CEBU, Philippines - For every guest who’ve joined the Suroy Suroy Sugbo, what would stand out in any of the escapades would be the festive atmosphere in every town visited, thanks to the many students waving banners to the passing convoy of buses; the seemingly unlimited supply of food; the gifts of local delicacies and products; the speeches of local politicians colored by greetings and praises for the Governor and, in some instances, her entourage of politicians and other VIPs; the festival dances that seemed to be the same everywhere except for the costumes; and the cultural shows that would include presentations that many of us believed to have gone extinct like the balitaw and other local dances, stage plays, and songs; and, yes, did I mention food?
Despite the hectic itinerary, it is an activity that many locals and out-of-towners look forward to.
Back then, it was merely a “teaser” for visitors on what they would expect and what they could experience should they choose to linger longer in a certain place. At the same time, it informs stakeholders in the travel industry that Cebu still has many destinations to offer, thus the flock of tour and travel agents joining in.
Already, one could categorically say that through the Suroy Suroy program many towns and cities have seen the potential in developing tour destinations and activities in their localities, one of these would be Aloguinsan that decided to develop a brand of its own and is now enjoying a steady stream of visitors benefiting many of its local enterprises.
I reckoned that that was the goal of Suroy Suroy – to highlight the many unknown destinations of the province – and it was successful at that, the reason why the Province’s legislative body institutionalized the project through a measure authored by Provincial Board Member Arleigh Sitoy.
Last January 23 to 25, around 140 visitors – mostly balikbayans – were once again treated to a series of visits to the province’s southern get-away and heritage places with the promise that they would not only be introduced to the places but they would also be given enough time to enjoy and experience these places.
The places visited included San Fernando, Argao, Oslob’s Sumilon Island, and Santander on the first day; Samboan on the second day with time to tour the town’s significant historical sites and relax in the refreshing waters of Kawasan Falls; Ronda, Barili and Talisay City on the third day.
I was fortunate enough to join the first day of this edition of the Suroy Suroy and having joined previous Suroy Suroys, I would personally say that this improved version has truly made the program into something much more marketable.
What Cebu may have lacked in terms of activities for tourists to do for them to stay long term in Cebu like amusement parks, the Suroy Suroy could well compensate.
Local businesswoman Victorina Mataragnon said that she first joined the Suroy Suroy program a few years ago for her to see the different places in Cebu. She admitted that, despite being a Cebuana, there are still many places in the province that she has yet to explore.
Paul Wing who’s on his sixth time to join the Suroy Suroy said, “We’ve seen how each year it seems to have improved – more dancing, a lot more preparation is done on it, and it is more comfortable for us as a tourist to come and keep visiting.”
“This one is different because it allows more time for us to see the sites,” he said, adding, “we have gone here a number of times and we’ve enjoyed it immensely.”
Wing together with his wife have now moved to Cebu from Vancouver, Canada, and said that since joining the Suroy Suroy they’ve visited the different places in the province on their own to further explore, bringing with them visitors and guests from Canada.
Balik Cebu’s Tetta Baad expressed her pleasure at how the Suroy Suroy has evolved saying that this is how she envisioned the program when she conceptualized it back in the early 2000s in response to the need for a countryside tourism program and as a project for the Cebu Business Month. She said that it was Magpale, as a member of Balik Cebu, who introduced the concept to Governor Gwen Garcia.
Garcia adapted the program and successfully turned it into a product and a brand that would entice many visitors to join.
In the one day that I joined Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2013 – Southern Getaway, I could say that there is indeed a stark difference from previous Suroy Suroys.
No more political speeches by local politicians, lesser and more reasonable serving of food, and certainly more time to enjoy and immerse oneself in the places being visited.
I would say that it has evolved into an even more marketable product, which Acting Governor Magpale said would be easier to pass on and promote to local tour agencies.
Yes, Cebu does not have amusement parks, but it has the Suroy Suroy which allows visitors to interact more with the locals, giving local flavor to their visit to the province.
First saw print in The FREEMAN (Cebu's newspaper since 1919) on 24 February 2013 and subsequently published in PhilStar.com.
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