Prime commercial lot in Dipaculao, Aurora (very near the town's center & marketplace), 388 sqm, perfect for agricultural supply store, bed & breakfast (Dipaculao is just about 25-35 minutes away to Baler and about 15 mins. away to Ampere Beach), dormitory/transient house, rural bank, etc.

Prime lands in Aurora Philippines: WANTED earth-nurturing entrepreneurs

I am entrusted by my Mom to handle the sale of her assets (about 22.28 hectares in 4 locations in Aurora province). Let’s show her some love, shall we?
Property No. 1: DIPACULAO (Commercial lot, Poblacion proper)
Prime commercial lot in Dipaculao, Aurora (very near the town's center & marketplace), 388 sqm, perfect for agricultural supply store, bed & breakfast (Dipaculao is just about 25-35 minutes away to Baler and about 15 mins. away to Ampere Beach), dormitory/transient house, rural bank, etc.

Prime commercial lot in Dipaculao, Aurora (very near the town’s center & marketplace), 388 sqm, perfect for agricultural supply store, bed & breakfast (Dipaculao is just about 25-35 minutes away from Baler and about 15 mins. away from Ampere Beach), dormitory/transient house, rural bank, etc. [Image by M. Velas-Suarin]

A property (at 388 sqm) is a commercial lot in the vicinity of the marketplace and town center of Dipaculao. Of course, many of you know that Aurora is fast becoming a favorite tourist destination especially because of its pristine environmental features and great surf.  Dipaculao is just about 25-35 minutes away from Baler and the lot is about 15 minutes away from Ampere Beach. A beautiful image of Ampere Beach is here (courtesy of Mr. Jap Salem).
This lot is perfect for agricultural supply store, bed & breakfast, dormitory/transient house, rural bank, and other enterprise. The lot is also just beside the corner lot. There used to be a building/house there but Mom had it demolished and so only the floors and some walls remain. This will likely save the buyer some funds as the foundation is still intact (but do consult an engineer for structural due diligence).
Property No. 2: DEBUCAO, Maria Aurora (Agricultural land)
This is among my favorite spots in the whole world! This land borders the clean Diaman River (don't worry, the land is elevated) and perfect for a combined production hub (e.g., timber/bamboo/citrus)  + wellness resort. [Image by M. Velas-Suarin]

This is among my favorite spots in the whole world! This land borders the clean Diaman River (don’t worry, the land is elevated) and perfect for a combined production hub (e.g., timber/bamboo/citrus) + wellness resort. [Image by M. Velas-Suarin]

This is among the larger lands, which are perfect for agribusiness/production (e.g., timber, citrus, bamboo, etc.). This prime lot measures 9.7 hectares, is in Brgy. Debucao, Maria Aurora, and borders a clean and beautiful river, making it perfect also for a wellness resort.
It is a bit difficult (almost heart-wrenching)  to sell this property because this is closest to my heart, among all of Mom’s properties. I have fondest memories from my childhood in this farm. Mom actually gave half of this land to me already (paper works had began but I did not complete them intentionally) so I am sort of “declining” the gift because I want her to sell all of it instead so she can enjoy her twilight years more, travel the world, be as carefree as possible, and experience all comforts that she gave up as she taught in public schools in Aurora.
While this borders Diaman River, the land is elevated. Historically, we have not experienced any flooding here. However, with climate change, I will advise the buyer to build a riprap along a portion of the land not really for flood protection but more to prevent erosion of this part of the land because it is “hugged” by one of the minor streams/channels of the river. Currently, this portion is used by little kids as a “jumping /diving spot” toward the stream–especially during the rainy season when the stream is a bit deeper–so we want them to continue enjoying this spot by ensuring the structure is maintained for future generation of children. So you can imagine how nice it is, below is a picture:
A portion of the land is "hugged" by one of the minor streams/channels of Diaman River so kids normally use this spot as "jumping point" toward the stream (especially during the rainy season). By putting a riprap here, we can ensure that kids (and future tourists/guests who in the wellness resort, which can be constructed here)? can continue to enjoy this cozy spot. [Image by M. Velas-Suarin]

A portion of the land is “hugged” by one of the minor streams/channels of Diaman River so kids normally use this spot as “jumping point” toward the stream (especially during the rainy season). By putting a riprap here, we can ensure that kids (and future tourists/guests of the wellness resort, which can be built here?) can continue to enjoy this cozy spot. [Image by M. Velas-Suarin]

In my “About” page, I have shown how clean the river is. That was taken about 9 years ago. I am happy to let you know that the river is still clean and pristine. Below is a snapshot taken through a camera phone only last March 3 (2018):
The pristine waters of Diaman River, which borders the Debucao Farm. The river could be among the attractions for the farm (and a possible wellness resort in the future). [Image by M. Velas-Suarin]

The pristine waters of Diaman River, which borders the Debucao Farm. The river could be among the attractions for the farm (and a possible wellness resort in the future). [Image by M. Velas-Suarin]

