MANILA, September 12, 2005
 (STAR) By Mayen Jaymalin- The Department of Tourism (DOT) is seeing red.

After launching a campaign to attract tourists from China, the DOT is now eyeing Russia as its next major tourist market.

"Russians now have more disposable income, which they spend on international travel," Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said, noting that Russia is now among the world’s top 10 spenders on international tourism.

He also said Russia spent $12 billion in tourism during the last three years. In 2004 alone, 5.9 million Russians flew to other countries to see the sights.

Durano said Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, took only a 12 percent share of Russia’s outbound tourists.

"Based on DOT data, we were able to attract 5,000 Russian tourists from January to July, or a remarkable 154.2 percent compared to last year, but we can get more," he said.

In a bid to get a bigger share of the Russian tourist market, Durano said the DOT has invited 14 Russian tour operators for a familiarization tour of the Philippines.

"The tour operators would be visiting the country’s top destinations like Boracay, Bohol, Cebu and El Nido," he said.

Durano said the familiarization tour will coincide with travel and tourism trade fairs that aim to give various Philippine destinations the greatest amount of exposure with its target markets.

"The tour is very timely since (a) long winter is now approaching in Russia that would give tourists there (reason) to come and experience our warm tropical country," he said.

A weaver’s dream TURO-TURO By Claude Tayag The Philippine STAR 09/11/2005

Once upon a time there lived a people who settled around a big and beautiful lake high up in the mountains. They fished in the lake and hunted game in the forests. They planted in the clearings on the slopes, rice and root crops and vegetables. They made music and danced. They sang. They knew themselves to be beautiful, and so they clothed themselves in good strong cloth and devised adornments. But they always remembered that they lived amongst the spirits of the natural world, and their lives were a conversation with that world. – Myrna Pula, T’Boli, from the book Dreamweavers, published by Bookmark.

The T’bolis are an indigenous people living high up in the Cotabato Cordillera, mainly concentrated around Lake Sebu in South Cotabato province. They have lived there for over 2,000 years with a very strong sense of tribal identity, still speaking their unique language, practicing their age-old traditions, rituals and social customs.

They are known for their skills in brass-casting and traditional weaving, known as t’nalak. Made from the very fine fibers extracted from the abaca plant (aka manila hemp), the intricately woven t’nalak cloth is characterized by rhythmically, often mesmerizing, repeated geometric patterns of highly stylized human and animal forms. Only natural dyes from vegetables and minerals are used. It is a complicated and painstaking process undertaken by women only, for it requires much skill and patience. The patterns are passed on from mother to daughter, or revealed to the weaver in dreams by the spirit of the abaca Fu Dalu.

Two weekends ago, I was fortunate to witness a T’boli wedding in Lake Sebu, replete with all the beautiful women in their colorful dresses, the singing and dancing, partaking in the fulfillment of a weaver’s lifetime dream for her daughter’s successful betrothal.

1. A flurry of activities went on simultaneously in a makeshift outdoor kitchen in preparation for the whole day and night of feasting. Some two cavans of rice were cooked in these huge cauldrons.

2. Native chickens being grilled and a kind of pork stew simmered in a kawa or large vat.

3. Big mounds of cooked rice are wrapped with doun lemingi, large leaves from a huge tree.

4. Lita Godwino, the eldest of the bride’s clan, putting the finishing touches on the bride’s suwat kôyó or headdress.

5. Teary-eyed mother Elena Marcelo fixing the headdress of her daughter Jie Jie. A weaver by profession at the Tadeco in Davao’s Waterfront Insular Hotel, Elena painstakingly hand-sewed the heavily beaded (some 66,500 mother-of-pearl platelets used) kegal bansewet, or blouse, for more than two years.

6. Like mother, like daughter – beautifully dressed for the occasion.

7. The bride about to be wrapped in t’nalak cloth.

8. During the kenukom, the bride sits on a dais and is wrapped in t’nalak cloth by the mother and aunt. The dais is then covered with a colorful klabu or tent-like canopy, awaiting the arrival of the groom.

9. Horsepower – the groom Onyok Tabidad arrives on horseback with his retinue of relatives walking behind him.

10. The almost runaway groom – the groom’s arrival is greeted with much anticipation and excitement (he was turned away to fix his attire and don the proper prescribed one. "How should I know? It’s my first time to marry," he was heard saying).

11. The groom enters the klabu or matrimonial tent.

12. Once inside the klabu, the bride is unwrapped and the curtain walls raised to reveal Onyok and Jie Jie for the first time as a couple. The two kids with them inside the tent symbolize fertility.

13. Sharing of the mamá (nganga to the Tagalogs) or betel nut.

14. Meal sharing of rice and fish.

15. Bo’i Diwa Ofong ceremoniously shows the couple how it is done on the symbolic matrimonial bed.

16. The dowry expectations from the bride’s side is recited in song by Gado Tilan. The groom’s father, Vice-Mayor Laurence Tabidad, Sr., on the other hand, replies with his blessings and offers to give a generous amount to the bride’s family, a reflection of his resounding approval of the union and esteem for the bride’s family.

17. An aunt of the bride, Rosie Sula, plays the drum during the dancing.

18. The bride’s family: Efe Convicto, Tomina Dulay, Elena Marcelo, Benito Marcelo, Chita Kayao, Myrna Marcelo Dondoy, the bride Jie Jie, Lita Godwino, and Anita Lalanao.

19. Myrna Dondoy dancing the adal tinunggong, a dance honoring the newlyweds and the guests.

20. Maria Wayan (right) of the Helobung Troupe doing her adal tinunggong.

21. Guests from Davao’s Tagum Agricultural Development Corp.: Imelda Masumpad, Elena Marcelo, Meldy Casoyon, Eva Tesoro, production designer Reimon Gutierrez (who was doing a design seminar in Mindanao at the time of the wedding), Juvey Fernandez, Strellita Godwino, the bride, Nanette Tribunalo, Fely Valenzona, and Sonia Urboda.

22. The four bridesmaids: Aisa Tabidad, Miriam Godwino, Kay-kay Yaman, and Cristine Ongkal.

23. The author with Myrna Marcelo Dondoy, sisters Efie Ofong Convicto and Caroline Ofong de Jose.

24. Here’s wishing the newlywed couple Onyok and Jie Jie Tabidad all the best. Actually, the following day, after a night of partying, a Catholic church wedding was to be held in Poblacion Lake Sebu.

Chief News Edutor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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