The Samar Island booth were housed in a single roof


Samareños seeks “One SAMAR” tourism packaging from DoT

By Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD)

(December 13, 2004)  INTRAMUROS, Manila – To give a real focus and further enhance the potentials of Samar Island - as a whole - in the tourism industry of the Eastern Visayas (EV), all council chairs of the 3 provinces and city that comprises the island, sought for the creation of a single council that will manage the packaging and promotions of Samar island as a latent tourist destination in the whole of EV.

This was revealed by DOT Eastern Visayas Director Norma Morantte today, as the WOW Philippines featuring the Eastern Visayas region showcases the last contingent to go on stage from the island of Samar today, the Calbayog City, pointing out further that this year’s WOW activity was dominated by the contingents coming from the Samar island.

“From the opening day on December 4 that showcased the Western Samar and until today December 13 with Calbayog City on stage, Samareños did not stop surprising all our guests and visitors, Samar island virtually ruled the show from the start to end, and was felt obviously in this years WOW activity”, Dir. Morantte stressed.

Incidentally, all of Samar island contingent inside the Clamshell 1 here were housed in a single hutch with sub-divided booths, unlike other provinces who have separate detached berths, this obviously gave the impression that soon Samar island will have to go on her own way from the rest of the provinces of Eastern Visayas.


Dir. Morantte however did not comment on the possible reason for Samar island going its own, but somehow hinted of an internal rift besetting the structures of the EV Regional Tourism Council, which according to the DOT Director is a long story to tell.

Prior to the scheduled WOW Eastern Visayas which runs from December 1-15, this year, rumors have spread over region VIII, that Calbayog City, the only chartered city in Samar led by Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento, Vice-Chair of the Regional Tourism council last year and the Province of Leyte led by Gov. Jericho Petilla, son of now Congresswoman Remedios ‘Matin’ Petilla and  likewise last year's chair of the Regional Tourism Council, are backing out from this year’s show for unknown reason.

But as the WOW showcase kicked-off last December 1, all of the provinces and cities that makes the whole of EV were represented, though not all government officials concerned were present to fully support the tourism agenda being pursued by the newly organized regional tourism council.

“Some of those who are here, as we can see it, are merely for compliance sake. The Leyte booth for example, we haven’t seen even just a single official that peeped on to their displays, in fact it is manned by private individuals not by people coming from its provincial tourism council, except on the first day, where we saw one from the provincial government”,  says Rommel L. Rutor, documentor for the Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD), adding through his observation, that even during the Maasin Day last December 11, its Mayor by slipped of his tonque asked for an apology to DOT Director Norma Morantte, mentioning something about the prior misdemeanors that beset the EV Tourism Council.

Incidentally, Southern Leyte Governor Rosette Lerias, the new chair of the Regional Development Council, accordingly visited the clamshell 1 once but did not linger on to gave the exhibitors a full view of her impression regarding the on-going activities of the WOW Eastern Visayas.

“I don’t know what had happened  exactly, but it is obvious that these new officials of the EV Tourism Council and the RDC from the executive down to the policy makers are not in good shape to talk about tourism by this time yet”, Mr. Rutor concluded.

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SAMAD members discussing details with GM Camara of Adventours Unlimited, Inc. on possible tourism ventures in Samar.

Samar initially hits 110 tourist bookings as WOW Philippines goes halfway

By Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD)

(December 12, 2004)   INTRAMUROS, Manila – As the on-going WOW Philippines featuring the Eastern Visayas region at historic walled city of Intramuros went halfway, the Samar province booth here initially booked at least 110 persons to visit Samar starting January next year.

Unlike last year, the province wasn’t able to document incoming tourists despite its rigid campaign to establish its tourism industry. Samar province participation at the WOW Philippines tourism festival this year finally hits it mark, as it vigorously campaigned to invite tourists to the province through the help of a newly organized local tour group, the Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD).

Student scholars from the Philippine Normal University (PNU) yesterday called on the services of SAMAD, - the private group tapped by the Samar LGU to handle the tourism marketing and promotion of Samar, - to booked their trip come January to the Eastern Visayas, with Samar as the tail end itinerary.

According to Ms. Cherry Lou Palomar, representing the scholar’s association of the PNU, at least 80 members of their group would like to visit the Sohoton Caves in Samar after Ormoc and Tacloban City school tours, and requested SAMAD to handle their Samar adventure itinerary.


An established tour agency based here in Manila likewise approached and affirmed tapping the services of SAMAD by February next year to assess and evaluate the potentials of the province in terms of adventure itineraries.

Adventours Unlimited, Inc. Gen. Manager Didi N. Camara engaged the services of SAMAD to handle their Samar bookings after finding out the uniqueness of its sites. GM Camara told media here that their company is focusing on adventure tourism and Samar just fall exactly to what they are looking for.

