Friday, February 26, 2016

The Town Of Barlig Should Tap Jeyrick Sigmaton To Boost Its Tourism Industry

If there’s anything we can learn about the Carrot Man phenomenon, it’s the always standing possibility that anyone living in utter obscurity can become an immense celebrity in very short notice – through the power of social media. One day, you are harvesting carrots. Days later, there are photos of you flooding the internet like an avalanche out of nowhere. And you are not even aware of it until someone tells you what’s happening. Such are the circumstances of the times we currently live in.

For Jeyrick Sigmaton, this instantaneous attention can either propel him to even bigger things or hurt him like an arrow to the knee. So far, the young man seems to be taking it well. That’s a good sign considering the observation by the majority that he’s a rather shy guy. However, it’s hard not to feel a bit of pessimism about the whole thing if you are going to try and think about what the future could hold for him.

There are rumors that he has already signed a deal with a television network. If this has any truth to it, there are three possible paths for the young man. Acting. Modeling. Advertising. With a face like that, he can sell anything. And he has charisma, he has already proven that. I’m not going to comment any further about these possible paths as I have no idea about the young man’s capacity or level of readiness should he try to pursue these things. All I can do is hope that those handling his affairs take care of him, take their time to polish him for whatever endeavor they’ve planned for him, and not throw him into the lion’s den.

As an observer, I have but a humble suggestion that can be very beneficial to both Jeyrick and his hometown of Barlig in Mt. Province. Thus the title of this piece. I greatly believe that Barlig has strong potential as a tourist destination. And what could be a better way to boost this industry than tapping a local-guy-turned-national-celebrity? Barlig is generally an agricultural town. Its economy revolves around this sector. The town’s economy would be the recipient of significant growth should those in power decide to be more aggressive in courting tourists. This is where Jeyrick enters the picture. He’s from the town. He knows the life there. He breathes the culture. In a nutshell, he’s the perfect representative.

Of course, for people to visit Barlig, it has to offer something. The town does have a lot to offer. For a start, there’s Mt. Amuyao, a natural wonder that has more than enough to whet the appetites of climbers and hikers in search of a challenging trail. The town has other peaks, mossy forests, and mountain lakes ready to be discovered (or rediscovered, if you may). What the town needs is the will to create a plan, devise a system, and build infrastructure for its tourism campaign. Letting people know of the natural wonders of the town would be a good start. With Jeyrick at the forefront, this is an achievable feat. It's a win-win situation for everyone.
Left: photo by Edwina Bandong. Right: artwork by Jo-anne Siadto.
I’ve seen first-hand how promoting a local town or barangay as a tourist destination can raise said town or barangay’s economy. About two months ago, I went to Ampucao in Itogon and climbed Mt. Ulap. Two or three years ago, this mountain is basically unknown. Nobody knows about it except the local residents and the most avid climbers. But look at it now. On any given day, there are dozens of hikers going through what is now called the Mt. Ulap traverse. These climbers inject thousands of pesos into the local community every day.

To get an idea of how much goes into the communities of Ampucao and Santa Fe because of this influx of adventurers, let me show you a breakdown of how much I spent when I went there.
35 pesos – fare from Baguio City to Ampucao
100 pesos – registration fee
400 pesos – tourist guide fee
30 pesos – two bottles of water
35 pesos – snack at the exit point in Santa Fe
50 pesos – fare from Santa Fe back to Baguio City

That’s a total of 650 pesos. The drivers plying the Baguio City-Ampucao-Santa Fe routes get a boost in their daily income. Dozens of local residents get employment as tourist guides. The barangay gets 100 pesos for every hiker. Stores and other business establishments in Ampucao and Santa Fe also get a boost in income.

I’ve heard that there are times when the registration booth in Ampucao logs in over 300 climbers in one day. That’s 30,000 pesos going into the barangay’s coffers in just a day. That’s 25,500 pesos being earned by jeepney drivers (assuming that every one of the hikers ride a public jeep back and forth).

Each tourist guide can accommodate up to ten people for the guide fee of 400 pesos. Let’s assume that the 300 hikers are composed of groups of 10 individuals. Doing the math, there are 30 groups paying 400 pesos each. That’s 30 tourist guides being employed for the day and 12,000 pesos being injected into the local economy. This is not to mention the money spent by the hikers in stores within Ampucao and Santa Fe.

The town of Barlig can learn from this setup to device their own tourism plan. They may not achieve the level of success that Mt. Ulap currently enjoys but the benefits will be worth the effort. Barlig is so far away from Baguio City so accessibility is definitely a problem. But here’s something they should note about seekers of adventure – to a lot of them, distance is irrelevant.








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