Despite the massive destruction brought by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), this town keeps its status as a tourist haven.
Guiuan had always been proud of its location at the southernmost tip of Samar and east by the Pacific Ocean, making it the region’s surfing capital. Its geography is a blessing from the point of tourism, but a curse during natural calamities.
When the super typhoon struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, it made its first landfall in this town, leaving all houses roofless; trees toppled and 110 of its residents killed.
The town was rich with tourist attractions but it had been ruined by the calamity. Nevertheless, the town’s banner program which is tourism continues.
“Tourism is not only about attractive destinations but the interaction of the people going in and out, creating livelihood and generates employment,” said Aurora de los Reyes, Guiuan tourism officer.
Sustaining tourism activities, according to De los Reyes is the presence international non-government organizations (iNGOs) who came to give assistance, create jobs, and rent accommodation facilities.
The airport, built during the American regime in 1944, was not destroyed, paving the way for NGOs to bring emergency relief assistance. The airport also benefited other affected areas in Eastern Samar.
“People saw that there is a potential of Guiuan to progress because of the airport,” de los Reyes said.
Even if the 16th century Immaculate Conception Church, one of the oldest in the country, had been ruined and the business sector weakened, tourists are still coming, the local tourism official observed
The surf camps and other resorts in Calicoan Island, also known as “Surfer’s Paradise,” had been washed out, and the corals were badly damaged, affecting the formation of waves.
Surfers admitted that the waves were not the same as before but they still visit because the town still has better waves to surf than in other places.
In fact, the town will still host its annual national surfing competition by October after the town fiesta. Surfers from Surigao, Pagudpod, Zambales, Daet, and Camarines among others were invited and more than willing to compete.
This surfing competition also opens opportunities for small businesses to promote and sell goods and crafts in stalls at Calicoan.
The religious town is also known for a sacred church in Sulangan village. Devotees, wishers, and sick people did not cease to hear mass and give offerings.
The town’s tourism council recently organized a 23-kilometer-pilgrimage walk to Sulangan wherein a mass of people from all over the country had joined.
As of this time, the road to the said village is under construction by the Department of Tourism (DOT) that is implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“The people of Guiuan are called to unity, cooperation, and support tourism because without these, the local government unit’s effort will not be effective,” said de los Reyes.
“Let’s continue to cooperate and pray because good things are happening to us. We hope that very soon, Guiuan will build back better,” said town Mayor Sheen Gonzales. (PNA)LAP/PGL/Reinalore P. Guimbaolibot, LNU Intern/egr/utb