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What about the painted man?

It is a general view that this year, 2012, is going to be a banner year for tourism in the Philippines.

Already the industry is off to a heady start, with the unveiling of the Department of Tourism’s “It’s more fun in the Philippines“ slogan, which trended worldwide within hours after its posting on the internet.

Yes, things are indeed looking up for the tourism sector. My sources tell me that the Aquino administration is pursuing more tourism-oriented developments this year to promote the beauty of the Philippines and in the process, entice more tourists to visit our shores.

Expansion of the tourism sector, I am told, will be very evident in Cebu and other select Visayan cities, spurred by the brisk expansion of the Business Process Office (BPO) sector in the Visayas region.

Amidst all these bursts of muchawaited activity to promote tourism in the country, most especially in the Visayas region, it pains me to notice that it seems the province of Aklan has been reduced to the tiny island of Boracay, insofar as the Tourism Department and the national government is concerned.

Let me be clear on this: I welcome all the publicity on Boracay, what with my three children ­ Bernadette, Jed, and Princess ­ being proud owners of Casa Dayang, one of many resorts in the island. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boracay is just one of the many top attractions of Aklan province.

Lest our friends in the Tourism department forget, Aklanons are equally proud of the Ati-Atihan, the first native festival that took the international scene by storm in the early 80’s. Ati-Atihan was there, long before the Sinulog, Dinagyang, Maskara, and other festivals became globally known.

The Ati-Atihan has been celebrated for more than 700 years, and marks the Christian conversion of the Atis or Aetas. Every third Sunday of January or on January 15 of this year, participants of the Ati-Atihan will once again paint their bodies black and execute the liveliest street dances to pay homage to the “Mother of all Festivals.“

Surely, the DoT can do better than just include the Ati-Atihan in their long list of holidays in the Philippines. How about a real celebration for Kalibo, Aklan’s fabled painted man?