Isn’t that another reason to buy the property? :-) By the way, Debucao is where the famous MilleniumTree is found. It is said to be 600 years old and the biggest Balete Tree in Asia. (The Millenium Tree is roughly 10 minutes away from the farm.) Some facts about it are shared here. Meanwhile, some more images and info on Aurora are found here.
Property No. 3: DIARABASIN, Dipaculao (Agricultural land)
This is also a prime land with a lot of potential--particularly for combined agriculture and timber production. Diarabasin   has a coastal line also so this farm could also host a bed & breakfast-type of business especially that it is just about a 15 to 20-minute drive from the beach. [Image by M Velas-Suarin]

This is also a prime land with a lot of potential–particularly for combined agriculture and timber production. Diarabasin has a coastal line also so this farm could also host a bed & breakfast-type of business especially that it is just about a 15 to 20-minute drive from the beach. [Image by M Velas-Suarin]

This is the largest among all of the properties so it is advisable for an agribusiness and production hub (e.g., combined timber/bamboo production and organic farm). Since it is also near the Diarabasin Beach (about 15 minutes by car), the buyer can also host a bed & breakfast (B&B) in this land. The road network in Aurora has improved over the years so travel to Diarabasin from Baler is also a breeze. Travel these days would take less than an hour (compared with about 1.5 to 2 hours back when I was still in college!). So you can appreciate the location of Dipaculao, here is a map of the municipality:
Map showing Dipaculao in Aurora Province, Philippines. [Image courtesy of Wikepedia]

Map showing Dipaculao in Aurora Province, Philippines. [Image courtesy of Wikepedia]

Diarabasin is a also perfect stopover if one plans to venture toward the northernmost past of Aurora (e.g., Casiguran). Therefore, a B&B is a potential addition to a production hub. As many of you may already know, Casiguran will host the planned Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport. It had been haunted by controversies in recent years but a latest study by NEDA sees its potential as agro-aqua and ecotourism zone. More details are found here. Casiguran is less than two hours away from Diarabasin (back in college, it was about 5-7 hours away, depending on the season!).
Property No. 4: DIARABASIN, Dipaculao (House & Lot)
Bungalow-type house on a 500-sqm lot, very near Diarabasin Elementary School.  This is where I spent my childhood summer breaks! [Image by M Velas-Suarin]

Bungalow-type house on a 500-sqm lot, very near Diarabasin Elementary School. This is where I spent my childhood summer breaks! [Image by M Velas-Suarin]

This is a special house for my Mom because this is where she stayed as she taught in Diarabasin Elementary School, which is where she built her career, eventually becoming its Principal. This is also where we spent many of our childhood summer breaks. Back then, this house is considered by many as “the best” in the small community in terms of design.
It now looks old (as it has been abandoned when Mom was promoted to another school and then eventually retired) but a makeover and some fixing–especially on the roof–will make this very cozy again. It has two bedrooms, one of them in semi-basement.  I do not have the floor plan at the moment but the liveable areas in the bungalow could be somewhere between 65 to 75 sqm. It has two “outer houses”–one serving as the toilet-storage and the other is currently being rented out to a family.  (This could be used as a store, too.)
These four properties could be bought as one package and this is actually the most ideal–so that the buyer can already have a house (in Diarabasin), a store/office (the one in Dipaculao), and finally, production hubs (the two larger lands). It is like a deal “made in heaven”. The lands may also be purchased individually.
We hope and pray for (new) caring owners and investors who would have the heart to nurture the lands cognizant of sustainability principles.  There is a chance that we would be able to sell the commercial lot faster than the others so the earlier we can find a serious buyer (who will buy all the lands), the better it will be! It also lessens paper works because we only deal with 1 buyer/entity.
Aurora is a special province. I would rather that it remains as a “best-kept secret” because the surge of tourists and commercialism may  spoil (hopefully not!) the natural charms and magic of the place. Therefore, I constantly pray that new breed of entrepreneurs who will always find the perfect balance between ecological integrity and profits will be the ones who will inherit the land.
And so, I enjoin you to help me protect this paradise (which some people call as Sanctuary of Nature’s Splendour) by building bridges between these nature-loving entrepreneurs and Aurora!
If you know anyone who might be interested, please let me know through:
Email – daughter.of.aurora@gmail.com
Mobile – 0947 408 6731 (Smart)
I hope and pray that the sale will be sealed soon–while my Mom is still strong enough to enjoy the proceeds and travel the world, with God’s graces.
THANK YOU so much, friends, brothers, and sisters! Let’s celebrate our homes, our mothers, and our Earth-nurturer. Most of all, let us celebrate our LIVES, the gift that only God can give.
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This is not a paid blog. I am not requesting for any donation for the maintenance of this site but I hope you can plant tree/s on your birthday’s! Namaste!
Suffer in traffic or... simply bike or carpool? The choice is yours to make! [Image by JR Suarin]

Thanks, Pasig City for the protected bike lane in Julia Vargas!

This is my first post for 2018 so I want this to be about something that is close to one of my advocacies. :)

As many people close to me know, I promote biking as an alternative mode of transportation for urban areas like Metro Manila and that is why my graduate thesis is about it, particularly about sky (elevated) bike lanes. We are not yet “there” in terms of creating a truly world-class city for both drivers and bikers/walkers but every vision starts with small steps, right?

