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Industry, Rachel Tabilin

Sendong: Aftereffects in Tourism


Rachel Tabilin | Industry

Photo courtesy of okayokay.com

Like the tsunami that hit Thailand and neighboring countries back in 2004, the floods and landslides caused by the tropical storm Sendong, internationally known as Washi, came as much of a shock to the people in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan as well as those in some parts of Dumaguete and southern parts of Cebu. These, as do many other natural calamities, have impaired many lives and properties as well as industries in the affected regions, not excluding tourism.

“We know in Cagayan de Oro and [the rest of] Mindanao, hindi naman sila dinadaanan ng (they don’t get hit by) storms at all. It was a shock and awe for them to see storms like these coming in to them, with which they were not used to before. Ibig sabihin [Which means that] they were ill-prepared and they didn’t know how to cope with these things,” said Paolo Fresnoza, tourism planner and AIT professor.

Damaged Infrastructure

The number one problem brought about by the storm was that the devastation it caused has hampered the accessibility and mobility to these tourist destinations. “Infrastructure is quite affected and roads are not as passable as before,” said Fresnoza.

One of the AIT students who witnessed the damage after the Sendong onslaught was Zsarinnah Yu. “‘Yung place talaga sobrang maalikabok, tapos sira-sira yung bridge, ‘yung mga bahay napuno na ng putik… maraming logs na nakakalat sa daan [The place was filled with dirt, the bridges were torn down, the houses were filled with mud… roads were blocked by logs scattered around],” said Yu.

Government Priorities

Another problem that arose in light of the tourism in these places was that, at the moment, tourism was not a priority by both the government and the people. They are focused first in rehabilitating their cities and rebuilding their lives.

“Screw work, screw my car, screw everything, property ‘yon, mabilbili ‘yan [those are properties which can be bought].  In terms of the locals, I’m sure, they’d fend for themselves first before other businesses,” said Fresnoza.

For visitor arrivals, the tourists who are most likely to visit the affected cities and provinces are what Prof. Fresnoza called the “first things first visitors”. These would be the rescuers, first aiders, and people of related work.

According to him, “Mahirap magpunta at magpakasaya sa isang lugar na turista ka na alam mong may mga ilang taong namatay dito [As a tourist, it’s off-putting to go and take pleasure in a place when you know that there were people who just died there].  Again, tourism as a form of enjoinment of the destination and the destination being an attraction at this point is not really the prime objective of tourists why they go there. The prime objective why they go there is, obviously, to check how well everybody’s doing there. So that’s in my perspective.”

Tourism as Force for Positive Change

Despite all these problems, Fresnoza still views tourism as a resilient industry, as seen after the 9/11 attack, the Luneta hostage taking, and even the war in Iraq. People started coming back as if nothing happened. He sees something like this would happen in the cities of CDO and Iligan. The only question is “when”.

“But if you look at tourism as a whole, tourism is a force of positive change. You can look at the local tour operators there coming up with campaigns using tourism as a course to provide the positive improvements necessary for them… Of course, that’s a mix of their [CDO and Iligan’s] effort to market their image that they’re better there now.”

Fresnoza and his Tourism 111 class (Tourism Development and Policy Control) are flying this weekend to Dumaguete for a tourism master planning project.

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About aitsalimbay

The official newsletter of the UP Asian Institute of Tourism.

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