Meet the 17 People who made tourism really fun in PH

Seventeen years ago, when Cruising published its maiden issue, the Philippines was, to paraphrase a former Soviet leader’s words, a “mere dot in the face of the planet.” Fast-forward to 2016 and the trend has changed: we are finally getting noticed in the global tourism radar. Our islands and beaches, resorts and cuisine are recognized abroad and online.

This would not have happened had it not been for the efforts of Filipinos who have put the “fun” in the Philippines. All of them have graced the pages of our 204 issues, coming from all walks of life – officials and workers, tour guides, resort owners, social entrepreneurs, artists – young and old, visionary and stakeholder. They changed the way we view our country by making sure tourists will not forget the country’s most tangible treasure: its people.

1. Illac Diaz

[April 2004 / April 2016]

He was, in many ways, the poster boy for social entrepreneurship, but wherever he jumps from one place to another on the planet, he makes sure he brings a lot of Pinoy pride for the world to see. His travel to more than 123 countries is not just about “being there and doing that,” but giving light, hope and shelter, one journey at a time.

2. Angelo Villanueva

[Nov 2014]

He used to be one of Manila’s party habitués, but his visit to Dumaguete City has changed his life and he decided to stay for good. Now the Supermodel Diva is putting the fab and glam in travel with his outfit, Dumaguete Outdoors, making sure that travel has never been this queer and quixotic!

3. Renato ‘Bryan’ Jao

[July 2015]

Known to social media circles as Bicolano Man, this photographer and blogger put Bicol tourism on the map with his posts and pictures. He also helps the Albay Tourism Office by organizing Culinaria Albay that showcase the best of Bicol cuisine and destinations. Take one of his tours and you’ll discover a wealth of spices and sights.

4. Nina Araneta-Alana

[Feb 2016]

Mention the word “voluntourism” and chances are it’s her name that would usually pop up. A former corporate lawyer, she started Pushpin Movement that allows people to enjoy travel while helping the communities they visit – proof that going places can be this noble and committed!

5. George Tapan

[May 2015]

To beginning and even veteran photographers, he is a class by himself. A passionate lensman whose works have wowed audiences and won international awards, including the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest, his contributions to travel photography in the country are huge and priceless.

6. Butch Tan

[Oct 2010]

Beach culture need not be opulent and wasteful, as the owner of Daluyon Resort and Cowrie Island in Palawan would gently remind us. A proponent of the island’s eco-friendly practices, his Daluyon Resort has recently won the Asean Green Hotel Awards for the third time, an evidence that nature and tourism can go hand-in-hand.

7. Ivan Man Dy

[April 2005]

Binondo used to be an exclusive world to the Filipino-Chinese community till Ivan Man Dy came in. In 2005, he welcomed local and foreign tourists into the world’s oldest Chinatown by letting them sample Chinoy cuisine and even walking them through the Chinese cemetery shrines and temples, making them feel that tastes and traditions are essentially universal.

8. Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.

[Jan 2014]

The Aquino administration will be remembered for so many things but its tourism program would be considered most well regarded, thanks to the genius of Mon Jimenez. As an advertising guru turned Tourism Secretary, his marketing campaigns have generated enough social media buzz (and memes) that people all over the world began to take notice and discover for themselves that truly and truthfully, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”

9. Ma. Luisa Valeza

[Aug 2009]

Not too many people can claim to be up-close and personal with the national hero than the long-time caretaker of his home. As curator of the Rizal Shrine in Calamba City since 1992, she conducts tours to those who would like to know more about Rizal’s childhood and life, introducing Gat Pepe as someone less of a hero and more of a human being we can all relate to.

10. Gerry Bie ‘Andoy’ Dalimag

[May 2008]

As the impressionable pre-teen boy tour guide of Callao, Andoy’s story of hard work and determination left many teary-eyed especially after Zaijian Jaranilla portrayed him in an episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya. As DOT’s youngest Tourism Star awardee, this college student and volunteer guide taught people not only a thing or two about caves but also about true grit and maturity, even in the face of adversity.

11. Susan Calo-Medina

[Feb 2004]

The Dame of Philippine travel television was, and will always be, a source of inspiration and learning for many aspiring travel writers and hosts with her legendary show, Travel Time. With her passing, she taught us to remain true to our identity, to have a sense of ownership of our own culture and place: “Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.”

12. Luke Landrigan

[March 2010]

Luke has brought sexy back to surfing – with his good looks, bronze skin, sun-bleached hair, and well-toned physique. Beyond “face value” however, his accomplishments in global surfing competitions have served as inspiration among enthusiasts of the sport. Bringing surfers and beach lovers all over the world to San Juan, La Union, he epitomizes that beyond his surfer’s good looks is a caring heart for his surf turf.

13. AG Saño

[Feb 2015]

More than being an animal rights advocate, he raises awareness on environmental causes to the common man through his street art project, the Dolphins Love Freedom Project. His mission: to paint 23,000 dolphins in order to remind people of the plight of marine creatures everywhere.

14. Eva Marie S. Medina

[July 2012]

Determination and sound tourism plans are what this Vigan City mayor used to put her beloved heritage city in the global map, which eventually earned the globally prestigious New7Wonders Cities title. As a female leader from a prominent political clan, she removed doubts by walking the talk to ensure Calle Crisologo remains a living piece of history and a legacy to all Filipinos.

15. Atom Araullo

[Oct 2015]

Broadcast journalism has found a beacon of light in Atom Araullo, who has braved storms and all coverages considered compromising with an honest and candid take on news. But beyond his role as journalist, the adventurer in him would take over, going to countries that are off the (tropical) grid. Wouldn’t you want to be this dude’s travel buddy?

16. Carlos Celdran

[Sept 2013]

Whether you agree with Carlos’ political views or not, it is not up for debate that he innovated the way walking tours are done in the country. His Intramuros walking tour has dazzled locals and foreigners alike with stories that can be told “if walls could only talk.” He is animated when he reveals stories of the past but he manages to let you ponder and think. After taking his tours, you leave with an experience worth walking again and remembering for a long time.

17. Jeffrey Pino

[Sept 2012]

Hands-on and heartfelt – these 2 words describe the kind of experience tourists would have when they visit the highland heaven that is Tanay in Rizal, making sure they have fond memories of it. For his effective and successful tourism programs for the municipality, he received the 2015 Most Outstanding Tourism Officer Award from his peers in ATOP. He is a paragon for tourism promotion, truly worth admiring and emulating.