Therefore, it brought so much joys when I discovered that the previously unprotected/non-segregated bike lane in Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City is now protected (well, at least the CBD-bound side)!

Finally, protected bike lane at Julia Vargas in Pasig City [Image by JR Suarin]

Finally, protected bike lane at Julia Vargas in Pasig City [Image by JR Suarin]

While the barricades are not really permanent, this is already a good step, which will hopefully encourage more people to bike especially that Ortigas CBD’s traffic is getting worse each day. (Photos above and below were taken at around 5:30 pm so the traffic was heavier on the other side of the road, with more people driving out of the CBD.)

Let us contribute to the re-creation of our cities into more liveable ones--let's bike or walk to work/school! [Image by JR Suarin]

Let us contribute to the re-creation of our cities into more liveable ones–let’s bike or walk to work/school! [Image by JR Suarin]

The results of an online survey that I had done for my thesis showed that, indeed, many people are particularly concerned about their safety on the road when it comes to biking. (I will blog about the results of my study in one of my future posts.) Therefore, the creation of protected/segregated bike lanes addresses this safety issue.

One thing that the Pasig City government should address though is the perennial congestion in Julia Vargas. I reside in the area so I am very familiar with the horrendous traffic there almost everyday so that we usually simply walk  or take Ortigas Avenue instead if we need to go to the CBD. The provision of the barricades will really be good for bikers but may already be causing some frustration (or exasperation?) to many motorists especially that we also noticed that one lane is now or will be soon devoted to car-pooling (i.e., exclusive for vehicles with 4 or more passengers).

While the car-pooling policy has good intents and must be applauded, the LGU should revisit it because Julia Vargas is a narrow road to begin with. Previously, it was three-laned on each side but with the new policy, it becomes a two-lane road on each side (excluding the bike lane). Here is an image, which I lifted from Autodeal.com.ph.

Illustration for the new carpool policy along Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City  [Image by Rio Hondo; with thanks to Autodeal.com.ph also for the article.]

Illustration for the new carpool policy along Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City [Image by Rio Hondo; with thanks to Autodeal.com.ph also for the article.]

As you can imagine, a previously three-lane road now reduced to a two-lane one (with restrictions on the 2nd lane) will likely aggravate or is already aggravating the traffic situation in the area. (The non-apprehension phase of the policy began on 28 February.) There are also compounding issues since the policy will affect those who needed to turn right or left and are in the ‘wrong’ lane because of their occupancy. (Pasig City may want to “listen” to public sentiments through online forums such as those in Tsikot.com so as to come to the best proposition for the sake of public good.)

Nevertheless, one good thing with this policy is that it encourages people to really re-evaluate their decisions to bring their cars (especially if the trip is not very far) and if bringing a car is indeed essential, find alternative routes.

As to the bike lanes, my next question is on why the bike lane on other side of Julia Vargas is not protected/segregated. If safety-conscious bikers will now use their bikes to work to Ortigas CBD, then, how can they bike back to their homes (or cars that are parked somewhere) when the other bike lane still feels unsafe?

Speaking of drivers/motivators, a good business model that can be driven by this bike lane policy is the emergence of parking areas in the outer-vicinity of CBDs. For example, the city government together with the private sector can build parking areas–to be rented at affordable fees–near or in the Tiendesitas side so that drivers from outside Pasig City (and those who cannot really leave their cars at home) can simply park their cars there and then bike to work into the CBD.

However, such willingness to bike to work or at least park their cars somewhere outside the CBDs and continue the journey through biking will be encouraged if both policy and structural dimensions are resolved. Therefore, I continue to look forward to more action and innovation from our government (both local and national) and private sector so that, together, we can rebuild our cities into more liveable and healthier ones!

While we and our authorities continue to find ways toward this end, should not we enjoy this protected bike lane even with all its limitations?

Suffer in traffic or... simply bike or carpool? The choice is yours to make! [Image by JR Suarin]

Suffer in traffic or… simply bike or carpool? The choice is yours to make! [Image by JR Suarin]

Come on, bike with me along Julia Vargas! 

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This is not a paid blog. I do not request for donation to maintain this blog but I appeal for your kind love to our fellow earth-stewards and Mother Earth by planting a tree (or trees!) on your birthday/s! :) Namaste!

At the heart of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 is MALASAKIT

MALASAKIT. A beautiful Filipino word that, at first, seems so simple enough for translation to English.

However, the more I think about it, the more it becomes difficult to find the correct English word for it. Is it concern for others? Is it a combination of regard and compassion? Whatever the most appropriate translation might be, it may inspire us, Filipino citizens, that the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, the blueprint for our future as a nation, upholds the value of PAGMAMALASAKIT.

The PDP tackles what could be a long-neglected value: pagmamalasakit. Let is shine again, in our hearts, beloved Filipinos!

The PDP tackles what could be a long-neglected value: pagmamalasakit. Let it shine again, in our hearts, beloved Filipinos! (Note: There is significant distortion in image quality so I enjoin you to download the PDP file from NEDA’s website. Believe me, it is a worthy and inspiring read!) [Image courtesy of NEDA, 2017]

For how long ago did we, as a nation, think about our country first more than and beyond our political affiliations and loyalty? If we truly love our country, couldn’t we, for once, stop bickering and complaining and just do something good for our society–one that desperately needs healing?

