Yes, the archipelago that people believed is gifted with great reasons to celebrate about its natural beauty — hundreds of gorgeous island beaches, long and white shorelines, virgin forests, lush green mountains, rich marine life, caves filled with stunning stones and minerals, among others — has a lot of reasons to frown as well.
Out top tourist spots are in danger.
The country’s gaining popularity as one of the top tourist destinations in Southeast Asia has resulted to a huge increase in the number of tourists from all over the world. Though the booming tourism industry may be good for the economy, issues concerning our best spots here are facing challenges that must be addressed immediately. And as a tourist or traveler, you can help in preserving the Philippines’ beauty.
Boracay is one spot that gets easily overcrowded especially during peak seasons (Holy Week, Christmas, New Year and summer months). Though known to be a place for summer parties (See: Laboracay), true travelers should give an extra care in terms of this island’s environmental state. Now more than ever, if we are to retain its being second best island in the world status (next to Palawan) in the years to come.
In the nearby Visayan province of Leyte, another tourist spot that we need to look at is the now becoming famous, Kalanggaman Island. Overcrowding affects its environmental state especially if the tourists that come to the island do not have a sense of care.
Then up north, the famous Sagada village in Benguet has attracted a huge number of ‘hugot‘ tourists caused by the hit movie, ‘That Thing Called Tadhana,‘ a local film about breaking up, and moving on. The sudden influx of tourists affect not only the local culture but sanitation, and water supply as well.
The rise of mountain climbing, and trekking as a hobby for younger Filipinos is also creating a negative impact on known Philippine mountains, especially Mount Pulag and Mount Apo.
For a country like the Philippines that boasts its tourist spots, this is inevitable. However, as travelers, we can help decongest the top tourist spots by planning our visit properly. Doing it during lean months would be perfect. Do you know that Boracay in particular could be best enjoyed when it’s not too hot and not too overcrowded? Our recent trips to Boracay for example were during the months of July to September. Aside from enjoying the whole stretch of long beach for ourselves, accommodation and air fare are cheaper during lean months. Same goes with other spots as well. As citizens, we could also urge the local government body governing these spots to regulate tourism as much as possible.
Speaking of Mount Pulag, the influx of tourists in the area resulted to denudation. Same thing with other Philippine mountains that serve as hosts to campers from all over the country. The mountains are being stripped of plants and trees covering it, one of the main reasons why we hike, and camp up there in the first place.
A denuded mountain doesn’t make a great attraction site. Denudation also disrupts, and damages the ecosystem. To avoid contributing to the denudation of our mountains, especially Mt. Pulag, scheduling our hike during non-peak season would be of great help. Plus, isn’t it better to do a soul-searching while having a breathtaking view of the sea of clouds, and not other people doing their own selfies?
3. Damaging corals
Our tourism stakeholder-friends in El Nido, Palawan province are pointing out unbecoming behaviors of tourists that flock to this pristine town. Due to lack of education or maybe common sense, most local and foreign tourists for example, step on the corals when snorkeling. Worse, others collect samples as souvenirs. Even the locals are not exempted from this. There were a lot of tour guides who do not only tolerate them but do the same in a way like by dropping their boat’s anchor even in coral-rich areas.
Maybe it is high time for the government and local tour operators to implement stricter rules governing local tourism. But as travelers, do not contribute to such damaging activities, instead, help educate our friends about it on our social media account. Deal?
4. Forest fire
That untoward incident in Mount Apo last summer was heartbreaking. Whether it was man-made or not, forest fire affects our most precious mountains negatively.
While hiking mountains is sometimes a year-round activities, schedule yours wisely. Most importantly, contribute in the campaign to stop global warming.
5. Disrespecting culture
We all want to take photos of the places we visit and the people we meet during our travels. However, as responsible citizens, let us all be aware of the dos and don’ts when interacting with the locals. As with other ethnic groups, Ifugaos in the Mountain Province are being disrespected when people are taking photos of them face-to-face. Some groups may not need your permission but it is better to always ask. And as common sense dictates, no use of flash. This is more especially if they’re performing their rituals.
Being aware of their sacred places is one thing, and keeping well-mannered is another. Sagada’s hanging coffins has also become an attraction but everyone should behave well not to violate the the sacredness of such a place.
Adding to this list is our proper disposal of non-biodegradable wastes as this has always been an issue in many places. While local destinations like Palawan and Davao have strict rules regarding littering where one could be fined when caught or reported, a lot of our tourist spots just rely on people’s manners. Yet, most people do not have. Do not be one of them at least.
Photos from boracaystories.com, rappler.com, gypsettingfreespirit.wordpress.com, geographylwc.org.uk, elnidopalawan.ph, pinoymountaineer.com, discovermtapo.com, kamustamagazine.ph, and traveltropa.com.