The Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT), through its regional offices, has coordinated with various local government units and agencies to ensure that destinations are equipped to handle the expected influx of tourists and pilgrims this Holy Week.
Lent in the Philippines is a solemn period that begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates with the Semana Santa or Holy Week, where rituals and customs are practised in all corners of the country. Over the six-week period of Lent, Filipinos make extensive preparations for themselves, their communities and visitors.
DOT and the Intramuros Administration expect over 900,000 devotees and visitors in the Walled City this coming week. Nine churches and chapels in Intramuros including the San Agustin Church will be open to pilgrims and visitors starting April 18, Maundy Thursday, until April 20, Black Saturday.
“Lent is an integral part of our national identity. It reflects our faith, history and traditions passed on by our forefathers,” stated DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat. “Pilgrims and tourists are encouraged to take part in this unique Philippine experience, but to always be cautious about their personal safety and be respectful of others.”
As part of the annual protocol during Holy Week, DOT has issued letters to LGUs requesting that safety and security measures are in place in tourist destinations. DOT has likewise collaborated with airport authorities to set up tourist Help Desks.
To step up security and maintain order, the DOT has coordinated with LGUs, the Philippine National Police (PNP), and other government security agencies. DOT and PNP have an existing Tourist-Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection (TOP-COP) programme where police personnel are trained to handle and assist tourists.
In addition, DOT issued a reminder notice to resorts and hotels to deploy life guards in their beach areas or swimming pools, while urging the public to choose DOT-accredited establishments that can ensure the availability of first-aid trained staff and first-aid kits.
The public is also advised to take precautions during their journeys especially in areas the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration has identified as heat danger zones. These include Infanta in Quezon, Ambulong in Batangas, Casiguran in Aurora, Pasay City in Metro Manila, Dagupan City in Pangasinan, San Jose City in Occidental Mindoro, and Tuguegarao City in Cagayan.
DOT has also requested that travellers practice responsible tourism by respecting local traditions and practices. This means observing silence in houses of prayer, avoiding the use of flash photography in churches and not taking photos of individuals without permission. Sustainable tourism practices such as properly managing one’s personal trash and avoiding single use plastics by bringing personal water tumblers and utensils are also encouraged.