Doc Gerry’s legacy: Tourism with a heart
IT’S not every day that we come across tourism sites that not only delight the vacationers but also truly benefit the community.
But this is what the late Dr. Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega
achieved as head of ABS-CBN Foundation
’s ecotourism sites in Palawan—he established five community-based sustainable tourism sites operated by the community, for the community.
“We have five projects in Puerto Princesa
. These are the Ugong Rock, Bacungan River Cruise, Pambato Reef Dalubkaragatan, dolphin and whale watching in Puerto Princesa Bay and firefly watching in Iwahig,” explained Doc Gerry when we interviewed him on January 22, 2011. “… We do not have to destroy the environment for us to benefit from it. We just need to take care of it so we can invite guests for them to see the natural beauty of our environment so that our countrymen will have opportunities from that….”
That maxim can be observed across the communities where the locals used to be part of the problem. Boaters who used to help in the illegal fishing in Puerto Princesa Bay and Honda Bay are now part of the Bantay Dagat movement. Locals who used to cut the mangroves by the rivers are now the protectors of the mangroves and fireflies.
Doc Gerry was not alone in developing the ecotourism
sites to the fullest. He had the help of the Department of Tourism, City Tourism Office of Puerto Princesa, Mayor Edward Hagedorn and the City of Puerto Princesa. More importantly, Doc Gerry had the strength of quality employees— Jet Millare and Marlon Tamsi, young community organizers who helped organize the communities of Bacungan, Iwahig, Brgy. Tulingan, Honda Bay and Brgy. Tagabinet.
But the key to all of these flourishing ecotourism sites was Doc Gerry. He put together the communities so that they are coordinated and empowered. Since this project began, visitor traffic and profits have increasingly gone up.
During Doc Gerry’s wake, I was heartened to hear the members of the communities saying that they will continue on with what they have begun with Doc Gerry: “Ipagpapatuloy namin ang iyong adhikain, Doc Gerry.”
. Let us save Palawan from greed and destruction.