Exchange students in Dapitan unswayed by travel warnings
DAPITAN CITY, Philippines - Despite travel advisories issued by at least 3 countries against traveling to Mindanao, 8 foreign cultural exchange students arrived here on Tuesday, July 23, for a year-long stay to learn more about culture of Dapitanons.
"We are moved by the hospitality of the people here. We are welcomed like celebrities - it's really nice," said 18-year-old Delphine Spronck from Herve Municipality in Liege, Begium.
The cultural exchange students from Belgium, France, Germany and Indonesia arrived despite warnings issued early this month by the United States, Canada and Australia to its nationals against traveling in Mindanao. The travel advisories said there are impending terrorist attacks in this part of the Philippines.
Spronck admitted that she heard in the news about terrorists and criminal gangs in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, but she said she is not afraid, though she added her parents were a bit apprehensive.
"There are also terrorist attacks in other big countries, yet no travel advisories were issued... a lot of tourists still go there, so what makes this part of the world so different [or] so scary? We all have to take necessary safety precaution, of course, but I have full confidence on the hospitality of the people here," Spronck said.
Dapitan City Tourism Officer Apple Marie Agolong said that Dapitan's image has been hurt by the travel advisories and negative reporting about Mindanao.
"I thank these cultural exchange students for sending a clear message to the world, and to ourselves, that we are peace loving people and we are capable of keeping it that way," Agolong said.
The cultural exchange students will attend classes at their host school, the Jose Rizal Memorial State University (JRMSU), and will be staying with foster parents.
JRMSU President Edgar Balbuena said that the cultural exchange students will be treated like ordinary students.
The 8 visiting students are volunteers of American Field Service (AFS), a non-profit international exchange organization founded by volunteer ambulance drivers in the United States following World War II. AFS operates in 50 countries organizing and supporting intercultural learning programs among students and adults. - Rappler.com