EL NIDO, Palawan — This municipality’s community-run tourism sites have been experiencing a low turnout of visitors despite the onset of the summer season that was supposed to usher an increased number of visitors.
The month of March marks the beginning of the peak season for El Nido. Calmer seas and sunny skies make the perfect weather for land- and sea-based activities. Summer has begun, and locals who rely on tourism as their primary source of income brace for the arrival of visitors in large numbers.
But as of late, due to the looming threat of Covid-19, establishments have yet to feel the onslaught of arrivals that come with the summer. The usual throng of Chinese and Korean groups is sparse if any at all.
Local community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) sites are noticing the decline as well.
“Usually, sa mga ganitong panahon, ito na ang ine-expect naming na peak season talaga. Marami talagang bumibisita. Ngayon, kakaunti na lang sila. May mga walk-in po kami, pero di na kasing dami noong nakaraang taon,” said Dominador “Denden” Gilliang, Jr., curator for the Dewil Valley Museum.
To get to the Dewil Valley Museum, one travels for at least an hour by land from the El Nido Poblacion. The Museum showcases information about local life in the Dewil Valley, as well as replicas of prehistoric archaeological findings that were excavated in the series of caves nearby, one of which is the well-known Ille Cave. It is also free to the public, which makes it an accessible visit to all.
Another CBST site that also sees fewer visits is the Sibaltan Heritage Site.
Located in the Sibaltan town proper, the compound consists of the Pangko Museum, where a replica of the Cuyunon balangay stands. Another attraction is the Balay Cuyunon, a replica of a typical house that represents traditional Cuyunon living. All attractions are free-of-charge.
“Hindi na rin ganoon karami ang mga bumibisitang mga turista ngayon, siguro nga dahil sa mga pangyayari sa mundo ngayon,” says Tessie Abrina, member of the Sibaltan Heritage Council. The Council oversees the heritage sites and is also in charge of its maintenance.
However, both CBST sites do not see this as a low point. Tourism is not seen as the main reason of existence for these community-based efforts, but the propagation of information and awareness of the sites.
“Mas gusto namin na i-maintain ang mga sites na ito para sa mga kabataan, para makita talaga nila kung ano ba ang buhay noon, lalo na sa mga Cuyunon. Siyempre ngayon, nakamulatan nila, modern na. Hindi nila naranasang sumakay sa balangay. Gusto namin ma-preserve ang alaala para alam ng mga kabataan kung saan ba nanggaling ang mga Cuyunon,” Abrina stated.
“Marami kaming mga turista na bumibisita, pero mas gusto naming makipag-partner sa mga kabataan, sa mga eskuwelahan, para maka-facilitate kami ng mga programa. Gusto naming ituro kung ano ba ang history ng Dewil Valley, sino ba ang mga unang tao na nakatira rito, ano ba ang nagging pamumuhay nila,” added Gilliang.