(Feature)Minus Donsol, tourism not good in Sorsogon?

January 8, 2015 1:48 am 

By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Jan. 7 (PNA) – On the surface, Sorsogon is a tourism sensation but take away the town of Donsol and the industry has never been good in the province.

Donsol, the town dubbed as the 'Whale Shark Capital of the World,' is undoubtedly a tourist drawer owing to the seasonal presence of the “gentle giants of the ocean” in its waters, which offer electrifying underwater interaction with humans.

Records of the Department of Tourism (DOT) Bicol regional office based in Legazpi City, show an average of 25,000 foreign and domestic tourists arrive yearly since the municipality was made known worldwide as sanctuary of these sea mammals in 1998.

But the thousands of tourists coming in for this once-in-a-lifetime experience won’t go farther beyond the bounds of the whale shark sanctuary, skipping for themselves the other tourism marvels overflowing the rest of the province.

Sorsogon sits at the southernmost tip of Luzon and despite its being the jumping board between Bicol and the Visayas, the province’s 15 other localities — 14 of them coastal, including this city — are apparently not getting enough exposure despite their wide list of attractions ranging from unique beaches, mountains of verdant forests and an active volcano from where hot springs emanate.

This city, the provincial capital, has for itself Bacon Beach that can rival other famous beaches in the country.

It also has Paguriran — an out-of-the-way lagoon of white sand beach, emerald waters and stunning rock formations — that is a very relaxing place to swim or see for its amazing serenity.

The next towns of Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Barcelona and Bulusan also boast of similar beaches, apart from the historical structures that its people preserve.

Prieto Diaz owns a 500-hectare mangrove forest that is listed as a tourism park and bird-watching site while Bulusan plays host to Bulusan Lake at the bosom of Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, a 3,672-hectare protected area serving as home to various species of endangered animals and considered the most exciting ecotourism sites in the province, next to Donsol.

The park also boasts of several springs and waterfalls that originate from the mountains.

One of the springs is the bathing-favorite Masacrot, a man-made earthen pool with cool mineral waters coming from underground springs.

Bulusan Lake itself, which is situated at the very foot of Mt. Bulusan — one of the most active volcanoes in the Pacific Rim of Fire, is a spectacular ecotourism destination for its scenic and exquisite beauty.

Rising 340 meters above sea level, the lake that occupies an area of more than 16 hectares is dubbed as the “Switzerland of the Orient” for its pristine perfection and the coolness of its mountain breeze.

Another tourist attraction at the Bulusan downtown is the Punta Diamante, the muralla (stone fort) that encloses the church complex of St. James the Greater Parish which remains grand in its antiquity together with the belfry, the largest of the four watchtowers dotting the historical complex.

Before reaching the downtown, the Tan-awan, a cliff road that overlooks the town center and the expansive Pacific Ocean, is a heartwarming experience as from its vantage point, the view of Samar Island across the San Bernardino Strait is indeed stirring.

The next town of Irosin, the province’s only landlocked locality features a 140-year-old Catholic church that sits on a hill top, affording churchgoers and visitors a panoramic view of the entire town and the surrounding countryside of lush rice fields and forest.

The church can be reached from the foot of the hill via a steep 74-step concrete stairway and from its vantage point, the peak of Mt. Bulusan appears almost near enough to kiss.

Farther 17 kilometers south of Irosin is the town of Matnog that plays host to the huge ferry terminal serving as Bicol’s main link to the Visayas regions and site of Subic Beach that is also called La Playa Rosa because of its long pinkish sand shoreline kissed by turquoise waters that makes it a perfectly unique destination.

Near Subic Beach is Tikling Island that is known for its spectacular rock formations hidden behind its lush forest and colorful corals and sea plants that add a tinge of color to the breathtaking view of the island’s towering cliffs.

There are so many more off-the-beaten-path destinations in the province but according to local journalist Felix Espenida, all those places have been made underrated by the lack, if not absence of tourism promotion on the part of local government units (LGUs), including the provincial government.

The provincial government has a tourism master plan called the Sorsogon Aquamarine and Pacific Adventure prepared several years back, projecting the province as an ideal tourist’s escapade spanning the city and all its 14 coastal municipalities.

It, however, has not been put into operation, Espenida said.

And even when the province has been included in the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (AlMaSor) tourism alliance, which was formed two years ago by the Regional Development Council (RDC) as the tourism road map for Bicol designed to achieve development in the three provinces, still the influx of tourists remains limited to Donsol, he said.

From Donsol, most of these tourist usually stay and enjoy the rest of each day in Legazpi, the “City of Fun and Adventure” serving as the center of tourism for the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon that offers more memorable activities, world class accommodations, dining places that offer superb cuisines and other novel facilities.

Anyway, Legazpi is only about 40 kilometers while this city is some 60 kilometers away from Donsol and the airport serving passengers from the two provinces is also located in that city.

Provincial board member Eric Ravanilla, chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s tourism committee, said the potentials of Sorsogon must be harnessed and local governments should invest properly in tourism to attract private businesses as without the investments, these enormous potentials will not have its daylight.

“Our LGUs should follow the example of Donsol which from a fifth class rural municipality has evolved in years into a bustling first-class locality owing to tourism,” Ravanilla said. (PNA)

RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/

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