For the people have already spoken through the ballots and they had chosen a President to whom they entrusted their faith. Let him govern. Let him fulfil his mandate. Let the sanctity of the ballot prevail.

For whichever part of the political spectrum do we come from,  there is no escaping the fact that the President’s downfall will eventually be this country’s as well.

We do not have to agree with him all the time–an authentic democracy allows opposing discourses–but  we cannot also act as if our voice is the only true voice. Here lies the true essence of democracy. Democracy is not just about exercising our freedom to voice out our dissent. Democracy is, more than anything, the capacity to respect, celebrate, and uphold the COMMON GOOD.

 _____________

Democracy, more than anything, is about the capacity to respect, celebrate, and uphold the COMMON GOOD.

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Pagmamalasakit and the common good

Undermining and attempting to destroy the chances of our country to move forward is contrary to the common good. When one talks about human rights but forgets the rights of the victims of crime and drug menace, he fails to discern on the meaning of the common good.

The PDP 2017-2022 then takes off from the need to reflect on how can we, as Filipino citizens, create a society where there is true regard and concern (pagmamalasakit) for others. This is the essence of the common good–when we (both as individuals and society) reflect deeply on how will our speech, decision, and action impact on others.

The PDP 2017-2022 could be a unifying document and, hopefully, be a good reason for all of us to work together (despite our political differences). The Plan appeals to our sense of nationhood–an important value (as part of cultural asset) that allowed countries like Japan and South Korea to recover and embark on nation-building from the horrors and destruction of wars and calamities.

The Plan should be read by every Filipino completely but here are key take-aways from the Plan (directly lifted, NEDA, 2017):

1. The Plan aims to lay a stronger foundation for inclusive growth, a high-trust society, and a globally-competitive economy toward realizing the vision by 2040.

2. The target is to reduce poverty incidence from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14.0 percent by 2022. This is equivalent to lifting about 6 million people out of poverty.

3. Individuals and communities will also be made more resilient by reducing their exposure to risks, mitigating the impact of risks, and accelerating recovery when the risk materializes.

4. Innovation will be encouraged as the country sets its eyes on graduating to a knowledge economy in order to accelerate growth in the future.

5. The strategies to achieve the targets cited above are grouped under three pillars: Malasakit or enhancing the social fabric, Pagbabago or reducing inequality, and Patuloy na Pag-unlad or increasing growth potential.

6. On the kind of life they want for themselves, Filipinos want a life that is strongly- rooted, comfortable, and secure: matatag, maginhawa, at panatag.

7. The terms “strongly-rooted, comfortable, and secure” used to describe the life envisioned by Filipinos by 2040 reveal middle-class aspirations. They include home ownership, a steady source of income to support family and self, college education for the children, a motor vehicle, stable finances to cover daily needs and contingencies, savings for retirement, and time for vacation and travel.

8. To make the people’s aspirations a reality, government must use the various policy instruments in its arsenal to accomplish the following:

(a) investment in human capital so that Filipinos are equipped to learn and adapt to new technology and the changing pro le of society;

(b) investment in high-quality infrastructure to make the cost of moving people, goods, and services competitive;

(c) sound urban development that takes advantage of scale and agglomeration economies to make the cities more competitive and livable; and

(d) adequate and inclusive nance to enable households to build up savings and to provide capital for MSMEs and households considering the desire of many to run their own businesses.  (Source: PDP 2017-2022, NEDA; directly lifted.)

What are we willing to give?

Our country needs us now, more than ever. True pagmamalasakit entails giving up some parts of our selves, for some, even power that we used to hold. Let us not aggravate the mess nor contribute to the noise. In the quiet, there is true discernment.

More importantly, let us have faith in the good men and women of our government–that despite the lingering ills of corruption and deceit there are STILL many good public servants out there, those who are always  doing their best, ready to protect our institutions, constitution, and people – whoever the president may be. Kahit anupaman ang kulay ng pulitika natin–yellow, red, or blue–our veins carry one blood only. That of a Filipino.

Let pagmamalasakit reside fervently in our hearts again.

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This is not a paid blog. I do not request for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree/s on your birthday(s). Namaste!

Of love that never dies: When tourism intersects with culture

Reflections on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism

[Note: This is a paper that I had submitted in ENRM 257 – Sustainable Tourism Development, through FIC Ivan Anthony Henares, in my Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management program.]

Cultural heritage – a link from the past, a bridge to the future

Who has not heard of Taj Mahal? It may be the only building in the world that is part of every wanderer’s and traveler’s bucket list.

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India: Beyond words. [Image courtesy of pcwallart(dot)com]

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India: Beyond words. [Image courtesy of pcwallart(dot)com]

  “…one solitary tear would hang on the cheek of time in the form of this white and gleaming Taj Mahal”, as the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) has described it, perhaps soulfully with a tinge of sadness (as cited in Government of Uttar Pradesh, India, 2014, with adaptation).”

