Istambay sa Mindanao

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Location: Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

I'm Walter Balane. I am a journalist based in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines. I initiated the group called Atong Press (www.atongpress.ning.com) for press freedom and responsibility and media education in Bukidnon.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

NEWS: Wow Mindanao? Or Wow Davao?

Wow Mindanao? Or Wow Davao?
Walter I. Balane / Mindanews / 13 October 2004

DAVAO CITY -­ Is it really Wow Mindanao? Or just Wow Davao?

For Sonia Garcia, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Southern Mindanao and at the same time lead organizer of the exposition, it definitely is Wow Davao.

“There is participation from all over Mindanao,” she told MindaNews Wednesday. “But they (other Mindanao regions) are participating on the basis of their capacity,” she clarified.

Garcia reacted on insinuations that the Wow Mindanao exposition being held here from October 2 to 17 is so “Davao-centered.”

Tourists from Northern Mindanao and Iloilo interviewed by MindaNews earlier said the expo is good for the islands’ tourism industry but is short of featuring what they really expect from Mindanao.

A lady from Butuan City who is now residing in Davao expected to see an entry from her province among the pavilions.

But only provinces from Region 11, and one in Region 12 (Sarangani), have pavilions at the expo site in SM City.

"It's expensive for other provinces to put up and maintain a pavilion for the whole duration of the
exposition," Garcia said.

Jonathan Josol, head of the Davao-based Philippine Sports Blowgun Association (PISBA), however, sees the expo as an entry point to reach other areas in Mindanao. PISBA is among the exhibitors at the Wow Mindanao Sports and Adventure trade expo at the NCCC mall.

“This is really a Mindanao exposition because all the other regions have come and are still coming to converge,” Garcia said.

She said Bukidnon's Kaamulan festival and other Mindanao festivals were featured in the "festival in focus."
"We are celebrating here the convergence of Mindanao peoples and culture," exposition artistic director
Nestor Horfilla told MindaNews.

Horfilla said the peace pavilion, the centerpiece at the expo, showcases the initiatives of the different sectors in building and maintaining peace. Around 10 weavers from Mindanao weave a "tapestry of all tribes" in Mindanao.

He said the tapestry reflects the hopes and aspirations of Mindanaons.
Garcia, however, admitted, that the expo started as “Wow Davao,” which was supposed to be featured in the Wow Philippines expo in Intramuros, Manila.

Wow Philippines, a tourism program of the DOT, features the “best of the regions” around the country in Intramuros. Northern Mindanao’s tourism packages were featured at the Intramuros expo last April.
Garcia said they opted to do it in Davao and call it Wow Mindanao because of the opening of the Davao International Airport.

“Davao is the gateway to Mindanao,” she said. “Whatever we are doing good here could do good for the rest of Mindanao,” she said.

Via cellular phone from Cagayan de Oro, Dorothy Jean Pabayo, DOT Northern Mindanao regional director, confirmed Garcia’s explanation.

Pabayo told MindaNews Wow Mindanao is DOT 11’s initiative of bringing Wow Philippines to Davao City.
“This is not really to belittle the other areas, but only Region 3 (Central Luzon) and 11 have opted to bring Wow Philippines into their areas,” she said.

Pabayo also said DOT Northern Mindanao and those from other regions joined the expo at the trade fairs and in other features of the exposition.

She said that Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and other Mindanao cities serve as spokes to Davao, the Philippine hub to the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
“It is just right for Wow Mindanao to be in Davao,” she said.

Misamis Oriental-based Raoul Alvior, 48,who visited the exposition while in Davao attending a seminar, said the use of "Wow Mindanao" is selling the idea of a "Davao-focused Mindanao."

Pabayo did not want to comment when asked about whether DOT’s programs like Wow Philippines really work for the country’s tourism industry.

But she said that Northern Mindanao’s showcase in Manila brought in a big increase in arrivals to the region. She said they have a 102-percent increase in tourist arrival three months after the showcase.

“Paired with our other promotion efforts, the program has worked to our advantage.”
Wow Mindanao, according to its gazette, is “carving creative pathways for peace.” Among its features are concerts and theater events, photo and sculpture competitions, visual art exhibits, trade fairs, theme parks, food street fair, an adventure and sports fair and a peace pavilion.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Tourism Secretary Ace Durano graced the opening last Oct. 2. Vice President Noli de Castro also dropped by the expo Wednesday.

DOT 11 estimated expenses for the 16-day exposition at P10 million. Half of which, said Garcia, were raised from donors and sponsors.

“Maybe it is possible to come out in the future with an ‘all-Mindanao Wow Mindanao’ exposition. These things really would work because in tourism, you really have to create noise and catch attention," Pabayo said.
But she warned that with the government in fiscal crisis, it would be a difficult task. (MindaNews)

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