“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.” – Unknown
During sem break with my college buddies, we took an overloaded boat and rode a topload jeepney to an electricity-free island. That was in the ‘80s when there were no internet and mobile phones. The island was Boracay and 40 years later, it remains to be the most beautiful island. Nowadays, there are several flights to this enchanted island and you can book online.
Thirty-four years ago, the Philippine Tour Operators (PHILTOA) staged the first Philippine Travel Mart. This has been the biggest annual travel fair focused on promoting popular and emerging tourist destinations in the country. It is considered an institutional event and is the largest running travel trade exhibition. With nearly 300 exhibitors from all regions, including private companies and tour operators, many business to clients meetings transpire. The Travel Mart features the sale of discounted tour packages and accommodations, air fare deals, and the like, which are offered exclusively during the three-day exhibition.
Through the years, I have established contacts, collected brochures, and eventually, organized tours. Even with the advent of the internet, the Travel Mart remains relevant. Going to Travel Mart has become a reunion of sorts with tourism stakeholders I met in the provinces. Personally, I look forward to discovering emerging destinations, such as those in Mindanao, Eastern Visayas, and Northern Luzon. These underrated hidden gems deserve more attention.
Verde Island Package
Stakeholders and the general public always look forward to the next Travel Mart. The traditional destinations come out with new accommodations and new activities while the emerging destinations try to entice new travelers. During the Travel Mart, the most colorful booths are always those from Bangsamoro and the other Mindanao provinces. Mindanao has always been the most exotic destination in the country. Iligan City maintains its reputation as the Waterfalls Capital of the Philippines. In the era of fax machines, we had a hard time looking for Tinago Falls, which probably explains its name.
With online maps, Waze, and other applications, tours become manageable. Aside from the colorful Southern Mindanao Provinces, the underrated beauty of the coral reefs is resplendent with a cornucopia of rainbow hues. Highlighted is the Verde Island Passage, the center of marine biodiversity in the world.
This marine paradise covers a wide area of Batangas and Mindoro, with the virginal Isla Verde at the center. With the introduction of ecotourism around the Verde Island Passage, its vulnerability to environmental degradation may be reduced. This booth was quite popular because it was an enclosed area where the marine environment seemed to surround the visitor.
Everybody enjoyed having their picture taken with the Moriones of Marinduque.
I had second thoughts about the 1st Colonial Sili Ice Cream of Bicol because of my low tolerance for spicy food, but many were pleasantly surprised.
For lighthouse aficionados, Cape Engaño on Palaui Island is a must-see. Dumaguete in the Visayas promotes sports tourism.
At a quiet end of the Travel Mart was an empty booth for Kalayaan Islands. I failed to join the first batch of Kalayaan Islands tourists. Being on the waiting list, I was hoping for one participant to back out, but it never happened. That’s probably one of the farthest islands for a Philippine-based traveller to visit. But travel need not be far and difficult. The Hop on Hop off bus has just been launched in Manila and Makati. There are designated stops where a tourist can hop off, then hop on after a quick exploration.
The road may be easy or difficult, but the rewards are always fulfilling. Keep on traveling!
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JP Ordoña (Manilakad) leads Manilakad Walks in Intramuros, Binondo, Quiapo, and more. Let him guide you to several walking destinations in Manila.
Manilakad (JP Ordoña) can be reached on Facebook Messenger or through SMS at 0916-3597888.