Piolo Pascual and Joyce Bernal are teaming up with Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat for a campaign on responsible tourism.
Last December 10, Piolo and Joyce reached out to the DOT head to discuss ideas on how they can help in disseminating information on social media.
"I was surprised one day Joyce was calling me and she was with Piolo pala," Secretary Berna told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an interview via Instagram direct messaging.
She added, "We will be meeting again to talk about it. Both are so concerned about Sagada. But we agreed to make it for the whole country... Joyce has 15 projects for next year, but she and Piolo will make time just for this."
With local tourism on the rise, the secretary agreed that having celebrities create awareness on responsible tourism will be a win. "Domestic tourism has reached 97 mil last year alone so now it’s time to educate our tourists to become more responsible :)"
During their initial meeting, the three discussed Sagada, a popular local tourist destination up north which saw further increase in visitors after being featured in the 2014 hugot box-office hit film, That Thing Called Tadhana.
But Sagada had actually been previously featured in the 2006 Star Cinema film, Don’t Give Up On Us, starring Piolo and Judy Ann Santos, and directed by Joyce.
In a series of Instagram Stories uploaded by Secretary Berna, Piolo and Joyce expressed their desire for tourists to experience Sagada beyond its Instagram-worthy backdrops.
Joyce said, “[Pag pumunta ka ng] Sagada, gusto mong mag-create, mag-isip ng pelikula, you wanna be creative, you wanna be free. So sana ma-experience nila na when you go to Sagada, you go back to nature.
“Parang kailangan mo ma-experience bakit sila ganun, and you respect.”
Piolo added, “You respect nature. You respect your environment. It’s not about the OOTDs."
Secretary Berna asked Piolo and Joyce how it was 12 years ago when they shot there for the movie.
Piolo answered, “People were more welcoming, I should say. Kasi mutual respect. Respect begets respect. Respect the community, respect nature. That’s what you get back.”
Direk Joyce recalled, “[Noong] Don’t Give Up On Us, yung Sagada nong time na yun, yung quiet. Yung kaya mong maglakad kahit saan and you can eat anywhere.
“'Tas sasabihin lang sa iyo ng mga locals, ‘Ay masarap yung ganyan.’ So hahanapin mo yung tsokolate, hahanapin mo yung tinapay, you can go around Sagada looking for mga, yogurt na masarap sa Rock Inn. Ganun, sasabihin nila and then you go there. Sasabihin nila yung specialty ng isang lugar and walang nagba-bother.”
Piolo also commented on tasting etag, which is salted pork meat that is smoked and then stored in a wooden box for several months.
“Grabe. So good! Saka grabe, overflowing yung food.”
Direk Joyce also shared that Piolo celebrated one of his birthdays in Sagada.
“Nung nag-birthday siya don, parang nagpakatay ka lang ng isang baboy? Something like that. Pero yung buong community, nagpunta sila do'n.”
Piolo recalled, “Grabe yun. They all brought food, parang each household, potluck. Pero the whole school, nag-potluck yung buong school.”
The group also talked about going beyond taking selfies when traveling.
Berna began, “Okay naman siguro mag-selfie but maybe to respect the…”
Direk Joyce continued, “You go beyond selfie. You can have your selfie, but learn pa. Marami ka pang makukuha. Hindi lang iyan ang makukuha mo from Sagada. Lahat, ibibigay sa 'yo.”
“It’s the culture, the food, the people,” Berna added.
Direk Joyce went on, “Saka di ba dahil walking city yung Sagada, pag naglalakad ka, you just say, ‘Hi good morning.’ Ganon. Yun lang, you say pleasantries sa kanila because they’ve been taking care of nature.
“Ang OOTD mo sana, is you learn something from Sagada, from a local, yun ang OOTD mo. Ang ganda ng mga bags nila, weaving. And then you just talk with them, okay na. Parang it takes you away from the [usual].
“Yung local experience ang dapat ma-experience nating lahat.”
Piolo talked more about their Sagada trip.
“We were in Sagada for three days, we would sleep early so, we could catch the sunrise and catch the sunset as well. Beautiful. Priceless.”
Piolo and Direk Joyce addressed the need for improving the mentality when traveling in our own country.
Piolo said, "Responsible tourism. [Be] responsible as a tourist and as a local."
Direk Joyce echoed, "Yes, responsable tayo sa sariling bayan natin… We follow the rules of other countries. So ngayon, we have, I think, andiyan naman yung rules din naman. So kailangan lang natin i-implement sa sarili natin."
Waxing poetic, the film director went on, “Ang sad lang dun is we’re so, uh, gusto lang natin mag-selfie. Hanggang dun na lang ba yun, bilang Pilipino, bilang turista, hanggang dun lang ba yung gagawin mo?
“Tayo rin parang ginaganun lang natin yung bayan natin. Dapat ang pagtingin mo sa kanya is parang iniibig mo siya.
“Wag mo siyang balewalain because it exists and nakasanayan mo siya. Hindi. Mahalin mo pa siya.”
Piolo added, “Preservation. You have to love what you have, in a good way.”
Talking to PEP.ph, Secretary Berna says she, Piolo, and Direk Joyce know each other from way back.
Their family home was one of the locations for the 2003 Juday-Piolo film Till There Was You, and Berna also had a small role in Don’t Give Up On Us, as Judy Ann’s boss.
With regard to the tourism campaign, she said there are more celebrities open to lend a hand, including Luis Manzano.
She said, “Lucky also wants to help. Lucky naman more for diving and taking care of the marine environment. Both of them are for responsible tourism.”
In the comments section of her post, Secretary Berna also confirmed that even the Megastar Sharon Cuneta is on board.
A netizen suggested, “Please include Megastar for the DOT campaign!!!!! She’s perfect for the role.”
Berna replied, “Yes Sharon already said yes the first day I assumed office [praying emoji].”