The ABS-CBN Foundation (AFI) and AirAsia Philippines recently visited Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitated communities in Leyte and Samar. The “Journey of the Heart” trip allowed AFI guests and AirAsia representatives to visit Sohotan Caves and Natural Bridge Park in Basey, Samar, and San Juan by the Bay in Santa Rita, Samar. The trip was an eye-opener, especially for those who have never been to community-based tourist sites.

Steve Dailisan, AirAsia Philippines’ Head of Communications and Public Affairs, was amazed at how the communities have recovered. “It is inspiring to experience first-hand the life-changing initiatives of ABS-CBN Foundation. The initiative became sustainable because the communities were organized and enabled with the right tools. It supports their families and community. They become productive and proactive in protecting their environment,” said Dailisan.

Kevin Samonte, Corporate Social Responsibility Lead of AirAsia, thought the trip was an insightful journey. “Tasting their local dishes and experiencing the people’s hospitality inspire me to explore the Philippines with my friends,” said Samonte. He encouraged Filipinos to visit community-led destinations and experience more meaningful trips.

Leyte and Samar were the hardest-hit provinces when super typhoon Yolanda landed in 2013. After nine years, these provinces now offer eco-tourism destinations with the steadfast support and guidance of ABS-CBN Foundation, its partners, and the communities. The Sohotan Caves and Natural Bridge Park were pilot sites for the Yolanda rehabilitation under the Balik Kalikasan program. Inside the cave, tourists found high cathedral-like domes and unique stalactite and stalagmite formations that resemble the Statue of Liberty, the Great Wall of China, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, and even musical instruments, birds, and other things. The Natural Bridge Park is a solid arch-shaped rock that connects two mountains. Visitors can ride a boat and kayak to get to these hidden gems in Basey, Samar.

On the other hand, the San Juan by the Bay showcases a unique view and taste of the province. Getting there presents a beautiful setting of the San Juanico Bridge. Visitors walked through a 400-meter boardwalk and marveled at the rich ecosystem of mangroves surrounding it. At the San Juan by the Bay Floating Restaurant, guests were welcomed by the cooperative with warmth and delicious dishes. AFI and AirAsia guests truly felt the genuine Waray hospitality.

ABS-CBN Foundation and AirAsia Philippines recently sealed its partnership dubbed as “AlwaysREDy: Pilipino para sa Pilipino.” It aims to uplift the lives of underprivileged Filipino families through its various campaigns on disaster preparedness, protection of women and children, environmental sustainability, and community support. “We look at it as a fruitful partnership, serving communities and enabling them to prepare even before the calamity or disaster strikes. So, hopefully, it’s not only during relief operations that we get to serve the communities. We also hope to empower them through education – on how people can best prepare before typhoons and other calamities”, said Dailisan. As the country faces another typhoon season, ABS-CBN Foundation and AirAsia will further strengthen collaboration through relief efforts and initiatives that provide aid in disaster-stricken areas.