September 23, 2023

Twenty-six local tourists stranded in Baguio City since the enhanced community quarantine in March were sent to their respective hometowns on May 29.

The Department of Tourism Cordillera with member-agencies of the Regional Task Force on Covid-19 in the region organized a sweeper bus operation to bring home the locally stranded individuals.

DOT-Cordillera Officer-in-Charge Jovita Ganongan said the DOT organized the “Hatid Turista Program” in cooperation with the regional offices of the Department of Transportation through the Land Transportation Office and Department of the Interior and Local Government, Police Regional Office-Cordillera, and the City Government of Baguio.

The tourists were brought to Pangasinan in Region 1, Pampanga in Region 3, Batangas and Cavite in Region 4-A, Aklan in Region 6, and other cities in the National Capital Region, Ganongan said.

“We are now sending home the stranded tourists, who were also assisted by the DOT-Cordillera and other government agencies in the past two months during their stay in the city,” she said. 

The LTO-Cordillera coordinated with the LTO and DOTR offices in Region 1, 3, 4-A, 6, and NCR about the areas where the bus will bring the tourists. DILG-Cordillera coordinated with the respective local government units, while the PRO-Cor provided special travel passes for the passengers and the bus that ferried them. Victory Liner Bus provided the bus free of charge.

All passengers were subjected to Covid-19 screening and applied for health certificates before they were sent home.

Ramonita Reuyan, 64, a person with disability, was happy and thankful for the provision of a sweeper bus that would bring them home in Cavite City.

Maraming pong salamat sa tulong na ito. Nag-aalala na po kami kung paano kami makakauwi, buti na lang po at mayroon kayo na taga-Baguio at sa gobyerno,” she said before their travel.

She said her family came to Baguio on March 14 for the wake of a relative. Unfortunately, they were locked down in Loakan barangay following the declaration by President Rodrigo Duterte of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon on March 16 due to the Covid-19 threat. 

 Twenty-one-year-old Julius Villaco of Aklan in the Visayas also expressed his gratitude to the people of Baguio City who took care of them during the lockdown period.

Villaco, with his two friends, came to Baguio on March 12 for a week-long vacation but they were stranded in Country Club Village barangay since the ECQ.

They are thankful to Imee Ibanag, the owner of the transient house where they stayed in the past two months. With limited budget, they were fortunate to have been included as beneficiaries of relief goods from the barangay and the city government even though they are not residents of the city.

“The people of Baguio are very kind. We are very thankful that they took us in during the lockdown. We do not want yet to go home but we promise to come back when the situation improved,” Villaco said.

Aside from the free ride, the DOT-Cordillera also provided each passenger with a tourist care kit that includes a sanitizer, face mask, water, and snacks; while the City Tourism Office provided meals for the duration of the trip.

A send-off program was held prior to the departure of the bus led by Ganongan, LTO-Cordillera Director Francis Almora, DILG-Cordillera Director Marlo Iringan, and City Tourism Office representatives.

The DOT already sent more than 100 foreign tourists who were stranded in the Cordillera. Another Hatid Turista Program is being mounted for other locally stranded tourists. – Redjie M. Cawis