SABANGAN, Mountain Province – While it’s an income generating, our mission is to protect our forest and watersheds at the same time help the community’s economy,” shared Ernesto Bondad, Coordinator of the Mt. Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association.

In 2017, the Mt. Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association was organized and registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) primarily to provide employment to the out-of-school youth in their community and to contribute in the preservation and conservation of the community’s watershed and the vast forestland.

Mt. Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association is situated in Brgy. Losad, Sabangan, Mountain Province. The association is composed of 15 guides who are all men.

“Yes, we call ourselves guides but we were not trained on the proper guiding especially on the tourists safety,” Ernesto added.

Before, the association cannot operate properly due to financial constraints, untrained guides and lack of equipment.

In March 2018, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) granted the Mt. Kalawitan-Apa Guides Association the amount of PhP 308,040.00 for skills training on local tour guiding to learn the proper coordination of itinerary for tourists and make souvenir items.

In partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) of Mountain Province, the participants underwent a 10-day training on Local Tour Guiding and a 3-day Basic Life Support conducted by the Local Government of Sabangan’s Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

“After the training, all of our 15 guides were assessed and accredited as local guides of TESDA,” Ernesto shared.

Since then, the group has found loyal customers for their tour packages. Some are local and others are foreigners like American tourists visiting the province. For over a year of running the association, the members see the progress of their tour guiding livelihood project.

“Our guides have been trained extensively by the different government agencies. We don’t deploy untrained guides and our primary concern is always the safety of our tourist. So far, there was never an incident despite the risky terrain of our mountains. “ he added.

The association also wants to help in the development of the community in a manner that they actively participate in promoting the local products of the village such as weaved products, arabica coffee, mountain tea, and other local products of Sabangan. In addition, they invite high school students to perform cultural dances during tours.

“These are purely students coming from the different schools of the community who are trained to perform cultural dances during the departure time of tourist, then we pay them P1,500 to 2,000 and in other times, guests provide other educational assistances to them,” Ernesto added.

Along with the tour guiding and contributing in the development of the community, they also contribute in education development particularly in the work emersion requirement of Department of Education (DepEd).

“Lately we had two groups of senior high school students who spent 10 (80 hours) days emersion. They were tasked to construct landscape structures at the Associations’ office here at barangay Losad, Sabangan”, he said.

The association’s mission continues not just in enhancing opportunities for local economic growth and improving the quality of life of residents, but they are the guides safeguarding the opportunities for future generations by ensuring the sustainable co-existence of tourism and environment. #DSWD-CAR, Social Marketing Unit, Babble Mae Gorio

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