Boracay out, Samar in


SAMAR is filling Boracay’s shoes as the country’s most popular island undergoes rehabilitation from environmental pollution.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) is looking at Samar province as an alternative destination to Boracay with its tourist spots to be included in the list of DOT’s priority sites for promotion.

“It’s time for Samar to show the world why it’s more fun in the Philippines,” said DOT Undersecretary Kat De Castro during the last day of Spark Samar Travel Fair 2018 at SM Megamall on Sunday.

De Castro recalled how she helped promote Samar to tourists in 2011 as the host of the travel show “Trip na Trip” produced by ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs and Bayan Productions.

“I found out that people in Samar are nice and they embraced us with open arms. With this, we are looking forward to increasing the number of visitors in Samar and its further development,” said De Castro.

In a statement, DOT said the multi-department group overseeing the ongoing shake-up of non-compliant establishments to environmental laws is proposing a two-month closure of Boracay.

Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan welcomed the pronouncement of DOT as the local government sees tourism as the main economic growth driver in a province known for typhoon and conflict.

“We are ready to welcome tourist after years of empowering, engaging and equipping our communities with skills needed to fortify the province’s community-based tourism initiatives,” Tan said.

Since the introduction of Spark Samar tourism campaign, tourist arrivals grew from 118,018 in 2013 to 207,709 in 2016. The governor is eyeing 298,000 tourists to Samar by 2019 or 2020.

The Samar provincial government has recommended four tourist-ready sites that are very accessible from Tacloban, the regional capital where the airport is located.

First on the list is the Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park where the country’s largest cave system can be found. The easiest to explore in the park is the Panhulugan Cave.

Due to the breadth of the cave network, only a few have been explored up to this date, according to the local government. A 15-minute kayak ride upstream will take tourists through limestone cliffs and other rock formations around the river banks.

The Ulot River in Paranas town is where a Torpedo Boat Extreme Ride can be experienced, with tourists riding a uniquely-designed boat that barrels through rapids on a 10.5-km. scenic stretch of the river. For adrenaline junkies, tour guides accompany some visitors in a leap into the gushing waters of Ulot, the longest river in Samar Island.

The Marabut rock formations are also an attraction. A boat ride on the calm and blue waters of San Pedro Bay takes tourists to the Marabut Marine Park where numerous limestone rock formations akin to familiar objects welcome them.

The panoramic Lulugayan Falls in Calbiga town is a curtain of water spilling into multi-level natural pools. Travel to the site is only a short trek through a hilly forest up to the Calbiga River and visitors can already swim in the pools, walk through the waterfalls, or relax in the cottages surrounding it.

p: wjg