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Cebu's Pari-an: 300 years of history online

The Yap-Sandiego ancestral house and its QR code (inset).

MANILA, Philippines - “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan (Those who don’t look back whence they came won’t get to their goal).” The old Filipino saying may well refer to Pari-an, a tiny district of Cebu City, for centuries a mere concept in popular history books but now surging ahead on the wings of modern telecommunications technology.

Pari-an is described by historians as the premiere center of trade during the 16th century, when it was dominated by Chinese merchants.

Today it is once again a focal point, this time, of high-tech tourism. With the help of QR (Quick Response) codes, the smartphone in your pocket, and wireless broadband, Pari-an is drawing visitors.

Pari-an is also blazing the tech-tourism trail, being the first tourist spot in the Philippines to officially use QR Code technology.

Arousing QRiosity

Through the help of Max and Marlen Limpag of MyCebu.ph, the Department of Tourism (DOT), and Smart Communications Inc., Pari-an has found a new home online. Markers scattered across its various places of interest provide brief descriptions, which can be accessed via the Internet using unique QR Codes.

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Anyone with a camera-equipped smartphone or even tablet device can scan the codes using a QR Code reader which is available for free in most online app stores such as Google’s Android Market, Apple’s App Store, and BlackBerry’s App World. Seconds after scanning the code, users are able to get additional information on the tourist spot on the MyCebu.ph website.

Though only a few street blocks large, Pari-an holds a bevy of secrets that are just waiting to be uncovered.

MyCebu.ph editor Marlen Limpag demonstrates how to use the QR Code.

A deeper experience

Some examples of the sites that benefit from the technology include Colon Street, the oldest thoroughfare in the Philippines. While the street no longer bears traces of its former glory, the simple act of scanning the QR Code assigned to the Colon Street monument can give visitors a glimpse of the original structure.

With the same tech trick, the Jesuit House dating back to 1730 can re-emerge from behind a junkshop where it has lain hidden and forgotten.

It is discoveries like these (which locals tend to take for granted) that best illustrate the value of the marriage of tourism and technology.

The other sites in Pari-an, such as the San Juan Bautista Church, the Yap-Sandiego ancestral home, the Heritage of Cebu Monument, and the Casa Gorordo residence, also have their own stories to tell — all of which can now be told simply by reaching for your trusty mobile phone.

Only the beginning

There’s more to come.

Cebu City South District Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias will be sponsoring a bill proposing the use of digital media to promote other Philippine landmarks and tourist hot spots.

Even more exciting is that QR Codes are but the prototype of micro-tourism tools. Soon, the DOT and Smart hope to tap Near Field Communications (NFC) for a more convenient transfer of information to portable devices.

NFC is a technology that allows contactless data exchange between two devices in close proximity to each other such as phones, debit cards, and even posters.

Sinulog Guidebook

In yet another effort to take advantage of the power of the Internet to help promote tourism activities, DOT, Smart, and partner bloggers have made available the Sinulog Guidebook which can be downloaded for free in .epub and .mobi formats.

The Sinulog Guidebook contains facts about the Sinulog festival and important information about the city such as accommodation and emergency contact numbers (police, hospital, tourist assistance).

Both formats can be viewed in most mobile devices using free reading applications such as Aldiko and Stanza.

Smart supports the Department of Tourism’s “Pilipinas, Tara Na” program. It helps promote the agency’s efforts with the help of Infoboard, a Web-based SMS broadcast service that facilitates information exchange and communication between the tourism department and the public.

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