Bernardo M. Villegas
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             We saw at close range how tourism in Sri Lanka is poised to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years.  The island has recovered completely from both the damages of the civil war and the devastation caused by the tsunami that hit many Asian countries in 2004. Helped by good rural roads and an abundance of beaches, cultural heritages and a very hospitable people (someone in our group remarked that most Sri Lankans are Indians that have lost their argumentative character and have become as good natured as Filipinos), Sri Lanka has seen arrivals steadily increase by 30.8% to a record of 855,975 in 2011.  The Government targets to increase tourist arrivals to 2.5 million by 2016 through the construction of more hotels. Our own itinerary may give the reader a feel of the diversity of experiences a tourist will experience in Sri Lanka:  visit to cultural heritage of Sigiriya on a rock mountain; batik factory; spice garden; gem museum; temple of the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha; cultural performance; and visit to jewelry stores.  Because I am involved in the development of an island in the Visayas as a "healing island", I was especially interested in the spice and herbal gardens and the practice of oriental medicine that dates back to centuries B.C.   Ayurveda--the world's oldest and most holistic medical system--has been practised in Sri Lanka for centuries. Sri Lanka is a leading destination for Ayurvedic treatment, available in numerous, stylish spas.

            Finally, to a Filipino, a pleasant surprise in a first visit to Sri Lanka is that we may have a real competitor for having the "best mango in the world."  Most mangoes found in different parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America cannot compare with the fleshy texture, non-fibrous and super-sweet features of Philippine mangoes, especially those grown in Cebu, Zambales and Guimaras. In a meeting with the Export Development Board of Sri Lanka, we were supplied with information about a special variety of mango grown in Sri Lanka called the "Nelna Mango." Described as having "Alphonso, Kartakolumbu and Vilad persona and other traits unique to this variety," the fruit is commercially grown and distributed by Nelna Agri (Pvt) Ltd, whose owners we met.  Since we were not able to taste their products, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that their mangoes can compete with Philippine mangoes.  Mango growers and distributors in the Philippines who want to contact this  enterprise in Sri Lanka may get in touch with Nelna Agri Development (Pvt) Ltd, email address and website:  A possible joint venture between a Philippine company and Nelna Agri Business will open a total market of 1.3 billion in South Asia  and 1.9 billion in AFTA plus China for the best mangoes in the world.  For comments, my email address is