What I am reading today

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(Photos during my vacation in Irosin, Sorsogon)

ALMASOR FAMILIARIZATION TOUR
Bacon-Bulusan-Matnog (Sorsogon)

From SirChief TourGuide Joey Salceda timeline.

INTRODUCTION:

Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (ALMASOR) Tourism Alliance is one of the three (3) Area Development Plans being formulated in line with the RDC’s priority areas of concern, specifically in Promoting Tourism. It is focused on the NTDP’s identified Tourism Development Areas (TDAs) under the Bicol cluster where in its conceptualization process, there is a need to validate potential, emerging and existing attractions/destinations, facilities and activities. Hence the conduct of the familiarization cum validation tour by the TWG in the municipalities of Bulusan and Matnog of Sorsogon province for purposes of assessing the current status and possible recommendations on how to develop the potential sites, enhancement of the already existing ones, and creation of tourism activities that will stimulate the flow of visitors in the area. In addition, tourism road projects leading to and from said destinations were inspected for possible inclusion and funding under the DOT-DPWH Convergence Program.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) as the lead agency of the Technical Committee on Promoting Tourism organized the said Familiarization cum Validation Tour participated by the members of the Technical Working Group (TWG) from NEDA, DPWH, DENR, DOST, PPA and PPDOs/CPDOs of Albay and Sorsogon. Media partners from print, TV and broadcast were likewise invited to seek their support in terms of information dissemination thru write-ups and press releases, thus first-hand exposure and information provided them better insights and concrete understanding of the validation trip, particularly on the attractions/sites visited, roads inspected as well as the activities experienced.

Conducted on April 29-30, 2013, the validation team was comprised of 29 TWG members and 16 press practitioners. With Legazpi (APSEMO) as the base, the group took off at 7:30 a.m. and covered the following areas:

Day 1: Sorsogon Provincial Capitol – Sirangan Beach Resort (Bacon, Sorsogon) – Bulusan Church – Fortress (Baluarte de Piedra), Dancalan Beach – Masacrot Spring – Fulo Spring Resort – Crystal Spring Resort – Balay Buhay sa Uma – Bulusan Lake/Volcano National Park. (Bulusan, Sorsogon)

Tourism road project inspection of Sorsogon – Bacon-Manito-Legazpi Road and Bulusan-Sta. Magdalena – Matnog road

Day 2 – Matnog Aqua Adventures: Fish feeding/interaction at Juag Lagoon – Mariculture Park – Subic Beach “pink sand” – passing local community of Calintaan Island – Tikling Island.

Inspected the end point of Bulusan-Sta-Magdalena-Matnog road

HIGHLIGHTS

• The activity was facilitated by Mr. Danilo B. Intong, ALMASOR consultant who briefed the team of the purpose of said undertaking as well as the places to be visited as indicated in the itinerary . Mr. Intong gave a backgrounder and the tourism significance of each sites/ attractions visited.

• First leg of the trip was a courtesy call to Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee at the Provincial Capitol who in his absence was represented by the Provincial Planning and Development Officer – Mr. Dominador Jardin. The latter was assisted by its Tourism Officer – Ms. Cris Racelis who gave a brief presentation of the proposed road projects: Sorsogon East Coast (Bacon-Manito-Legazpi) and Sorsogon West Coast (Bulusan-Sta. Magdaleno-Matnog) road project. These 2 projects were already evaluated by the DOT-DPWH Regional TWG based on the TRIPPC and forwarded the same to the Central TWG for their final evaluation and approval. Mr. Jardin was reminded on the submission of the Right of Way (ROW) certification which is a lacking requirement for its east coast road project.

• Ocular inspection of the Sorsogon-Bacon-Manito-Legazpi road project followed and passed by Sirangan Beach Resort (Bacon, Sorsogon City) for a quick inspection. The resort which is classified as “AA” has 12 king sized rooms distinctively crafted from natural materials and is complete with restaurant, function hall and other amenities. After inspection, the team returned to the Provincial Capitol for lunch hosted by Gov. Lee.

