‘Umbrella Festival’ gets mixed reactions

(Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE Department of Tourism in Western Visayas will again consult the stakeholders involved in the proposed staging of the “1st Guimaras Festival” after it received mixed reactions from netizens.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, DOT-6 Regional Director, Atty. Helen Catalbas said she has no qualms if ever the proposed festival in Guimaras will be shelved.

“I will consult with the various groups, I consulted before. If they say stop, well, it’s okay. I can transfer the project to Boracay, Capiz or Antique and call it the same as the Western Visayas region prepares for summer,” she said.

Catalbas explained that the umbrella festival was a project of the recent consultation with the local government unit (LGU) of Guimaras and other private tourism industry stakeholders in the hopes of saving the island from the continuous downtrend in its tourism.

“It was a product of a recent consultation with Guimaras’ Gov. Samuel Gumarin, Rep. Lucille Nava, five town mayors of Guimaras, and private tourism industry stakeholders. Everyone is concerned about the negative publicity that Guimaras has been getting which caused the downtrend of tourism to the tune of -90%,” the statement added.

The festival was supposed to provide passengers plying from Guimaras to Iloilo and vice versa a temporary shade of comfort by offering more than a thousand of colorful umbrellas.

However, the proposed umbrella festival made in rounds in social media after some netizens criticized it for its lack of cultural relevance and for romanticizing the discomfort of passengers.

While the tourism department has nothing against the protocols set by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) particularly the rolling up of tarpaulins and canvass in motor bancas which caused discomfort among the passengers, Catalbas reiterated that they only did what they thought could save the tourism industry.

“DOT 6 has no quarrel with MARINA and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on the rules imposed but while waiting for the results of the appeals of by the local officials and other sectors, some things have to be done to save the tourism industry of Guimaras,” she said in her statement.

“The noise created by a few will not damage the good intention of the project. This is not for those who do not want. This is for those who need the umbrella during the pumpboat trip,” she furthered.

The tourism industry in Guimaras has plunged following the Iloilo Strait tragedy that claimed the lives of 31 motor banca passengers last August.

Data from the Guimaras Provincial Tourism Office showed visitor arrivals from August 4-31, 2019 dramatically decreased by 73.84 percent compared to the 43,709 in the same period in 2018.

Tourism receipts of the province recorded August 4-31 also went down from P42.9 million in 2018 to P9.8 million in 2019.