Dumaguete for tourists/Gingoog biz whiz
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Dumaguete has been known as “The City of Gentle People” due to the extraordinary warm hospitality of its people and genteel way of life despite being the provincial capital of Negros Oriental.

 “But despite its laid-back aura,” says Dumaguete City mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo, “it takes pride in an active population engaged in a variety of sports from sunrise to sundown.” It came as no surprise that the city was recently given the coveted Organizer of the Year (Government) in the Philippine Sports Tourism Award.

Now on its second edition, the awardees were selected by a panel of judges from various sectors, including the Department of Tourism, Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee and organizer Selrahco Management and Consultancy Services.

 Dumaguete was also a runner-up in the Sports Destination of the Year category, having hosted a variety of sporting events which brought in thousands of athletes and tourists.

 According to Mayor Remollo, the city has been positioning  as a sports hub in central Philippines by organizing and hosting national events.

 “This award will top off all the tourism awards we got. I always believe that sports is a great equalizer and unifier,” he said at the PSTA awarding ceremonies.

 In line with its 70th charter anniversary and fiesta in 2018, the city hosted the Dumaguete Triathlon, Children’s Games, the Dumaguete Dragon Boat Challenge and the Beach Volleyball Republic on Tour. 

Moreover, the Philippine University Games has made the city their default venue because of its strategic location, splendid facilities, reasonable costs, conducive environment, and warm hometown crowd.   

Earlier in 2017, the  Little League Philippines Series, National Frisbee Ultimate Championship, Philippine National Games, Batang Pinoy, Philippine Super Liga Spike on Tour, and the 1st Southeast Asian Beach Handball have made the city their playground. 

In mid-February this year, Duma-guete hosted the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association, the regional qualifying round of the Palarong Pambansa where the city’s sports excellence and trademark hospitality were once again put to the fore. 

Remollo also disclosed that the city will be hosting the 20th Asean University Games in 2020, the biggest regional sporting event for students from the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

To build on the momentum of its being a sports tourism capital, he said the city will embark on the Dive Duma-guete program this June to encourage the residents to engage in scuba diving, which can be later used for water safety and protection of the marine ecosystem.

Aside from its sports award, the city was named by The Philippine Retirement Authority as the top Retirement Area deemed as Retiree-Friendly (RADAR) index which measures a place’s compliance with global lifestyle standards set by the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and International Living. 

It was also listed as the world’s fifth best place to retire by the prestigious Forbes Magazine.   

* * *

If you happen to be sojourning in Gingoog City, chances are you will find yourself  at Joy Mart, a two-story commercial store selling household utensils, garments, footwear, fancy jewelry, cell phones, among others. It’s likely that a 5’11” guy will be striding into the place, making sure that things are in place. He owns the store, a small hotel under construction, and pieces of land in the city and suburbs. His name is Antonio “Bebot” Villahermosa, and his story should inspire young people to build a mini “empire” from scratch.

Since I’ve been scouting around for success stories in the small, laid-back city, it was a pleasure bumping into Bebot who turned out to be a raconteur, tracing his modest beginnings from being the eldest boy in a brood of five children of a chief of police and a schoolteacher. He was seven when his father passed away, and his mother, the former Pita Borromeo, decided to leave Cebu City and move to Tucson, Mambajao, in the island of Camiguin. Like many resourceful widows, Pita was able to send her kids to school. After finishing high school, Bebot enrolled  in mechanical engineering at the San Jose Recolletos school in Cebu, but was not able to finish the course, as he was a fun-loving teenager, engaged in drinking bouts with friends. 

The wise Pita suggested he engage in some business enterprise. Bebot took up the challenge, and there began a series of buying and selling cheap shoes and slippers and garments. At the time the barter trade was big business, and he shuttled from one place to another selling his goods. By this time he developed his philosophy of  Kakugihan, Swerte and Paningkamot (industry, a little luck  and determination). He observed how Chinese businessmen operated. In Divisoria, he saw one seated in front of a stall of garments; he only wore a kamiseta and looked lowly,  but had six telephones around him, and he was saying, yes, a hundred boxes? Yes, a thousand of this and that?  Then Bebot saw him get into a nice car (one of his many vehicles parked near his stall). The Chinese, he said, are humble, not pasikat (boastful).

In time Bebot became a trusted suki of established businessmen who allowed him to purchase goods on installment basis. One of them was a shoe manufacturer in Cebu; Bebot took a liking for her daughter, Joy, nine years his junior, but who reciprocated his romantic advances. The family did not look down on Bebot who was simply a small businessman, whereas they belonged to the well-established Rama clan of Cebu City; they spent the lion’s share in the expenses for their daughter’s wedding.

The godfathers the Ramas invited to the wedding belonged to the KBL, Marcos’ political party; Bebot’s ninong was Gingoog City mayor Mike Paderanga, who had been Mrs. Pita Villahermosa’s student.

On the advice of a relative, Bebot took his willing bride to Gingoog. They rented an apartment which had no furniture, so they took their meals on the stairs. They rented a small stall where they sold an assortment of cheap goods. Looking around for a better place, he convinced Mayor Paderanga to allow him to convert a closed toilet building; this the young Bebot remodeled, repainted and set up his wares. Business was good.

Although he was now making money, and buying idle lands as investment, he knew nothing about stocks and the stock market. One day the Philippine National Bank manager, who had become his friend, convinced him while he was tipsy from their drinking bout, to buy the remaining 2,000 shares of the government public offerings. The shares cost P170 each, and Bebot was upset about losing the P350,000 meant to pay off a loan, while he was inebriated. But months later, the shares had made a leap, earning Bebot more than a million pesos. His wife, who had been upset over his “misdemeanor,” smiled when he showed her the check.

Today, Bebot and Joy and their two daughters are enjoying the fruits of their labor. They’ve travelled around the world, and could buy anything money could buy. He has been asked to run for city kagawad,but since Joy says no can do, Bebot will not run.

Bebot’s philosophy, as I wrote earlier, is to work hard. Luck is incidental, but a destiny. He wants to devote time to spiritual matters. His corporate social responsibility is to build modest houses for long-time employees.

Email: dominimt2000@gmail.com


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