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Albay launches digital tourism program with Smart, InnoPub Media

Travel to the many attractions of Albay, from Mayon Volcano with its near perfect cone to Spanish period churches and other centuries-old structures, has been made easier with the launch…

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Travel to the many attractions of Albay, from Mayon Volcano with its near perfect cone to Spanish period churches and other centuries-old structures, has been made easier with the launch of a mobile app that serves as a handy guide to the province.

The Albay Guide, made possible through a collaboration among the Albay Provincial Government, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), journalism startup InnoPub Media, and other tourism stakeholders, is a comprehensive travel app that can be downloaded on iOS, Android, and Windows phones and other mobile devices.

Albay Digital Tourism

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda leads the unveiling of the Daraga marker to mark the launch of the Digital Tourism initiative in the province. The project is a  collaboration among the Provincial Government, Smart Communications, Inc., and Cebu-based startup InnoPub Media.

“Albay is one of the most beautiful provinces in the Philippines. It has been cited by international tour organizations as the best destination in Southeast Asia,” said Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The app lists such Albay destinations as the Cagsawa Ruins, Lidong National Park, Mayon Skyline and Mayon Resthouse, Misibis Bay Resort, Lignon Hill Nature Park, Vera Falls, Kawa-Kawa Hill, Embarcadero de Legazpi, and Danao Lake and provides information useful to visitors, such as detailed instructions on getting to the sites and the many activities they can do when they arrive.

Albay Guide

Intrigued by Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone? The Albay Guide gives you the many ways you can enjoy Mayon.

Whether it is just to know the best spots to view or take a photo of Mayon or get up close and personal through an ATV Ride along the volcano’s lava trail, the Albay Guide is your best bet for information on these activities.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to bring our digital tourism program to Albay in collaboration with our partners. The province has been a long time partner for various initiatives like disaster preparedness. Aside from enriching people’s travel experiences, digital tourism also opens up opportunities for local communities and businesses,” said Ramon R. Isberto, Smart public affairs group head.

Albay’s beauty, according to Salceda, is not limited to its natural assets. He said the province is also rich in arts and cultural heritage, citing its man-made citadels and monuments, a culinarian that showcases the best in food and thrilling innovations in fine dining, and ladies who have been winning beauty pageants around the world.

“With Albay’s 7.1 percent share in foreign tourists and expanding number of domestic visitors, Smart’s Digital Tourism program will further fortify the province’s position in a highly competitive tourism industry,” said the governor.

Digital tourism

The free Albay Guide app and digital markers on top destinations will lead to greater customer satisfaction through easily accessible tourism information and result in more repeat visitors, he added.

Albay Digital Tourism

Blessing of Digital Tourism markers, represented by the one that will be placed on Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church in Daraga, Albay.

“Digital Tourism will boost our product positioning and brand franchising of unique iconic features like Mayon Volcano and Cagsawa Ruins and such unforgettable engagements as the Mayon ATV. It will also fortify our positioning as ecotourism, cultural, and culinary destinations,” Salceda also said.

Also provided in the mobile app are details on travel to Abay’s ancient churches and other heritage monuments, the best places to sample local fares like Bicol Express, pinangat, and sili ice cream, the best pasalubong and where to buy them, hotels and accommodations, as well the top things to do in the province.

The Albay Guide is one component of Smart’s digital tourism program that was launched last Friday, April 10, in the historic and majestic Our Lady of the Gate Church in Daraga, Albay.

“It is a unique launching place: it is on top of Santa Maria Hill, in front of the centuries-old baroque church, overlooking the center of Albay, and under the shadows of the Majestic Mayon Volcano. How nice it would be to unveil a technological wonder so close to the clouds yet firmly grounded on the natural wonders of Albay,” said Salceda.

Mobile travel

“Mobile plays a key role in travel. A study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT showed phones are used throughout the travel process – from getting travel inspiration to planning, booking, experiencing and even post traveling – with 67% of leisure travelers and 78% of business travelers using smartphones,” said InnoPub co-founder Marlen Limpag, “Our phones do not just keep us connected during our trips, they are our cameras, boarding passes, portable media players and, in our Digital Tourism program, travel guides.”