“As of today, we bring our clients to Cagayan Valley, but with the SAMAD now operating in the province of Samar, I believe, its time to make some changes on our itineraries”, said GM Camara, pointing out that their company is interested more on Spelunking and white water rafting.

As this developed, SAMAD documentor Rommel L Rutor told media here that their group offered at least two sites viable for white water rafting, and subsequently spelunking. “We will bring their assessment team to Blanca Aurora River and the Calbiga River for the white water rafting and to the karsts of Calbiga and San Jorge for spelunking”, Mr. Rutor told.

“Initially, there will be 20 of them to visit Samar next year, bringing in their own equipment for such activities, since we don’t have those equipment yet in Samar”, Mr. Rutor concluded.

Another expected visitor is a balikbayan from Biliran province who have been into different countries around the globe as tourist. Upon seeing the Samar booth, immediately approach SAMAD to be certain that the sites she saw on display are real, particularly the Pinipisakan Falls and the Caves of San Jorge, Samar.

Ms. Gloria Havana affirmed that she will get his friends and other acquaintances grouped after the Christmas season, and informed SAMAD that they will tapped the agency to guide them to the various sites on display at the Samar booth before leaving to the US.

“I’ve been to Niagara Falls and the famous Virginia Caves, and I never realized that Eastern Visayas have all these things I like most”, thus said Ms. Havana, who is now based in Georgetown, USA, but she is a native of Biliran province.

Meanwhile, Samar SP Tourism Committee chair Sonny Salurio is confident that Samar’s promotional investment infused into participating for the second time in the WOW Philippines would turn out to be fruitful. “The initial bookings we got in just one week are just indications that our province is on the right track on our tourism campaign”, Hon. Salurio stressed.


THE TOUGH GUYS. Congressman Nonoy Libanan (left) and Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone welcomed Sen. Mar Roxas during the Eastern Samar Cultural Presentation at Clamshell 1 in Intramuros, Manila

Eastern Samar toughies in WOW Eastern Visayas – say Sen. Mar Roxas

By Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD)

(December 10, 2004)  INTRAMUROS, Manila – Top senator Mar Roxas surprised all the guest and visitors here in the night of December 5 during the culminating gala presentation of Eastern Samar in the occasion of WOW Philippines festival currently on going at Clamshell 1, Intramuros, Manila.

Sen. Roxas called the Eastern Samar contingent led by Gov. Ben Evardone and Congressman Marcelino Libanan and the rest of its elected government officials including its municipal mayors, the toughies explaining that the contingent is led by top caliber personalities not just in their hometown but likewise in the halls of congress in Metro-Manila.

“Basically, the Eastern Samar delegation is power pack”, Sen. Roxas exclaimed, “Si Congressman Libanan kung di pa ninyo alam ay ang pinakasiga sa lahat ng mga kongresista at senador na nasa Commission on Appointments, at ang inyong gobernador ang isa sa mga pinakakapitagan na government official dito sa Manila kung saan ang tawag sa kanya dito ay si Governor Always Done”, the senator added.


Eastern Samar day was on the third day of the daily provincial and city festival being held at Clamshell 1 here, and singly entertained all guests last night with live music and dances depicting the rich cultural and history of the province.

Governor Evardone in his message emphasize the potentials of Eastern Samar relative to its tourism viability, pointing out that the beguiling beauty of Calicuan Island can even surpass the popularity of Boracay beaches.

“The Boracay case is actually a lesson for us, we all know the fact it is run and operated by private companies, thus influx of visitors in the site was not controlled, hence the degradation of the beaches in Boracay”, Gov. Evardone pointed out, explaining further that in Calicuan, the government is laying its hand to be able to maintain and preserve the natural beauty of the place and avoid degradation as what is happening to the Boracay beaches.

On the other hand, Congressman Marcelino Libanan urged the DOT to lay out a full promotional tourism package for tourism areas located outside the Metro-Manila, though he assailed that the WOW Project is merely helping the local tourism industry, still he praised the brainchild project of Sen. Dick Gordon as a wonderful avenue to showcase the tourism destinations in the provinces right at the national capital region.

“This however should be corroborated with an intensive promo packaging by the DOT considering that the time and funding for an activity like this is quite a burden for LGUs who are gasping for funds”, Congressman Libanan stressed.


Governor Tan with Congressman Uy (4th from left), Sta. Rita mayor Betty Tiopes and Board Member Menandro Tiopes (extreme left) during a mass held at Clamshell 1.

