Evalyn Racuya describes the state of the tourism sector during the pandemic as unimaginable.

“We were caught off guard. It was zero income from high income for us. Nothing in between. It was a series of sending refunds for bookings, receiving cancellation emails from the guests, and receiving notices of closure from airlines.” Evalyn shared.

Evalyn owns Palawonderful Adventures Travel and Tours. It started as a transport agency in 2005 providing land transfer arrangement for tourists from nearby partner hotels and travel agencies.

In 2018, Evalyn took a leap of faith and decided to put up her own travel agency to meet the demands of the tourism industry in Palawan.

After being accredited from the DOT and Puerto Princesa Tourism Office, Evalyn immediately came up with different tour packages that will further promote the tourism industry in Palawan. They catered to private tours, group tours, team building, and other customized tours for local and international tourists.

The tourism was so alive in Palawan up until the imposition of community quarantine protocols. “We were fully booked when the community quarantine was declared. The journals for our arriving guests were already prepared and payments were already wired to us,” Evalyn shared.

Evalyn temporarily closed her business operations and unfortunately has to lay off some of her employees.

“I retained only a few employees to handle the heartbreaking task of processing refunds,” she explained.

Fortunately for Evalyn, she found out about CARES for TRAVEL in a Zoom meeting arranged by the DOT. She took her chance with the loan program as she still needs the resources to pay for the renewal of vehicle registration and permits, and to pay taxes.

“Nothing is permanent, may it be life or livelihood. We were so busy before that we forgot the more important things in our lives. We all felt secured that we forgot to save and prepare for the rainy days. More than the pandemic this is what made life unbearable,” Evalyn concluded.