“This tour is great!” says Josh Ken Artero, a young professional from Agana, Guam.
“I’ve been living in the U.S. for 41 years. I’ve participated in four ACGTDTs and will join future tours even if I come here on my own to help the ABS-CBN Foundation with school-building projects,” Los Angeles fashion designer Arcadio Boy Lizaso remarks.
“It’s our first ACGTDT and we’re enjoying it. We stayed at the Solaire Resort and Casino for two weeks on our own last year, but will still avail of the optional ACGTDT trips later,” discloses Dr. Aquilio Agliam with his wife, Salve, who live in Cleveland, Ohio.
These are the testimonials gathered from a few participants of the 9th Ambassadors, Consuls General and Tourism Directors Tour of the Philippines (ACGTDT). This year’s tour had a total participants of 260 visitors coming from New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Guam and Hawaii. Filipino-Canadians have formed their own separate homecoming tour “Winter Escapade” which was held in the Visayas last January this year.
For a reasonably-priced long-haul basic tour package, the ACGTDT participants were here from July 28 to 31 to relax, enjoy and spend precious time with families and friends as well as explore investment and retirement possibilities here at home.
“We encourage Filipinos here to invite their relatives and friends in the U.S. and Canada to plan and book for these tours, especially for “Visit Philippines 2015.” More Pinoy homecoming tours are in the works for young Fil-Am leaders and for Filipinos in Europe and the Middle East,” states Chief Operating Officer Domingo Ramon Enerio III of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), marketing arm of the Department of Tourism.
“Through this successful tour program, we are able to entice Filipino-Americans as well as their friends in the U.S. to visit us to deepen their appreciation of the history, heritage and culture of our country and the natural warmth of our people. Aside from being a safe place to travel and right time to invest, the Philippines is one of the best places for medical and wellness tourism as well as retirement haven,” Enerio adds.
Tour participants arrived to a VIP reception with sampaguita leis at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The next day, the participants were treated to a Mindanao-inspired welcome dinner at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel with an environment-oriented musical. Organized by Fantasmic Production Haus, the musical consisted of the “Enlighten Black Theater Group” with Jeff Sumabat singing “Paraiso” and the El Gamma Penumbra performing “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
Last July 29, the particpants were brought via guided tours to the luxurious resort of Pico de Loro Cove at Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas. This area is renowned for being part of the “center of the center of the world’s biodiversity” which means that more than 65% of the world’s marine species can be found there with some species very recently discovered by California Academy of Sciences.
The ACGTDT participants arrived to festive welcome of native songs and dances with rondalla music by hundreds of local grade school children. After which, there was sumptuous lunch consistently mostly of Southern Tagalog cuisine. With outcast skies and showers in the morning and early afternoon, the participants went for indoor games and guided cove tour.
“Nasugbu town is a popular beach holiday destination, especially for its medical black sand beaches. From excursionists, our town has expanded to its target upscale visitors and residents of Europeans, Americans, other expats, and Asians, mainly Koreans, who patronize our dive resorts, mountain resorts, historical and cultural landmarks, ecotourism destinations, retirement havens, native restaurants, and a modern hospital. Pico de Loro Cove is one of our new tourist attractions catering to the AB market,” Mayor Apacible enthuses.
“We heartily invite all ACGTDT participants to visit and invest in Nasugbu,” she adds.
“Through the Cavitex Expressway and the innovative Kabiang Tunnel, Pico de Loro Cove and Nasugbu, for that matter, is less than one and a half hours away from Metro Manila. After passing by the well-preserved rustic greenery of its mountainside, the Cove greets every visitor with its fine beaches, amenities and cuisine. Twenty minutes away is the progressive town of Nasugbu where more attractions and undiscovered destinations await visitors,” quips Tourism Regional Director Labit.
“Nasugbu and Pico certainly meet the challenge of making visitors stay longer than the usual three-day night sojourn in a destination. These are beyond the usual weekend visits,” she emphasizes.
In bidding the Batangas hosts farewell, Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim of Los Angeles cites, “You welcomed us not as friends but as family. We leave Nasugbu well-informed and highly appreciative of the beauty of the town and of Batangas province and the hospitality of the people. Now we have more reasons to return and visit and invest here. We, in turn, extend our invitations to all of you to visit us in the U.S.”
A rousing and non-stop musical number – consisting of several teenaged Batangueño musicians as well as Provincial Governor Vilma Santos’ very own V.I.P. dancers – sent off the hundreds of participants from the Pico Country Club Ballroom to their respective tourist buses back to Makati, where they had in turn an exciting fellowship night hosted by Western Union.
The next day, they were at the historic Rizal Monument in Luneta for the wreath-laying ceremony. They then proceeded to Malacañang Palace for a museum tour and luncheon at the Heroes Hall. There were also special tours arranged for Corregidor, Intramuros, Metropolitan Musuem at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Manila Ocean Park, and spa treatments at Wensha.
According to Jojo Clemente, president of Rajah Tour Philippines, the official tour handler for the past eight ACGTDTs, most of the participants availed of the optional out-of-town tours after the four-day / three-night basic tour. These participants went on to add more travel experiences in other Philippine destinations with their families and friends like Laoag-Vigan, Cagayan de Oro-Camiguin, Southern Luzon Golf Tours, Davao, Cebu-Bohol, Iloilo-Bacolod, Kalibo-Boracay, Camarines Sur-Albay, and Puerto Princesa-El Nido.
For more information visit www.acgtdt.com.