Sunday, June 14, 2009

Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2009: Explore the Midwest

I paid P4,000++ joining this event to realize that I now owe Gwendolyn Garcia (yes, the governor) a hundredfold more than that amount! That serious!!!

I know I don’t have the “hundredfold” and I know she won’t take cash anyway hehe! So let me just say that I owe her and her hardworking employees a hundredfold ways of “utang-na-loob” (debt-of-gratitude) for a wonderful experience in the just-concluded “Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2009: Explore the Midwest”.

This one-of-a-kind tourism activity is not unfamiliar to my itchy feet. I have known and heard about this repeatedly for some years now. In fact, I wanted to join the Camotes version of the Suroy Suroy Sugbo last May, but a family activity got in the way! Thus, I did not let this midwest tour pass without me joining. However, I did not expect it to be that ultra-grand with everyone treating me as if I was truly My Royal Highness!

How did I get to join the “Explore the Midwest”
I was supposed to go Camotes alone (as usual) for the long 'independence day' weekend since, as said above, I missed the Suroy to those islands last May. Thursday, I went to SM City Cebu to grab a sunscreen in deference to criticisms from many of you that I have lately been baking myself under the sun to charcoal proportions hehe! Lo and behold… as I strolled going out of the mall w/ my Nivea Sun, I chanced upon this kiosk near the south wing lobby that had the Suroy Suroy Sugbo markings and it prominently displayed the “Explore the Midwest” activity. Asked the desk officer there and I was told “sir, bukas na ito” (sir, this occurs tomorrow). Made a few calls to cancel my Camotes arrangements, then booked myself on this Suroy! Done!

At 830PM 11JUN09, I sat on my bed thinking if I was not being too hasty joining the Suroy without the usual research that I do. Some figment of my lowly brain said… “c’mon, this is a government sponsored activity, it can never go very wrong”! Drank my beers, slept and readied my mind-and-body to be at Cebu Capitol by 730AM 12JUN09 as instructed by the booking officer. And the rest is history! Whew!

What gimmick is this anyway?
Well, for those who have not joined any one Suroy yet, I can understand you branding this as a gimmick since it is spearheaded by a politician - the governor. In reality though, it is nothing but a straightforward guided tour of the towns in Cebu province. WITH a barrage of frills, no travel or tour agency can duplicate. AND, I will stand on that last sentence! Some details of the frills below… but more in succeeding articles.

Thus believe me when I say it is no gimmickry. The Suroy Suroy Sugbo is value-for-money cheap and the best way to tour, familiarize or learn about the hidden beauty and amazingly abundant attractions of Cebu province. You hop along a pre-arranged itinerary with no less than the governor herself herding the whole group! That makes her the main tour guide... honorary, if you may!

Why is Suroy Suroy Sugbo the best and why is it cheap?
It is the best way to see and know the towns’ history culture & attractions because the very mayor of each locality arranges to receive and show you their best! With the governor bringing you there, wouldn’t they anyway?! It is cheap because the organizer (provincial tourism office), just like any other tour arranger, can lower the prices due to economies of scale (in this particular tour there were more than a hundred of us). Plus, you get perks, frills and an astoundingly whole lot of extras that you wouldn’t even have dreamed about. Why? Read the 2nd sentence of this paragraph again… that’s why hehe!! In fact, I have a very strong feeling the governor’s office or the mayors are subsidizing a lot of the expenses just to pamper you!

What’s the catch?
The catch is you! It is not really a 'catch' in the usual negative connotation since all guides, service providers, local officials and even children of each town will openly request you to tell the whole world about the best that they have and the best that they can offer. That’s what you are supposed to be responsible for… in exchange for the whole lot of extras. That’s just it! They need your mouth (to speak), your hands (to write) and your heart (be honest) to tell all about them. On the other hand, since you have been there and supposedly have learned about the things to see/experience in their towns, you may want to go back there with friends and family! Then chances are, the already growing tourism in this province will sustainably grow ever more. Fact: I am now planning to go re-experience those towns the Suroy visited. This time it will be with friends and family as I now know there are a lot for us to experience! Isn’t it lovely?

