Years ago I wrote a couple of articles (read the first one) about the tourist attractions in my home province which were published in What’s On magazine, and later on my website. Soon after that I noticed that my photos are write-ups were copied and pasted in brochures, handouts, and various websites without my permission. But that’s okay, I guess, because I though this would help promote Surigao.
Today, 20 years later, not much has improved. While it’s true that a few resorts, improved public sea transport, and even some adventure clubs are now around — Surigao’s islands still don’t not have the facilities or infrastructure that make Thailand and Vietnam fun yet affordable to explore.
“Well, what comes first?” my husband referred to the chicken-and-egg conondrum. Did these places offer better accommodations and services because the tourists came, or did the tourists came as a result of accommodations and services?
My brother is now a licensed tour guide. It would be nice if I can throw some ideas at him, about what we enjoyed or liked in our travels in Southeast Asia: motorcycle rental and guided tours, all-inclusive packages with lunches and snorkel/mask/fin, reasonable half-day or all-day boat and canoe rentals, and individual/small group tours (1-4 people).
As it is, the type of “tourism” most islands see are when large groups of Filipinos have excursions in groups of 6-20, usually because of family reunions. A group this big makes it cost effective to rent a boat and explore the islands. Otherwise individuals and pairs are at a disadvantage. Full day use of a motor boat to Bucas Grande, for example, cost almost $50 whereas in Thailand one can rent a longtail boat for $10! Of course, in places like Phuket, Krabi, Samui, etc. — the boats are rented/used on daily basis. But in Surigao islands, people think they have to make a month’s worth of income from one booking because they don’t know when the next one will come. That’s just speculation on our part, by the way.
What we certainly don’t want to happen is the mass tourism that happens when tour operators charge different rates through hotels, then put everyone in the same boat or bus. I still remember the group of 200 tourists that accompanied us from Phuket and went snorkeling and “canoeing” with in Phi Phi for 30 minutes!