Tboli’s Community-Based Tourism

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"I believe in the power of the community," Rodel says
photo by Nanardxz



   “I believe in the power of the community,” says Rodel Hilado, the Municipal Tourism Officer of Tboli. “I have that balance of understanding the community. The potential should be in the community.”

   Tboli is a first class municipality of South Cotabato. They are known not only for their agricultural and mining industry but also for their tourist attractions like the famous Lake Holon. Tourism is one of the major industries that Tboli could offer. “Before we focus on mining and agricultural industry but the recent administration gave the tourism industry the chance to prosper,” says Rodel.

   In recent years, Tboli experience fast phase development. This development is not merely development per se. It is sustainable and inclusive. They have received various recognitions for their good governance like Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping last 2015. 

   Rodel works in the government for a decade. He has been in Arts and Culture Department for 8 years and 2 years and a half in Tourism. In his busy schedule, he still prioritizes the needs of the community. “As part of our preparation, we started in community consultation. We make a point that our community is prepared.” 

   As a Tourism Officer, Rodel’s competitive advantage is his background as a Social Worker. He is a license Social Worker who graduated at Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City. “I grew up in the community. My background in the community is so strong,” says Rodel. 



“I am the only one who engage in 100% community based economic scheme in the whole region XII.” “My investor is my community. At the end of the day, we have to see that tourism means job. We give jobs to the community. We give opportunity to the community.”


   “I am the only one who engage in 100% community based economic scheme in the whole region XII.” “My investor is my community. At the end of the day, we have to see that tourism means job. We give jobs to the community. We give opportunity to the community.”

   He uses social work principle in letting the locals understand the concept of tourism. As Tourism Officer, he makes a point that the community is part of the project. “In our project the community is included – from the preparation until the end. As we observe, some of the projects in the Philippines got failed because the community is not part of it. People should be empowered. They should be included in our master plan for progressive Tboli,” says Rodel. 


“I have to make a point that our plans are bias to the community. The tourism plan should go with what’s in the community; what’s the voice of the community. If the community would understand they would participate. They would love what the government would give to them.”


   “I have to make a point that our plans are bias to the community,” Rodel asserts. “The tourism plan should go with what’s in the community; what’s the voice of the community. If the community would understand they would participate. They would love what the government would give to them.”

   By becoming independent they will become empowered. The tourists will notice it and feel that their money is worth the experience. “The community will be the one who do the business. We want them to prosper and detach from the government. In this way they become independent and empowered. We give jobs to our community. We empowered our community. In this way, the tourists would feel that their money would directly benefit the community. You see people would have income out of those tourists’ arrivals,” he adds. 

   His dedication and hard work proved to be true. As such, he was nominated as Best Tourism Officer in the Philippines. His tough yet loving image as Tourism Officer makes him unique and outstanding among his contemporaries. 

   As any other municipality in the region, Rodel admits that they also encountered challenges. “One of the biggest challenges that we have encountered is the behavior of the community. They have a hard time accepting it. I believe that it’s a long process and it cannot happen overnight.” 

   Many suggest that Tboli should pattern their tourism plan to Lake Sebu. But they remained committed to their vision. “Lake Sebu is more on (commercial) investments. In Tboli, we maintain the community based tourism. As you observe there is no big restaurants or establishments near the sites. We are more into community immersion. You will experience not just the sites but also culture and traditions of the Tbolis.” 


“By means of culture and traditions, we have to pack them as part of tourism. Because I believe that tourism should be experience. Tourism should be immersed. That’s the unique experience that you will encounter if you visit our municipality.”

   “By means of culture and traditions, we have to pack them as part of tourism. Because I believe that tourism should be experience. Tourism should be immersed. That’s the unique experience that you will encounter if you visit our municipality.” 

   Rodel also admits that they have lapses. But they are doing their best to fill it up. “Sometimes we have loopholes because our destinations are outside the Poblacion (capital town). For example, the problem of garbage and vandalism in Lake Holon; we cannot control some irresponsible tourists who committed such act,” Rodel admits. 


“We practice responsible tourism. You come to our sites, you plant trees. In this way you have participation in taking care of the environment.”


   Rodel and his team conducted education campaign with regards to responsible tourism. “We practice responsible tourism. You come to our sites, you plant trees. In this way you have participation in taking care of the environment.” 

   The local government started everything; from site development, planning to implementation and regulation. They are focus on their job and put the community on top priority. They are also open for collaboration like what they have right now to their partnered city which is Vigan in Ilocos Sur. They share their best practices and help each other like siblings. 

   They also temporarily close their tourist sites to give time to replenish. This is one of their strategies to preserve and protect the environment. This year, there is a Memorandum dated January 4, 2016 that ordered to temporarily close Lake Holon (formerly Lake Maughan) to the public for 55 days. As its closure, “the Local Government of Tboli rehabilitate some physical structures at the site and construct additional comfort rooms as well as conduct trainings of drivers, tourist guides, horse drivers and front liners. They also process accreditation of additional tourism destinations in the municipality.” The Provincial Government of South Cotabato provided P5 million for construction of cottages, view decks and other facilities at the lake. Lake Holon will be open to the public this coming March in line with their 18th Seslong Festival and 42nd Foundation Anniversary. 


   “We never afraid to temporarily close our tourist sites. We have ‘breathing time’; we close our destinations to recuperate.”


   “We never afraid to temporarily close our tourist sites,” says Rodel. “We have ‘breathing time’; we close our destinations to recuperate.” 

   Lake Holon settled at the crater of Mt. Melibengoy (Mt. Parker). It is considered as the cleanest lake in Region XII. It got the 1st ranked in 2003 and 2004 search for the cleanest inland bodies of water in the country. The Tbolis considered the lake as sacred. 

   The Department of Tourism (DOT) Region XII has been promoting Lake Holon as part of a local ecotourism circuit that includes Lamhaku Hot Spring in Barangay Lamhaku, Hidak Falls and Hikong Kemebel in Barangay Kematu, and Bakngeb River Cave in Barangay Laconon. 


The Bakngeb River Cave in sitio Bakngeb Brgy. Laconon
photo by the Municipality of Tboli


   Last January 29, 2016, Bakngeb River Cave Adventure Park was formally launched to the public. The inauguration was attended by Mayor Dibu S. Tuan and other local officials. The DOT XII Regional Director Nelly Nita Dillera was also present in the event to show support in the community. 


“Visit Tboli, and you will experience the adventure, people and culture.”


   The said eco-tourism adventure sites offer breath taking views that could sweep away your worries in life. “Visit Tboli, and you will experience the adventure, people and culture,” as Rodel promotes. 

   Despite their good efforts, some still cast comments on it. But Rodel proudly welcomes it all. “I love comments. That’s what make you grow. We learn from harsh comments and criticisms,” says Rodel. Good friends give harsh comments. Fake friends give wa comments. I have that strong image. Only (my) boyfriend could touch my ego,” as he fondly jokes.

   Everyone has its own perspective on tourism,” says Rodel. “See the potential of the locals. Always work hard and love your community. Sustainability is a long way process. I believe that by year 2020 as part of our plan, everything will set beautifully.”













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This is the blog of G.V. Alfasain (or popularly known as Yadu Karu) where he shares his thoughts about current events, sustainable development and pop culture. He also shares success stories of modern day heroes to inspire his readers. The author hopes that this blog may contribute change in the (Philippine) society.
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Yadu Karu's Blog: Tboli’s Community-Based Tourism
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