Rona T. Fernandez
TORN between spending your summer vacation on a pilgrimage tour or on a shopping extravaganza?
A three-and-a-half-hour plane ride to Guam can give any traveler the best of both worlds as the little island in the western Pacific Ocean offers both a glimpse of the religious journey of St. Pedro Calungsod and a tax-free shopping experience.
Situated approximately 2,491 kilometers from the Philippines, Guam hosts a variety of tourist destinations and activities that promote the convergence of cultural diversity.
For this year, the Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) is welcoming at least 19,000 tourists from the Philippines and the number is expected to reach 23,000 by the end of 2020.
Pilar Laguaña, GVB president and chief executive officer, said Guam and the Philippines have close ties, as both were colonized by Spain for more than 300 years.
“The Philippines is an important market for Guam. We have commonalities in terms of culture and religion. We want visitors to enjoy our little island paradise as a relaxing destination as you can get a sense of peace when you go to Guam,” she said.
Guam has a population of 170,000. Of the number, 40,000, or around 26 percent, are Filipinos, some 37 percent are Chamorros (indigenous people of Guam), while 11 percent are other Pacific islanders.
Visitors opting for a more laid-back vacation may opt to visit the Chamorro Night Market, Valley of the Latte or the Guam Museum.
One may also go golfing or do some tax-free shopping in both high-end and American outlet centers.
For the thrill-seeking adventurist, go skydiving or hiking. Hap’s Reef is also a top spot for divers who enjoy exploring shipwrecks of the SMS Cormoran from World War I and Tokai Maru from World War II.
For devotees of St. Pedro Calungsod, joining a pilgrimage tour with Vacation Guam allows one to go on a spiritual journey.
A shrine for Calungsod is maintained by the Cebu Association from Guam, together with the Archdiocese of Agana.
“We’re trying to bring more Cebuanos. Most Filipino pilgrims who join us have already experienced the pilgrimage visits at the Holy Land or went to a Marian pilgrimage in Europe. We offer a four-day tour that is divided into pilgrimage and leisure,” said Vacation Guam sales director Carmel Carpio.
Interested visitors must secure a US tourist visa and may choose to fly with Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific or United Airlines for as low as US$280 or P15,000.