SAMBUOKAN FESTIVAL. Ben Jason Tesiorna, Mati City information officer, says Monday (Oct. 3, 2022) the local government is optimistic it will reach the 500,000 target tourists for this year's Sambuokan Festival via face-to-face this month. The celebration, which will run from October 21-31, is expected to  contribute to the revival of the local tourism sector. (Photo courtesy of Rose Bernales)

DAVAO CITY – The Davao Oriental capital of Mati City is optimistic to reach 500,000 target tourists for the year as it looks to open one of its major festivals via face-to-face (F2F) this month.

In a press briefing here Monday, Ben Jason Tesiorna, Mati information officer, said the staging of the Sambuokan Festival on October 21-31 will greatly contribute to their target arrival goals.

"Our target for tourist arrivals for 2022 is 500,000. We are already more than 260,000 as of August, so, with additional activities, more tourists would come to Mati," he said.

During the pre-pandemic period, Tesiorna said the local tourism office recorded a total of 272,400 in 2019.

The figures decreased to 203, 986 in 2020, he said, but quickly rose to 369,225 in 2021.

"We expect a lot of tourists to come to the city. It is expected after two years of not holding it via F2F," Tesiorna said.

He said Sambuokan fest is a thanksgiving for the year's blessings of bountiful harvests, as well as recognizing the rich culture of the indigenous people (IP).

"It is about unity, bountiful harvest, and celebration of the IP like what you have here in Davao - the Kadayawan fest," Tesiorna said.

Activities lined up for the celebration include Indak-indak sayaw sa Sambuokan, sports festival, search for the king of the sea, and IP day.

Despite the F2F merry-making, Tesiorna said minimum public health standards should strictly be observed by the tourists.

On Sept. 22, Mati Mayor Michelle Rabat issued an executive order operationalizing the decision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to make the use of face masks voluntary in open spaces.

The EO, however, quantified and qualified the definition of "crowd" and "non-crowd." It defined a non-crowd as a group of three or fewer persons, while a crowd comprises five or more persons.

"Wearing of face masks remains mandatory in indoor spaces, public utility vehicles, and other crowded areas," Tesiorna said. (PNA)