Wednesday, March 26, 2008


By Yong B. Chavez

"Wag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan."

It's a favorite slogan of nationalists, and many Fil Ams have taken it to heart.

When Philippine tourism officials realized that many Filipinos in America don't relish being strangers to their own motherland any longer, the Ambassadors, Consuls General, and Tourism Directors Tour was born. It is now on its fourth year.

The country might be embroiled in political controversies, but for the tour organizers, the show will go on.

"We are not sidetracked in our mandate – and this is to promote the Philippines as a tourism destination," said Los Angeles Consul General Mary Jo Aragon.

The tour, being lead this year by the L.A. consulate, has drawn hordes of balikbayans and tourists since it began. Each year, hundreds of vacationers enjoy the group trip, which they say is a bargain, considering the itinerary.

The cost of the basic tour, now at $1,610 plus surcharges, has slightly increased due to higher plane fare costs, but the highlights of the tour remain the same: roundtrip ticket, 3-nights hotel stay, a Malacanang Palace visit, business seminars, and day tours.

A Festival of the Philippines soirée at the Sofitel, a beautiful hotel overlooking Manila Bay, will welcome this year's participants.

Many of the early tour sign-ups will visit the Philippines for the first time, but a lot of the travelers are satisfied repeaters. This year, the organizers capped the maximum number of participants to 500. In previous years, they had to turn down last-minute trip bookers due to the enormous response to the project.
Non-Pinoys also enjoy the group trip.

"As a matter of fact, I'm encouraging my friends to go with me because I think it's a very inexpensive way to see the Philippines," said Joseph D'Oliveira, Honorary Consul L.A. Consulate of Guyana.

"It's an experience of a lifetime, once you sign up for it, all you need to do is pack and go. Everything is arranged for you already," said Annie Cuevas, Director and Tourism Attache of the Philippine Department of Tourism in L.A.

The tour will be from July 10 to 15. Optional out-of-town tours from July 15 to 18 is available for an additional cost. Deadline for registration is May 1 ; full payment deadline is June 10.

To register and to get more information:
(213) 487-4525 or (213) 637-3031

Photo credit:
Left, Annie Cuevas being interviewed at the tour launching, taken by Lydia Solis
Above photo, from

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