Samar Gov blames sensationalized insurgency problem for the decline of tourism in the province

By Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD)

(December 9, 2004) INTRAMUROS, Manila – “The threat instigated by the presence of NPAs in the mountains of Samar, is the key factor that affects the development of the tourism industry in the province”, thus said Samar Governor Milagrosa T. Tan during her speech at the culmination of the Samar Day celebration held at the Clampshell 1 of Intramuros, Manila.

The lady governor reiterated that Samar is anchoring on eco-tourism development but is faced by a gargantuan problem of eliminating the fear among possible tourist - the fear of being harassed by the elements of the New Peoples Army (NPA’s).

Though military presence in the province was strategically beefed up to assure incoming tourists of their safety, still the provincial government would find it hard to convince tourists – who are apprehensive enough for their safety – to come in.

“And this is actually causing us the trouble, because we are investing much on tourism but we don’t get the expected output due to these problems” Hon. SP Member Sonny Salurio told SAMAD.


SP Salurio chairs the province’ committee on tourism and pointed out that the public should be empowered that NPAs are no longer a threat to tourists in Samar. “The tourist spots being promoted by us are actually safe, and in fact are regularly patronized by the local tourists out there, it only happens that foreign tourist are a bit apprehensive over the negative news stories that usually fill in the papers depicting Philippines as terrorist hub”,  he explained, and assured prospected visitors in Samar that their safety is absolutely guaranteed.

Meanwhile, despite the negative impression besetting the tourism industry due to some sensationalized cases of insurgency, still some LGUs of the province have come up with comprehensive plans in tapping tourism as an alternative source of income for the coffers of their municipality.

Leading the tourism campaign - together with the province of Samar - at the on going Wow Philippines festival in Intramuros, Manila are the municipalities of San Jorge, Santa Rita and Calbiga, who are all in full force promoting their respective tourism destinations to both national and international tourists who frequents the historic walled city.

San Jorge Mayor Joseph Grey is confident that with his town’s participation in this years Wow activity, the tourism industry of San Jorge town would soon get a boost, and incidentally, tourism development is his administrations primordial agenda.

On the other hand, Sta. Rita Mayor Beatriz Tiopes informed that her municipality is a newcomer in the tourism scene, but informed this paper that she will be giving emphasis on the viability of her town as possible tourist hub in the future particularly in Eastern Visayas.

Calbiga town which host one of the worlds largest karst formation and in fact internationally known for it actively participated during the WOW activity showcasing their native products and delicacies. No less than Mayor Luzviminda Nacario personally assisted the guests and visitors who visit their trade booth located likewise at clamshell 1.

All of the town executives are confident that a sensationalized insurgency problem in the Philippines and in Samar for particular would not hamper their respective campaign to bring in tourists in their respective localities.


The SAMAD Team poses with DOT-8 Regional Director Norma Morantte at the Samar province booth in Clamshell 1, Intramuros, Manila.

Samar taps private group to market its tour sites at Wow Philippines

By Rommel L. Rutor (SAMAD)

(December 9, 2004)  INTRAMUROS, Manila – The provincial government of Samar has tapped the services of a private group here engage in local tourism inventories, to handle the material preparations and post marketing activities of the province particularly its participation in the on-going Wow Philippines festival at Intramuros, Manila.

Hon. Sonny Salurio who chairs the province’ SP Committee on Tourism informed that the pre and post marketing and promotions of Samar’s tourism spots during the Wow Philippines was delegated to a newly organized private group called SAMAD or Samar Adventure Service.


The group was likewise tasked to document the participation of Samar at the Wow Philippines for the concerned committees back home to determine how Samar fare in terms of its tourism campaign presentations.

“By doing so, we would be able to have a grasp of our inadequacies if there’s any, and eventually correct them in due time, or maybe with the evaluation that will be submitted to us by SAMAD, we can formulate plans for future improvements”, SP Salurio explained.

Meanwhile, Department of Tourism (DOT) Director Norma Morantte acknowledge the participation of the private sector in the tourism campaign of Samar saying that tourism is actually more of a private sector involvement since groups such as SAMAD can easily focus its direction singly and are output oriented.

“With the private sector actively participating in the governments campaign on tourism, I am certain that the province of Samar would soon finally hit it mark in the tourism industry”, Morantte explained.

According to Vicky Bohol, SAMAD Business Manager, that the group is DTI registered and is undertaking inventories of tourism sites upon request of the LGUs in Samar.

As of this Wow Philippines, SAMAD’s satisfied clients are the LGU’s of Sta. Rita and San Jorge who are now actively participating in the 2 weeklong festival, while the towns of Daram, Paranas, Zumarraga and San Sebastian have already signified intentions to get the services of the group by next year.

The group is likewise engage in tour packaging, promo materials production and website development for interested LGUs who wants tourism to become a key factor of uplifting their town’s economic profiles.