Interactive markers will also be deployed on special sites like churches, plazas, and monuments to provide visitors more information on Albay’s rich historical heritage.

The markers contain quick response or QR codes and near-field communications or NFC stickers that, when scanned or tapped with a compatible device, trigger the download of more information about a site or structure.

Smart’s digital tourism program is a nationwide initiative that harnesses technology to deliver tourism, cultural and historical information. Through the collaboration with InnoPub Media, the project has been rolled out in Cebu, Iloilo, and Baguio City. It was given an Anvil Award of Merit in February 2014.

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SMART, InnoPub hold Panagbenga 2015 photo contest

Are you celebrating the Panagbenga Festival 2015 in Baguio City? Join the SMART-Innopub social media photo contest and get the chance to win one of three LTE pocket Wi-Fi devices….

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Are you celebrating the Panagbenga Festival 2015 in Baguio City? Join the SMART-Innopub social media photo contest and get the chance to win one of three LTE pocket Wi-Fi devices.

All you need to do is like the official Facebook pages of Smart Travel PH and Smart Communications, Inc., download the free Baguio Guide app to your Android or Windows phone devices, and tag the Panagbenga 2015-related photos you upload to your social media accounts with #smartpanagbenga.

Baguio Guide mobile app

Baguio Guide mobile app

InnoPub Media, in coordination with wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc., is holding an online photo contest covering Panagbenga 2015-related activities.

The Panagbenga 2015 photo contest will run from February 25 to March 2. To join, all you need to do is post your Panagbenga 2015 photos in your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts and tag them with #smartpanagbenga and notify us of your entry by leaving a link to your photo as a comment in the Smart Travel PH FB page.

The Best Panagbenga 2015 Photo, Best Panagbenga Selfie, and Best Media/Blogger Entry will each win a SMART LTE pocket wifi device. Aside from #smartpanagbenga, photos by media and bloggers must carry either the #baguiomedia or #baguioblogger tags.

Smart and InnoPub will be selecting 10 finalists and posting their photos on the Smart Travel FB page on March 5. Read the full mechanics of the SMART-InnoPub Social Media Photo Contest in the Baguio Guide app.

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Panagbenga Festival pays tribute to beautiful blooms, unites diverse Baguio

Taking inspiration from Pasadena’s “The Rose Parade,” Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival is held not in honor of some saint or legend but pays tribute to the city’s beautiful blooms. A…

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Taking inspiration from Pasadena’s “The Rose Parade,” Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival is held not in honor of some saint or legend but pays tribute to the city’s beautiful blooms.

A historian and museum curator, Ike Picpican, named the festival Panagbenga, a word in the local Kankanaey dialect that refers to a season of blossoming.

Panagbenga Festival

Panagbenga Festival participants perform the warrior’s dance of the ethnic Ifugao tribe.(Creative Commons photo by Miguel Isidro Photography)

For a city that has been through so much, the Panagbenga takes on a special significance as it also means the blooming of an idea or vision for hope, revival, unity, and growth.

Panagbenga Festival 2015 schedule of activities

Father of Panagbenga

Baguio’s crowd-drawing flower festival was conceptualized in 1995 by a man they now call the Father of Panagbenga, Atty. Damaso Bangaoet Jr.

The city was still reeling from a killer quake that left it in rubbles in 1990. The Panagbenga Festival gave people hope for a brighter future.

A tiger float made of flowers was one of the Grand Float Parade entries during the Panagbenga Festival 2010. (Creative Commons photo by Adel Mendoza)

A tiger float made of flowers was one of the Grand Float Parade entries during the Panagbenga Festival 2010. (Creative Commons photo by Adel Mendoza)

Bangaoet, who was then the head of the John Hay-Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC), presented his idea to the board of directors and it was immediately approved. JPDC allocated funds to help bring it about.

Sunflower emblem

Like its wild sunflower emblem, the Panagbenga Festival continues to blossom year after year.

The people of Baguio and visitors to the summer capital took to the flower-inspired festival as it doesn’t trample on cultural practices or beliefs and divide tribes.

