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New tourist destination discovered in ANTIQUE
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Bibsy M. Carballo
Date: 2006-10-22
When we received the invitation to join the Bugang River Cruise, a new travel destination in Pandan, Antique, we had not the slightest idea of what to expect never having visited the province before. It was therefore, with great surprise that after a flight to Kalibo, Aklan and a 2-hour land travel, we were told we would soon meet Mayor Plaridel Sanchez of Pandan, and Antique governor Sally Z. Perez.

The name of the governor struck a chord in our memory. Was it possible she was Sally Zaldivar Perez, a friend from UP we had lost touch with long ago? Indeed it was, and when we finally met it was just like yesterday. We knew her as an active campus figure in Political Science then. It was also presumed she would go into government service, being the daughter of Calixto O. Zaldivar, former Executive Secretary to President Diosdado Macapagal. True enough, after graduation, Sally served in government posts in the Supreme Court, the UP, the Senate, and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office. In May 2001, she became governor of the Province of Antique, and was immediately elected chairperson of the League of Provinces for Region VI.

Gov. Perez who is now into the 2nd of her three terms as governor, was visibly ecstatic over her newest baby in the province. Although the provincial capital is down south in San Jose, and the destination is north in Pandan, she holds the municipality close to her heart, being her birthplace.

The trip was arranged by the Women in Travel, a group of female executives involved in various branches of the travel industry.

A successful project last year was a search for undiscovered destinations billed "Hiyas ng Turismo," in cooperation with the Department of Tourism. It introduces new alternative destinations, encourages the preservation of resources, and harnesses the creativity of the region.

Bugang River, was adjudged 2nd placer in this search. Prior to this, it had already won the Dangal ng Ilog Award from the DENR at a National Summit on the State of Philippine Rivers. This coming November in London, a UK-based awards group will present the International Green Apple Environmental Award for Environmental Best Practice, Local Authorities and Ecotourism Category to Bugang. Obviously, this destination is going places.

The tour, managed by the Bugang Community-Based Eco-Tourism Organization, presents exquisite natural sites in the Bugang area, while showing local customs, traditions, cottage industry, and offering an adventure in and out of the river with rafting, boating and mountain trekking.

Our 2-night 3-day visit brought us to the Sto. Rosario Handicraft Center where weaving demonstrations of exquisitely designed buri and bariw mats and bags were held; entertainment that involved an intriguing local bamboo string instrument utilizing a Ricoa can called the ngutngut; a folkloric presentation; and the telling of the legend of Malonggong by an elder of the town.

Our accommodations at the Phaidon Beach Resort fronting the waters was adequate and clean; the shopping and discussions with town officers most illuminating; but clearly, the high point of the visit was the cruise along Bugang River on bamboo rafts from crystal clear Malumpati Spring to Manlonggong point, then on bancas to the tip of the Bugang River Estuary.

All along the three-kilometer river route, our eyes feasted on unbelievably clear waters one could see right to the bottom. We took this rare opportunity of relishing the unpolluted air and water, truly a treat especially to Manila residents, as Pandan folk cheered and waved from the shores.

Our companion Architect Manolet Garcia, visibly inspired, began talking of the possibility of selling the Bugang-Pandan area as a unique design and ecological center in the Visayas. We had visions of tourists, from Boracay (two hours by land from Caticlan) taking a side trip to do the river cruise by day. Or a romantic night cruise with kerosene-lit lanterns hanging from trees by riverside, as local singers and musicians with guitars and the ngut-ngut performed local ditties along the way.


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