SouthCot’s eco challenge set Nov. 11

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 Nov) – Frontliners from various local government units (LGU) in South Cotabato will take the center stage in this year’s edition of the area’s famed tourism adventure race slated on Nov. 11.

Francisco Cerbo Jr., the event coordinator of the South Cotabato Arts, Culture, Tourism, and Museum Unit, said on Wednesday the final preparations are underway for the highly anticipated activity, which is now dubbed “Race to 11 Eco-Challenge.”

He said they enhanced and expanded this year’s event to showcase the tourism attractions of the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

In the last four years, the event was known as the “Race to 7 Eco-Challenge” in reference to the seven waterfalls of Lake Sebu town.

“We expanded the race to promote the tourist attractions, culture, and the ecological diversity in the entire South Cotabato. The adventure will cover all 11 localities of the province,” Cerbo said in a virtual briefing hosted by the Provincial Information Office.

He said 11 teams representing each LGU have signed up for the race, which will start in Polomolok town and end in its birthplace in Lake Sebu.

Each team will have five members, comprising two males and two females each, and one from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or LGBTQ.

The teams will have one member each from the local police unit, fire station, rural health unit, disaster risk reduction and management office, tourism office, and from any department or unit.

“All of the participants are frontliners of the concerned city or municipality,” Cerbo said, referring to individuals assigned under the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response of LGUs.

He said the participants are required to submit medical certificates to ensure that they are physically fit to join the race and should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Cerbo said the race will feature challenges that will have to be complied by the teams when passing each locality through a community immersion concept.

It includes running, trekking, canoeing, obstacle course navigation, tree planting, fishing, cooking, bead-making, and other tasks.

“They will be passing new routes to our tourism destinations, try out new outdoor adventure offerings and experience our ecological biodiversity,” he said.

Rodel Hilado, Tboli town tourism officer and head of the Association of Tourism Officers of South Cotabato, said all local governments are fully supporting the event.

“We are doing our respective preparations now for the challenges as well as our showcases,” he said.

He said they are hoping that the event will help usher in more major tourism events in the province as the area continues to embrace the “new normal” amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourist arrivals in the province have started to pick up in the past several months, reaching a total of 928,996 in the first three quarters of the year.

Such figure is way higher than the tourist arrivals in the same period or from January to September last year that only reached 221,823 and went only as high as 400,511 by the end of 2020.

Prior to the pandemic, the province posted tourist arrivals of 941,952 in 2018 and 1,226,960 in 2019. (MindaNews)