It’s no fun anymore PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 February 2018 15:11

LOOKING IN

BY ROD BALBON

As we celebrate our anniversary as a chartered city, one wonders why for years now, our city has been excluded from the promotional thrust of the Department of Tourism as one of the major destination in the country.

Once known as one of the cleanest and beautiful city of flowers, it has now been noticeably avoided and excluded by local and foreign tourists in spending their holidays and vacations.

I could still remember in the 70’s, when our city was one of the ports of call of foreign cruise ships, bringing in thousands of tourists for a short visit. With the cooperation of the designated tour agency and the Department of Tourism, Zamboanga Field Office, the tourists were toured to the city and countryside for a glimpse of our history, culture, and way of life. With the increased number of tourists, licensed tourist guides were lacking and we, the employees of the Tourism Department, were instructed by our boss, the late Vincent Elago, to perform tour-guiding chores. I usually chose the countryside tour and we went as far as the very interesting houses on stilts in Aman Nuño’s barangay of Taluksangay. Our last stop would be the Rocan Shell Shop before we return them to their ship. These type of foreign cruise tours were stopped when the visiting ship, Doulus, a large library ship was bombed and one of its crew was killed.

The Zamboanga City Golf and Country Club then was also chosen to host the first leg of the annual Philippine Golf Open. Many local tourists, together with golfers from different parts of the country, would come to play and visit our city for days. We were able to witness the plays of the legendary Celestino Tugot, Ben Arda, Luis Silverio Golem and lately Robert Pactolerin and the Fernando brothers of Calarian. The golf course was still well-maintained but lately its grasses have grown and the fairways and greens are a shame to out-of-town golfers. It’s very fortunate that the city’s golf association is now being led by Erbie Fabian, who requested its members to adopt a hole in the 18-hole course. His idea has made the course playable again and many have now returned and play the game.

There was also the locally conceived annual Bale Zamboanga Festival. It showcased likewise the history, culture, and tradition of the city and its populace. There were so many lined up activities and one of these was the tuba-drinking and beer drinking contest. The festival has attracted many local and foreign tourists, especially homesick Zamboangueños who have never come home for many years.

Now all of these are gone. Since Richard Gordon’s promotional program, Wow in the Philippines, our city has been left out in our country’s promotional drive. I thought the latest Tourism Secretary, Wanda Teo, who once studied in one of the colleges in the city still have her heart beating for our city. Last year when the candidates of Miss Earth came over to the city, very little was made known of their presence. The Secretary only brought them to Lepeng Wee’s beautiful rest house in Lantawan where one could get a breath-taking vintage view of the entire city from the mountaintop. They were brought up there because, accordingly, there was no safe, beautiful, and interesting place for them to see and relax.

Pitiful, indeed. The new Tourism Regional Director said that she will continue to implement the plans and projects initiated by her predecessor, Butch Blanco. Now tell us what are these plans and projects. We haven’t heard about these.

The city on the other hand, has been trying to develop the Merloquet Falls which to me is very illogical. Aside from its distance from the city, its mud-colored waters is aweful and sickening.

There are places that can be developed to attract not only tourists but also investors. The eleven islands in the east coast is one of them. According to one knowledgeable developer, once developed and complete with all the amenities, no beach resort can compete with these spectacular and stunning islands. These would be more beautiful and fabulous than the best and world-renowned beach resorts of French Riviera and our Boracay.

We also have the cool mountaintops in La Paz and Anoling in the west coast which are great potentials for tourists’ destinations when developed.

Why are we then being left out in our country’s tourism promotional program? The answer is very apparent: We have no interesting, treasured places for our visitors to see  and worth visiting.