Cristine Mansinares on the greatest strength of Western Visayas

Published October 2, 2021, 8:00 PM

by Jules Vivas

Meet the new regional director of Department of Tourism Region VI

TRAVEL IN GOOD HANDS The new regional director, Cristine Mansinares, at the Iloilo Esplanade (Photo by the author)

The Department of Tourism (DOT) Western Visayas has a new regional director (RD), Cristine Mansinares, and she’s more than well-equipped. Her entire life has been dedicated to tourism.

A native of Sagay City, Negros, Cristine developed her love for tourism in her hometown. “My mother works for the environment office. She would bring me on trips, particularly at sea, showing me the richness of the underwater treasures of our marine protected areas in Sagay,” she intimates.

She was fresh out of college, only 19 years old, when she became tourism officer of Sipalay City, Negros, where she had worked for six years. She was promoted as the head of the provincial tourism office of Negros, a post she kept for eight years. Not only does she have ample experience in the travel industry, she is also a master’s degree holder and a law graduate.

After a little over a year of service in DOT Region VI, she currently holds the chief position of said regional office. She was designated by tourism secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

“[Being regional director] It’s a huge responsibility considering Western Visayas is very rich. The jewel of the Philippines, Boracay is here,” says Cristine of her new post. She has big shoes to fill, succeeding former regional director Helen Catalbas, whom she considers a mentor. “I was prepared by RD Helen to handle difficult situations and concerns,” she says. Catalbas exited the DOT when her second term extension expired on April 16, 2021, after having served the department for 44 years.

Considering the current situation, Cristine is pushing for tourism that’s more inclusive and sustainable. Part of the plans to recover from the pandemic is a slow food tourism project that DOT started last year in partnership with Slow Food International.

Considering the current situation, Cristine is pushing for tourism that’s more inclusive and sustainable. Part of the plans to recover from the pandemic is a slow food tourism project that DOT started last year in partnership with Slow Food International. “It [the slow food project] will highlight the endemic species of agri-biodiversity products from plant-based to animal-based that are unique to the region,” she elaborates. “We’re submitting a list of these products to Italy for verification and for preservation purposes.”

Another priority is the promotion of farm tourism sites. Iloilo in particular will be promoted as the center of sugar trade. “We want to transform Iloilo into a booming tourism destination by highlighting sugar refineries, restaurants with sugar as its main ingredient,” says Cristine.

Heritage sites such as old houses would also be part of the future tour. “We’re already mapping the possible establishments we can include.”

Cristine is focused on bringing the destinations to the people by capitalizing on technology, particularly online. Retailers and small businesses or shops are being connected with tourism technology solutions. “We have existing platforms and startups that will help the local tourism economy grow,” she says. Western Visayas will soon have a microsite focused on relevant information on open tourism sites and COVID news per area.

Another project in the pipeline is underwater mapping or habitat mapping using technology invented by young Filipinos from the company Antipara Exploration. “This will help us assess possible activities in the area based on the status of reef, fishes, and corals and have a better idea of what to do,” says Cristine.

Of the many plans and implementations she has brought to the table, Cristine believes that one of the most important projects—and Region VI’s greatest strength—is gastronomy. “People coming from Bacolod would go all the way to Iloilo just to eat. People from Iloilo would do the same to Bacolod,” she says.

 
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