Klima Kabisayaan: Making regenerative tourism the new normal

By Paula Bernasor


Kinaadtong bata pa ko, gitudluan ko sa ako mama sa pagbalik sa mga dulaan sa butanganan ug pag-ayo sa mga butang sama sa mga gisi nga t-shirt ug kung pwede panindoton pa. Mao sad ni ang idea behind regenerative tourism. A New York Times article titled: “Move Over, Sustainable Travel. Regenerative Travel Has Arrived” defines regenerative travel/ tourism as  “leaving a place better than you found it.” As we reopen tourism in the country, can the Visayas take the lead in the transition to regenerative tourism?

The concept of regeneration is not new. There is even a Greek noun “rebirth” or “regeneration.” Palingenesis is a concept of rebirth or re-creation, used in various contexts in philosophy, theology, politics, and biology.

Unknown to many, the Visayas is home to nine (9) elite eco-tourist destinations, including Bohol, Boracay, Padre Burgos (Southern Leyte) Guimaras island, Siquijor province, Sibuyan island, Samar, Sipalay (Negros Occidental), and Malapascua island in Cebu. Boasting countless popular destinations, it is no surprise that a good number of these spots are facing issues on sustainability. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, these destinations had to take a pause in their normal operations.

During the Third Regional Hangout, the Climate Reality Leaders in Visayas shared their favorite local eco destinations—from community-led tourism projects like Aloguinsan Bojo River Cruise to eco-friendly whale shark watching in Southern Leyte. We learned of  new places in Guiuan and Aklan and reviewed the current good and bad practices together with ideas and solutions for the regenerative transition as the Visayas reopens for tourism.

For Western Visayas, specifically in the case of Boracay, they have observed improvements in waste segregation, promotion of other destinations in the Bora Circuit, and the opportunity to revisit long-term plans including improvement in sustainability mechanisms and rehabilitation of the wastewater system in the island. However, they noted that there is poor coordination among local government units (LGUs) in gatekeeping eco-tourism spots, poor transport system, and the need to improve the parameters to address water, air, and ground issues. One of the ideas they thought of was creating a single authority to manage the ecotourism area and they saw that the much-needed action is to strictly implement guidelines.

For Central and Eastern Visayas, the leaders noted that it was great to have an intensive long-term social preparation for the community in eco-tourism sites and the strengthening cooperation between communities, government agencies, and LGUs, especially in Samar Island Natural Park, Cuatros Islas, and Padre Burgos in Southern Leyte. What remains bad are the lack of consistency in eco-tourism policies and the failure of a bulk of big businesses to follow eco-tourism principles such as in Cebu, Marabut, and Kalanggaman Island. The main ideas brought forward were primarily addressing the needs of the community first— skills training, opening markets to multiple income streams for communities, and financial literacy and access— and engaging LGUs by creating technical experts within their pool to localize skills. What they see that should be done first is the promotion and development of conservation and sustainable livelihoods before fully promoting tourism in the locality, as well as the creation of a multipartite monitoring/ evaluation task group for regular and proactive feedback.

I am also happy to share that during Earth Day, we officially launched Klima ug Kalikupan (Climate and Environment), a partnership with the Cebu Technological University (CTU) to conduct a series of talks and lectures on climate change and environmental issues concerning Cebuanos. With this is a hope to jumpstart more robust dialogues about the environmental and development issues affecting the Visayas and even the Mindanao region which, in turn, will hopefully lead to more informed and active Filipinos who take part in the future of the country.

Indeed, there is still a long list of to-dos for the Visayas region to truly lead the transition to regenerative tourism. It is a long process but not an impossible one. The local government leaders of the Mobility Awards winners in the Visayas—Iloilo City, Mandaue City, and Cebu City—proved this. I had the opportunity to hand over the awards and interview the mayors on these cities. It is definitely no secret that the way to a more sustainable destination is through multi-sectoral cooperation backed by a strong political will.

Just as regeneration is an endless cycle of renewal, Visayans also need to adopt and regenerate new ideas to address the challenges on sustainability in tourism. I, along with the Climate Reality Leaders in Visayas, are glad to be part of the movement towards regeneration and I hope that you will also take part in the movement starting by joining our #BetterBingo quarterly challenge. Next month, I am extra excited to share with you more about oceans and the wave of change! 



Paula Bernasor is the Visayas Coordinator of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. She is a Climate Reality Philippines Leader and Mentor, Chapter Director for Startup Grind Cebu, and a volunteer for Project Sharklink and Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project. She previously worked as an Associate for Partnerships for Rare Organisation’s Fish Forever in the Philippines. She started Project Library in the Philippines, a grassroots movement that helps underprivileged communities in remote areas gain access to books and reading materials, as well as Ocean Love Philippines, which uses social media to spread awareness on pressing environmental issues and to promote a sustainable lifestyle and the circular economy. 


Klima Kabisayaan is a space that aims to amplify the climate stories and initiatives of the more than 300 Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders in Visayas.

It is one of the monthly columns launched by The Climate Reality Project Philippines to elevate the climate discourse and strengthen climate action across all regions in the Philippines.