DOT aims to push Philippines as next big Mazu festival hub

Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo (in photo, sixth from left), joins other key personalities and Mazu advocates from across the globe during the Mazu culture tourism festival opening ceremony at Tin Hau Temple in Coloane, Macau, October 28, 2017. DOT handout photo.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo expressed that the implementation of the visa upon arrival (VUA) program is expected to drive devoted followers of Mazuism to look at the Philippines as its next festival hub.

In a Department of Tourism (DOT) handout, Secretary Teo said that two months since she pressed the Department of Justice to roll out the VUA option to Chinese citizens, arrivals from China surged by 54.92 percent from 61,766 arrivals August last year to 95,687 of same period this year.

“If these figures are any indication, the Philippines can certainly piggyback on VUA to attract more Chinese travelers considering that a huge number of this market are package tour buyers. I am confident this ease in visa requirement is an attractive proposition for the country to host big-ticket events such as Mazu culture festival,” she added, pointing to the 300 million Mazuists worldwide.

Every March 23, the lunar calendar marks the birthday of Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea and a very popular deity among the Chinese. Thousands of pilgrims come to Meizou Island in Putian, China to honor the Goddess at the Mazu Temple. This grand religious festival is also observed in Macau, Taiwan, and Singapore, among other places.

Also known as the Mazu March Mania, the goddess’ unique birthday fete is celebrated with various activities like a sacrificial ceremony to pay homage to the goddess, arts and crafts exhibit and sale, folk song and dance performances, and delightful Fujian dishes.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo (in photo, second from left) pays homage to Mazu with other guests. DOT handout photo.

Teo was invited by Friends of the Philippines’ Foundation (FPF) at the recently concluded Mazu cultural tour festival held at Tin Hau Temple at Coloane in Macau.

Macau has since hosted 15 successful editions of the said culture festival.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo with DOT Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre
join Friends of the Philippines Foundation CEO Jose Kho and son Philip Kho. Behind them is a statue of Mazu, a popular Chinese deity. DOT handout photo.

Teo added, “As a country blessed with so many heritage festivals ourselves, the Philippines can draw out from the Mazu cultural tour festival’s overwhelming turnout year on year.

“A game changer for Philippine tourism, VUA can also become a major turning point in attracting the fast growing Mazuism all over the world.”

She added that Mazu is an example of a cultural movement that has turned into a widespread phenomenon over time.

In 2009, the Mazu culture has been added to the “List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Mazu Cultural Center
The tourism chief disclosed that among the DOT’s plans of growing cultural festival in the country is paving the way for cultural diversity to flourish. Teo added, “As a melting pot of many different cultures, religions, the Philippines stands to benefit in embracing this centuries-old Eastern belief.”

She said a Chinese Mazu Cultural Center will soon rise in Manila Bay under the auspices of FPF. “This should become a centerpiece for economic and cultural exchanges between Chinese and the Philippines, promoting the valuable Mazu culture as well as advancing Sino-Philippine friendship.”

The said hub will feature the much anticipated six-meter-high Mazu statue at the bay showcasing many tourism, business, leisure and cultural activities.

Mazu festival dancers perform at Tin Hau Temple at Coloane in Macau. DOT handout photo.