EDITORIAL: Our kind of tourists


NAGA is not your kind of a tourist city. And yet, for over ten years now, the city, combined with its mother province – Camarines Sur -- continues to attract the highest total number of visitors amongst the other places in Bicol. This, while Legazpi City, the other major urban center in Bicol, remains to be the top drawer of foreign tourists. Naga that is being known for its cleaner streets, proud culture that is deeply rooted on its rich religious heritage, learning institutions that are comparable with Manila’s best, a laudable level of local governance, a dynamic trading economy, and most of all -- a warm and hospitable people. Because of such impressions and character, the city has become a laboratory of sorts for many visitors who do not come merely to have fun and adventure, enjoy enchanting landscapes, exotic festivals, and other fascinating escapades. What is more earnest about this interaction between visitors and hosts is that we learn from them as much as they learn from us. A group of four Korean students, for instance, is currently in Naga exploring small-scale business opportunities that will help the marginalized and the poor especially the unemployed and single mothers. Their visit is part of the feasibility and market studies they are conducting together with a student of Ateneo de Naga University. According to Kristian Sendon Cordero, the poet, film director, travelling scholar and deputy director of Ateneo de Naga University Press who acts as host and tour guide of the visiting students, Neri Rose Zamora, a senior business management student of Ateneo, was in South Korea last year and was able to convince all four to direct the focus of their projects in the Philippines. Coming from various academic disciplines, Jihoon Seong (English Literature Major), Jaeseo Lee (Political Science), Seung Hun Han, (Finance) and Ji An Ryu (International Studies) these four Korean students met their Filipino counterpart in the latter’s visit to South Korea last year. The Korean students are currently enrolled in Hanyang University, a private university in South Korea. All five students are part of the Social Venture Youth Exchange Program (SVYE) where they get a chance to improve their technical capability and social competence, teamwork and problem solving skills. “We are all excited to learn from each other. South Korea is more than what popular culture is showing to us. It is not just about K-Pop and soap operas. The country and people in South Korea, especially its young population, are all eager to explore and learn the world and as a Filipino student, I share in their dreams of building a better and just world for us. We want to achieve our maximum results and that we hope it would really be beneficial to our partner communities,” Ms. Zamora explains. For Seung Hun Han, “It is not just about making money, it goes beyond that. Money is not everything. In my short stay in Naga, I see how people struggle with their daily lives. The urban space is very different from ours and I find this strange for instance that in nearby hospital one sees a vulcanizing shop. It is completely stranger for me but I am willing to learn how you do things here in Naga and I am so impressed by everyone’s generosity.” Enjoying their stay here, the Korean students are now testing this social venture program they aptly call KAINA (Let’s Eat), a food service program that aims to introduce the best of Korean cuisine at very affordable price. “We want to help these vulnerable women and their children find ways to address unemployment by asking them as business partners. We want to empower them and we want to make sure that we serve nutritious food,” said Ji An Ryu. They also have checked the local market prices both in the two big malls and in the local market and held informal talks, consultation and food tasting with students and faculty members of Ateneo de Naga. To our visitors, we say ‘Dagos po kamo’ and enjoy your stay. Please feel at home.