• From Sorsogon City, the group then proceeded to Bulusan via Gubat and had a rolling tour of the historic town of Barcelona passing the St. Joseph Church, the ruined watchtower and an old building called “La Presidencia” which served as the office of the “Governadocillo” during the Spanish regime. Upon arriving Bulusan, first stop was at Dancalan Beach Resort where the team was met and welcomed by Mr. Philip Bartilet, the newly installed Tourism Officer of Bulusan and at the same time the President of AGAP Bulusan which is now managing the Bulusan Lake and its activities. The following were inspected in the area:

DANCALAN BEACH – located at Brgy. Dancalan, Bulusan, Sorsogon. It has shallow waters and is ideal for snorkeling, camping and swimming. Managed by LGU Bulusan, the resort has picnic cottages available for rent and a very mimimal entrance fee of Php 15.00 is collected for those who wish to enjoy and relax in this beach.

BULUSAN CHURCH – located in Punta Diamante, the triangular stone fortress (Baluarte de Piedra) that encloses the parish church and rectory. Its bell tower is said to have been existed in 1631, after the town was separated as an independent parish from Casiguran in 1630. This church is considered as one of the oldest in the province of Sorsogon and had already undergone major renovations. Today the walls are almost still intact. There were a total of four baluartes de piedra, the biggest of which now serves as the church belfry.

MASACROT SPRING – located at San Roque, Bulusan Sorsogon. It has a hand carved swimming pool with clean, fresh and free flowing sulphuric waters. Visitors and picnickers can have a refreshing dip in its cool waters and rejuvenate the natural way by swimming with its sulphuric waters. Entrance Fee: Php 40.00 (adults/Php 30.00 (children)
FULO SPRING RESORT. Located just across Masacrot Spring. It is surrounded by verdant trees with pristine air, clean, cool and free flowing waters in its 2 swimming ppols For visitors who wish to stay overnight, there are 8 units cottages and also open sheds for excursionists. Entrance Fee: Php 35.00

BALAY BUHAY SA UMA – Nestled at the foot of the forested Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, This place known as home of life is ideal for spiritual retreats and recollection and also perfect for educational tours and family outings. Visitors will enjoy the walk through a thoroughfare of various plants and herbs, hedges of flowers and fruit trees escorted by bees and butterflies. It offers fishing activity, seminar venue and lodging needs and serves indigenous and native dishes all found within the farm.

CRYSTAL SPRING – A family-oriented resort set against a backdrop of lush greeneries and rainforest trees. The swimming pools are continuously fed with clean mineral-laden water from natural springs. A rest house is also available for families or groups who wish to spend the night.
BULUSAN VOLCANO NATURAL PARK (BVNP). Situated at the municipality of Bulusan in the province of Sorsogon covering an area of 3,673 hectares which straddles 5 municipalities namely: Bulusan, Irosin, Juban, Casiguran and Barcelona It is an imposing landmark in Sorsogon, towering at an altitude of 1,565 meters above sea level, making this protected area as one of the mountaineering destinations in the Philippines. Bulusan is dubbed as Switzerland of the Orient because of its lush tropical forest, it also pride itself with several gifts of nature, like cold and hot springs, tranquil lakes, rivers, waterfalls, beaches and other natural treasures. BVNP’s special features include Bulusan Volcano, Bulusan Lake, two other mountain formations known as Shark Peak and Hormahan and Lake Aguingay. It is likewise a habitat of numerous endemic species of plants such as the Forestia philippinensis, Pinanga insignis, Areca camarinensis, Mussaenda phillipica and two newly discovered species, Schefflina bulusanicum and Pronephrium bulusanicum. Other rare and threatened species are also found in the area. As sanctuary of fauna, it feature Golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatos), the Southern Luzon giant cloud rat (Phloeomys cumingii), the Philippine warty pig (Sus philippensis) and the Luzon Tarictic hornbill (Penelopides manillae).

