ALKFI executive director Gina Lopez (at right, back to camera) pumps up community members in GuimarasG • Eco Tours and Bantay Kalikasan work together in finding and packaging and managing destinations, while government and private-sector partners take up their own share of the load in getting Philippine communities out of poverty.
G • Eco Tours has assembled an enviable roster of private- sector partners that reads like a who’s who of the Philippine design, culinary arts, and architecture industries.
Architects Paulo Alcazaren and Bong Recio are helping behind the scenes in the soon-to-open Samar package, while the heads of key departments of the College of St. Benilde have signed on for Sorsogon.
On the culinary front, chefs from the Raintree Restaurants group flew in community members and trained them in menu planning, food preparation and presentation in various Raintree establishments Helping the helpers in Metro Manila. The Farm at San Benito in Batangas also provides wellness and massage training to the locals.
“It’s super inspiring and fun to be working with people who are like-minded, who believe in the Philippines,” G • Eco Tours manager Mael Cabigao says.
The third partner in the triumvirate is the community itself.
“We’d like to see a constant growth in their income as a community so we look for ways to up that income. We’re beefing up the souvenir items, for example, by helping them with the designs,” Cabigao notes.
G • Eco Tours constantly monitors the progress of the community and, in cases where sales have plateaued, steps in for an intervention of sorts.
“We look into it and make sure that we’re not remiss in our obligations to help them succeed in their targets. But most of them are independent in that they’re the ones who set their own targets as well,” says Cabigao.
Select residents are trained to become “Earth Warriors,” men, women and youth who take to heart the whole idea of sustainability and the importance of protecting the environment. At the end of the exercise, the participants have a graduation ceremony led by ALKFI chief Gina Lopez where they formally take on the “Earth Warrior” designation.