Tours let travelers enjoy–and give back to the PhilippinesBy Joseph Daniel Lumain
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There is more to the Philippines than meets the eye, and Route +63, a travel company named after the country’s area code, aims to prove it.
Cherryl Si, president and CEO of Route +63, called the travel agency a “social enterprise.”
It arose from the desire of her business partners to promote Philippine tourism, while allowing travelers to contribute to the communities they visit.
She said the trips are “multi-layered”—giving tourists the opportunity not only to integrate themselves in the culture of the communities but also contribute to sustainable development by patronizing local products and livelihood programs.
Route +63 has organized trips to Banaue, Bataan, Batangas, Catanduanes, Sagada, Tarlac, La Union and Palawan.
The travel firm also arranges “customized trips” for family vacations, company outings and corporate team-building.
Route +63 employs local guides to provide authenticity to the tours. It is also the travel firm’s way of supporting local livelihood.
Itineraries allow participants to see how local products are made. From cacao and pili plantations in Bicol to coffee farms in Sagada and organic farms in Tarlac, travelers get a chance to try out local products and crafts.
According to Florence Adviento, Route +63’s chief operating officer, apart from knowing more about the Philippines, this also allows travelers to check out business opportunities.
Route +63’s trips also allow participants to contribute to a particular advocacy. In last year’s International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) Day, volunteers witnessed the rich marine life of Batangas and helped maintain it by picking up trash along the beach. Done with the provincial environment and natural resources office of Batangas, the clean-up collected 85 kilos of trash.
On trips to Ifugao rice terraces, Route +63 provides travelers a chance to participate in the rehabilitation of damaged and abandoned terraces.
MEC Aguinaldo, an educator who joined a tour, said the trip made an impact on him. “It has since been clear to me the importance of conserving our agricultural heritage systems as they relate to food security of the indigenous community, the strengthening of our cultural identity, and the protection of the natural environment,” he said.
Route +63 also organizes pawikan (sea turtle) conservation trips to Morong, Bataan. Every year during the nesting season of the turtles, volunteers patrol the beach. One trip last November managed to save 213 pawikan eggs.
Erlyn Macarayan, a member of the Presidential Management Staff, said she saw how one pawikan labored hard to lay its eggs because of its broken shell and cut flippers.
“Route +63 is unique since they not only provide leisure and adventure but also impart lessons you’ll never forget,” she said.
The tours also project Filipino warmth and hospitality.
“I felt like I was travelling with family,” said Gabe Pollentes. “Everyone was looking out for one another. Each activity fosters teamwork, friendship, Filipino spirit and appreciation of our country’s majestic views!”
Sumin Jeong, an exchange student from Korea, had a similar experience. “[The trip to Bataan] was my first time to travel with local people so this made me know more about the Philippines,” he said. “The staff from Route +63 were so friendly and kind so I was able to feel more comfortable.”
route63travels.com and facebook.com/route63travels.