(Feature) Street revelries culminate Legazpi’s Ibalong Festival/with photos

September 1, 2015 5:22 am 

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) – Hundreds of revelers in colorful ethnic costumes on Saturday occupied three kilometers of the city’s main thoroughfare as they performed indigenous dances and played tribal music in a parade cheered by thousands of locals, tourists and visitors.

The grand event was the street presentation in culmination of Ibalong Festival, a month-long yearly celebration of the city’s exceptional achievements in economic development, tourism, rural-urban uplift, local governance and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), among other accomplishments that make this key Bicol metropolis a highly livable locality.

“For us in the local government and for all Legazpeños, this year’s Ibalong Festival, now on its 24th year, is another big success measured through the impressive number of participants as well as of visitor and tourist arrivals within its duration,” City Mayor Noel Rosal told the Philippines News Agency here Sunday.

The bigger crowd of participants means more fun and greater acceptance and more arrivals mean more receipts for the local tourism industry, he explained.

Since its first staging in 1991, Ibalong, which is a non-religious festival based on the indigenous folklore of Bicol and probably the only festival in the country celebrating an epic, has emerged as the region’s most attended tourism event.

Reliving the myth of Bicol’s folklore heroes, the festival tells of the city government’s relentless pursuit of modernity and economic progress while looking back at its ancient origins pre-dating the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and Christianity.

“We started counting the arrivals of tourists and visitors on day one of the festival, which featured the 2nd Mayon Triathlon race last Aug. 9 which saw the participation of 300 local and international triathletes and drew about 2,000 sports enthusiasts from all over the world,” Rosal said.

“We are still in the process of counting how many tourists and visitors came for the celebration but surely, a good number would come out which we can add to the close to a million arrivals targeted for this year,” Antonio Reyes Jr., the city tourism officer, said.

The target, Reyes said, is 900,000 arrivals by the end of this year, a sensational prelude to achieving the city’s one million target by 2016.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Maria Ravanilla has expressed optimism that this year’s target could be hit by the city, based on latest data that listed around 450,000 arrivals as of the first half of this year.

“The trend established by massive local tourism promotions and industry development that the city government and the DOT have been initiating is leading to that,” she said.

These continuing initiatives have been showing impressive results that showed off highly noticeable arrival figures starting in 2013 when the city hit the half-million target by way of surpassing by a whopping 32.27 percent its previous year’s number of arrivals.

As recorded by the DOT regional office based here, total arrivals of both domestic and foreign tourists in the city for the whole year of 2013 reached 579,470 which was higher by 141,370 over the 2012’s 438,100 figure.

Last year, the figure rose to around 700,000 or 40 percent over 2013’s and led the city government to improve it to 900,000 this year and to one million next year.

Ravanilla said the 2015 goal is almost achieved and the 2016 goal is very much workable as Rosal relentlessly pursues a tourism master plan featuring a massive promotion campaign that highlights the city’s irresistible tourism products ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities.

“Tourists now visit Legazpi not only for the breathtaking view of Mt. Mayon, one of the world’s most active volcanoes made famous by its magically-configured perfect cone form, but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” she said.

The Ibalong Festival alone — a local tourism product which, years back, has given the city its “City of Fun and Adventure” caption now popular within the international travel industry — world chalks up an impressive number of arrivals, according to Ravanilla.

In celebrating achievements in local development and good governance, Rosal said “ours is now officially recognized as one of the three Most Livable Cities in the country today, based on a citation awarded late last year by the Livable City Challenge”.

The Livable City Challenge, sponsored by the United States Assistance for International Development, was organized by the National Competitive Commission, APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, World Wildlife Fund, Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute.

The city government was also awarded last year the Galing Pook Award and Silver Governance Trailblazer (SGT) Award for excellence in the implementation of Public Governance System (PGS).

The Galing Pook Award was given by the Galing Pook Foundation in recognition of the city government’s excellence in local governance with its public-private partnership (PPP) undertakings that have been proven effective in the implementation of high-end development projects in the locality.

The SGT Awards was from the Institute of Solidarity in Asia, a non-government organization that developed and promotes the PGS as a management tool for local governments across the Philippines by way of requiring LGUs to implement a series of reforms that fundamentally transform their policymaking process and bureaucratic structure.

Early last year, the city government won another Seal of Good Housekeeping — the second awarded by the DILG since this kind of recognition for excellence in the field of good governance measured by administrative, social, economic, environmental and other forms achievements that benefited both the community and its constituents — was introduced in 2011.

In DRRM, the city is vying this year for the Hall of Fame in the Gawad Kalasag Award of the National Disaster risk Reduction Council (NDRRMC) after winning for two consecutive years the yearly award.

“While we take pride and celebrate these achievements, we always maintain humility and prudence in carrying out the daily operations of the city government. We use the accolades we won as our inspiration to work more and achieve more for a more vibrant city,” Rosal added. (PNA)



Comments are closed.