Travelers could return to the island of Siquijor as early as next month in time for the province’s popular “Healing Festival”.
Siquijor Governor Zaldy Villa said the provincial government is preparing to re-welcome tourists back to its shores for the annual event, which coincides with Holy Week.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat visited the island on Wednesday, Feb. 24, to discuss with local officials and stakeholders the guidelines that will be implemented once the province starts receiving tourists again.
“As the DOT bids to fully reopen Siquijor to tourism and revitalize this sector, we continue to seek regular discussions with provincial and local government leaders and stakeholders, gaining insight into your preparedness to reopen as well as a deeper understanding of how we can best help industry stakeholders and citizens of your communities,” Puyat said in her speech.
During the dialogue, Villa said incoming tourists to the province must present a negative RT-PCR or rapid antigen test result, travel authority from the home local government unit (LGU), confirmed booking with a DOT-accredited accomodation establishment, among other requirements.
Travelers in Siquijor were also urged to strictly observe the minimum public health standards to ensure the safety and successful reopening of tourism.
Puyat emphasized the department’s thrust to strengthen domestic tourism in Siquijor this year by assisting the province with promotional branding campaigns, funding of the digital version of the “Healing Festival,” continuous implementation of public health and safety protocols, development of tourism products, and enhancement of tourism circuits featuring farming, diving, and ecotourism.
Puyat said ongoing efforts toward Siquijor’s opening include physical inspections on accommodation establishments and tourism enterprises.
As of this month, 37 local accommodation establishments have been accredited by the DOT.
As part of her trip to the island, the tourism chief went to a local healer to experience “tuob” or steam inhalation and “bolo bolo” or the traditional healing ritual using a glass of water, bamboo straw, and a black stone.
Puyat also visited the Old Enchanted Balete Tree and the Lazi Church and
Convent, which had been declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines.
“Known as the Healing Island of Central Visayas, Siquijor has much to offer to nature lovers, adventure junkies, beach goers and divers, and culture enthusiasts, providing us ample reason to believe that the tourism sector in this province can successfully re-emerge from this crisis,” Puyat added.
Aside from the allure of the healing culture, Siquijor Vice Governor Mei Ling Quezon said the island still has a lot to offer to tourists in destinations like the Cambugahay Falls, Paliton Beach, and Mt. Bandilaan, where the province’s festival takes place.
Quezon said the province recorded a total number of 143,286 same-day visitor arrivals and 37,651 overnight visitor arrivals in 2020.
The DOT, through its regional office in Central Visayas, has also been extending assistance to tourism workers who have been displaced due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
As of Feb.19 this year, the DOT Region 7 has endorsed a total of 696 tourism enterprises, tour guide associations or individuals, and community based-tourism associations totalling 24,588 beneficiaries. Forty of these are from Siquijor province.
“Great progress has been made in making tourism bounce back, but there is still much we can all do to ensure the safe, responsible, and sustainable recovery of the tourism in Siquijor and the rest of the Philippines,” Puyat said.