Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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The Land of Boundless Opportunities

           I share the optimism of the Department of Tourism in targeting 10 million foreign tourists by 2016.  It is always wise to aim high and exert all effort, especially the construction of tourism-related infrastructures (roads, airports and seaports) to attain an ambitious goal.  Getting 10 million tourists by 2016 will help us diversify the sources of foreign exchange earnings so that we are not overly dependent on OFW remittances and BPO/KPO revenues.  The employment generation impact of 10 million foreign tourists will also be significant.  We cannot, however, ignore the other side of tourism that can yield as many as 50 million Filipinos traveling to their favorite destinations in the Philippine Archipelago.  These domestic tourists can help promote inclusive growth because they will usually travel to the countryside where the poor Filipinos reside, thus helping to generate higher income and employment for the rural folks.

          A province that will benefit most from domestic tourism is the province of Laguna because of its proximity to the richest market of 15 million mostly middle-class individuals in the National Capital Region combined with CALABARZON.  I am impressed with the long-term planning that has been made by the provincial government of Laguna whose incumbent Governor, Jeorge E. R. Ejercito, was just re-elected for another three-year term.  This will give him the opportunity to implement the road map that he prepared in his first term as Governor, after doing a good job cleaning up the town of Pagsanjan, both physically and morally, when he served there  as Mayor for 9 years.  Fortunately, his wife was also re-elected as Mayor of Pagsanjan.

          It is no exaggeration for the people of Laguna to refer to their province as the "Land of Boundless Opportunities."  Quoting from Governor Ejercito:  "Dubbed as the Land of Enchanting Wonders and Refreshing Waters, our Province takes pride in being the hope of the country's most sought-after natural sceneries, world-class theme parks, pristine churches, highly urbanized business and techno parks...Laguna, known as the "Resort Capital," "Detroit of the Philippines," "Silicon Valley," offers the traveller its most promising locations with affordable year-round tour packages...We have been declared by the Philippine Information Agency as the No. 1 Province and the Best Place for Tourism....We also boast of the most diverse festivals that gather the unique products and services of our 26 municipalities and 4 component cities.  The Mother Festival of these celebrations is the La Laguna Festival..."

          Concretely, the following are "sights to see and things to learn" in a weekend trip to Laguna where bed-and-breakfast facilities are literally mushrooming overnight.  Nature's attractions are Mt. Makiling, a tropical forest preserve that offers plenty of attractions that include the mud springs, flat rocks, Makiling Botanic Gardens, National Arts Center and the mysterious Magnetic Hill.  Mt. Banahaw is regarded as a holy mountain by some religious sects and feeds most of the cool spring water resorts in the province.  Other attractions of nature are Tayak Hill; Laguna Lake; Pagsanjan Falls; City of Seven Lakes, San Pablo; Lake Caliraya; Pangi River and the Ambon-Ambon Falls.  Among the historic sites are Rizal Shrine and Rizal Statue in Calamba City; Emilio Jacinto shrine in Sta. Cruz; Pila Heritage Park in Pila; Underground Cemetery in Nagcarlan; Spanish-era mansions in Calamba, Pila and Pagsanjan; Japanese Memorial Garden in Cavinti; Baker Hall in the University of the Philippines in Los Banos; International Rice Research Center in the UP Los Banos campus. 

          Then there are the myriad of Catholic churches that date back to as early as 1571.  One of the oldest churches in the whole country is in Majayjay, Laguna, the Church of St. Gregory.  All built in the 16th and 17th centuries are Nuestra Senora del Pilar in Alaminos; St. Bartholomew in Nagcarlan; Cathedral of St. Paul, Hermit in San Pablo City; Our Lady of the Nativity in Pangil; San Sebastian in Lumban; Immaculate Conception in Sta. Cruz; Nuestra Senora de Candelaria in Mabitac; San Antonio de Padua in Pila; St. John the Baptist in Liliw; Immaculate Conception in Los Banos; St. John the Baptist in Barrio Longos, Kalayaan and St. Peter Alcantara in Pakil.  The museums and art galleries are the Bahay Laguna in Magdalena; Baldemor and Valencia museums in Paete; Danilo Dalena's House of Paintings in Pakil; IRRI Riceworld Museum in UP Los Banos; Monterola Museum in Nagcarlan; Museo ni Cipra in  Alaminos; Museum of Natural History in UP Los Banos; Pila Museum in Pila; and the Rizal Shrine in Calamba.

          In addition to visiting museums, art galleries and historical shrines, other things to do in Laguna are swimming, massages, jacuzzis, and water slides at various resorts; shooting the rapids at Pagsanjan Falls; bird watching, hiking, trekking, camping, mountaineering and mountain biking at Mt. Makiling and Mt. Banahaw; fishing, swimming, jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, and para-sailing at Lake Caliraya; golf at San Pedro, Canlubang, Calamba and Caliraya; running, swimming, biking, and other sports at UP Los Banos; thrilling rides, special attractions and spectacular entertainment at the Enchanted Kingdom--the country's first theme park-- in Sta. Rosa City; and casino entertainment in Binan, San Pedro and Sta. Rosa.

          There is no problem with accommodations. There are some 500 public and private resorts.  Lodgings range from the luxurious to the budget.  Some of the members of the Laguna Travel Agencies and Tour Operators are Le Voyageur International Travel (049) 562 6104; Macor Travel & Tours Phils. (02) 964 6314; and Skyland Travel & Tours (049) 501 7485.  These and several other travel agencies can package educational tours, eco-tours, overnight tours and religious tours during Holy Week.  Families in the National Capital Region and in CALABARZON are especially invited to enjoy the attractions of the "Land of Boundless Opportunities." For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.