What the celebration does is promote local culture and unite a Baguio of diverse ethnic backgrounds behind a festival it can consider its own.

Bangaoet cooked up the festival to draw more tourists to Baguio on a February, which is considered a lean season for travel.

Festival highlights

The Panagbenga Festival has grown to become one of Baguio’s biggest tourism attractions some 20 years since it was first conceptualized.

One of the highlights of the month-long celebration is the Floral Parade, which happens on a seven-kilometer stretch of street and involves groups of dancers garbed in flowery costumes performing the Bendian dance.

The biggest draw of the Panagbenga Festival, however, is the Grand Float Parade. During this event, Baguio highlights its artistry in the flower float creations that glide through the streets.

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Top 10 places to visit in Albay

From Mayon Volcano with its near perfect cone to white, golden and black sand beaches, waterfalls and caves, Spanish period churches and ancestral houses, Albay is home to scenic spots…

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From Mayon Volcano with its near perfect cone to white, golden and black sand beaches, waterfalls and caves, Spanish period churches and ancestral houses, Albay is home to scenic spots and majestic structures.

The province is a complete destination for travellers who are after leisure, adventure, and new experiences.

With all that Albay has to offer guests and tourists, the Provincial Government under the leadership of Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda and Vice Gov. Harold Ong Imperial has made tourism one of its priority programs.

Daraga Church Albay

A view of Mayon Volcano from Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church in Daraga.

Albay attractions, whether natural or built wonders, are easily accessible by private or public transport.
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Baguio, city with cool climes and fabulous views

Baguio City’s cool climate and wide vistas make it popular with local and foreign visitors, especially during days when the temperature in low lying areas climb up to over 30 degrees C….

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Baguio City’s cool climate and wide vistas make it popular with local and foreign visitors, especially during days when the temperature in low lying areas climb up to over 30 degrees C.

In hot, tropical Philippines, the city’s cooler than average temperature is a novelty and earned it the title of “summer capital” begining in 1903.

Baguio, which lies on a plateau 5,000 feet above sea level , is also blessed with sweeping views of the Cordillera mountain range in northern Luzon.

Baguio City Hall

Constructed in 1949-1950, the Baguio City Hall replaced a previous structure built in 1910 during the term of E.W. Reynolds, first city mayor. It was destroyed during World War II in 1945.

A mountainous terrain provides Baguio with natural tourist attractions like forests and watersheds as well as scenic mountain ranges.

One thing closely associated with Baguio is the Pinus Insularis (Benguet Pine), and the abundance of these trees in the area earned it the “City of Pines” label. Baguio is part of the Province of Benguet.

Beginnings

From its beginnings as a vast grassland, a grazing area for hundreds of herds of cattle, Baguio has transformed into an urban center with a technology hub, high-end hotels, and retail facilities for top imported and local brands.

City of Pines

Aside from the summer capital, Baguio is also called the “City of Pines” due to the abundance of these trees in the area.

In Spanish records, the very first mention of Baguio identify it as one of 31 rancherias, a minor rancheria of 20 houses, established by Spanish Commandante Guillermo D. Galvey in the late 19th century.

Baguio was a minor rancheria of the Commandancia put up by Galvey in a valley in Benguet in 1864. He named it La Trinidad after his wife, Trinidad de Galvey, Baguio City records showed.

The city’s early name was Kafagway and this later became Baguio, from the native word “Bag-iw” meaning moss.

When the Americans took over from the Spaniards, they established the first provincial government in Benguet and appointed a Canadian journalist, Hubert Phelps Whitmarsh, as governor.

American city

In Baguio, among the very first things one notices are the foreign names, American in particular, of parks, streets, and other sites. Other memorabilias of that era include American colonial buildings and 50’s-themed diners within the city center.

Lion's Head, Kennon Road

You know you’re near Baguio City when you pass by the Lion’s Head along Kennon Road. This monument is sculpted from natural rock formation, according to a marker put up by the Lion’s Club of Baguio.

This is because the Americans, when they first took possession of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war, put a premium on Baguio’s development because of its refreshing climate.

