common attitude that will truly matter and will be significantly remembered. I was pleasantly surprised when a memorial stone honors Palawan in the Holy Land. It recognizes the Last Frontier not for its pristine beaches nor for the amazing islands, but for the kindness of the Palaweños who welcomed persons in need (the Vietnamese Refugees then). This act of kindness happened in 1975, but up until now it still reverberates to the present generation. And it could really last til we do not know when.

Recently, Pope Francis himself made mention of tourism as a mission. For him, the pitfall of tourism is consumerism. While economics is very much part of it, it must also do balance with an encounter with people, mutual respect, growth in knowledge, appreciation of natural beauty, among others.

Many things could still be said about tourism. A lot more things have to be rightly done. But while we are at it … tara, byahe tayo.

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