CEBU CITY –The Philippines’ diversely-rich religious culture, although a predominantly Roman Catholic country, provides a strong catalyst for “faith tourism,” a promising niche of the country’s booming tourism industry.
“The Philippines is an ideal destination of religious pilgrimage, not only for sight-seeing but to actually experience time-honored Filipino traditions dating back to pre-Spanish era and Christianization,” said Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo after attending Iloilo’s Dinagyang and Sinulog in Cebu over the weekend.
The Visayan region’s two major religious festivities showed the country’s potentials of drawing more international visitors who seek to personally witness and experience Philippine traditions, particularly the Filipinos’ veneration and devotion to Jesus Christ.
Nearly two million people gathered to celebrate Sinulog, the feast of Santo Niño or Child Jesus in Cebu City, culminating in a grand parade of contingents from neighboring cities and provinces, including Catbalogan City, Samar, Leyte, Bohol and North Cotabato.
“Plans are underway to make the Philippines a destination with unique spiritual significance that will attract millions of pilgrims from all corners of the world, as shown in popular religious festivities in Cebu, Iloilo, and Bohol,” added Teo.
She also said the DOT will propose a budget for the restoration and development of historical shrines and old churches all over the country which serve as tourist attractions.
The proposed project will be part of preparations for the 2021 commemoration of the 500th year anniversary of the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu, marking the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines.
The DOT head noted that there are 6.6 million Catholic faithful in Asia which is a prospective market for faith-based tourism in the Philippines.
In South Korea alone, the Philippines’ top tourist market, there are five million Catholics,800,000 in Malaysia; 500,000 in Japan; 200,000 in Thailand, and 185,000 in Singapore.
“We are coordinating with the tour operators to come up with attractive spiritual tour packages,” said DOT Faith Tourism director Marissa Diploma.