The Provincial Government of South Cotabato’s Balik Probinsya Program earns kind words from Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs) for bringing them home safely after months of uncertainty brought about by the COVID pandemic.
“The messages of thanks keep us going despite sleepless nights of pressure in organizing and arranging special travels so that they could be with their families,” Argie Ryan Asaria, Tourism Officer I and the team leader of Team Sundo for Iloilo, Manila, and Davao, said in an interview.
Asaria said the Balik South Cotabato Program is a collective effort of the tourism personnel, other provincial government agencies, and LGUs which made all things possible.
“Thank you so much po sa inyo at sa mga kasamahan nyo na nakauwi po ng maayos ang mga bata ng safe at ok naman po ang byahe. Alaga nyo po sa food. At last nabawasan na po ang worry namin,” one of the parents texted a Provincial Tourism Staff after his son returned home from Cebu through the Balik South Cotabato Program.
“Makauli lagi gyud ta. Thank you sa management sang South Cotabato and LGU Tourism para makauli lang kami,” an LSI from Tupi said, thanking Governor Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr.
Cleofe Seblos was beyond words when the Tourism staff called and confirmed her May 31 flight from Cebu to General Santos City.
“Hello po Mam? Ara pa kamo da?” a staff called out through phone. She was speechless. Her voice cracked. “God bless you all,” she burst into tears. The staff also cried. They both cried for joy and thanksgiving.
Jonathan Gaspar, a teacher who was stranded in Cagayan de Oro City, waited for hours to catch the South Cotabato team who was about to leave.
“Bahala na matindog ako halin sa Cagayan basta makasakay lang ako,” he told the Tourism staff in his text.
The Apuhin Family from Cagayan de Oro was another heart-warming Balik South Cotabato story. Joel, who has no job to look forward in the city decided to return his whole family back home. With only medical certificates on hand, the South Cotabato team tried to pull off Travel Authorities a day before the scheduled trip back home.
“Madamo gid nga salamat sa kakapoy kag sakripisyo ninyo para lang makapauli kami. God bless sa tanan,” Joel Apuhin posted an online message through the official FB account of the Provincial Government of South Cotabato.
Jacqueline Tumampos, one of the stranded passengers from the second batch from Metro Manila said, “It is worth the wait. Thank you for the food served. Belib gid ko sa inyo. Agyamanak unay kanya yo amin.”
“Mam nasan na po kayo?” a staff was worried when Warlita Mabalot, an 80-year-old senior citizen who was stranded in Iloilo while visiting her relatives, was not able to come down from the 2Go vessel.
“Pababa na po,” Mabalot replied. Tourism staff ensures that every senior citizen, pregnant, and children is well taken cared off, Asaria said.
However, Asaria said, “There are unkind words, but we learned from it and moved on. We are here to improve our service.”
The Balik South Cotabato Program has organized seven special travels via land, sea, and air in the last three weeks. At least 800 South Cotabatenos are repatriated according to tourism records.