The Blanca Aurora Falls where tourists frequented due to its proximity from the town proper.

Blanca Aurora Falls secures packaging from DOT

By Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD)

(December 8, 2004)  INTRAMUROS, Manila – As an off-shoot of the ongoing Wow Philippines festival featuring the Eastern Visayas region at the walled city of Intramuros, the Department of Tourism (DOT) top brasses recently cast an iron to focus on the viability of Blanca Aurora falls in the town of San Jorge as a major tourist destination in the province of Samar.

DOT Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab and DOT-EV Dir. Norma Morante informed San Jorge Mayor Joseph Grey during the opening of the Eastern Visayas Food Festival on December 6 held at the Manila Pavillion Hotel here that the DOT have already enlisted the Blanca Aurora falls as one of their priorities for promotions and packaging.


“Community empowerment however is a must for the plans of the DOT to materialize, and the role of the local government units to make the community living - within a particular site - ready for a full swing tourism development must be realized first”, Dir. Morante stressed.

The DOT is looking forward for a community based participation in their tourism programs, expressing hopes that the initiative will lessen the financial burden from the confines of concerned LGUs, which is usually beset by lack of funds intended for tourism development.

As this developed, San Jorge mayor Joseph Grey told that he will be laying out a comprehensive tourism agenda for his municipality, and emphasized to the media present here that his administration is focusing on development of eco-tourism.

“Our town is endowed with rich and beguiling eco-tourism sites, and this resource once tapped will surely be of big help to augment the san jorgehanons economic conditions,” Mayor Grey explained, but pointed out that the DOT should by all means assist them giving consideration to their lack of funding being classified as a 5th class municipality.

Mayor Grey likewise emphasized that this early, the LGU is already apt into empowering the town of protecting and preserving these natural resources, expressing hopes that someday, eco-tourism will give the San Jorge town a complete turn-around on its economic profile.


Gov. Mila Tan flanked by Mayor Joseph Grey of San Jorge and PIA-Samar Chief Sylvia Serfino at the WOW Philippines Clamshell 1 in Intramuros, Manila.

Samar Day at WOW Philippines a huge success

By Samar Adventure Service (SAMAD)

(December 7, 2004) INTRAMUROS, Manila- “This time Samar was indeed felt”, this was the inspiring comment of Department of Tourism RD-8 Norma Morante, after the celebration of the Samar Day on December 5 in the occasion of the two weeklong Wow Philippines for the Eastern Visayas held at the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila.

“Unlike last year, Samar was in full force this time, with almost all of their officials are present to show us their support”, Director Morante added, hoping that this will be the start of the province’ empowerment to pursue a vigorous campaign relative to Samar’s potentials in the tourism industry.

Samar Governor Milagrosa T. Tan graced the celebration which started at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon together with Vice-Governor Jesus Redaja and the rest of the board members both from the 1st and 2nd district of Samar province.

Both Congressmen Catalino Figueroa and Reynaldo Uy likewise visited the Clamshell 1 on the first and second day of the event respectively.

At least five mayors actively participated in the event, Mayor Joseph Grey of San Jorge, Mayor Beatriz Tiopes of Sta. Rita both furnished the booth with various promotional materials of their town’s tourist destinations, Mayor Luzviminda Nacario of Calbiga and Mayor Coefredo Uy of Catbalogan likewise joined in the celebration, while Mayor Arnold Abalos led his group to render a part during the program.

Gov. Tan extended a dinner to around 200 Samareños based in Manila who were invited to join the Samar Day celebration, which falls right after the opening of the Wow Eastern Visayas held on December 4, 2004, the grand opening day.

As hundred of guests and spectators comes in and out during the gala presentation prepared by the provincial tourism committee chair Board Member Sonny Salurio, Director Morante is confident that Samar’s tourism campaign is starting to gain ground, reiterating the over-the-table reactions of guests praising the beguiling sites of Samar.

Meanwhile, Congressman Reynaldo Uy of the 1st district laid into asking the Department of Tourism to extend funds to the LGUs who are keen into developing their tourism sites, explaining that the lack of funds for such endeavor is what is hindering the momentum relative into for Samar municipalities.

He said that without funding coming from the DOT itself to tap the potential of a particular tourist destination, the concerned LGU due to lack of money to develop or promote a particular site, will just rely mainly to its local tourists – thus, limiting the supposed impact of the site over the economic relevance of the DOT tourism agenda.

Director Morante however stressed that developing tourism is not an overnight activity, “No matter how you infuse funds to develop a particular site, if the community itself is not prepared to corroborate with the agenda relative to the tourism as an income generating activity, said endeavor would be a big loss”, thus, community based empowerment regarding tourism should be put into effect by concerned LGUs to gradually profit from it.