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Time to Push the Moribund Tourism Industry

Since the late Governor Severo Alcantara coined "Sulong Catandungan!" as the Capitol rallying cry, not much has been accomplished in the development of the local tourism industry.

At best, the record of the past administrations in trying to lure domestic and foreign tourists to this island paradise has been spotty and limited to just a few weeks or months of the year. Baras’ famed Majestic surf is supposedly fit for professional surfers and the waves attain their majestic size only during the "habagat" season from July to September.

While Governor Joseph Cua and his family has certainly made visiting Twin Rock beach resort a must, with added attractions such as a zip line and climbing wall, half of the way to Igang remains a first-class rough road.

There are at least two travel agencies but there is not one offering regular tours of the island that would take a visitor through destinations as diverse as old churches, historical places, refreshing waterfalls, surfing and scuba diving sites, a walk through virgin forest, mangrove excursion, panning for gold and extracting abaca fiber, and sampling the island’s menu of native food and delicacies.

The provincial government has started, once again, a campaign to involve local government units in the tourism development program to identify potential destinations and stakeholders. The effort is laudable and could lead to the overdue updating of the tourism master plan produced by the Alcantara administration. Gov. Cua has commendably gotten the commitment of Camarines Sur’s LRay Villafuerte to help market Catanduanes to visitors of his CWC after they get tired of water sports.

But all the government can do to perk up tourism arrivals is to provide infrastructure facilities, undertake some promotion and train LGUs and locals to be tourist-friendly. What is really needed is for the private sector to step up and risk precious cash to invest in specific projects designed to lure tourists from within and without.

And there is no better laboratory to do this experiment than in the tourism resource-rich town of Bato, which celebrates its 212th year this April 13-15.

Those who have enough disposable cash should plunk in some to organize a group of tourism-savvy people, including mountaineering guides, and plan out an initial three-day junket of Mayor Leo Rodriguez’ municipality. Such a short visit should be enough to take the curious through the island’s oldest church and the pilgrimage site at Batalay, bring them to swim in the cool waters of Marinawa and Balongbong as well as the hidden beach beyond Bote, marvel at the sea life beneath the waters of Cabugao Bay, climb to the old Japanese garrison and try a kayak ride on Bato river from Pagsangahan, San Miguel down to Bicol’s second longest bridge where a sumptuous lunch on a floating restaurant would await.

Many of our political and business leaders have already expended barrels of saliva extolling the virtues of Catanduanes as an eco-tourism paradise. It’s time they put their money where their mouths are; or, if they are still so dense as to what this means, they gotta spend some to earn big time in the tourism business.

Source: Editorial, Catanduanes Tribune - 08 April 2011

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