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14 February 2017, Manila – The Philippines’ trademark sunshine and timeless hospitality greeted Canadian snowbirds once again as they arrived for the Winter Escapade tour held from 6 to 14 February 2017. Originally conceptualized by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism and the Tourism Promotions Board in 2012, the tour entered its fourth season by bringing two hundred and forty-five Filipino and Canadian tourists from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec to Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and Coron, Palawan. A delegation from the USA also joined the tour.
The first Winter Escapade was conducted in 2013, bringing more than two hundred tourists to Aklan, Iloilo, Guimaras and Manila. Since then, the tour has been conducted every year, visiting Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, and Palawan.
“Winter Escapade has always sought to provide Canadians and Filipinos a respite from winter,” says Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila P. Garcia. “What better way to spend Canada’s winter than basking in the Philippine sun and immersing oneself in Philippine culture, cuisine, and natural wonders?”
This year, Winter Escapade opened with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Rizal Park and a running tour of Intramuros and the Bangko Sentral Money Museum. The tourists were then treated to a welcome dinner hosted by Western Union, where multi-awarded Filipino violinist Jake Gacang brought the house down with his show-stopping renditions of contemporary favorites.
The participants’ itinerary in the Ilocos region began with a welcome dinner hosted by Governor Imee Marcos at the historic Paoay Church compound. Their stay in Ilocos featured iconic Spanish colonial churches, ancestral homes, and local sites featuring age-old Ilocano crafts that have endured through the centuries. Participants also swam in the blue waters of Pagudpud, walked the cobblestone streets of UNESCO World Heritage Site Vigan, and partook of the famous Ilocano empanada, bagnet and longganisa.
A detour to Palawan, consistently voted as one of the best islands in the world, was a must for the Winter Escapade participants. This year’s participants soaked up Coron’s Maquinit Hot Springs, one of the few salt water hot springs in the world, hopped across the islands and swam amongst Palawan’s corals and other sea life.
The Tourism Promotions Board also hosted a formal dinner for the participants midway through the tour. Renditions of musical classics through time by the Ryan Cayabyab Singers and a fashion show featuring Mindanao fabrics conceptualized and created by veteran couture designer Renée Salud, set with a backdrop of perfectly executed Mindanao dances by Sindaw Philippines Performing Arts Guild, elicited rousing ovations from the audience.
“We wish to thank the Tourism Promotions Board, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism, our tour handler Rajah Tours, project partner Western Union, Local Government Units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for their work in making this tour possible,” Ambassador Garcia stated. “And we thank our participants for joining us as we discover more of the Philippines.” END