TACLOBAN CITY- The Department of Tourism (DOT) and private tour operators here in the region are preparing for the arrival of Russian tourists to Eastern Samar to mark this year’s 70th commemoration of the journey of ‘white’ Russians to Tubabao Island in Guiuan.
“We are developing a tour program and hope to pitch it to the Russian market with the help of the Russian embassy,” said Karen Tiopes, the DOT regional director.
The tour program is also in coordination with the Eastern Samar provincial government and concerned local government units.
“We are still finalizing the needs to develop this tour program,” Tiopes added, citing the collaboration of both public and private sectors for the tour program.
Butz Eguia, secretary of the Eastern Visayas Tourism Association (EVTA), said the “Dobrota Tur – The White Russians Transit Commemoration Tour” is the affinity that Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev wants to be more reminded to the world.
Dobrota is a Russian word for “kindness.”
“Some EVTA members were on board with the tourism group in conceptualizing, assessing and beta testing the Eastern Samar tourism circuit,” said Eguia.
The Eastern Samar tourism circuit starts from Tacloban City en route Samar towns of Basey and Marabut then Balangiga and Guiuan, both in Eastern Samar.
“Practically, it will involve more up to Borongan City, but it goes from step to step. We go for ripe destinations,” Eguia said.
According to him, the Debrota Tur is now a whole year event, adding that some Russian guests arrived in the region as early as February 24.
“There will be a festival sometime in October to November,” Eguia disclosed.
Meanwhile, the EVTA official lauded DOT officials for its “current practice of involving the private stakeholders of tourism product development in Region 8.”
Eguia said the concerted efforts involving the practitioners of the tourism industry including experts from the academe and religious and parish groups, such as in Balangiga, become an inclusive approach.
With their collaboration, the gaps and lack of access to tourism links are easily patch up to create a wholistic product for the visitors.
Equia gave a conservative estimate of 500 to 1,000 Russians to visit this year.
Franklin Robedizo, Eastern Samar Provincial Tourism Officer, said that aside from the availability of hotels, they also have a homestay program to accommodate the incoming visitors in the province.
“Some homestay trainings are conducted by the ‘Proyekto 25’ program on tourism under Governor Marcelo Ferdinand Picardal administration. The other trainings were funded and facilitated by the DOT through the municipal tourism offices in some identified areas,” Robedizo said.
In the spirit of Filipino hospitality, the late president Elpidio Quirino granted about 6,000 Russians, also known as white Russians for shunning communism in their country, to live at the Tubabao Island from 1949 to 1951 while they waited for other nations to grant them asylum.
The Philippines was the only nation that embraced the white Russians over their appeal for help to the international community after they fled from the communism campaign in their country to China.
The Filipinos gave a place for the white Russian refugees to stay for the next 27 months at the Island-turned US Naval Base Construction Depot despite the difficult situation in the country due to World War II devastation.
During their stay, the white Russians found “a paradise, a beach, and hope” at the Tubabao Island, courtesy of the “warmth of the Filipinos, and strength demonstrated by their people.”