This author has not (yet) been to this heritage site but she is already in awe of what it represents. The Taj Mahal symbolizes a love that never dies, of the beauty of tenderness, of the universal need for union, and for faith in eternity. Who cannot help but wax philosophical in the sight (whether in the flesh or in the imagination) of this grand beauty?

The Taj Mahal, a UNESCO heritage site (inscribed in 1983), is a mausoleum mostly made of white marble. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to remember and in honor of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal (UNESCO, n.d.). The Taj Mahal is described as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage” (UNESCO, n.d.). No wonder, many carry the dream of visiting it and those who have done so have never stopped being enthralled by it.

A discussion on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism perhaps becomes richer by taking off from a place like Taj Mahal. It makes serious learners appreciate the concept of sustainable tourism from a place or point of view where they can truly experience and appreciate history.

“Cultural heritage” as a concept must first be revisited. UNESCO (2016) has succinctly explained the concept, delineating between tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

What is cultural heritage?

 Cultural heritage

Tangible cultural heritage

  • movable cultural heritage (paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts)
  • immovable cultural heritage (monuments, archaeological sites, and so on)
  • underwater cultural heritage (shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities)

Intangible cultural heritage: oral traditions, performing arts, rituals

Natural heritage

  • natural sites with cultural aspects such as cultural landscapes, physical, biological or geological formations

Source: UNESCO, 2016.

Heritage sites and experiences are, therefore, important in preserving a society’s rich culture and history. However, except in monumental places like Taj Mahal, efforts to preserve the integrity of such sites and traditions are not always consistent and/or successful.

The Philippines, for example is among the countries that need to learn more from best practices all over the world. There are many examples worthy of discussion but those that come to mind almost immediately are the historical buildings and monuments that are being torn down without regard to their significance, neglected, or allowed to be ‘defaced’ such as in the case of Jose Rizal’s monument in Rizal Park—now sharing a part of the magnificent sightline with Torre de Manila, a 49-storey condominium project of DMCI Homes, one of the Philippines’ top developers.

When the soul is weak, the flesh forgets – lessons and strategies in sustainable tourism

Tourism—both domestic and international—is deemed as crucial in allowing peoples and cultures to interact. It is considered as “the foremost vehicles for cultural exchange, providing a personal experience…” (ICOMOS, 2002). Who has not grown richer and fuller because of the experience of traveling? Human history has evolved because of constant wonderment, traveling, and exploration. Some even choose to stay. The meaning of any ‘exchange’ differs for each person—but what is universal is the experience of inner joy and sense of discovery that such an ‘interaction’ offers. “Touring” always goes beyond the physical—sure, the colors and textures of sites and places always give something to the senses—but what is more powerful are the feelings that are evoked, those that touch one to his deepest core.

Cultural and natural heritage sites speak to the soul and that is why they require a deeply-seated commitment. Why did our society allow Torre de Manila to become the “national photo bomber”? Is it plain forgetfulness or a lack of love for our history? Is it about greed? The Filipinos need to think about it really deeply.

The Jose Rizal Monument – sharing the line of sight with Torre de Manila [Image taken by this author in September 2014. The Torre de Manila is now significantly taller than this.]

The Jose Rizal Monument – sharing the line of sight with Torre de Manila [Image taken by this author in September 2014. The Torre de Manila is now significantly taller than this.]

It is almost shameful, disgusting even. One can only grieve at what became of the great man’s well-deserved spot in Manila’s skyline. We couldn’t leave him alone; what’s worse, even, is that we needed to go to the Supreme Court to protect a part of our history and heritage.

What have we become as a nation?

This touches at the crux of the dilemma. How does a society protect its culture and heritage while succumbing to the demands of survival and commerce? How can tourism be developed and managed without sacrificing our heritage and history?

Sustainable tourism then forces us to think beyond the colors and feasts for the eyes and the fullness of our stomach—it tells us to reaffirm our connection to the past, reclaim what was lost, and protect what is still here as we also optimize and share the economic benefits more equitably. Proponents of sustainable tourism prescribe strategies that can be adapted in tourism development and management, particularly in the context of cultural and natural heritage sites. [See Lindberg et al. (1999) for the list of strategies.]

A quick review of these strategies and best practices will reveal that many or all of these strategies and principles had been violated in most Philippine heritage cases such as the one on Torre de Manila. Clearly, our society does not or fails to adhere to similar standards and values. For one, policies are unclear and even wantonly violated. [This paper is rather limited in its scope but readers are encouraged to read an article by Marquez and Garcia (2015). The link is under suggested readings.]

While best practices elsewhere cannot be automatically adapted in other locations, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the experiences of successful sites. The management and preservation of the Taj Mahal is worth mentioning here. The surrounding area of the monument (covering about 10,400 sq km) is clearly protected not just from obstruction and massive developments but also from pollution.

For example, the Supreme Court of India issued a policy (in December 1996) that banned the use of coal in industries within the Taj Trapezium Zone and mandated industries that use it to shift to natural gas or otherwise be relocated outside the zone (UNESCO, n.d.).

An air control monitoring station has been installed to allow managers to monitor air quality and prevent deterioration that can be caused by atmospheric pollutants (UNESCO, n.d.).

