Passing by the town of Carcar in Cebu, a young boy selling freshly cooked chicharon offered us his wares. As young travelers on a budget, two of us began haggling for the goods. After a few minutes, our other companion handed the boy our payment – in full price. We groaned, disappointed that our tawad session was interrupted. Then he told us why: mahirap sila, eto lang pinagkakakitaan nila.
It was one of my worst moments. As tourists, we behave differently in our own shores and when we are abroad. At times, I feel like I’m more generous with other nationalities than my own. Who would think twice signing up for temple tours in other countries as opposed to hiring a local guide in our provinces?
It makes sense, monetarily and morally, to support local tourism. From buying in full price to patronizing native guides, here are five reasons to inspire you to be a more giving visitor in your own land:
1. It’s their source of living.
In our eyes, they may be souvenirs or delicacies. But for their makers, these items put food on the table. Sure, the thrill of getting a good deal cannot be denied, but when you are buying something indigenous and labor-intensive (e.g. rice cakes and handmade products), perhaps it is worth it to shell out the extra cash.
2. It’s almost always cheaper.
As a rule of thumb, going local saves a ton of money. From transportation to restaurants, do as the natives do. For instance, a la paz batchoy in Panay is cheaper but tastes twice as good as the ones in Manila. When we went to Guimaras, we hit the jackpot with mango pizza and mango ketchup from a popular local eatery.
3. It’s sustainable.
According to the Department of Tourism, the sector contributes 7% to the Gross Domestic Product or the amount of goods and services produced in the country. By 2016, tourism is expected to account for as much as 20% of total employment. Can you picture how many fellow Filipinos you are actually helping when you embark on domestic travels?
4. It can have its fringe benefits.
Have you explored Siquijor by motorbike, during its mystical festival every Holy Week? Gone to Sagada by riding top load? Or saw the mining underbelly of Compostela Valley? There is something fulfilling in knowing your country like the back of your hand, even its most remote regions.
5. Inevitably, your travels become bigger than what you intended them to be.
In my own experience, to see the Philippines is to know more about my origin. I feel a deeper connection to the places I visit. It makes me appreciate the history and geography that has shaped the land I call home.
How about you, have you supported local tourism lately?