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Iloilo town celebrates its heritage with digital tourism

The Santa Barbara Parish Church
The Santa Barbara Parish Church (Photo by Jorry Palada)

Santa Barbara, a historical town in Iloilo where the flag of fledgling Philippine Republic was raised in 1898 to signal the start of the revolution against the Spaniards in the Visayas and Mindanao, celebrated its heritage last Independence Day with digital tourism—a project of Cebu-based new media start-up Innopub Media and Smart Communications.

The Digital Tourism project aims to enhance the tourists’ experience through Internet and mobile technologies. It involves the creation and installation of interactive markers containing Quick Response (QR) codes and Near Field Communication (NFC) stickers which, when scanned or tapped via a mobile phone, direct users to a website containing more information about the site or structure, including photos and videos.

“The launch perfectly coincides with the celebration of the Independence day,” said Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto. “With digital tourism, we are able to help preserve our history and culture by providing digital content, which can easily be accessed and updated, being stored in the cloud. So when tourists visit a historical landmark, they have better appreciation of its place in Philippine history.”

Six historical sites in Santa Barbara were tagged with interactive markers. These are the Santa Barbara Parish Church, Flagpole Park, Iloilo Golf and Country Club, Gen. Martin T. Delgado Monument, Santa Barbara Centennial Museum, and Victory Plaza.

Iloilo town celebrates its heritage last Independence Day with digital tourism
This is how an interactive marker looks like. When scanned or tapped via a mobile phone,
users get directed to a website containing more information about the site or structure.

The Digital Tourism project, which recently won an Anvil award of merit, was launched in Cebu City in 2012. The year after, it was launched in Iloilo City. Early this year, it was rolled out in Baguio City and in the municipalities of Argao and Boljoon in Cebu. In the coming years, Smart and InnoPub are set to bring the initiative in many more provinces in the country.

“We're excited to work with Santa Barbara in Iloilo on Digital Tourism. The project harnesses technology to enhance tourism – two things the Philippines is known for. It uses mobile technology to deliver tourism, cultural and historical information to people through devices that we carry around with us wherever we go: Phones and tablets,” said InnoPub co-founder Max Limpag.

Aside from tagging historical and tourist spots, Smart and InnoPub also released the Santa Barbara Guide mobile app on June 12. Articles on must-try food and must-visit places in Santa Barbara, the town’s history, as well as the accredited tour operators are listed in this guide.

The app also has a "tap to call" feature allowing users to call phone numbers in the app with just a click. It has a directory of important contact numbers of hospitals, emergency units, and police stations. Furthermore, the app provides location data. Some places featured in the guide are GPS-tagged with a "check location" link. With a single tap, the app will suggest routes and directions to the desired destinations via the GPS guide system of the users' devices.

The Santa Barbara Guide can be downloaded at Google Play Store for free. It can also be accessed via http://santabarbara.myguide.ph.

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