The Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 (Central Visayas) has begun its assessment and inspection of various destinations in Negros Oriental as they prepare to develop packages on culinary, pilgrimage, and faith-based tours in the province.
Riza Marie Macaibay, DOT-7 Senior Tourism Operations Officer, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview Saturday that their visit to the province this week covered site inspections, as well as talking to potential partners and stakeholders in the culinary and religious sectors.
“The visit is part of DOT-7’s mandate to develop new tourism circuits or activities, and specifically for Negros Oriental, packages on culinary, faith-based, and pilgrimage tours,” she said.
On Thursday afternoon, Macaibay met with Msgr. Julius Heruela, chair of the Commission on Church Cultural Heritage of the Diocese of Dumaguete, to discuss possible sites that can be offered for pilgrimage tours.
She told Heruela that DOT-7 has already done the pilgrimage tours in Cebu and Bohol, and they are now considering Negros Oriental with its few Catholic churches built during the Spanish era.
“For pilgrimage tours, this will be for Catholic churches and that is why we talked to the diocese for inputs and ideas, and inform them of these activities while asking their permission so we can tailor-fit the packages according to the church’s guidelines and the demands of the market,” she said.
The DOT-7 is also partnering with other religions for faith-based tours, such as the influence of the Protestants on Silliman University, she added.
Macaibay said they invited tour operators to join them for the ocular/site inspections to help them design and sell tour packages that can attract new markets.
Representatives of the city and provincial tourism offices accompanied the DOT-7 team on this visit, which also included talking to people from the culinary industry and looking at and tasking unique dishes and delicacies.
Meanwhile, Heruela welcomed the DOT-7’s interest in promoting and including the diocese’s historical and heritage churches and sites as tourist attractions.
“Faith-based guided tours will provide the tourists an insight into the importance of these churches and their history, culture, and heritage,” he said.
Some of the heritage churches in the Diocese of Dumaguete are the St. Augustine of Hippo Parish Church in Bacong, the San Nicolas De Tolentino Parish Church in Dauin, and the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church in Zamboanguita, all in Negros Oriental.
In Siquijor province, which is also part of the Diocese of Dumaguete, the heritage churches/sites include the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church and convent in Lazi town, the St. Francis Parish Church in Siquijor town, and the Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence in Maria town. (PNA)