SABANGAN, Mountain Province – “While it is income-generating, our mission is to protect our forest and watersheds at the same time help the community’s economy,” shared Ernesto Bondad, Coordinator of the Mountain Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association.
In 2017, the Mountain Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association was organized and registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) primarily to provide employment to the out-of-school youth in their communities and to contribute in the preservation and conservation of the community’s watershed and the vast forestland.
Mountain Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association, composed of all-male 15 guides, is based in Brgy. Losad, Sabangan in the province.
“Yes, we call ourselves guides but we were not trained on proper guiding, especially on tourist safety,” Ernesto added.
Before, the association was not operating properly due to financial constraints, untrained guides and lack of equipment.
In March 2018, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) granted the Mt. Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association the amount of P 308,040.00 for skills training on local tour guiding to learn the proper coordination of itinerary and safety for tourists and make souvenir items.
In partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) of Mountain Province, the participants underwent a 10-day training on Local Tour Guiding and a 3-day Basic Life Support conducted by Sabangan’s Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).
“After the training, all of our 15 guides were assessed and accredited as municipal guides by the TESDA,” Ernesto shared.
Since then, the group has found patrons for their tour packages, some of whom are local and others are foreigners, like American tourists, visiting the province. For over a year of running the association, the members see the progress in their tour guiding livelihood project.
“Our guides have been trained extensively by the different government agencies. We don’t deploy untrained guides and our primary concern is always the safety of our tourists. So far, there was never an incident despite the risky terrain of our mountains,” he added.
The association also wants to help in the development of the community through actively promoting local products of the villages such as woven products, arabica coffee, mountain tea, and other local products of Sabangan. In addition, they invite high school students to perform cultural dances during tours.
“These are students coming from the different schools of the community who are trained to do cultural performances during the departure time of tourists, and we pay them P1,500 to 2,000 and in other times, guests provide other educational assistance to them,” Ernesto added.
Along with the tour guiding and contributing in the development of the community, the guides also contribute in education development particularly in the work immersion requirement of Department of Education.
“Lately we had two groups of senior high school students who spent 10 (80 hours) days immersion taked with the construction of landscape structures at the Associations’ office,” he said.
The association’s mission continues not just in enhancing opportunities for local economic growth and improving the quality of life of residents, but also safeguarding the opportunities for future generations by ensuring the sustainable co-existence of tourism and environment.
By Babble Mae Gorio
Banner art by Don Ray Ramos