Guimaras emerging as major tourist destination in Visayas
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - June 28, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The province of Guimaras is gradually emerging as a tourist destination as its annual mango festival continues to lure domestic visitors.

In a statement, the Department of Tourism (DOT) lauded the Guimaras provincial government’s sustainable tourism development program, as it strives for full recovery from the devastating oil spill off its coast over 13 years ago.

Last year, Guimaras registered a total of 1.09 million tourists, generating P3.01 billion in tourism receipts.

This was boosted by the domestic tourist market, with visitors from Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Bohol and Aklan accounting for more than 70 percent of total arrivals.

DOT director for Western Visayas Helen Catalbas said the influx of visitors reaches its peak during the annual Manggahan Festival.

The recently held festival, which was themed Matam-is nga Kadalag-ani (Sweet Success of Harvest), attracted over 110,000 visitors during the two-week festivities.

“We are very happy that a lot more visitors came and had a great time, and went home with fun memories,” Catalbas said.

The main highlight of the festival was the daily Eat-All-You-Can mango banquet, which attracted more than 7,000 visitor participants who consumed 14.5 metric tons of mangoes.

The festival also featured other activities such as cultural performances, group street dance competition, live band concerts, motocross and bike race, agri-trade fair, job fair, beauty contest, lip-sync competition, dog festival, and pencak silat native martial arts exhibition.

Catalbas said although the yearly Manggahan Festival is held to mark the province’s founding anniversary in May, mango harvesting is done all-year round, even as Guimaras boasts of a diversified tourism products.

Among other activities and sites tourists may visit include the Trappist Monastery, the National Mango Research and Development Center, mountain hiking in Balaan Bukid, biking, island-hopping including Turtle Island, Fairy Castle, Isla Naburot, Yato Island, Natago Beach, and scuba-diving and water sports.

“Visitor arrivals increase at the onset of the holidays, Christmas and Holy Week, as Guimaras offers a most ideal place for spirituality, as well as meaningful time for family bonding adventure and fun,” Catalbas said.

Provincial tourism office chief Liberty Ferrer said the local people’s resiliency and commitment to sustainable development have been the key to the emergence of Guimaras as a major tourism destination.

“As big as it is, the island province of Guimaras is Western Visayas’ best-kept secret that people from across the globe are beginning to discover. It offers not only diverse and wholesome tourism experience but also its people’s unique hospitality as sweet as the mangoes that can be found only here,” Ferrer said.

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