CEBU CITY –The Philippines’ diversely-rich religious culture, though predominantly Roman Catholic, provides a strong catalyst for “faith tourism,” a promising niche of this country’s booming tourism industry, said Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo.
To boost faith-based tourism in the country, Teo disclosed that the DOT will propose a budget for the restoration and development of historical shrines and old churches all over the archipelago, which serve as tourist attractions.
The proposed project will be part of preparations for 2021 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu, marking the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines.
“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 then the Christianization period,” Teo said 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 unique traditions, particularly 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 of performers from neighboring cities and provinces, including Catbalogan City, Samar, Leyte, Bohol and North Cotabato.
The DOT head noted that there are 6.6 million Catholic faithful in Asia which is the prospective market for faith-based tourism in the Philippines.
In South Korea alone, the Philippines’ top tourist market, there are five million Catholics while there are 800,000 in Malaysia; 500,000 in Japan; 200,000 in Thailand, and 185,000 in Singapore.
“We are coordinating with the stakeholders, particularly tour operators to come up with attractive spiritual tour packages that will attract millions of visitors from all corners of the world,” said DOT erstwhile Faith Tourism director Marissa Diploma.