LAOAG CITY—Victor or vanquished, Manny Pacquiao has placed the Philippines on the world’s sports map.
Our shores are more well-known because of a son with rock star status. We ought to start selling Pacman’s PH in earnest as a major sports tourism hub.
“We’ve been telling the tourism folks to spend more on advertising abroad to promote our natural wonders as sports destinations,” says Joey Romansanta, the incoming first vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee just breathed a third wind to perform. “But their ears are cuffed every time.”
While the national tourism office quibbles with its promotion spending, a quiet movement appears stirring in the countryside to highlight local sights and sounds to athletes, foreign or otherwise, well-heeled or not.
Such is the case in this northern metropolis where a ragtag band of businessmen, led by Faivo Bartolome, Jack Ranada and Allen Aguilar, has morphed into eco-soldiers to drumbeat this city as a sports tourism epicenter through the Laoag Marathon.
Aguilar is no ordinary sports faddist. He told me over dinner at his Tony Ravanden’s Bar & Grill on Laoag’s main drag that he is a triathlon athlete by heart. Having competed in blue ribbon events of his sport in Cebu and Zambales, Aguilar sees the potential of combining sports and tourism to reinvigorate the local economy.
With a mindset that is more forward looking than that of the national tourism office, Allen and friends have taken upon themselves to organize and promote the fledgling marathon calendared for Feb. 23, 2013.
The event, in its second edition, will test the endurance of athletes. They will slog through 19 kilometers of the La Paz sand dunes and jog on 23 kilometers of scenic, seaside roads of quaint villages and century-old churches.
Income figures are not forthcoming from travel and tourism bureaucrats for the hugely successful sports tourism draws featuring swim-bike-run, run-bike or run-swim events. These include the Asian Triathlon Championships this past May, the Century Tuna 5150 Triathlon world qualifiers in June in Subic and the Ironman 70.3 Philippines to be hosted by Cebu for the second time Aug. 4 next year.
But you ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of foreign draws and currencies from sports tourism if you base its benefit on the just-ended Fil-Am Golf tournament in Baguio.
According to the office of Mayor Mauricio Domogan the Fil-Am—a magnet for amateur golfers the world over—pumped in at least P200 million into the Baguio economy.
Tourists who travel for sports spend untold billions of dollars worldwide every year. They are typically high spending, stay longer and tend to go to other tourism destinations a country offers, according to available statistics.
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Thanks to a couple of guys, former Ilocos Norte Gov. Mike Keon and provincial police director Marlou Chan, for extending a hand during a family emergency. A grandson and his classmates were in a vehicular accident in Badoc town on their way back to Manila from an educational trip in Pagudpud. Thank God the injuries were not life-threatening.
The Badoc police department was a picture of police community relations at its best. Smiling officers assisted my family with the needed paperwork and kept an eye on the grandson’s wrecked car until towing to Manila was arranged.