While such air quality measures may be unnecessary for historical monuments (which may be aesthetically ‘lesser’ in grandeur when compared with Taj Mahal) in other locations, the government and private sectors should still be guided by the same level of respect and importance that the people of India are giving their heritage sites, and ultimately, their history and common fiber as a nation. Perhaps inspired by the love of Emperor Shah Jahan to his wife, Mumtaz, there is even a stronger ‘love’ that binds them to the past, enabling their present and future action to be properly placed in the context of sustainable development.

Tourism that cares – valuing people and heritage, alleviating poverty

Sustainable tourism respects not just the physical manifestation of natural and cultural assets but also accords the highest regard for the development potential of people and their communities. It is not simply about giving jobs and employment but more about allowing socially-conscious and equitable exchange of payments and services and rich experiences between and among individuals, families, and communities.  When one visits a heritage site, he should not only think about deriving joys and fulfillment from the experience but also about leaving something valuable behind – whether it be in the form of payment, friendship, or genuine act of kindness and respect. On the other hand, the host should also embrace the experience not simply as another opportunity to earn but also as a chance to celebrate his heritage, history, and roots.

While there are ‘horror’ stories about tourism programs that turned sour (e.g., leading to neglect, losses, damage, and destruction of natural and heritage sites), there are also inspiring and beautiful stories of community development and empowerment. In fact, when planned for and managed well, cultural and natural heritage sites can help improve lives and alleviate poverty. [See World Tourism Organization (2006), for information on how sustainably-managed sites can contribute to poverty alleviation.]

These pathways and strategies have led to significant gains in specific communities all over the world. One of the cases taken up by the WTO (2006) study involved a community-supported project in Karsa District in Ethiopia. Called the Bishangari (“sweet water”) Lodge, it is located on the shore of Lake Langano in sub-Saharan Africa. The project has so far been benefiting the community through direct employment (96% of the staff are locally-hired), assistance to farmers (e.g., through provision of seeds and technical guidance in organic farming), piped water access to the community school, and gradual transfer of technology such as on the development of locally-designed and innovative stove that uses 60% less wood (WTO, 2006).

It is considered a pioneer in ecotourism in Ethiopia—leading the younger set of entrepreneurs toward more responsible tourism enterprises. It promotes an environmentally-friendly way of putting up a business, sparing no cost when it comes to incorporating sustainable energy and waste treatment plant (i.e., solar power and a bio-gas digester) in its over-all design. It is also inspiring because it did not receive any government grant, with owners relying on sound business principles and support from banks through loans. With about 39 local staff, it is estimated to be benefiting about 390 family members. It has also encouraged appreciation of the community’s local culture by forming a musical group that now regularly performs at the lodge (WTO, 2006).

It is also encouraging the community to supply   produce and crops for the consumption of   the   lodge. Meanwhile, local craft makers and artisans are being encouraged to produce handicrafts that could be sold at the lodge’s gift shop (WTO, 2006).

An important ‘credo’ that the owners carry with them as they manage the operations should inspire other entrepreneurs or project developers. They believe that “tourism should only be conducted when the environment, the culture and the nature are respected and preserved for future generations” (WTO, 2006).

Another similar project took place in Candirejo Village, near the Borobudur Temple in Central Java province in Indonesia. Being near a UNESCO-designated World heritage Site, (inscription in 1991) the assistance given to the community by a local NGO, United Nations Development Programme, and Japan International Cooperation Agency was instrumental in the community members’ stronger appreciation of the heritage site and their role as hosts. The project helped families to offer home-stay accommodation, rendered training activities, implemented handicraft-making activities, trained tour guides, assisted and formed catering enterprises, taught farmers in organic farming, and organized the provision of local transport services through andong (horse carts) and ojek (motor bikes) (WTO, 2006). Through the tourism cooperative, profits from the activities are shared and then used to organize and improve community activities such as those for the environment and cultural interaction (Silitonga, 2009).

Striking a balance, dealing with the negative social impacts

Dulnuan (2005) has written about the case of the people of Sagada, which used to be a quiet town in the Cordillera Administrative Region but is now slowly getting used to tourists and visitors. While there had been perceived negative impacts especially on the natural environment and the lives of the indigenous people, those who are engaged in tourism-related activities appreciate the generation of jobs and income that the industry has given them. Young people are directly benefited through rendering of services as tour guides. Local entrepreneurs are able to establish small inns and lodging houses, restaurants, handicraft stores, and transport services (Dulnuan, 2005). Arts and crafts have become sources of revenue as well because local weavers and artists now have the opportunity to produce and sell souvenir items such as friendship bracelets, hand-woven bags, and rattan baskets (Dulnuan, 2005). While the impact on food security and sustainability is not yet fully ascertained, some farmers have shifted from planting subsistence crops to market-oriented produce such as fruits and vegetables, which they now sell to lodging houses, inns, and restaurant (Dulnuan, 2005, with adaptation).

