Di­rect­ing the ‘cen­ter of grav­ity’ of PH tourism

Sun.Star Cebu - - LIVE! - JENARA REGIS NEW­MAN / Writer

“Ihit the ground run­ning,” re­marked Shal­i­mar Hofer Ta­mano of his as­sign­ment as Re­gion 7 Di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Tourism (DOT).

Re­gion 7—Cebu, Bo­hol, Ne­gros Ori­en­tal and Siqui­jor—is Shal­i­mar’s first field as­sign­ment. He sees Cebu has its beach re­sorts, dol­phin watch­ing at­trac­tion, Basil­ica del Santo Niño and stone churches. Ori­en­tal Ne­gros has its Apo Is­land and Man­juyod sand bar. Du­maguete was re­cently named by the DOT as a re­tire­ment cen­ter of the coun­try, and it is where he walks the city’s pop­u­lar boule­vard incog­nito and en­joys a side­walk mas­sage. Siqui­jor is de­vel­op­ing to be a hide­away for some of the very rich peo­ple in Manila. Bo­hol has its beau­ti­ful beaches. And with the new in­ter­na­tional air­port, there will be more tourists bound for that area.

“My first day in Cebu was last year, Jan. 4, and that was a busy time for Sin­u­log prepa­ra­tions. Then there was Iron­man, then the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Mac­tan-Cebu In­ter­na­tional Air­port and shortly after, the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Bo­hol-Panglao In­ter­na­tional air­port,” Ta­mano re­called. “Do you know there are 26 air­lines that land in Mac­tan, some of them you may never have heard of be­fore?”

He had been work­ing in the DOT main of­fice since 2006, ini­tially to head the depart­ment’s Ha­lal De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram. In 2011, he was chair­man of the DOT Eco­nomic Clus­ter of Leg­isla­tive Li­ai­son Sys­tem. In 2016, he was head of DOT’s Leg­isla­tive Li­ai­son Of­fice, and con­cur­rently held that po­si­tion with the DOT Of­fice of In­ter­nal Au­dit Ser­vice at the time he was as­signed to Re­gion 7—a re­gion he is fa­mil­iar with since his mother, Mar­lene Hofer, comes from Gi­nati­lan, Cebu.

If his name, Shal­i­mar, is ex­otic to Visayan na­tives, so is his birth­place, Cairo, where his par­ents, both aca­demi­cians, were tak­ing fur­ther stud­ies. His fa­ther, Sali­pada Ta­mano, is chan­cel­lor of the King Faisal Cen­ter of Min­danao State Univer­sity (MSU) in Marawi City, and his mother, a Towns awardee, was dean of the Col­lege of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion of the same univer­sity.

Grow­ing up, MSU was home for Shal­i­mar where he had his grade school, high school and col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. He has a de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion and was the re­cip­i­ent of the Col­lege Lead­er­ship Award. He was also the Marawi City ROTC Corps Com­man­der back in the day. After col­lege, he dab­bled in var­i­ous things, in­clud­ing tak­ing up law in Ate­neo de Manila—but did not fin­ish—and run­ning for Con­gress, but lost (of this he wryly com­mented, “I thought I was one of the Spice Boys.”) He passed the Ca­reer Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive Ex­am­i­na­tion in 2005 and joined the Depart­ment of Tourism a year later.

Of his last as­sign­ment in Manila, he said it was dif­fi­cult be­cause he had to li­ai­son with 300 rep­re­sen­ta­tives who served their dis­tricts.

“I had to know their back­ground, their man­date. But still I en­joyed my work, though it was not easy. I still com­mu­ni­cate with some of them,” he shared. “This Cebu as­sign­ment is won­der­ful. I have a very com­pe­tent staff.”

After an event­ful year, he ex­pects 2019 to be equally, if not more, busy with sev­eral con­ven­tions to be hosted in the re­gion: Routes Asia (a high-end avi­a­tion in­dus­try gath­er­ing), Capa - Cen­tre for Avi­a­tion and Pata (Pa­cific Asia Travel As­so­ci­a­tion).

A sports en­thu­si­ast him­self—he was into bas­ket­ball in school and is a judo black bel­ter (he won a bronze medal in a black belt com­pe­ti­tion)—Shal­i­mar wants to fo­cus on sports tourism like beach vol­ley­ball and ar­nis. In 2020, ar­nis will have an in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment in Cebu.

“Peo­ple pay top money to view a sumo match in Ja­pan. Why not for an ar­nis fight in Cebu?”

Shal­i­mar may have “hit the ground run­ning” when he as­sumed his post as DOT Re­gion 7 Di­rec­tor but he cer­tainly has not flagged down and has kept his pace well and good in the re­gion which he con­sid­ers the “cen­ter of grav­ity of tourism” in the Philip­pines.

“I am thank­ful I was as­signed here be­cause I now re­al­ize that here is the cen­ter of grav­ity as far as tourism is con­cerned. That is why we have to work harder. Ev­ery­thing has to be world-class; trans­porta­tion, ac­com­mo­da­tion. And most im­por­tant is safety. A happy tourist is one who ar­rives and de­parts safely.”

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