American blogger reacts to persona non grata status

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Nathan Allen (right) runs the "I Dreamed of This" travel blog that is all about beauty, food, culture, and adventure.

Legazpi City (CNN Philippines) — “I am deeply saddened by this resolution and its seemingly reactive and emotional nature.”

That's how American travel blogger Nathan Allen reacted after being declared persona non grata in the province of Sorsogon for allegedly making derogatory remarks against the Donsol Tourism Office in his post on the “I Dreamed of This” Facebook page last April.

Just this week, the Provincial Board of Sorsogon approved the resolution, which was filed by Board Member Franco Ravanilla, declaring Allen as persona non grata.

The resolution said that Allen went to Donsol as an ordinary tourist, not an invited visitor of the municipality. So he had no right to criticize tourism officials there for not giving him the attention he wanted.

Allen said that, if anybody cares to really read his post, it said that he understood well that his trip was very last minute and for that reason he did not expect much.

Just looking for information

Allen recalled that the local tourism official was not around when he came to pay a visit. So he left his business card with a staff and asked the staff to have the tourism official text him with specific attractions they would like him to promote.

He added that he explained exactly who he is and why he was there, but he did not get a text message.

He said that he only expressed his disappointment over the matter and clarifies that never did he expect a special treatment nor was he angry for not getting it as he perfectly understood that his visit was unexpected.

It was also stated in the resolution that Allen should have supplied himself first with information of the place he intended to visit, citing that most information are readily accessible online.

Allen admitted that he was not able to do so as he was very busy promoting the surrounding regions with local governments before and after Sorsogon. But he pointed out that tourist centers are tax-funded resource for tourists, so if tourists like him need resources from them, they should be able to provide the resources.

No response

He also recalled all the times he tried to call and or email the publicly listed numbers and emails on the official tourism department website, but he said he mostly did not get a response.

Earlier, the Bicol office of the Department of Tourism Bicol, through Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla, demanded an apology from Allen, pointing out that Donsol Tourism Office is not managed by the Department of Tourism (DOT) Bicol.

Allen said he was confused that it turned out that the tourism officers he encountered in his travels are not actually connected to the DOT despite them wearing shirts with the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan and giving away pamphlets with the DOT logo on it.

But then he still decided to apologize saying that he felt it was the right thing to do.

He also clarified that the incident in Donsol was a minor one and that the more important issue of putting his life at risk while snorkeling did not take place in Bicol at all.

He pointed out that his post was more of a national issue, not just one singling out DOT Bicol.

Apology not enough

But Allen was surprised that despite his apology and all his clarifications, Maria Ravanilla’s son, Sorsogon Board Member Franco Ravanilla, still filed a resolution declaring him persona non grata in Sorsogon.

He said maybe his apology was not enough adding that all good things he said about the DOT was completely overlooked.

Allen said he does not know much about being labeled persona non grata, but he said he assumes that it is reserved for people who are really bashing a province, a country or its people — not for people who warmly embrace the place and promote it full time.

On the other hand, Franco Ravanilla said that Allen’s blog already got more than 3,000 Likes which really bothers them as potential tourists who have read it may decide not to go to Donsol anymore, adding that it may affect the community-based tourism activities in Donsol that are giving jobs and income to small businessmen in town.

However, Allen said he sincerely hopes that Sorsogon officials will reconsider taking their step towards him, saying that it takes away the hard work he does to promote the warmth and beauty of both Bicol and the Philippines in general.

Allen also encourages people to research more about him and his quest to visit all the regions so they could judge for themselves.

Allen runs the I Dreamed of This travel blog that is all about beauty, food, culture, and adventure.

He is currently in the country with the aim of promoting different scenic destinations here.

The travel blog has quite a good number of followers from around the world.