However, such positive outcomes come with a price. There had been accounts of perennial noise, vandalism and theft in the cave sites, crimes, and even drug use (Lapniten, 2016, and Dulnuan, 2005). The local residents had also begun complaining about low water supply particularly during tourism peak seasons. There had also been accounts of stalactites and stalagmites being chipped off by uncaring tourists and of significant amount of garbage (e.g., plastic and styrofoam containers, tin cans, etc.) being left behind. The local life and culture are also being affected with some important rituals being postponed, lessened, or unwittingly opened to guests (Dulnuan, 2005).

There had been gains but there is an over-all feeling of disenfranchisement with some expressing that the rewards are not really reaching the most marginalized. Understandably, only those who can afford to open businesses are the ones who profit significantly from the tourism boom. Project designers and implementers should, therefore, put the necessary mechanisms through which the benefits from tourism can really impact the lives of the people in the most positive way.

Therefore, it is important that communities and the government work hand-in-hand in putting these mechanisms in place. These recommendations may have already been expressed before or done in other locations but, nevertheless, they need to be revisited and implemented soon in the context of community-based engagement:

  • Review and amendment of existing laws and creation of new laws that will address the gaps in governance of heritage sites (e.g., ensuring that local ordinances carry the breathe and depth of national and international policies and declarations);
  • Reforming and enhancing education and values formation programs in both formal and informal settings, allowing us to deepen appreciation of our rich culture and heritage;
  • Creating and strengthening sustainable livelihood opportunities in communities where there are important heritage sites so that people are not unwittingly forced to choose between earning ‘quick bucks’ and the need to protect the integrity of our assets (when people are financially empowered, they are more motivated to act responsively);
  •  Enabling authentic public-private partnerships where profits and rewards are well placed in the pursuit of environmental and societal goals (environment and culture first before profits);
  •  Empowering communities to manage and benefit from tourism sites, practicing shared responsibility, decision-making, and enjoyment of rewards; and
  • Strictly enforcing code of conduct for, between, and among guests/visitors and hosts, deepening shared governance and mutual respect.

The future beckons – and the stories and love that are waiting to be shared

Pearce (1989) has highlighted an important factor when he said that “the social and cultural characteristics of a host community will influence its attractiveness to tourists, the process of development and the nature and extent of the impacts which occur” (as cited in Dulnuan, 2005).

As can be learned in the popularity of the Taj Mahal and places like Sagada and Borobudur Temple, tourists are naturally captivated by places that have deep cultural values. It is, therefore, necessary to respect, preserve, and protect the authenticity of our heritage sites not just because they will draw the tourists in but more importantly, they are our link to the past and bridge to the future.

As what our national hero, Jose Rizal, said “ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa makakarating sa paroroonan.”

References

Dulnuan, J. (2005). Perceived Tourism Impact on Indigenous Communities: A Case Study of Sagada in Mountain Province, Sustainable tourism – challenges for the Philippines. Retrieved from http://dirp4.pids.gov.ph/ris/books/pidsbk05-tourism.pdf

Government of Uttar Pradesh, India. (2014). Taj visitors – Visitors’ perspectives. Retrieved from http://www.tajmahal.gov.in/celebrities_visiting_taj_2.html

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). (2002). Principles And Guidelines For Managing Tourism At Places Of Cultural And Heritage Significance. Retrieved from  http://www.charts-interreg4c.eu/app/download/5796628919/ICOMOS+International+Cultural+Tourism+Charter+1999.pdf

Lapniten, K. (2016, January 12). Sagada asks visitors to respect sites. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/travel/ph-travel/118788-sagada-visitors-respect-tourist-sites

Lindberg, K. & Molstad, A. Hawkins, & D. Jamieson, W. (1999). Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage: A Review of Development Assistance and Its Potential to Promote Sustainability. Retrieved from http://files.cargocollective.com/491146/Sustainable-Tourism.pdf

Silitonga, S. (2009). Candi Rejo Village – Community Based Tourism Project in Central Java, retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Candi-Rejo-Village—Community-Based-Tourism-Project-in-Central-Java&id=2043471

UNESCO. (n.d.). World Heritage List – Taj Mahal. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/252

UNESCO b. (n.d.). Borobudur Temple Compounds. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592

UNESCO. (2016). What is meant by “cultural heritage”? Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/illicit-trafficking-of-cultural-property/unesco-database-of-national-cultural-heritage-laws/frequently-asked-questions/definition-of-the-cultural-heritage/

World Tourism Organization. (2006). Poverty alleviation through tourism – compilation of good practices. Retrieved from http://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284409204

For a legal opinion on the Jose Rizal monument and Torre de Manila controversy, you may go to this link:

Marquez, B., and Garcia, A., (2015, February). A soaring eyesore: Torre de Manila’s construction threatens Rizal Park’s skyline. Retrieved from http://thepalladium.ph/legal/soaring-eyesore-torre-de-manilas-construction-threatens-rizal-parks-skyline/

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This is not paid blog. There is no request for donation but please plant tree/s on your birthday.

September tells us to build bridges and hold hands

Namaste, dear friends and readers!

It’s another month of hope and promises amid the challenges of our country (and the rest of the world). I ask you all to continue praying for peace and unity.

Take every chance to hold someone's hands. Build bridges! [Sketch in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin; inspired by a work found in the Pinterest account of Natasha Dilip. Please write to me if you think that this attribution is erroneous.]

