PALAYAN CITY, December 31, 2003 (BULLETIN) Cultural, historical, technological, ecological and agricultural tourism have all been added to the growing list of tourism development thrusts of the province of Nueva Ecija under the provincial administration of Gov. Tomas N. Joson III.

Cultural tourism attractions include the “Taong Putik” ritual in Aliaga, celebrated during the feast of John the Baptist; the colorful Araquio stage play held in Penaranda town every month of May during the feast of the Holy Cross; and the Divina Pastora Shrine in Gapan that draws tourists and pilgrims every first of May that is believed to be a source of miraculous intervention.

Dotting the wooded sprawl of the 95-year old Central Luzon State University (CLSU) campus in Muñoz, an hour from Cabanatuan City, is a vast complex of agricultural research labs, rice gene banks, model farms showcasing various techniques, fishponds and tanks, poultry and fish hatcheries, processing centers and even an agricultural museum. In fact, visitors can marvel at the exotic species produced there such as giant tilapia, freshwater prawn bred in rice paddies, herds of hulking buffalo almost as tall as man, huge melons grown vertically, eggplant as thick as a man’s arm and tomato crossed with eggplant and other fruit vegetables.

Historical landmarks also beckons such as the Sideco residence in San Isidro town which served as the Malacañang of the Philippines when President Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government retreated northward during the American advance at the end of the 19th century. There is also the site where Gen. Antonio Luna met his treacherous death within the Catholic Cathedral compound in the heart of Cabanatuan City.

DoT regional offices mobilized

Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon recently joined hands with leaders of various tourism associations and organizations and the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) in conducting relief operations for the victims of the Southern Leyte and Surigao del Norte mishaps.

Among the participating organizations from the travel sector are Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), the Federation of Tourism Industries in the Philippines (FTIP), Manila Japanese Travel Agencies and Hotels Association (MJTAHA) and Cebu Pacific.

A veteran volunteer for 30 years and a board director of the PNRC, Gordon said that the tourism industry will implement a twopronged approach to augment the present relief operations of the Red Cross – that of addressing the immediate needs of the survivors and families of the Leyte and Surigao tragedies and offering a long-term commitment to the rehabilitation of the affected communities.

“The tourism industry is deeply saddened by this very tragic incident that has befallen our kababayans in Leyte and Surigao. This is our way of telling them that we’ll be here to do our share in rebuilding not just their communities but their lives as well,” Gordon assured.

To address the survivors’ immediate needs, several hotels in Metro Manila have already donated blankets and used clothing to the Department of Tourism (DoT). Members of HSMA, PHILTOA, FTIP, and MJTAHA have also donated relief goods such as instant noodles, biscuits, chocolate drinks, pillows, sardines and over-the-counter medicines.

Cebu Pacific, on the other hand, transported these goods and blankets to the local Red Cross chapter in the respective provinces. Another batch of relief goods were also sent by the city government of Olongapo to the affected areas.

Gordon explained that DoT and all its regional offices will provide the facilities and resources to handle pledges and donations for the victims. Donations and pledges may also be channeled through DoT’s hotline no. 525-2000. (Rachel Castro-Barawid)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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