PH Embassy in Kuala Lumpur Concludes Successful 2nd Ambassador’s Tour

7 May 2015 – The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur successfully concluded its 2nd Ambassador's Tour to the Philippines, leading 121 tour participants around the islands of Bohol and Cebu on May 5.

After a successful tour of Manila, Tagaytay, and Villa Escudero in 2013, the much-awaited tour came back even better with more activities and more chances to enjoy the beautiful, blue waters of the archipelago.

"This year, we have an even better itinerary for the Ambassador's Tour as we have a common theme – activities on water," Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya said.

"This manifests the culture and tradition of Filipinos as an archipelagic people. The seas and the water do not separate us. They connect us," he added.

After appreciating heritage sites in Cebu such as the Magellan Shrine and seeing how the famous Cebu guitars and fashion accessories are made in their respective factories, the tour group went island hopping in Cebu.

Tour participants boarded open-air, motorized bancas (outrigger boats) that took them to Nalusuan Island – a marine sanctuary in Cebu with crystal blue waters. They were also able to feed fish and go snorkelling near Hilutungan Island.

In Bohol, the tour group enjoyed lunch while on a cruise along the Loboc River. They also met the world's second smallest primate, and got to appreciate the unique geological formation that is the Chocolate Hills.

In true Filipino fashion, every meal can be described as a feast with lots of the islands' famous seafood such as lobsters, crabs, and prawns, as well as local delicacies such as the sour soup called sinigang, the Filipino salad called ensalada, and the sweet banana cue for dessert.

Ambassador Malaya was quick to point out how Cebu and Bohol have been boosting Halal tourism in the area by helping increase the number of Halal-certified food establishments on the island.

The tour group's significant number of Muslim participants got their fill of Filipino dishes without worrying about their dietary restrictions.

"With Halal tourism on the rise and the increase of air connectivity between Kuala Lumpur and the various island destinations of the Philippines, there are now more reasons for Malaysians to choose the Philippines for their next vacation. We are even working on getting more tourists to fly directly to their island destinations without having to change planes," Ambassador Malaya said.

The 2nd Ambassador's Tour's aim was to re-introduce the Philippines to Malaysians and other nationalities who joined the tour as a complete tropical, heritage, cultural, and eco-tourism experience.

With Cebu and Bohol's heritage sites, beautiful waters, and unique geological formations, the tour left the participants looking yearning for more of what the Philippines has to offer.
For a taste of Filipino and ASEAN art, the participants also attended the opening of an art exhibit in Cebu's Qube Gallery where 25 artists from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia showed their latest works at an art show entitled Kita.

Zainol Abidin Mohamed, one of the tour's participants and an Ambassador's Tour second timer, says he cannot wait to go back.

"After enjoying the first Ambassador's Tour, I decided to bring my family with me. I booked for 16 people for this tour and we all enjoyed it – my wife, my children, and even my cousin's family," he said.

Mr. Zainol notes how this year's tour is even much more extensive with more activities than the first. He added that he has also been recommending the Ambassador's Tour to his friends due to its carefully planned itinerary, reasonable cost, and convenience.

In 2014, the year the Ambassador's Tour started, the Philippines enjoyed a 27 percent growth on the arrival of Malaysian tourists compared to the year before with 139,000 Malaysians visiting the islands.

This is the highest and most significant growth rate from the Philippines' major tourist markets which catapulted Malaysia into the 9th spot of the country's top 10 tourist markets.

"Definitely, we would like to see more international tourist arrivals to the Philippines – especially in Bohol and Cebu where the people are greatly involved in sustainable tourism," Ambassador Malaya said.

"This is their way of life and that's one of the reasons why they take good care of their environment and it is something that should be appreciated," he added

With the clamor of tour participants for a third Ambassador's Tour, Ambassador Malaya and Department of Tourism Representative Datin Melissa Ong promised to plan and make the next one even better than the first two.

Will it be Batanes? Boracay? Palawan? Or one of the 7,107 islands that has not yet made it to the consciousness of mainstream travellers?

Ambassador Malaya coyly replied that participants' reaction to the tour is indeed giving them pressure with regard to planning the next one. But he promised that people will definitely be even more excited once the official announcement for the tour's next destination is made. END (text and photos by Carol Ramoran-Malasig)