Retirees find new jobs–as tour guidesBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
ILOILO CITY-At 82, Emilia Drilon is raring to start on a new job. “We are all very much excited and they keep on asking when we can start,” she said.
Drilon, a former teacher who now heads the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) in Iloilo City, is one of the 33 retirees who will be deployed to popular sites and attractions in the city as tourist guides. She is the oldest in the group while the youngest is 62.
Teams will be assigned to tourist information and assistance centers in the district plazas of Jaro, La Paz, City Proper, Molo, Mandurriao and Villa Arevalo to distribute flyers informing visitors of historical and cultural landmarks, especially famous churches and colonial houses.
The retirees underwent a three-day basic course on tourism and tour guiding conducted by the city and regional tourism offices, including such topics as trends in tourism, tour destinations and dealing with tourists. They were also given research work on the demography, history and trivia of all the sites they will be assigned to.
“They did well in their assignments and were eager to share what they know,” said Benito Jimena, city tourism officer.
Helen Catalbas, regional director of the Department of Tourism, said the elderly guides were even more enthusiastic than the much younger ones.
Compared with the younger guides, Drilon said her group had certain advantages. “We are much older so we have more historical background and we can share actual experiences and personal observations of events that happened many decades ago,” she said.
“We also know more ghost stories,” she said.
Catalbas said the elderly tour guides would complement the city’s efforts to handle the expected increase in visitors with the opening of direct flights between Iloilo and Singapore and Hong Kong by November.
Major development and makeover projects of destinations, including the recently launched 1.2-kilometer Iloilo River Esplanade, are also expected to attract more visitors.
The tourism office is finalizing an honorarium scheme for the elderly guides through donations or fixed tips. “It will be added income for them,” Jimena said.
“We are thankful that we are being given this chance to help our city despite our age. We are proud of Iloilo and we would love to share this with visitors,” Drilon said.
She said that learning new information about the historical and cultural sites, and sharing these with visitors were also healthy and fun for the senior citizen guides.
“These stimulate the brain and are antiaging,” Drilon said.