UC's Tublay ecotourism plan now under way

October 21, 2018

After being chosen as one of the Top 8 entries in this year's Quest for Loving Organizations that can build Village Economies (Quest for LOVE), the first phase of the University of the Cordilleras' (UC) Ecotourism Plan for Tublay, Benguet is now under way.

Inspired by the "Tubohotel" in Mexico and "Aurora Bubble Hotel" in Iceland, the initial UC plan proposed a "Culvert Bed and Breakfast" which shall initially offer 20 concrete tube rooms or transparent dome enclosures measuring around 8 feet by 11.5 feet with basic furniture. However, this plan was refined into tourist cottages which shall be constructed using indigenous materials such as kugon and bamboo. The area will also have a common toilet and bath facility within the vicinity. These cottages will be situated near popular tourist spots to allow visitors to engage in activities such as spelunking and swimming.

This plan aims to boost the tourism industry of Tublay which in turn, will provide employment opportunities for its residents by teaching them to manage their own businesses and training them to become tour guides, caterers, camp managers and the like.

Quest for LOVE is a nationwide search founded by former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez launched in April this year which aims "to transform marginalized communities into viable localized economic zones, such as successful resource-based agro-forestry, fisheries, or eco-tourism sites and the like."

For being one of the Top 8 organizations, the P100,000 cash prize shall be channeled entirely towards the development of the plan in Tublay and they will be paired with a mentor who shall provide insight and assistance in the implementation of the plan. ECHOstore founders Regina "Reena" Francisco, Jeannie Javelosa, and Pacita "Chit" Juan chose to mentor the UC and Tublay team. In addition, the project will likewise be supported by iLove Foundation's partner government agencies. The plan was also pitched by UC Vice President for Administration Dr. Leonarda Aguinalde to attract possible investors.

In their site visit in Tublay, the mentors noted the municipality's potential in coffee production, weaving, organic farming, and "slow food" or the promotion of local cuisine. A brainstorming session with local officials also led to the possibility of establishing an "Artisan Village" in Tublay where the municipality's arts and culture can be showcased. The mentors also expressed their intention of empowering the women of Tublay through the provision of local and sustainable employment opportunities.

"We really want to help. We want to share what we know and what we have been doing for the past 10 years all over the Philippines," Francisco said.

Elizabeth Pilorin, Stakeholders Relations Service Director of the Department of Public Works and Highways, conducted an ocular inspection of the site for the necessary building requirements last month.

Tublay Mayor Armando Lauro said he is looking forward to the domino effect of this project. "Personally, I think Tublay will really progress and not just in Barangay Ambongdolan because even other barangays have their own unique areas that tourists can visit," he said.

This week, Lopez, the mentors, and the Quest for LOVE team will visit Tublay and spearhead an "Earth Warrior Training" for the residents of the municipality and UC.

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