Why Philippines is one of the Most Pleasant Place to stay in the World- Dr. Mina Gabor

On July 8, 2016 at the Presscon on Philippines’ 4th Farm Tourism Conference at Sofitel, Dr. Mina Gabor, the former Department of Tourism Secretary, now head of International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) said that the event is tied up with the UN’s theme this year as Year of the Pulses (Pulses, means dried grains). It aims to give information about farm tourism for all interested individuals to gain new insights on how to start a farm and make it attractive to tourists.

During the open forum, one question raised from the audience was about how much will it cost to start a farm. She said that you can start a simple farm tourism site for less than a million, or at least 500 thousand pesos. Then it’s up to the owner to add extra farm activities to make it sustainable as it drives more income to your farm.

Dr. Gabor also mentioned that the Philippines is the safest and the most pleasant place to stay for tourists. To find out why, here’s our quick interview with her.

Farmers Notebook: You have mentioned earlier that Philippines is the most pleasant place to stay, why is that?

Dr. Mina Gabor: Well, right now, credit to the last administration, we’re able to create an image of a good place for investment and a good place to do business. Business will not go to a place that is not pleasant. So either you have good tourism and business comes after, or good business and then tourism comes after. That means the place is conducive. Besides, there is no country right now in the world that is not menaced by anybody. Right now, you cannot say this country is secure, or this country is not secure. Even the most secure country, nagugulat na lang sila bigla (they were surprised all of a sudden) something happened.

Right now, I think tanggap ng mga tao (people now has accepted) that food security is not present in anyone – is not an inclusivity in any country. That means we have to be prepared. And as good travelers, we should know where to go and when to go. When you are there, you should know which places can you go, and that is basic travel planning.

What I am saying, is that the places you should avoid, you should not go. So Luzon and Visayas – they are all 90% secure and there’s no problem. So it’s very pleasant to go and is very interesting. Also, the development of farm tourism is very high in these areas right now.

FN: Are we competitive enough in terms of farm tourism and among Asian countries?
MG: A yeah yeah. Very much. O yes!

The most advance farm tourism site now is Taipei (Taiwan), Japan, a little bit of Australia, a lot of North America, a little bit of South America and as much as American Europe, because they were the first to develop farm tourism. Italy is the father of farm tourism in the real sense of the word.

FN: What then is our edge?
MN: Our edge is our natural way of hospitality. Very natural sa atin yon e (That”s very natural to us). While the others… well, I traveled ASEAN recently. Hospitable din naman sila (they are also hospitable). Kaya lang sa atin, ang hospitality natin is open arms, parang no limit (Thing is, our hospitality is open arms and almost without limits). Sa kanila ang hospitality ay di ka basta makakarating sa bahay nila (Hospitality for them means you can’t easily get access into their own homes). They are very good but not open to anybody. Sa atin kasi sa mga bahay, they really let us go in; so, all the way talaga (Its really an all the way thing, because to us, we really make our homes readily accessible to them).

Filipinos are known for being hospitable and that’s one sure advantage. Its also an assurance that anyone can visit the Philippines not only for its beautiful beaches but also its developing farm tourism sites including a number of organic farms around the country.

Philippine Farm Tourism on the Rise

Dr. Mina Gabor

Last July 1 2015, Farm Tourism Conference which started in 2013, held their 3-day annual event at Batis Aramin, Lucban, Quezon. Delegates composed of Municipal Mayors, Tourism Officers from various Municipalities as well as farm owners from all over the Philippines attended the said event. Aptly themed “Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life” , this year was the biggest and well-attended event according to Dr. Mina Gabor, former Tourism Secretary and now president of International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) –  a school which offers intensive short-term certificate programs on community based rural tourism, in partnership with the Department of Tourism and Agricultural Training Institute. Farm Tourism Conference, was borne out of Dr. Gabor’s inspiration and experiences from her travels abroad during her stint as Tourism Secretary as well as his personal love for farming. And since going back to private NGO work, she thought Farm Tourism is the area she wanted to focus on.

Farm Tourism Delegates 2015_LGU

Make no mistake, there is little or no difference between farm tourism and agritourism. “It’s the same, except just for the branding” said Dr. Gabor. Most stakeholder are small and medium farms or family farms. “The thing when you call it Agri, you often associate it with large tracts of land that they didn’t see the different angles of farm activities like lectures, cooking demos, etc. For me farm is more saleable for tour programs – it’s easy to sell.” Dr. Gabor added.

When asked what was the Conference expected output were, Dr. Gabor said “We want people who are not yet into farm tourism to see the success stories. And for those who are already into farm tourism – how else they can improve the development of their farms.”

Among this years speakers were: Leo Libreja (Bicol Strawberry Farm), Avelino Lomboy (Lomboy Farms), Flor Tariela (Flor’s Garden), Daisy Duran (Duran Farm), Edita A. Dacuycuy (RefMad Farms), Mon Penalosa (Penalosa Farm), Costales Nature Farms, Agrea Farm Tourism, Bryan Benitez McLelland (Bambike), Nurture Wellness Village, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), and Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).

If you are interested in farm tourism, here are the things you should watch out:

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