COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Heritage is gradually being integrated into the mainstream with the yearly celebration of the Filipino Heritage Festival, and the heritage conservation projects undergoing in the different parts of the country. With this development, it will promote local tourism and an increasing awareness of our people on the land they live. A redirection of this sort might minimize promoting tourism as a dollar earner industry.
The government’s thrust to earn more dollars is still in answer to the drain of foreign exchange, a post-war scenario that has not been resolved up to this day, more than fifty years have passed. But this balance of payment deficit can never be solved with the liberalization policies the government has been pursuing since then; from the Bell Trade Act of 1946 to the lifting of export and foreign exchange controls in 1962, to the import-substitution and export-orientation industrialization promoted for over four decades up to this latest globalization design. The peso is now tragically devalued.
Earning dollars through selling is our worst social malaise. We’ve already sold human labor through our overseas workers abroad, and now we’re selling our natural environment and local services to foreign tourists in our homeland. All in exchange for dollars!
When will we ever start respecting ourselves? We’re always selling the best of our crops to foreigners—from shrimps to bananas to handicrafts, while these same foreigners are dumping their “oks na oks” and other salvage items on our faces. Trade is good, but the United States and Japan sell their surpluses, while the Philippines sell the first of its harvest—both human and natural resources.
I don’t know but any person I know who starts selling his valuables is in the brink of debt or financial collapse. But any self-respecting individual would try to keep even old belongings as things of value, as they are an expression and extension of his personality. Well there are those who are practical and would sell or give away unused items but that is a different story.
With the promotion of local tourism, there will be a shift in our goals and perspectives. We would start appreciating our own; the richness of our culture, the splendor of our surroundings, and the warmth of our people. These elements which are truly Filipino will be preserved.
The promotion of local tourism can become a unifying factor for a diversified and segregated people like ours. Once we keep moving around the country not only for business but for leisure, we will eventually identify with each other on the national level and minimize cringing to our ethno-linguistic groups. We cannot be unified if our sense of identity is embedded on the security of being an Ilocano, a Waray, an Ilonggo, a Kapampangan, or a Tausog, among others.
Catering to local tourists is also less expensive and will make our tourist facilities more affordable to locals. The influx of foreign tourists raised the prices of goods and services in these facilities to international market standards. In this city alone, one beach resort sells a bottle of cola drink at more than twice the price found in the sari-sari store. The cost of recreational facilities is also exorbitant, forcing the ordinary consumers to pay the foreign tourist’s price, thus depriving them of continued use.
If access to travel within the country be made easy and affordable, Filipinos will realize that the best to see is still our own, and the place to stay is still our land. We’ve got the food, the relaxed atmosphere, the sand, sea and sun, the diverse culture and terrain, fiestas and festivals, and the comfort of our people’s trust. By this time perhaps, we can reconsider selling ourselves and start preserving our own.