#MUNIonThis: “Ang ganda, parang wala tayo sa Pilipinas.” Sadly, this is a sentiment many Filipino travellers express when exploring the Philippines.
However, groups like Route +63, Trail Adventours, Kultura Kamp, Culture Shock PH, Kawil Tours, MUNI, and ISDA are slowly but surely setting a new standard for local tourism and changing the way we appreciate and understand our own culture, history and environment.
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Finding inspiration from experience
Most entrepreneurs find that the best ideas are rooted in their own experiences. For Guido Sarreal, co-founder of outdoor adventure travel company Trail Adventours, mountaineering is more than just a business—it’s a passion, one that his father passed on to him and his siblings from a very early age. Often asked to arrange trips for friends, they recognized the unique opportunity they had to make mountaineering synonymous with Philippine travel.
Meanwhile, for Florence Adviento and Cherryl Si, engaging in development work led them to form meaningful relationships with communities in Banaue, Bataan and Palawan, among others. This commitment to nation building along with a shared love for travel inspired the two to establish Route +63, an organizer of socially and environmentally conscious trips in the Philippines.
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“By bringing travelers to destinations where local tourism hasn’t been so developed yet, we thought we could increase local economic activity and awareness regarding issues like biodiversity conservation and cultural preservation,” they share.
Kultura Kamp began as the college thesis of Mare Collantes and Arvin Alvarez, when they accidentally enrolled in the social entrepreneurship track in senior year, and proposed a travel venture that immerses participants in indigenous cultural tribes to their mentor. Through this, they hope to share the stories of the indigenous communities in Manabayukan and Alunan in Tarlac.
Collantes says that contrary to most stereotypes, “we realized that they aren’t backwards. That’s just how they do things, and that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Making mindful choices
When it comes to deciding where to bring tourists, many factors influence the decisions of these travel groups. More than just profit, however, their main concern is the social, cultural, ecological and economic effects that their activities will have.
In designing itineraries and even in running the tours themselves, Adviento and Si are mindful of respecting local habits and customs. “For example, if it’s a rural community, like fishing or farming, at night you can’t be too noisy because you’ll disturb the community,” says Si. They also minimize their carbon footprint by encouraging a garbage in, garbage out policy and using public transportation.
Meanwhile, for Collantes and Alvarez, they first find out whether or not the community wishes to share its culture before partnering up with them. “It’s hard for us to tell them to preserve it if they don’t want to. It’s their culture, it’s up to them. But if they want, we can work together,” says Alvarez.
While they don’t have anything against voluntourism, this model is incompatible with the empowerment Kultura Kamp seeks to cultivate. “We make sure they don’t feel like beneficiaries, like ‘Here we are, saving you!’”
Whether its releasing turtles into the ocean in Bataan or taking a selfie at the top of Mt. Apo, the Philippines has a million and one awesome travel experiences for us to discover.
“The good thing about travel is it teaches you many things that you don’t normally see in your daily life,” Si shares. She hopes that the lessons learned on these kinds of trips translate into more socially and environmentally mindful habits in one’s daily life.
“[Sustainable tourism] is about making sure the future generations can still enjoy the same things we enjoy today,” she adds. “If you’re going to a place, you appreciate the beauty. We hope that our kids and grandkids will have the same things to enjoy.”
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Sarreal believes that getting to know our country will lead to positive change in the future. “When you appreciate it more, you learn to love your country more. And if you love something, you’ll protect it and want to make it grow and become better.”
At the end of the day, the beauty of our country is not just something we have the privilege of experiencing—it is also something we have the responsibility of preserving.
How will you choose to travel now? 🙂