Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Why visit the Philippines - 15 reasons for 2015

Carlo Rivera - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - It’s been said a lot that “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”  And it must be true, as many a foreign tourist begins chanting the line upon setting foot in the country. Among Filipinos, it’s almost gospel truth.

Even those who have become all too familiar with the Philippines cannot deny the beauty that abounds in these 7,107 islands. From nature to concrete, from street dancing to club parties, and the warm smiles of a hospitable people, who eat at least five meals a day, it’s definitely more fun in the Philippines.

For this year, the country’s tourism industry gives 15 reasons – among so many, of course – why the Philippines is a travel destination of choice. Fifteen, because that’s the standard number of days allotted for vacation leave, for most of the workers at least. Well, in 15 days any visitor to any place in the country will also have already substantially immersed in the local culture.

Filipinos are so lucky not to have to go far for a fantastic experience. There are spectacular places around to discover, for wonderful sights and exhilarating activities. A weekend road trip is all it takes to escape from the everyday tedium.

Those planning to push their lives onward this year would be smart to include visiting places in the Philippines in their list of essential things to do. There are many reasons why. As many reasons as there are places to visit.

For example, right in January, the Sinulog Festival in Cebu is a fitting kick-off to the many exciting events. The city showcases its party culture and the song-and-dance talents of both its own people and those of its visitors. The Sinulog may be the biggest fiesta of the Philippines – but it’s only one of so many. 

There are a lot of spots where to simply sit back and watch the sunrise or the sunset. Nature lovers will find more than enough mountains to climb, or waterfalls and rivers to swim in and sands to walk on. For the adventurous, the country’s oceans are most exciting to dive into, among many thrilling adventures available.

The country is a blessing indeed, both for its people and its visitors. The little slips and contradictions in the everyday ways of communities, ironically, easily become terms of endearment – or, at least, opportunities for a good laugh. 

Even in places steeped in history, the local people – the young especially – are fully updated on the latest Top 40 hits and dance moves. The natural sanctuaries scattered throughout the archipelago are the most biologically diverse and lush in the world. And yet air-conditioned malls and shopping centers are common, too.

In the Philippines there’s history, beautiful islands, fantastic beaches, and best of all, a hospitable people waiting to welcome every visitor, everywhere. And while there are certainly more sights, smells and sounds that beckon every foreigner to visit the Philippines, the Department of Tourism rounds up just a few, in a video posted at Rappler.com:


The Tagbo Festival

Cebu has a lot to offer to domestic and international tourists in the month of January.

Other than Cebu City’s “Sinulog” Festival, which celebrates the feast of the Santo Niño, the town of Poro in the picturesque island of Camotes, in the province’s northeast, prides of an equally colorful and historical festival, the “Tagbo.”

“Tagbo” is the Cebuano word for “convergence” or “meeting at a certain spot.” The festival relives the convergence of two tribes, the farmers from sitio Tag-anito (now Tudela) and the fishermen from sitio Maktang (now barangay Esperanza in Poro).  The two tribes used to be unfriendly towards each other, as both wanted supremacy.

With the threat of raids by the “moros” at the time, a village wise man named “Panganuron” convinced two tribes to be united in order to fight the common enemy. When they finally agreed to meet, the leaders of the tribes decided to create a united settlement and named it “Pulo,” meaning “island.” The first Spaniards who came to the island a long time later mispronounced the name of the place as “Poro.” Upon the introduction of Christianity, the united tribesmen prayed the Holy Rosary in honor of the Virgin Mary, and then soon adopted the Senior Santo Niño as the patron of Poro.

The “Tagbo” Festival is celebrated yearly on January 16, the date that Poro was recognized as the first town in Camotes Island in the year 1780. According to Poro tourism manager Joy Laja, “Tagbo” predates Sinulog by 20 years. The festival aims to highlight Poro’s rich history in the hearts and minds of the people – not only the people of the town, but all Camotes islanders and the Cebuanos in general.

Poro Mayor Luciano Rama Jr. said there are actually a lot of interesting stories about their town, including the popular legend of Maria Cacao, who supposedly frequents the recreation spot called “Buho Rock,” the church which was constructed in memory of the last standing Japanese army, and even the alleged area where the real “Battle of Mactan” had happened.

During this year’s “Tagbo” Festival, devotees flocked to the church for the Mass and the “Patunob” ritual wherein the image of the Santo Niño was placed on the parts of the body for healing. Four contingents competed later in the street dancing and the ritual competitions.

The champion for the ritual category is Hugpong sa Nagkahiusang Porohanon; first place – Lumad Escaricahanon; 2nd place – Pundok Panaghiusa and 3rd Place – Tribu Panagdait. The festival queen is Maria Danica Flor Opon, from the ritual champion group Hugpong sa Nagkahiusang Porohanon.

Poro is the first of the four municipalities of Camotes Island, which offers a lot of dive sites and caves for exploration. Camotes is reached by a two-hour boat ride from Danao City, 63 kilometers to the north of Cebu City.










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