S L U M T O U R I S M
• Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you started Smokey Tours
My Name is Angela Therese B. Talbo but everyone calls me Therese or Reese. I’m a graduating student at Asian College Quezon City Campus. I’m a scholar and the former P.R.O of our organization in school. Also the current president of our Indayog dance club. I’m a cheerful and outgoing person but there is something that I want to overcome and that is my shyness. That is why I decided to join our organization at our school and also become the president of the Indayog dance club. I want my voice to be heard and to influence other people that everyone can change for their better self.
I was looking for a company where I can do my internship and it was referred by our school coordinator so I think that why not give it a try? So I come to Sining Kamalig at Alimall only knowing that it is a gallery where they display paintings from the famous artists. But what I don’t know is that Sining Kamalig is only a part of a big organization called World Experience Philippines. And that is when I was introduced to Smokey Tours, where they educate and train people from underprivileged communities and to open the minds of the tourists about what are the social issues and concerns that the residents are facing.
And truly, what the organization’s mission enlightened me and encouraged me to do even small things that may matter the most to the people who needs help. I want to be part of the journey on making a life of a person better.
• Slum tourism is often seen as quite controversial. What is your opinion of slum tourism?
From my perspective, the reason why the slum tour becomes a controversial topic to others is because the government don’t want the citizen of the Philippines especially the tourists to see how cruel and heart breaking the lives of these people are. They are scared that it may affect the reputation of the government and also to finally see the short comings of the politicians by not doing their job right.
I think that the slum tour really helps the tourist and the residents to understand the difference or the gap in their social status. That is there are more things that you didn’t know and that you should be aware of. There are always other side in every story. You should be aware of it because just being aware of it can make a change.
• How do local people feel about tourists visiting their neighbourhoods?
I think they feel thankful because of the help that they are receiving and at the same time ashamed. Because you see, most of the Filipinos have a really high pride. We don’t want anyone to see our weaknesses. I also think that there is no person who is on their right mind who would show other people how miserable their life is. But all in all I think they will be happy to see foreigners or tourists in their land because they are also curious about how they live, their culture and also to learn and understand each other differences.
• Do you think all slum tourism is 'GOOD'? Or are there issues that GOOD travellers should be aware of when looking for a tour company to visit a slum?
The best thing to do in order to avoid accidents is that you should research first about the tour company that you will choose to visit a slum. Because there are some legit company where their profits from the tour is given back to the community but there are Tour Company that doesn’t really exists and just using the money that they receive for their evil acts. It’s a matter of making a good decision.
Also when you consider going on a slum tour make sure that you know all the details, the terms and condition of the tour company so that there will be no problem on the day of your tour. You should be ready not just physical but mentally because I will tell you that after the tour, the way you see things will change.
• If a GOOD traveller decides to visit a slum, what are some important dos and don'ts that they should be aware of? e.g. with photography
The following are the few things that I think you should know when you are going on a slum tour:
You can ask questions about the place or about the residents living there as long as you don’t offend or hurt anyone.
Wear comfortable clothes.
Listen to what your Tour leader will say.
No taking photos while you’re on the tour (Respect their privacy)
Giving money to the children in the area is not advisable.
Don’t where any accessories that will invite unwelcome attention.
Don’t go somewhere without the knowledge of your Tour Leader.
But In my opinion the most important thing that you need to remember when doing a slum tour is that to become more sensitive in your actions. It may be called a tour but it doesn’t mean that you can enjoy and just be insensitive on what the residents may feel. Remember that slum tour is not an ordinary tour. It is created to learn about the condition of the people who’s not lucky enough to have a normal life, where they can eat 3 times a day. Don’t make them feel that you pity them because they already know that their life is not good as us. Instead of pitying them, you should encourage them to keep on fighting because all the pain and hardships that they are experiencing now will become worth it once they achieve what they really want to in their life.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein