On July 17th and 18th after weeks and weeks of preparation, Usapang Turismo: El Nido 2017 went from a vision us fellows had been holding in our minds to a tangible reality. From 105 participants on the first day to 95 on the second, our venue was teeming with energy, excitement, and a will to create a productive discussion. With our semi-functional printer at the helm and our consistent supply of warm Spanish bread, our team of around 30 organizers, facilitators, documenters, and volunteers was ready to help translate that will into action.
As previous blogs have mentioned, the end goal of our Forum was to create a list of specific Action Points that could be implemented by a diversity of stakeholders in El Nido. We had participants from over six different sectors, including officials from barangay government units, the local government unit, and even national and provincial government. We also had an array of business owners, members of people’s associations of El Nido, and other passionate individuals.
Over the course of four workshops, the participants synthesized action points to address three main issue areas affecting El Nido’s tourism industry: Natural Resources & Biodiversity, Waste & Drainage, and Sustainable Alternatives. Our incredible team of facilitators worked in small groups with participants to envision what it would mean to alleviate these issues in El Nido, and what steps needed to be taken to achieve that vision. Each workshop was preceded by presentations from resource speakers in development consulting, academia, national government, and other areas to enrich the conversation with their expertise and knowledge. The end result was a list of action items ranging from implementation of municipal policies on the barangay level to the adoption of energy efficient lights and appliances by businesses.
As the Forum came to a close and the group photos were taken, it was surreal to finally reach the ending of this chapter in our summer. What had started out as a vague idea devised by our supervisors had become something much greater. In a matter of two days our participants had transformed an empty, sand-flea ridden space to a platform for cross-sector collaboration. They had turned will into action and inspiration to initiative. We cannot thank our participants enough for coming out and making this Forum what it was, along with all of our incredible team members.
However, although the Forum is behind us and our summer here approaches its close, we can’t forget that the work has only just begun. With the conclusion of the Forum and the synthesis of the Action Points, a curtain has closed on this Act in El Nido but a new one has already begun. We spent July 17th and 18th talking about tourism, and now it is time to turn those words into action. For our participants, that means it’s time to take those visions and turn them into realities by honoring the commitments made and carrying the momentum. For our volunteers and other El Nido Resorts staff, it means continuing to be a resource for our participants and others, along with monitoring and ensuring that the efforts of those two days do not go to waste. For us fellows, it means maximizing our last nine days here to help wherever we can in the implementation of the Action Plan and take home with us the lessons, experiences, and inspiration of these past weeks.
And lastly, for those of you who are still reading on our ninth blog post (Hi Mom and Dad!), this next act means keeping an eye out for our final post next week as our time here comes to a close.
Camille Bangug is a rising junior in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University majoring in International Politics with a certificate in International Development. On-campus, Camille consults for Georgetown Global Consulting, a non-profit student organization performing pro-bono consulting for NGOs and microfinance institutions around the world. She also serves on the Global Education Council of the Millennium Campus Network, which is a non-profit organization focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through collaboration across universities and professionals working in the field. Camille is looking forward to working with El Nido Resorts this summer to continue pursuing her passion of studying and working within sustainable development. Outside of these endeavors, Camille works with other social justice initiatives on campus and is an avid musician.