A remote midwestern river village situated 75 kilometers south from the city of Cebu bucked the odds and was chosen as one of the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations of the World 2016 as certified by award body Green Destinations.
Bojo, located in the town of Aloguinsan, earned the nod of over 100 global experts and authorities who picked from 150 nominations coming from various countries worldwide. Other Philippines awardees include Lake Sebu and Lake Holon in South Cotabato.
The award winners were presented to hundreds of participants of the Global Green Destinations Gala held last September in the Castle of Slovenia, European Green Capital.
Green Destinations is a global partnership for responsible tourism, assisting destinations, regions, and countries in improving quality, sustainability, and market visibility.
The river village hosts the famed Bojo River Cruise, which enables participants to explore mangroves, espy bird species, learn about the local flora and fauna, and practice ecotourism measures while aboard native boats paddled by local guides along the Bojo River. The river has around 100 springs scattered within and around its environs, making for a refreshing sight.
According to Joselito “Boboi” Costas, head coordinator, the selection of the town entailed a grueling process requiring three rounds of judging involving 15 rigid core criteria. These include sustainability coordination, nature protection, animal ethics, wastewater treatment, cultural heritage conservation, protection of people, promoting local products, reduction of fossil fuel dependency, health and safety prevention, and others.
“In the name of sustainable tourism, we go the extra mile by spreading the benefits in the community. We provide scholarships coming from tourist revenue, conduct medical missions and feeding programs, segregate plastics and convert these into handicraft for sale, pay taxes to the barangay council, street lighting, and many others. We highlight mat weaving as the town’s product,” Costas added.
In a press conference held at the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office, Costas revealed that the tour started in 2009 amidst birth pains and initial resistance from the locals.
Luckily, the residents have matured upon realizing the wide range of benefits accorded to them and their community if they just extended their cooperation and dedication.
Regarding tour details, interested parties need to call and inquire for reservations at the farmhouse in Aloguinsan, a two-and-a-half hour bus ride from the South Bus Terminal. After the ride, tourists embark at the Aloguinsan market and take an accredited habal-habal tricycle to the farmhouse where they will undergo the necessary briefing and lectures about the four-hour tour.
Cost is PhP650/head inclusive of lunch, snacks, and souvenirs. Only 60 pax per day can be accommodated in three separate batches. Schedules are dependent on the tide conditions. Take note also that the farmhouse is staffed entirely by fishermen, farmers and housewives.
“This is a high-value, low-impact tour. We are not for mass tourism, but more for the responsible and ecologically-minded tourist who are willing to pay more for a high-quality experience,” Costas disclosed.
He also cautioned that the necessary instructions and precautions are repeated several
times for the benefit of the safety of the visitor and the environment. Failure to heed the warnings will necessitate a fine.
An offshoot tour ideal for families involve the Coral Reef Ecosystem of Aloguinsan. For only PhP550/head, tourists can explore the nine-hectare marine sanctuary via a glass-bottomed boat inclusive of a welcome drink.
Overnight accommodations are also available at the Dalunhaw Resort with 80 pax maximum capacity. This is a privately owned but community-run property designed to accommodate longer-staying guests. Also available is a nearby pension house good for 60 pax.
For more information, call Shane Manigos, Aloguinsan tourism officer, at (032) 469-9042, 469-0002, or (0999) 917-4564.
By RICHARD RAMOS