I have survived my first typhoon in Donsol with a steady supply of fresh seafood, mangos and Tanduay rum, it was tough (biro lang – just kidding).
It was a concern that our collective funds were dwindling, the power and phone reception was sketchy and we had walang idea when we could leave. Later on we heard 27 people had lost their lives so our inconvenience was measured by local tragedy.
Donsol, home of the butanding (whale sharks) is one of the Philippine’s most famous tourist destinations. But I believe that there is a far greater threat to tourism in the Philippines than ‘states of calamity’.
It’s clear from the Wow Philippines to the revamped Awesome Philippines tourism campaigns that The Philippines is seeking the still elusive foreign tourism dollar. Apart from some intrepid divers, surfers and the ever-present sex tourists, Philippines is not on your average traveller’s radar.
From an Australian perspective, there are no ridiculously cheap flights here like there is to other Asian destinations like Thailand or the cliché Aussie destination of Bali.
Once you are here the public transport system although extensive is a minefield of non-connecting trips, scamming tricycle drivers and conflicting information. For example, travelling from the business hub of Bicol, Naga City to a major port of Matnog took 3 buses, 1 jeepney and me instinctively not listening to a tricycle driver who said there was no jeepney (but he could give me a ‘special trip’…). Getting to Donsol from Matnog was a similar adventure of mitigating how much I was being overcharged and personal safety concerns.
If the transport infrastructure improves, some of the needs for a viable tourism industry are here – white sand beaches, incredibly friendly and English-speaking locals, stunning natural beauty. But part of the charm of Philz is that you know you are off the beaten path, walang white people clutching their Lonely Planets wearing Birkenstocks with socks, you just have to be prepared for a variety of calamities along the way.