Dark Tourism in the Philippines Islands

Dark Tourism in the Philippines Islands

Bintang Handayani (Independent Researcher, Indonesia), Hugues Seraphin (The University of Winchester, UK) and Maximiliano Korstanje (University of Palermo, Argentina)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7393-7.ch002


Though the study of dark tourism has been widely expanded over the recent years, less attention was given to the Southeast Asian destinations. Dark tourism exhibits events that are marked a disgrace, the fatalities that interrogate on our own vulnerability. As a gaze of the Significant Other, dark tourism anthropologically mediates between our finitude and the future. The chapter centers on Philippines as a new emergent destination of dark tourism, stressing the contributions of the industry to the heritage sites but alerting the contradictions this new morbid consumption generates.
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Over the recent years, dark tourism took many shapes and interpretations, which oscillate from Thana tourism (Seaton, 1996; Dann & Seaton 2013), war-tourism (Rivera, 2008; Butler & Suntikul 2013), prison tourism (Wilson, 2011) or mourning tourism to post-disaster tourism (Seraphin, Butcher & Korstanje 2017). What all these terms have in common seems to be the interest of gazing the Others´ suffering (Korstanje 2016; Tzanelli 2016). This was studied by a marginal portion of the academy. An excellent example is Edward Alexander´s book The Dark Tourism of the Bosnian Screen, where the author describes the human prone to gaze disasters and pain. Most probably, the professional ethnographers have no fewer problems at the time of entering in the fields (of dark tourism) in view of the proliferation of spaces, interpretations, and meanings revolving around this much deeper issue. For Alexander, far from what a great part of Academy imagines, dark tourism is a postmodern trend, which was unobserved in past periods. His argumentation, which rests on the cruel genocide perpetrated on Bosnian landscape and its effects on cinema, coincides with the idea that dark tourism fabricates idealized and fictional explanations around the (traumatic) event (Alexander 2015). The present chapter, which thematizes on the study case of dark tourism offering in the Philippines starts from a similar premise. Our efforts are put to confront with the established view that underpins dark tourism as a subtype of heritage, which confers and endorses identity to the community. Rather, we embrace the opposite hypothesis, framing dark heritage tourism as an instrument oriented to reinforce an older form of mental colonialization that highlighted the supremacy of European culture. As a continuation of colonialism, heritage and dark tourism impose a global culture where the past crimes of imperial powers not only are forgotten, but the victims are commoditized by the daily-frustrated western tourists. Ultimately, the Philippines -unlike other neighboring countries- which were devastated by internal conflict and civil wars calibrate the tourist infrastructure to ancient and medieval cemeteries constructed by the Spanish conqueror as well as the sacrifices done to liberate from the Japanese yoke (during the WWII). The chapter must be read as follows; the first section summarizes a short debate around dark tourism and its political nature, while the second rests on the ethical dichotomies of European colonialism and the introduction of heritage, as a sacred object. Finally, we review the case of the Philippines and the different sites of dark tourism, this destination offers. One of the main limitations this investigation faces was the ethnocentric viewpoint revolving around dark tourism. Since dark tourism comes from the Western tradition, bore by British culture, not all cultures are receptive of these practices. While South-east cultures offer fertile grounds to contemplate spaces of mass death, war, political violence and destruction, their cosmologies are reluctant in some cases to adopt dark tourism as a growing industry. At the same time, the ideologies, narratives, beliefs and stories forged in the WWII still remain present in the Philippines.

As Biran and Buda (2018) put it, one of the dichotomies between dark tourism and classic tourism seems to be given by the contradiction of the hedonist, which is proper of tourism and the sites of atrocities and mass-death that nourish the narratives of dark tourism consumption. The stories and narratives in post-disaster contexts were widely analyzed by Tucker, Shelton & Bae (2017). With basis in the case of Christchurch, New Zealand, a city whipped by different earthquakes in its history, these researchers find that tourism helps visitors and survivors to understand (domesticate) the wilderness of disasters and catastrophes, providing a rational explanation to the human loss. To some extent, tourism would work as a mechanism of resiliency which sublimates what the specialists name as “the notion of transition”, which means the possibilities and capabilities of a community to renovate itself after the disaster takes hit.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dark Tourism: It is a modern tendency where visitors travel to sites of mass destruction, death, or extended suffering.

European Colonialism: It signals to a subtype of imperialism that ranges the 18 th and 19 th century. In this period, the European nations launched to colonize autonomous economies in order for serving of their resources to keep their industries working.

Philippines: This represents a country formed by thousands of islands situated in Southeast Asia.

Heritage: It refers as the legacy of artifacts and intangible attributes which are part of a group or a community.

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