Thoughts and Memories | Armando T. Zafe:

Let’s Talk about Tourism

Today, May 20, 2023, I had the pleasure of joining my three daughters for an early morning breakfast instead of staying in my room.

During our meal, we discussed a topic that piqued my interest—tourism.

First, I learned that four different airlines provide daily flights to Siargao, offering lower ticket prices compared to those for Catanduanes. This could be attributed to increased competition. The high cost of airline tickets to Catanduanes might make potential tourists consider other destinations.

However, my eldest daughter, Sky, expressed her fondness for Catanduanes due to its beautiful beaches and captivating sights. Tourists may even venture to nearby islands like Tugawe, a 30-minute boat ride from Codon, San Andres, Catanduanes.

On several occasions, fellow immigration officers stationed in Boracay invited me to visit them there. However, I lacked a strong motivation to go to Boracay since Catanduanes already boasts of stunning beaches. If I desire a swim in the sea, I can reach my favorite beach in Sitio Mamangal, Balite, Virac, Catanduanes, within 20 minutes. In hindsight, I regret not visiting Boracay earlier to understand its allure to tourists, as we could adopt some of its attractions here in Catanduanes. With the collaboration of our leaders, we can strive to make Catanduanes more appealing and beautiful than Boracay.

Our main focus should be on how to prepare, strategize, and take action to position Catanduanes as a formidable contender against Siargao and Boracay in attracting both foreign and local tourists. Our top officials will lead these programs.

Years ago, I attended a meeting at the new Philamlife building in Makati, located near the Insular Life building and Makati Triangle. The gathering took place on the fifth floor, where portraits of prominent Makati businessmen, including former President Cory Aquino, adorned the walls. I received an invitation from the International Airlines Association of the Asian Region in my capacity as the President of IOAP (Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines). I brought one of our directors, Dennis Openia, to the meeting. Most attendees were regional directors from various international airlines operating in the Asian region. Additionally, a respected congressman from the Ilocos region (apologies for forgetting his name and whether he hailed from Ilocos Sur or Norte) was also present.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the overtime pay provided to immigration officers at the airport by international airlines flying to the Philippines.

I mention this meeting to highlight the congressman’s admirable efforts in advocating for the tourism industry in their province. It is worth noting that their tourism industry was already established fifteen years ago. Are Ilocanos also known for their enthusiasm and passion like Bicolanos?

I call upon our politicians to step forward and work together to place Catanduanes on the list of the top 20 must-see places in the world. Perhaps a resolution from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is in order, requesting the Bureau of Immigration to open an Immigration satellite office in Catanduanes. CPA-lawyer Pio Rodulfo of BID mentioned during our regular face-to-face caucus in Manila that the Bureau of Immigration once had an office in Catanduanes during the time of ex-Congressman Jose M. Alberto. With the support and assistance of our well-meaning politicians, an Immigration office will soon grace our beloved island of Catanduanes.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So let us begin. God bless us.

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