Dark tourism and other stories

THE Philippines has many other attractions aside from beautiful beaches and the warm and friendly people. There are interesting and sometimes even strange options for local and foreign tourists.

Now abandoned and believed to be haunted, Diplomat
Hotel in Baguio City was a stone monastery belonging
to the Dominican order. The hotel is part of efforts to
promote ‘dark tourism’ in the country.

Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) and its partners recently kicked off the #HelloPH series of meet-ups in an effort to highlight local stories and homegrown talents via technology. 

Through the Doon Po Sa Amin (DPSA) online community mapping competition and SWEEP open competition, Smart promotes the various regions with the collaborative meet-up series conducted in partnership with local groups. 

With the help of community partners and local tourism councils, Smart co-organized meet-ups for #HelloDavao, #HelloGenSan, and #HelloBaguio last month. In all of these activities, advocates and experts talked about the best things their hometown has to offer as well as to celebrate local talents especially in the technology space.

“We know that Davao is popular for Durian, or that Cebu celebrates one of Philippines’ grandest festivals, Sinulog. But there are more stories that make these places unique and interesting. These stories are what we want to uncover and preserve through Doon Po Sa Amin with the help of our local partners,” said Public Affairs group head Ramon Isberto. 

Smart also introduced to participants the SWEEP Open Competition, a mobile applications development contest open for college students. It is a new category under the 11th SWEEP (Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program) as the SWEEP Awards was previously confined to entries from students of Smart’s 44 partner colleges and universities.  Any college student can now join the competition under this category. SWEEP is the first-of-its-kind industry-academe partnership that aims to improve the level of technology and engineering education in the country by providing training, lectures and workshops on the latest developments in wireless technologies. To know more about SWEEP open competition, visit

Participants in the Baguio leg pose for a group photo after
a successful meet-up.

“We are very grateful to Smart for providing us with training programs on the latest technologies. Because of SWEEP, we are able to produce industry-ready graduates,” said engineer Jeferd Saong, program chairman for Electronics and Communications Engineering in the University of Baguio.

With #HelloPH, communities learned to appreciate their respective hometowns and heroes more as the speakers talk about the strengths of their places as destinations of choice.

In Davao, Tourism Assistant Secretary Arturo Boncato Jr. shared the department’s international campaign plans for Davao and the whole of Mindanao, which has been dubbed the eco-adventure capital of the country with the various outdoor activities it offers tourists. The Tourism Department also wants to promote Davao as a preferred destination for events, entertainment, health and wellness and education.

In General Santos, Sarangani and Region 12 Tourism Council chairman Michelle Solon said DPSA was a means to counter negative impressions about Mindanao.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Arturo
Boncato Jr. bares the department’s
plans for Davao and the whole of

For the Baguio leg, professor Farland Valera from the University of Baguio introduced the concept of thanatourism or dark tourism. Dark tourism is defined by Wikipedia as “tourism involving travel to sites historically associated with death and tragedy.” 

This November, Smart will hold DPSA meet-ups in Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, and Cebu.

The DPSA is an annual search for the best hometown stories. It was first mounted by Smart in 2008. It is the biggest and longest running multimedia crowdsourced community mapping activity in the country. The main output of the competition is an animation, music video, documentary, or short film featuring unique stories about their town, which will then be mapped and made available online.  These entries can be about a town’s history, traditions, festivals and activities, places to visit, notable people, unique plants and animals, special delicacies and local products. 

Tourism Council chairman Michelle Solon shares
the projects and outputs of the Sarangani Tourism
Industry Association.

In recent years, DPSA has generated stories about coconut worms as exotic food in Butuan, unique seafood delicacies in Barobo, cacao production in Cavite, a sleeping volcano in Sorsogon, hidden gems in Polomolok, South Cotabato and the beauty of Tinapak River in Rizal.

Initially launched for primary and secondary schools nationwide, the competition gets more exciting on its 7th year with the addition of an open category allowing all Pinoy filmmaking enthusiasts to join.

Teams may register and submit videos until Nov. 30 via Entries will be judged according to content (40 percent), creativity (30 percent), execution (20 percent), and impact (10 percent). More than P500,000 is at stake for the winners.

Both DPSA and SWEEP are part of the Smart Schools Program and are aligned with the company’s digital inclusion advocacy that aims to make technology and information accessible to all Filipinos.

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