Cebu officials welcome balikbayans at Mactan airport

January 15, 2011 11:04 am 

CEBU CITY, Jan. 14 – Officials from various government agencies Thursday welcomed 171 returning Filipinos, or “balikbayans,” and foreign guests from the United States and Canada to participate in the Fiesta Senor Sto. Nino celebrations.

For 10 years now, the traditional welcome of arriving balikbayans and foreign tourists led by the Department of Tourism (DOT) is done every Thursday before the actual Sinulog grand parade.

Among those who welcomed the balikbayans at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) were MCIA General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Tetta Baad of the Cebu City Tourism Commission, Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale, former tourism director Patria Aurora Roa and Director Ahmed Cuizon of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

Magpale, chairperson of the Cebu Provincial board tourism committee, said they cannot get the exact number of returning Filipinos who come home for the Sinulog, because unlike Thursday where arrivals were in bulk, other balikbayans arrived on board different flights since last week.

Baad said balikbayans from Los Angeles, California were organized by Milagros Gonzales, while those from San Francisco were organized by Undo Pacana. These are the balikbayans who can be easily counted.

Cinbeth Orellan of the Cebu City Tourism Commission said that although there are additional 1,000 hotel rooms in Cebu City, all the existing hotel rooms in Cebu are still not enough to accommodate the balikbayans and foreign guests.

Orellano said they facilitated the accommodation to a hotel of a group of Canadians who come to Cebu to participate in the Fiesta Senor celebrations, but three of them were transferred to another hotels due to lack of rooms.

”There is no way to track the exact number of balikbayans, but the best way to determine whether visitors during the Sinulog increased is the occupancy rate of the hotels,” Roa said. (PNA) DCT/EB/ad

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