It was a renowned American architect, Daniel H. Burnham, who prepared the urban design for Baguio in the early 1900s, said its City Tourism Office. Burnham was tasked to create an urban plan for the city by William Cameron Forbes, who was appointed to the Philippine Commission in 1904. This plan was presented to then Secretary of War William Howard Taft who immediately approved it.

Baguio was declared the country’s “Summer Capital” on June 1, 1903 by the Philippine Commission. The declaration allowed the Americans to set aside funds for the construction of basic infrastructure in the city and undertake improvements to the Benguet Road.

The road, renamed Kennon Road after the engineer (Col. Lyman W. Kennon) who was instrumental in its completion, was started in 1901 and completed in 1905.

With the Philippine Commission further adopting Act 1963 in 1909 that transformed it into a chartered city, Baguio by 1913 had the amenities of a typical 20th century American city.

Tourism mecca

After it was reduced to rubble during World War II, there was tremendous effort to rebuild the city based on the Burnham plan. This was laid to waste during the killer earthquake of 1990.

Baguio’s spirit of community allowed it to reclaim its position as the country’s summer capital and position itself as the tourism mecca of the north.

As an urban center and the only city in the Cordillera, Baguio has also become the gateway to the Cordilleras and other wonders in Northern Luzon.

The city’s population is pegged at 318,676 based on the 2010 census. It has a very high literacy rate of 98 percent, according to the tourism office.

Baguio’s socio-cultural scene is enriched by a variety of ethno-linguistic groups that include the Ibalois, considered the original settlers, together with other Cordilleran groups such as the Bontocs, Kalingas, Ifugaos, and Kankanais and together they comprise about 10 percent of the population.

Tourism continues to flourish in the city, which now hosts state of the art telecommunication facilities, a wide range of accommodation types, and various transport services including air travel, bus lines, and other public utility vehicles.

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Baguio Cathedral: place of worship, refuge

One of the more durable 20th century structures in the Philippine summer capital, the Baguio Cathedral survived the carpet bombings by Allied Forces in 1945 and the killer earthquake of…

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One of the more durable 20th century structures in the Philippine summer capital, the Baguio Cathedral survived the carpet bombings by Allied Forces in 1945 and the killer earthquake of 1990.

This church is the very first in the world dedicated to Our Lady of Atonement, according to the Archdiocese of Baguio, citing an entry in the February 1939 issue of a Catholic publication named “The Lamp.”

Baguio Cathedral

The Baguio Cathedral survived the carpet bombings by Allied Forces in 1945 and the killer earthquake of 1990. (Photo by Max Limpag)

With its pink color and Gothic-influenced twin spires and rose windows, the cathedral is a popular tourist attraction in Baguio City.

This church of Baguio is one of a few edifices of worship not built by the Spaniards. Rather, Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM) missionaries who arrived in Baguio from Belgium in 1907 worked towards the Baguio Cathedral’s construction by appealing for donations from local and international donors.

Constructed in phases

About 25 Igorot carpenters under the supervision of Fr. Florimund Carlu, first rector (1913-1927) of the Baguio mission, helped complete the structure in 1924 sans its spiral towers. They were assisted by architect and engineer priest Rev. Fr. Leo Vendelmans as well Fr. Adolph Cansse.

Work on the church happened in phases, beginning in 1920 and ending in 1936 when it was finally consecrated.

People sought refuge in the Baguio Cathedral when the city was bombed by Americans in 1945 to drive out invading Japanese forces.

It was damaged during the July 16, 1990 earthquake that reduced Baguio to rubble and had to undergo repairs.

Location: Stands on a hill originally named “Kampo” by the native Ibalois but renamed Mount Mary by the CICM missionaries. It is easily accessible from Session Road, one of Baguio City’s main thoroughfares.

Nearby attractions: Within walking distance are Session Road, Abanao Market, and Burnham Park.

BAGUIO GUIDE

baguio-guide
Get a guide to Baguio City in your phone or tablet by downloading our free Baguio Guide from the Google Play Store or Windows Phone Store. The app is a comprehensive guide to the Philippines’ summer capital, listing things to do and places to stay or go to. It also contains a portable directory of important contact numbers and DOT-accredited establishments.

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