LAGUNA DELICACY. Visitors are shown how espasol, a traditional Laguna delicacy, is made. The Department of Tourism has recalibrated tourism circuits, including the Laguna circuit, as tourists travel the country in the new normal, an official said Tuesday (Jan. 18, 2022). (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is in the process of validating 71 new tourism circuits in 13 regions across the country, Tourism Undersecretary Woodrow Maquiling Jr. said Tuesday.

The circuits are being developed in coordination with local government units and tourism stakeholders and will feature activities based on travelers' preferences in the new normal.

In a virtual presser, Maquiling said these circuits would reintroduce the best travel products and experiences a region offers, including but not limited to culinary, history, nature, wellness, farm, and faith-based tourism.

As of posting, 44 tourism circuits have been validated in Metro Manila, the Ilocos and Cordillera regions, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao region, and Soccsksargen.

'Touring a circuit'

Developed for the new normal, the DOT sees to it that the destinations included in the "recalibrated" circuits are not only infused with the health and safety protocols but are carefully crafted for different kinds of travelers.

One example is Laguna's SaRiLiNa (San Pablo, Rizal, Liliw, Nagcarlan) circuit, which spotlights the province's cultural heritage, historical landmarks, and rich ecotourism offers.

In Rizal, Laguna, the Tayak Adventure and Nature Park (TANAW) is a must-visit with the unparalleled view of Mount San Cristobal offers, and the cool, fresh air that would welcome you when you reach the park's peak at Noah's Ark.

About 17 km. from Rizal is the famous Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, a museum and historic gravesite set against the town's hilly terrain. And just a stone's throw away from it is the Belen's, the store that is said to be the origin of the traditional Filipino rice cake known as espasol.

Less than 30 minutes away from Nagcarlan is Liliw where one can stroll in the town's bustling Gat Tayaw Street, where all sorts of abaca footwear are sold, for a genuine Laguna travel experience.

San Pablo would be a fitting last stop for this specific circuit if you want to end your Laguna trip with a food crawl.

San Pablo is home not just to traditional Filipino dishes but also to unique cuisines prepared from ingredients that are sourced from its very own lakes – the Bunot, Calibato, Mohicap, Palakpakin, Pandin, Sampaloc, and Yambo lakes. Among the interesting finds here are Sinugno, Kulawo, Pinaete, and Hipon Palakpakin.

'Sustainably, inclusively'

Two years into the pandemic and with less than a year left in the administration, the DOT continues to promote a "safe, fun, and competitive" Philippine tourism, Maquiling said.

"For the fiscal year 2022, we will continue the pursuit of sustainability, resiliency, and inclusiveness of tourism," he said, highlighting the department's commitment to rebuilding confidence and growing demand in the domestic and foreign markets.

While the plan to reopen the country to foreign tourists was halted due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant, Maquiling said the DOT continues to prepare for possible international travel corridors or green lanes.

"These things are continually being discussed and hopefully, we will have more travel bubbles because the secretary wanted to bring in, for instance, familiarization tours coming from abroad... for tour operators to come here to the Philippines and visit destinations that have been already recalibrated," he said. "These are being closely coordinated with our foreign attaches across 13 offices, (including in) London, Taiwan, and Korea."

In the same presser, Maquiling said the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit is set to happen in Manila in March.

The WTTC Global Summit is widely considered the most influential event for travel and tourism professionals and stakeholders, with at least 650 executives expected to attend.

"(T)hey have been given special lanes. They will be coming from different countries. These are the things that are always being talked about in the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). Hopefully, it can expand to more groups coming in for special purposes. Hopefully, these are the things that we look forward to in the coming months," he said. (PNA)