Take every chance to hold someone’s hands. Build bridges! [Sketch in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin; inspired by a work found in the Pinterest account of Natasha Dilip. Please write to me if you think that this attribution is erroneous.]

Last weekend, I had the time to sit down and make this quick watercolor sketch. I hope this will inspire you to make small gestures of friendships. Let’s hold hands, build bridges, and pray for one another!

May our September be full of joys and opportunities!

Mei_Watermark-4

 

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This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but please plant a tree/s on your birthday.

Tea time in August

Hello, dear friends and readers!

Here is my little sketch for August. This is not a new sketch but I think this is appropriate for the rainy month of August.  :) I actually gave a copy of this sketch for a dear friend of mine for her birthday so I hope she won’t mind that I am sharing it also with you all!

Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee today! [Pen and ink sketch by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee today! [Pen and ink sketch by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

I hope that this sketch in ink will remind you to simply savor quick moments of tea time bonding with your loved ones. As I wrote on the sketch, “Every day brings special reasons for celebrations.”

Go ahead, celebrate your wonderful life!

Mei_Watermark-4

 

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This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but please plant a tree/s on your birthday.

Book Tour of Gelber (Greenest Person on the Planet, 2008)!

Hello dear readers!

I met Matthias Gelber recently and pledged to help him promote his book, The GreenMan’s Guide to Green Living and Working.

 

Cover of Gelber's book, GreenMan's Guide to Green Living and Working. Get a copy for PhP500 only!

Cover of Gelber’s book, GreenMan’s Guide to Green Living and Working. Get a copy for PhP500 only!

Being able to listen to him or read his work offers lifetime opportunities particularly for companies that want to optimize efficiency. Matthias is a professional motivational speaker with experience in 41 countries and voted as the Greenest Person on the Planet in 2008 (3rd Whale, Canada). He has always enjoyed traveling to the Philippines and, in fact, served as Chief Judge of the Miss Earth Philippines Pageant in 2016.

I am helping him spread the word about energy efficiency and climate change mitigation so please contact me if you want Matthias to deliver a talk in your organization/university.  He is so generous with his time and talents that he is waiving his professional fees for the talk as long as you can order 60 pieces of the book at PhP30,000.*

If you want to read the book for your private reading pleasure, you can also purchase the book from me directly at PhP500 (exclusive of shipping cost). We can also arrange to meet in UP Diliman if you are buying a minimum of 3 books (just add PhP50 to cover my transportation).

The book offers practical tips on energy conservation and efficiency and carbon footprint reduction. This is a wise investment especially that the Philippines has among the highest cost of electricity in the world. I still encourage you to book Matthias as his talk is very inspiring. His talk will definitely motivate you, your employees/colleagues, and household members in practicing energy-efficient and environmentally-sensitive lifestyle.

What are you waiting for? Contact me (through the comments section below or the contact page here) if you want to benefit from his talk and this awesome offer.

*Offer is good for August-September 2016. Organizations outside Metro Manila are requested to cover his transportation and accommodation (if applicable) costs.

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This is not a paid blog.  There is no request for donation but I hope you can plant tree/s on your birthday. (Full disclosure: While this is an unpaid blog post, I have a book deal with Mr. Gelber.)

Painting in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin [Inspired by a watercolor painting of Amy Hautman]

Hello, July!

Hello, dear readers and July!

Painting in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin [Inspired by a watercolor painting of Amy Hautman]

Painting in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin [Inspired by a watercolor painting of Amy Hautman]

I promised to work on a new sketch every month but decided to spend more time in improving my feed/gallery in Instagram so this month’s sketch is from 2014. (Please head on to my IG page if you have the time? That will really be awesome!)

I am happy with this small achievement (wink! wink!) – putting up pictures (and curating them!) in Instagram is time-consuming because I had to review hundreds of digital files, transfer the chosen ones in DropBox, save them in my tablet, and then upload them in IG. As many Instagram users know, it is quite complicated to post pictures directly in IG through one’s PC/desktop. There are apps available but most reviews do not encourage using them due to some techie issues. Therefore, I decided to use the ‘longer route’ (desktop to tablet/phone).

Anyway, this July sketch is among my favorites in watercolor (so far, that is!). As I had mentioned in my earlier posts, I am not very good with watercolor so this is somehow an ‘improvement’ from earlier attempts. ;) I have always enjoyed looking at doors and windows and I think this is because they remind me of opportunities. (Ok, you all know that popular saying about how a window opens when a door closes!) This sketch will remind us of the many opportunities around us! We just have to keep on looking!

July seems a perfect time also to hone on our artistic skills and enjoy more of our hobbies and  creative inclinations. Perhaps the “dreamy” effect of the rainy season (hear the raindrops on the roof?) enhances our creativity? Whatever the reason may be, I enjoin you to find your quiet corner, call on your creative muses, and simply CREATE!

I hope you’d treasure your creative days in July! Wishing you many more joys and blessings!

Mei_Watermark-4

 

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This is not a paid blog.  There is no request for donation but I hope you can plant tree/s on your birthday.