So how was my tour?
To summarize… it was too good to be true! I will describe finer details in succeeding articles (per town), but here’s a snippet… my draft notes on the first leg of the tour:

  • We rode on 4 buses (Ceres Tours and the provincial government buses)
  • Before departure, they distributed breakfast packs
  • Tour guide distributed welcome kits (bag w/ T-Shirt, water, CD, DVD, maps, sun-visor)
  • It was a convoy of vehicles with a police car always up front
  • Professional guide annotated the trip with a lot of jokes
  • 4 vans always tailed us serving as backups if any bus broke down
  • An ambulance w/ doctor, nurse and aides was always with the convoy
  • Separate vehicles for security (army) were always with us
  • Children of towns along the way lined the streets and waved flags to greet us
  • Police forces everywhere we passed directed traffic to let us through
  • School children greeted us at the first Barangay of Aloguinsan
  • Susan, local tour guide (school teacher) joined the bus
  • She described Aloguinsan for us in detail as we ambled towards town center
  • Roadsides decorated with banderitas, banners and welcome arches!
  • Residents of ALL barangays lined the roads to welcome us w/ smiles and waves
  • Barangay officials also did so, even medical and caregiver students!
  • Arrived at Aloguinsan church with no less than a Sinulog-style troop to welcome us
  • Prayed. After individual prayers, an official welcomed us w/ a briefer on Aloguinsan
  • I think the whole town was there to welcome us! And they were all smiles!
  • Walked down to the Municipal Hall where another set of performers welcomed us
  • Stage/Bleachers were made by the municipal government for us
  • Gwen was asked to enter the field with the Mayor on board a “boat float”
  • We (also as honored guests) sat either beside or behind Gwen
  • Students performed the Kinsan Festival for us
  • All were asked to climb to the Balwarte behind the Municipal Hall
  • It’s a park and previously the site of a watchtower
  • There was a live tableaux showcasing works of a local couturier
  • There are beaches below this balwarte. This is a nice place for photo-ops
  • An OMG buffet lunch under the trees overlooking the sea… ahhh!
  • Choice of drinks, juices or buko juice. I had 3 bottles of Coke
  • The sweet mangoes could not be depleted… I had 5 yet there were still more!
  • More performances as everyone devoured the bounty of a buffet
  • There was even a video set showcasing what Aloguinsan has to offer
  • We strolled down to our buses already parked in front of the Municipal Hall
  • Performers, children, municipal officials, townsfolk bade us goodbye
  • The now “heavier” convoy proceeded to Pinamungahan
  • That is just a sample from my rough notes. More details I should be able to recall as I reflect on these notes. Now, need I tell you if I enjoyed this trip?

    This was my first to join the Suroy Suroy Sugbo but I can fairly claim that you must heed the following:
    1. These trips may cause you to realize what true gluttony is. So don’t forget the antacids, calciblacs and all medications for the diabetic or arthritic etc. If it is possible to bring an extra stomach, do so hehe! The amount of food served is always OMG plenty!
    2. Don’t believe if your itinerary says “snacks”… IT IS A HEAVY FULL MEAL always and anywhere at whatever time it might have been scheduled!
    3. Take it easy on the first Lechon, there will be more every step of the way! Ahh!
    4. A meal and a snack… or a snack and another snack can be just 15 minutes away from each other! Gosh! Remember your social decorum techniques? You are supposed to at least sample or taste whatever is on the table, otherwise your hosts will think you don't like what they offer! The town you are visiting does not care if you had a binge at the previous town. You must taste "their best"!
    5. Always massage your neck and do some head rolls from time to time. The things to see are left and right and too many even as the bus speeds through! AND, be aware that wherever a hint of darkness catches the group, there will be fireworks!
    6. Be prepared to come home feeling like a Christmas Tree! You could be toting 3 different headgears, a lot of loot-bags with figurines, pastries, rice-cakes and brochures inside (hey, some are delicate shell or wood craft), an umbrella, T-Shirts, leis, garlands, etc. They're all too precious and memorable you will most likely not just throw them instantly!
    7. This one is serious (it happened to me hehe)… if you thought your 2gig memory card was enough at a 3D2N Macau trip, not here. There are just too many things to capture and you will be tempted to use the video function most of the time!
    8. Bring a notebook and pen. The barrage of information come and go so quickly as you try to view the countryside or watch performances. Trying to jot or record everything on your PDA may not be enough.
    Now, don’t you ever say you were not warned!

    Oh well, I did not even know and as of now still have a hard time pronouncing Aloguinsan and Pinamungahan which is sometimes written as Pinamungajan.

    Catchya on the next blog entry!

    For a chronology of the stories in this trip, click the following numbers:
    01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12