The Department of Tourism (DOT) says the implementation of the visa upon arrival (VUA) program will drive devoted followers of what is now considered a cultural phenomenon of Mazuism to look at the Philippines as its next festival hub.
According to Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, two months since she pressed the Department of Justice to roll out the VUA option to Chinese citizens, arrivals from China surged by 54.92 percent from 61,766 arrivals August last year to 95,687 of same period this year.
“If these figures are any indication, the Philippines can certainly piggyback on VUA to attract more Chinese travelers considering that a huge number of this market are package tour buyers. I am confident this ease in visa requirement is an attractive proposition for the country to host big-ticket events such as Mazu culture festival,” she added, pointing to the 300 million Mazuists worldwide.
Teo was among key personalities from across the globe invited by Friends of the Philippinesâ€™ Foundation (FPF) in the recently concluded Mazu cultural tour festival held at Tin Hau Temple at Coloane in Macau. She said, “as a country blessed with so many heritage festivals ourselves, the Philippines can draw out from Mazu cultural tour festival’s overwhelming turnout year on year.”
“A game changer for Philippine tourism, VUA can also become a major turning point in attracting the fast growing Mazuism all over the world,” she added, citing Mazu as example of a cultural movement that has turned into a widespread phenomenon overtime.
The tourism chief disclosed that among the DOT’s plans of growing cultural festival in the country is paving the way for cultural diversity to flourish. “As a melting pot of many different cultures, religions, the Philippines stands to benefit in embracing this centuries-old Eastern belief,” Teo added.
She said a Chinese Mazu Cultural Center will soon rise in Manila Bay under the auspices of FPF. “This should become a centerpiece for economic and cultural exchanges between Chinese and the Philippines, promoting the valuable Mazu culture as well as advancing Sino-Philippine friendship.”
The said hub will feature the much anticipated six-meter-high Mazu statue at the bay showcasing many tourism, business, leisure and cultural activities.
In 2009, the Mazu culture has been added into the “List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Every 23rd day of March on the lunar calendar marks the birthdate of Mazu, while followers also celebrate Mazu’s ascent every 9th of September. Macau has since hosted 15 successful editions of the said culture festival.
(Sixth from left) Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo joins other key personalities and Mazu advocates from across the globe during the Mazu culture tourism festival opening ceremony held at Tin Hau Temple in Coloane, Macau last Saturday
(2nd from right) Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo pays homage to Mazu with other guests