Children’s book leads to first Kids Tour in Cebu

By: Contributor November 29,2015 - 04:31 AM

Frauline Maria A. Sinson

Childrens book - I SEE CEBU

The “I See Cebu” book written by Teresa Ruelas and Geraldine Yap unfolds into a new experience – a tour designed for children. (CONTRIBUTED)

New York, London, Paris, Rome, Cebu . . . wait, Cebu?  What does Cebu have in common with these famous cities?  Cebu has joined the growing number of places around the world where tours especially designed for children are being offered.

Cebu is pioneering the first kids tour in the Philippines, according to Alice Queblatin, Tourism Congress vice president for the Visayas travel and tours sector.

There are family-oriented tours that usually center around amusement parks. There are kid-friendly tours that often mean it is okay for parents to drag their children along.  But there hasn’t been a tour offered in the Philippines that caters specifically to children.

That is until the “I See Kids Tour,” which will be launched this December.

Two back-to-back tours are scheduled in southern Cebu.

The first one will be in the cool mountains of Mantalongon in Dalaguete town on December 12, a Saturday, while the other one will be at the Bojo River in Aloguinsan town on December 13, a Sunday.

Each tour can handle a maximum of 10 children, aged 6-9 years old, and 10 adults.   The introductory price of P600 per head includes the tour, materials, snacks and lunch.

Teresa Dosdos Ruelas, program director for the “I See Kids Tour”, told Cebu Daily News that the tour was developed after parents, school administrators and kids wanted to relive the adventures of Litly, a fictional bird and the heroine in her children’s book “I See Cebu.”

The 32-page  children’s book tells the story of Litly, a Chinese Egret born and raised in Russia. The book was written in English by  Ruelas and Geraldine Yap and has a Cebuano translation by Trizer Dale Mansueto.

Published in November 2012, this is the first volume of the “I See The Philippines” series. Photos were taken by Ruelas and her life partner Brad Reddersen. Illustrations were done by local artist Dexter Allen Besa.

In the story, the bird Litly comes to Cebu and becomes the accidental tour guide for readers as she visits various places and interacts with indigenous animals.  The book can be purchased at local shops like Abaseria Cafe and Deli in Kasambagan for P350. Children who join the tours can avail of the discounted book price of P250.

Ruelas,  eldest daughter of the late Dr. Jorge Dosdos and civic leader Minnie Dosdos, worked in the United States where she was an organization development consultant for 25 years, before she returned to Cebu a few years ago.

What made her decide to write a children’s book?

“My brother, who has two boys, asked me what meaningful places I could show my nephews here in Cebu.  So I thought to myself, where do kids go to experience nature, to learn about culture?”

Having been away for so long, she was stumped.  She wanted to take them to places where they would fall back in love with the environment and know their heritage.

As the next generation,  their exposure, she felt, should go beyond malls or the video arcade.  With the help of friends, she got to learn more about the island of her birth.  From there, ideas took root and many people inspired her until it all came to fruition with the publication of the book.

“When I started on this journey, even though I am a Cebuana, I was amazed to learn about these places that I never knew existed!  It opened a whole new world for me,” Ruelas said.

“Every place I went became my favorite place by the time I left it because every place has something special, something unique.  Every place has a secret for you to discover,” she said, quoting a passage from the book.

More ideas sprouted from the book.  It produced a short play that was performed in some schools in the city.  Now, the “I See Kids Tour” has ripened to readiness.

Ruelas, with the support of many people who shared the same vision, spent a year (visiting once or twice a month for 2-3 days) helping locals in Mantalongon and the Bojo River get ready to provide tours for children.

Unlike tours designed for adults, Ms. Ruelas said they want to make sure that the children will be properly engaged and entertained.  Workshops on storytelling were held and experts on child development went to the sites to work closely with the local guides.

In one of their workshops in Mantalongon, locals were asked do an arts and crafts activity as well as free play so that they will experience what the kids are going to experience.  They were given crayons, bond paper, dolls made of cloth, sungka (a Filipino wooden board game with shells) and wooden animals to play with.

“It was so touching.  Most of them are farmers aged 50 to 70 years old and they were moved to tears because they never had an opportunity to play like that when they were kids.  They had to help out in the fields with their parents and that is also how they’ve raised their children,” Ruelas recalled.

Ruelas and her team also worked with the Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS), which eagerly accepted the idea and even built a playhouse in anticipation of their younger clients.

Trial tours were held, first with trained local guides and their own kids.

“They were so nervous in front of their own kids and the children were puzzled why their parents were acting differently.  The child development workshops really made a difference in how they see child-rearing now,” Ruelas related.

They also had an exchange program — Mantalongon guides and their kids participated in the Bojo River tour while the Aloguinsan guides and their kids participated in the Mantalongon mountain trekking tour.

“Both groups learned from each other and they are very supportive of each other.”

In April, the I See Kids Tour had a soft launch with city kids participating in both tours.  “The kids didn’t want it to end.” Ms. Ruelas laughed, pleased with the success of their initial run.

I See Kids Tours this December and she has already received queries for a tour in January.  For more details about the tours, visit their Facebook page at or contact Teresa Ruelas at [email protected] or 09156474666.

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