Whatever the criticism of the Suroy Suroy sa Sugbo tourism program, it can’t be denied that it has exposed rural Cebu in a big, positive way to balikbayans and visitors, and ignited a sense of pride in towns and cities.
This is the reason Vice Governor-elect Agnes Magpale said she wants to continue it, with some adjustments.
Instead of hurried stop-eat-and-run itineraries through 15 towns, a more relaxed pace for selected sites appeals to tourists who want time to savor the experience of each locality.
Voluntary participation of mayors is better than having towns made compulsory destinations. More cost-efficiency results from inviting more paying guests than free participants.
The final decision whether to retain the program may no longer be for incoming Cebu governor Hilario “Junjun” Davide III to make, given that the Suroy Suroy was institutionalized in an ordinance passed by the Provincial Board (PB) and signed by his soon-to-be predecessor, suspended Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.
The basic plan of promoting the Cebu countryside and developing “pride of place” was sound. It was the trappings that led it astray.
Much of the criticism of the program stemmed from the way it promoted a personality cult around Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, whose face graced each advertisement and marketing banner.
She was hostess no. 1 leading each caravan and savoring the adulation of welcome parties in each town, where schoolchildren were lined up on the roads to wave flaglets and greet vistors as local officials danced attendance on the governor.
In the “revised” format of two Suroy Suroy excursions this year to south Cebu and Camotes Islands, the “star” was the visitors, who took their time soaking in the sights and having their meals on time, instead of waiting for VIPs at the presidential table to end their speeches.
The first Suroy Suroy sa Sugbo actually started in 2004 as a program of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry with its first foray in north Cebu.
Seeing its potential, Garcia readily adopted it and threw the Capitol’s resources behind it. That included prodding towns and cities to join the program and for private resorts to host each stop.
The pioneer effort of the chamber rarely got acknowledged even though the name Suroy Suroy, the fiesta welcome and titles of its destination tours were followed. Capitol officials were happy to let everyone believe it was Garcia’s brainchild.
Like the Kabayo Festival and the Aboitiz Foundation’s “Our Cebu” good governance program that were adopted by the Capitol, the Suroy Suroy was rebranded as Gwen’s project.
With a new administration coming on board after June 30, the original purpose of the Suroy Suroy to promote the beauty and heritage of Cebu’s countryside and to assert the unique identity of each town has a good chance of a solid incarnation, minus the politics of personalities.