MANDAUE CITY, Cebu — With plans still unclear on how pilgrimage tours should be conducted, Alice Quiblatin of the Cebu Association of Tour Operators (CATO), is asking the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) and the Archdiocese of Cebu to help train tour operators and guides.
“It is a different kind of tour and the tour guides that we have may not have the narrative or may not have an in depth interpretation of what should be talked about,” Quiblatin said during the open forum of the media launch of the Pilgrimage Tours on Friday, April 8.
Quiblatin also asked if there would now be an existing template that would be followed in the conduct of pilgrimage tours.
If there is none, she asked tourism and church officials to come up with the needed template at the soonest possible time.
Also, Quiblatin said, there was a need to help them go about costing so they could better plan their tour package offers.
“When I say [this should be done] immediately, it’s because we have clients already waiting. They are all talking about it. They don’t really know what to expect. Bisag kami (even us) we don’t really know. We know these churches but it’s not in a package of a pilgrimage or a faith tour,” she said.
Quiblatin mentioned clients in Italy, who have been asking for a pilgrimage tour here since last year.
“We can only give them a menu of the churches that we visit. But that is not, I think, what the purpose [of what pilgrimage tours] is all about,” Quiblatin said.
She also mentioned that “there are very good museums [in Cebu].”
“Like Argao has a very good museum, Carcar has quite a good museum, Boljoon has a good museum, but what makes one museum different from the other? Let us see through your eyes kay taphaw ra kaayo among ideas ana (because our ideas on it are so shallow),” she added.
Riza Marie Macaibay, faith-based tourism focal person of DOT-7, said training for tour operators and their guides was now on the pipeline.
They plan to adopt some components from the Holy Land tour including its services and prayers and incorporate these into the local pilgrimage tours that will soon be held here.
“We want to also train the volunteers of each church. During site inspections, we already identified, talked to parish priests and rectors on training even their own people kasi (because) they know the history better compared to the guides,” she said.
Tour costings would also be discussed during their training, Macaibay said.
DOT-7 and the Archdiocese of Cebu had their media launch of the Pilgrimage Tours of Cebu on Friday.
Macaibay said they started to plan the conduct of pilgrimage tours here in 2018 when they joined DOT-organized seminar. They have been in consultation with the Archdiocese of Cebu since.
They first thought of officially launching their pilgrimage tour offer in 2021 as part of the 500th year celebration of the arrival of Christianity in the country.
“We decided to develop the tours because Cebu is known as a cradle of Christianity. Because of that, Cebu and the rest of the region have a huge potential to be the pilgrimage destination..,” she said.
However, their plans had to be put on hold because of the pandemic.
With the recent easing of restrictions and with more and more Cebuanos now vaccinated against COVID-19, Macaibay said, DOT-7 and the Archdiocese of Cebu thought that now would be the best time to already start with the pilgrimage tours.
So far, they already identified at least two pilgrimage tours for Cebu province: the Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches tour and the Marian Pilgrimage Tour of Metro Cebu.
The Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches Tour will start at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño and will involve six other heritage churches here.
The Marian Pilgrimage Tour, on the other hand, will include National Shrine of the Nuestra Señora Virgen dela Regla Parish Church in Lapu-Lapu City and the Archdiocesan Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes in Barangay Labangon, Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Barangay Guadalupe and the Our Mother of Perpectual Help Church – Redemptorist in Barangay Kamputhaw all in Cebu City.
And in the coming days, they will also be coming up with more pilgrimage circuits such as Marian Pilgrimage and Heritage Churches Tours in northern and southern Cebu and Camino de Santiago walks and pilgrimage tours in Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
DOT-7 Director Shahlimar Hofer Tamano said series of meetings would be scheduled with the different stakeholders in the coming days.
Discussions will also include the requirements for tour participants.
He said participating Local Government units would have to be consulted if vaccination should be required among the tour participants.
Macaibay said they would be consulting with tour operators on how to fix the tour fees.