‘The greener way is not a compromise’
It must be our breathtaking beaches, mouthwatering cuisine, premium shopping malls, or famed warmth and hospitality that’s drawing tourists in droves. According to the Department of Tourism, the Philippines welcomed 2,882,737 international visitors between January and May 2017—a 14.43 percent increase from the same period of the previous year.
Interestingly, Filipinos themselves are just as eager to explore their home turf. Results from a “Household Survey on Domestic Visitors” conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that three out of five Pinoys 15 years old and over traveled within the country in 2016.
Yet, for all its benefits to the Philippines—from pumping billions of pesos into the economy to generating more jobs in domestic tourism—travel can also contribute to the abuse and neglect of the country’s most popular destinations.
Cars have congested the roads of once sleepy towns, and the irresponsible disposal of waste products has led to polluted landscapes and seas.
Indeed, as the world’s third largest source of ocean trash (after China and Indonesia), the country chokes from various forms of plastic, Styrofoam, candy and junk food wrappers, especially on its beaches.
But travel can also enrich the environment and make each trip meaningful for visitor and host.
This is the goal of Green Wanderer, a sustainable travel fair to be held Aug. 11-13 at Central Square, Bonifacio High Street in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
A project of the National Youth Council of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines and the SSI Group, Inc., Green Wanderer presents a wide range of sustainable travel options—from quality products by local artisans, to trips to ecotourism destinations with unique itineraries to boot.
It was while researching on El Nido Resorts for a paper in her geography class that Nikki Huang, a member of WWF-Philippines National Youth Council, came up with the idea of Green Wanderer.
“This is something that I want to bring to every Filipino,” she says of the long-established sustainable practices of the award-winning Palawan resort, “and what better way to do it than through a travel fair?”
Focusing on exhibitors who practice sustainable travel and lifestyle habits allowed the National Youth Council “to make it a more multifaceted experience. We wanted to target areas of incredible biodiversity that hadn’t been oversaturated by tourism,” Huang says.
Appropriately, travel “is a huge part of what young people love to do,” Alexa Cancio, chair of WWF’s National Youth Council, says. “When we see our friends’ posts on Facebook and Instagram, it’s always about where they went over the weekend, whether it was hiking or going to the beach. We thought it was relevant for them to understand their impact on a place every time they travel. There is a green way to do things and you can still enjoy yourself while being responsible.”
“When this project came up, we in the SSI Group were very excited about it,” SSI marketing communications head Michelle Suarez says. “We found the advocacy very much aligned with our own advocacy—to bring curated lifestyle experiences to the consumer.”
El Nido Resorts, GetGo Rewards by Cebu Pacific, Skyjet Airlines, Reef PH, Lagalag, Banana Peel, The Circle Hostel, Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort, Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa), Travel Factor, Locally PH, Green Wanderer and WWF-Philippines are the travel fair’s exhibitors.
Part of the proceeds from Green Wanderer’s line of travel merchandise and contributions from all the exhibitors will go to WWF-Philippines.
Talks and live demonstrations highlight the three-day event. On Aug. 11, Raf Dionisio of Tribes and Treks will discuss a visit to an indigenous tribe and reforestation (2 p.m.).
Mariglo Laririt of El Nido Resorts will talk about sustainable tourism (4 p.m.), and Clang Garcia’s topic is culinary heritage through a cooking demo using sustainable ingredients from Philippine Harvest (6 p.m.).
On Aug. 12, Cancio, WWF-Philippines CEO and president Joel Palma, Donsol Mayor Josephine Alcantara-Cruz and Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet make up the panel of sustainability forum hosted by CNN Philippines’ Mitzi Borromeo (11 a.m.).
This will be followed by chef Greggy Mercado’s live food prep and tasting of suman in banana leaf (2 p.m.); Daluyon Resort’s Kim Alvarez’s talk on sustainable living and ecotourism; and Mark Mabanag’s talk on traveling and surfing photography (6 p.m.).
UP Mountaineers’ Miko Santos and Jinggay Sorono will share basic hiking and climbing techniques on Aug. 13 (2 p.m.). Javi Cang will delve on adventure and sustainable travel (4 p.m.), and Mackie Bretaña of Qubo will explain the benefits of growing your own food (6 p.m.).
National Geographic’s “Years of Living Dangerously” will be screened throughout the event.
“On a personal level, I’m very happy to see a lot of my friends and family members taking up some of my sustainable practices—whether it be using less plastic or bringing their own tumblers, coffee mugs or reusable shopping bags,” WWF-Philippines ambassador Marc Nelson says .
Cancio gave up eating beef since the start of the year “because it takes 2,000 liters of water to produce one patty of beef.”
And on a recent trip to the beach, she and friends picked out 128 pieces of trash in an informal 10-minute cleanup drive.
“You see how much impact every action you make has on the environment,” she reiterates. “And there’s still so much we can do.”
Want to get started on the road to sustainable living? Do it on your next vacation.
Rae Hewlett and Jonah Villena say El Nido Resorts guests can join an international coastal cleanup, an annual campaign spearheaded by the resorts’ environment team and their sustainability director.
Circle Hostel (with branches in Baler, La Union, Zambales) offers a private trek package that includes engagement with members of indigenous communities and a chance to participate in reforestation program.
“Food is an intangible cultural heritage that gives people and destinations identity,” Clang Garcia, inbound tour operator and publisher/co-writer of Food Holidays, says. She promotes culinary heritage tourism—creatively crafted tour packages that integrate history, culture, and community empowerment.
“The greener way is not a compromise,” Huang says. “It actually enhances the travel experience.”
“It starts with every traveler,” Palma adds. “Sustainability has to be inclusive and everybody has to do their share to make things better, one step at a time.”—CONTRIBUTED
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