An exciting weekend – Sto. Niño and airport opening
THE SOUTHERN BEAT  - Rolly Espina () - January 17, 2008 - 12:00am

There are a lot of competing festivities ongoing in Western Visayas. Many of these are Sto. Niño festivals, each promising to draw in visitors to participate or view spectacular exhibition dances or street dancing.

Kabankalan City Mayor Pedro Zayco, for example, has been on television since last week, inviting Negrenses and other Western Visayas residents to join the Sinulog festival of his southern Negros Occidental city.

Also competing for attention is the time-honored Ati-Atihan of Kalibo, Aklan – actually the first of a series of Sto. Niño festivities for the province. But nothing could beat the electrifying lure of Kalibo’s street dancing where anyone who feels like it can join and dance to his heart’s delight.

There is the other competing spectacle – Iloilo’s Dinagyang. I would have preferred to visit Iloilo this weekend and enjoy the spectacle of the various competing tribes as they pirouette in their varied choreographed dances. Top government dignitaries are reportedly attending the affair topped by Speaker Jose de Venecia.

There will also be US Ambassador Kristie Kenney who has reportedly confirmed her attendance in the now world-famous festival. Three senators, according to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, will also attend the affair. They are Senators Richard Gordon, Mar Roxas and Francis Pangilinan.

Cabinet Secretaries Hermogenes Ebdane of Public Works and Highways, Leandro Mendoza of DOTC, Ronaldo Puno of DILG, and Bayani Fernando of  MMDA will also grace the occasion.

More important, 12 city mayors, who belong to the League of Cities of the Philippines, which Treñas heads, have reportedly confirmed their attendance in the Iloilo City affair.

I originally planned to attend the Dinagyang. I had attended only two Dinagyangs and wanted to be updated on the latest choreographic trends of the competing tribes.

But I found myself marooned in Negros because of several major events. The first, of course, is the opening of the new airport of international standards in Silay City tomorrow afternoon.

Vice President Noli de Castro will be the principal guest with presidential son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo (Pampanga), also expected to be present.

This bears watching. The Air Transportation Office earlier had claimed that everything was already in place for the airport to become fully operational.

Well, for the matter, the three airlines which used to land in the Bacolod airport, have already published in advertisements their daily schedules at the new P5.4-billion airport.

And all flights – inbound and outbound – will start early tomorrow morning.

Navigational equipment have been installed in the new airport. And the personnel of the airlines have put up their respective offices in the new site in Bagtic, Silay City.

But there are still kinks to be ironed out. Bacolodnons and Negrenses are asking – who are the shuttle bus operators who were granted permits by the LTFRB? And where are the buses going to be stationed for the commuters? And how much is the fare to and from the new airport?

The same with cab fares. How much is the authorized rate? Of course, one can always insist on metered rates. But what if the cab drivers insist that they charge double because they may have no passengers on their return trip to Bacolod?

These were questions that hounded Iloilo City residents and officials before these issues were finally settled. Bagtic, incidentally, is 20 kilometers awayh from Bacolod City.

Silay City Mayor Jose Montelibano claims that the lighting of McKinley Road, a two-lane highway, is being attended to and may be completed soon. But when?

And then, there is the petition by a group of Bacolod residents and businessmen to have the present airport retained for use for light planes so that its tourism value is not lost.

Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia remains optimistic that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will act on it, particularly with PAL’s top honcho Lucio Tan joining the group.

All is set for the inauguration. Vamos a ver.

75th diocesan anniversary

Then there is tomorrow the commemoration of the death anniversary of Ilonggo national hero Graciano Lopez Jaena. That was originally been set for the local fiesta, Jan. 19. But Lopez Jaena Elementary School authorities begged that it be rescheduled for Friday to allow the students who had set up a tableau and were ready with other cultural presentations to display their talents.

Then, there is also the celebration of the diamond anniversary of the Bacolod Diocese. This will kick off Saturday with the opening of the San Sebastian Cathedral’s doors by Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra. The Bacolod cathedral will also be site of religious pilgrimages and the prelate is announcing the grant of plenary indulgences for pilgrims.

This actually follows the tradition of the opening of the Holy See in Rome where the Pope blesses and opens the door of St. Peter’s Basilica for the occasion.

Jan. 20, Sunday, will also be the fiesta of San Sebastian, patron of the Bacolod City.

Thus, there just are too many affairs to attend in Negros Occidental for me to be able to extricate myself for other events elsewhere even if they are as alluring as those which I had mentioned as Negrense affairs.

More important, as a surviving member of the pioneer class of the Bacolod diocesan seminary, I find myself rooted in the history of the local church.


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