#FitnessPH - Health & Wellness Confex 2024 Highlights Gov’t, Private Sector Collaboration

The Health & Wellness Confex 2024 recently concluded at the SMX Center in Pasay City, on a high note, with government and private sector representatives pledging to work together to promote the Philippines as a prime health and wellness tourist destination. 

The event, a three-day gathering of health and tourism industry stakeholders that began on Friday, Jan. 26, was kicked off by such luminaries as Department of Health (DOH) secretary Dr. Teodoro J. Herbosa, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr., Department of Tourism (DOT) undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar, and Pasay City Mayor Imelda Calixto-Rubiano.

In his keynote address, Herbosa said supporting wellness tourism is now a priority for the DOH. This was confirmed by Dr. Maria Francia Miciano-Laxamana, DOH undersecretary for medical tourism, who pointed out in her presentation that ensuring the safety and health of tourists is a major department objective. 

Meanwhile, Abalos emphasized the importance of being healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle. He talked about his mother’s passing due to the coronavirus back in 2022. While it was a tragedy, he said it also marked the beginning of his health and wellness journey. “While at the hospital, I had nothing to do. Everyone was wearing masks and PPEs (personal protective equipment). I was the only one in shorts and I had to sign a waiver because I insisted on staying with my mother at the ICU,” he narrated. “I couldn’t do much so I did push-ups. After only three push-ups, my hands were shaking. But I forced myself to continue, and you know what? Today, I’m doing 139 push-ups every day.” 

“I’ve also been running every week and I spend one hour in the gym every day,” he added. “Health and wellness are all about attitude and it should be a priority for everyone regardless of age,” he said.

Calixto-Rubiano echoed the importance of having the right mentality towards health and wellness. She also talked about the various health and wellness programs of the Pasay City government, including the empowering mothers and infants or EMI project. “We are aligned with the First 1,000 Days program, a public health initiative that aims to provide comprehensive health and nutrition support during the first 1,000 days of a child's life,” she said.

In addition, the city implements feeding programs, conducts free medical tests, and extends support for COVID-19 patients.

The first day's list of speakers also included Wanda Teo, former DOT secretary, and  Cynthia Lagdameo Carrion, Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) general manager and CEO. Every speaker focused on their unique perspectives, but all of them emphasized the need to integrate health and wellness into the tourism industry.

The messages particularly cited the huge boost the recent collaborative efforts between the DOT and DOH would give to the campaign to promote the Philippines as a prime health and wellness tourist destination.

Another highlight of the first day of the Health and Wellness Confex 2024 conference was a roundtable discussion about the Filipino brand of wellness. The discussion was moderated by Catherine Turvill, Wellness Nurture Village founder and president. The panel was made up of Jennifer Sanvictores, The Farm at San Benito global head of sales and marketing communications, Vikki C. Aquino, Okada Manila director of The Retreat Spa, Kenneth Trullench, Las Caidas Wellness Resort Wellness Resort manager, and Atho De La Cruz, Ilaya Retreat Spa at Damires Hills Farm and Spa Resort Spa and Wellness director. 

The second day of the Health & Wellness Confex 2024 was a thrilling journey through the latest in travel, technology, and natural wellness. Attendees were treated to an array of workshops and demonstrations that not only showcased the future of wellness travel but also delved into the cutting-edge technology shaping the health industry.

A highlight was the series of workshops dedicated to natural and organic anti-aging practices. Experts in dermatology and holistic health unveiled the latest research and techniques in natural skincare, emphasizing sustainable and chemical-free approaches to maintaining youthfulness and vitality.The final day of the event took a vibrant turn with the holding of the Masigabo Wellness Festival, a special celebration that was especially dedicated to Filipino migrant workers, more commonly known as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).  

The presence of Jerome A. Alcantara, Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) assistant secretary, underscored the government's commitment to supporting OFWs. In his message, Alcanta lauded the resilience and hard work of the Filipino diaspora and emphasized the importance of initiatives like Masigabo in fostering a sense of unity and pride among Filipinos worldwide. Tourism representatives, meanwhile, sought to enlist OFWs to become health and wellness ambassadors. 

The Masigabo Festival not only brought the event to a memorable close, but also reinforced the theme of holistic health by celebrating the connection between cultural well-being and physical wellness. Attendees left with not just knowledge of and insights into health and wellness, but also a deeper appreciation for the cultural ties that bind the Filipino community together.

Co-presented by the Department of Tourism (DOT), in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corporation; the event is likewise supported by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Migrant Workers, Tourism Promotions Board, and Duty Free Philippines.

From the creative concept of Mblessed Travel and Marketing, Inc., the Health & Wellness CONFEX 2024 was spearheaded by a team of seasoned event organizers, wellness advocates, travel and tours agencies, and marketing & communication professionals, and with the country's wellness guru, Cory Quirino, as its Executive Director.

As the Health & Wellness Confex 2024 concluded, participants were already looking forward to next year's event, anticipating more innovations, learning, and community celebrations that lie at the heart of this unique gathering.

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