With nine days left before the Sinulog Festival this year, the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) announced its plan to roll out a faith-based tourism campaign in the region.
Shalimar Tamano, the newly installed acting director of DOT-7, revealed that Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo will be pushing for a faith-based tourism in Central Visayas, particularly in Cebu with its Sinulog Festival, a week-long festivity held every third week of January that commemorates the Feast of the Señor Sto. Niño that has been drawing thousands of Catholic devotees and pilgrims to Cebu every year.
Tamano was in the Capitol on Tuesday to represent DOT-7 during the Mactan-Cebu Bridge Management Board Meeting.
Tamano assumed the post only last Monday, or four days after former DOT-7 director Joshua Judd Lanete II resigned due to health reasons.
He added that Teo also wanted the DOT in Cebu to be more actively involved in Sinulog-related events compared to the previous years in order to push the faith-based tourism.
“She also said she will visit Cebu and Central Visayas more often than before. She is interested in faith-based tourism, and she mentioned that she will be interested in the churches of Bohol and religious sites here in Cebu,” Tamano said.
Teo is expected to be in Cebu for this year’s Sinulog Festival and plans to meet with tourism stakeholders here, Tamano added.
Cebu and the neighboring provinces of Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental in Central Visayas boast not only of world-famous eco-tourist spots and beaches but also of historical sites, especially churches that stood for more than 300 years.
Archives from the Cebu Provincial Government revealed that there are at least 52 historical churches in the province, including those frequently visited by tourists such as the Santa Catalina de Alejandria in Carcar City and the San Miguel Arcangel Church in Argao, which currently houses one of the oldest and recently restored pipe organs in the country.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, who chairs the Provincial Board’s (PB) committee on tourism and heritage, welcomed the DOT-7’s proposal.
“We’re happy to hear that Secretary Teo is supporting faith-based tourism. We’ve been pushing that before, with our tours like Suroy-Suroy Sugbo highlighting old churches in the province,” said Magpale.
With the DOT showing interest to initiate faith-based tourism in Central Visayas, she expressed hope that it would revitalize tourists’ interests in visiting churches and other heritage sites.
With faith-based tourism, Magpale said they would have more impetus to improve or restore old churches and historical sites and to build access roads and facilities on these sites.
“You know, Cebu and the entire region, in fact, is so rich in history. Old churches and heritage sites served as component of faith-based tourism. We’re even planning to develop roads leading to San Pedro Calungsod Shrine in Ginatilan (town in southern Cebu),” said Magpale.