|By pinoyfarmer | March 15, 2010|
By Jaymee T. Gamil
Philippine Daily Inquirer
March 11, 2010
CLIMBING trees, plucking mangoes, peeling the fruits and dipping them in “bagoong” (fish sauce) on hot summer days spell fun for those living in the countryside.
And that tasty, pleasurable pastime may soon be enjoyed even by those unfortunate enough to be living in cities.
In a bid to promote agricultural tourism in the country, the Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa) and the Philippine Tour Agencies Association launched the Super Mango Agricultural Tour on March 4 during the Zambales Dinamulag mango festival.
With interest in the summer staple picking up in the Asia-Pacific market, particularly among Koreans, it is about time the national fruit was packaged as a tourism highlight, Philtoa president Cesar Cruz says.
Agricultural tours are nothing new.
“You go anywhere in the world, and [there will be] agri-tours. Europe has always been proud of its grapes, vineyards and wines. The United States has apple-picking tours. Why can’t we have that program with our mangoes?” Cruz says.
He says that the domestic market actually looks forward to such tours.
Cruz says city dwellers and students welcome technical tours to widen their awareness.
During the launch, Metro Manila-based guests couldn’t resist taking home 3-year-old mango seedlings (going for P150 per bundle), mangoes (P35-P50 per kilo, depending on the variety) and bags of fresh vegetables.
According to Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso, around 30 percent of the people in the province are involved in mango farming.
“Vitamin-rich mountains,” Deloso says, dominate the provincial terrain.
Other conditions such as “climate, unique mineral resources, and the sea breeze,” all come together to make Zambales mangoes the most appetizing in the world, he adds.
The Guinness Book of World Records attests to this. In 1995, it listed the Sweet Elena strain of the Philippine carabao mango variety as the sweetest in the world. That variety originates in Zambales, which touts itself as the second top exporter of mangoes in the Philippines.
Those who wish to take part in the Super Mango Agricultural Tour will experience hands-on farm harvesting and view demonstrations on how to propagate, plant and process mango products at the Ramon Magsaysay Technological University-San Marcelino campus. Of course, participants may have their fill of mangoes during the tour.
Also, they may try the mango and santol wines on sale, and shop for other delicacies, such as dried and candied fruits.
Tours will be held during the mango season, which starts in November or December until May, says Ryan Sebastian, senior officer of the Department of Tourism-Office of Product Research and Development (DoT-OPRD).
During off-season, officials will continue to conduct tours. This time, visitors will be brought to organic farms and culinary destinations, like Green Garden farm in Castillejos town, Zambales.
This taste of the simple life—lasting for two nights and three days—may cost anywhere from P4,000 to P10,000, Cruz says.
“You can tailor-fit the package, depending on your accommodations, ” he adds.
Zambales, a four-hour road drive from Metro Manila, was among the top 10 tourist destinations in the country last year. The province saw an increase in visitor arrivals to 323,271 in 2009, from 308,482 in 2008, DoT records show.
Traditional attractions include the Subic Bay Freeport and beach resorts.
It offers adventure activities, such as surfing and island-hopping. Zambales also has cultural and historical destinations, such as the Casa San Miguel, an arts center, and Ramon Magsaysay’s ancestral home.
“But I believe agricultural tourism will be a key livelihood,” Deloso says.
Despite the El Niño weather disturbance, mango trees in Zambales continue to have high yield.
Tourism stakeholders are confident that agriculture production will thrive, withstanding even the harsh effects of climate change.
“We’re presenting the beauty of having a good environment, we’re presenting all these natural products, we’re teaching people to be more aware of … nature,” Cruz said.
Cruz hopes to spread the agri-tour program in Zambales to other regions in the country.
“Just like what we did with the culinary program started four years ago,” he says, citing the success of Culinaria Tagalog in Batangas and Bulacan, and similar tours being held in Pampanga, Cebu and Bohol.