BULUSAN LAKE. One of the main features of the BVNP found at the foot of the Bulusan Volcano which is surrounded by lush green forest and encircled by a concrete pathway. It is managed by AGAP-Bulusan, Inc. (Aggrupation of Advocates for Environmental Protection) an NGO whose mission is to protect and preserve the environment while at the same time fostering social and economic upliftment thru massive and intensive environmental education and info. campaign, promotion and support of sustainable eco-enterprises.

Located 2 kilometers from the hi-way, the lake is now getting attention from foreign and local tourists in view of the activities it offers such kayaking, canoeing, water triking, camping, trekking and mountain climbing. More activities are currently developed such as horse-back riding, wall climbing and Auto-TerrainVehicle (ATV) which are soon to open. Minimal fee of Php 20.00 for adults and Php 15.00 for elderly and children are collected as entrance fee.

STAKEHOLDERS’ CONSULTATION

• Before dinner was served, Consultation/Meeting was conducted with the Bulusan tourism stakeholders held at Balay Buhay sa Uma. Presided by Mr. Danilo Intong, first, he announced that Bulusan will play host to the 1st Volcano Sky Run, an international event to be held simultaneous with the 3rd Bulusan Trail Running Cup on June 12, 2013. He said that the success of the previous year’s Bulusan Eco-Trail Run prompted the LGU to hold the same with the hope that this will be another milestone for the municipality. Mr. Intong then gave a brief backgrounder about the ALMASOR and its overall goal which is to achieve the 500,000 foreign tourist arrivals by 2016 that will redound to job creation, income opportunities, revenue generation and eventually uplift economic condition of the people.

• Mr. Intong cited that one of the major components of the ALMASOR is the CONNECTIVITY which aimed to link the tourism sites and potentials in adjacent areas through the development of an intermodal transport infrastructures i.e. airports, sea ports, railway and road networks. Thus, convergence was forged between and among the national government agencies, specifically the CAAP, PPA, PNR and DPWH to implement projects that will support the tourism industry in terms of establishment of tourism infrastructures and providing basic access from the gateway to the service center, cluster of tourism sites as well as activity. He added that the NGAs collaborative efforts are geared towards a fast, friendly, efficient and cost effective transport system that will result to a quality touristic experience. He added that the DOT and DPWH convergence program will likewise pave the way to fund development, improvement and rehabilitation of roads leading to tourist attractions and or destinations subject to TRIPPC evaluation and submission of necessary documents.

• He then asked the stakeholders to give feedbacks on the status of the tourism industry in their area as well as the comments and recommendations of the media and TWG members as regards to the evaluation/assessment conducted. The following issues were raised:

While Bulusan is endowed with rich tourism sites and potentials, however there is an absence of regular trips leading to the sites. Hence walk-in tourists who travel via PUB will find the tour expensive as they will be prompted to take special trip just to be able to visit their desired attractions and or destination.
Bulusan can attract international visitors in view of its lush and pristine beauty as well as its enormous tourism potentials ;
Aside from the lack of capital investment to improve the existing facilities, most stakeholders are burdened with the high rate of taxes payed to BIR considering the seasonality of guests and excursionists in their resorts;
To encourage tourism investments, the LGU should consider income tax holiday
Aside from the lack of directional signages, the existing ones were noted to be not very visible and not strategically located that travelers find it difficult to locate their desired place/s to be visited;

• Mr. Intong informed the body on the significance of DOT accreditation especially on primary tourism enterprises which include accommodation establishments (hotels, resorts, inns, homestays, etc.), tourist transport and operators, tour guides, mountain guides, recreational facilties, etc. He said that with the R.A. 9593, otherwise known as Tourism of 2009, accreditation is now mandatory. He said that being accredited with the DOT means that the establishment has complied on the minimum standard requirement on the operations of the concerned establishment. Thus, he encouraged the tourism stakeholders to apply for accreditation with DOT.

• Ms. Fe Buela of DOT expressed appreciation to the stakeholders for their warm welcome and reception and for tendering meals (snacks and dinner) for their group. She likewise congratulated LGU-Bulusan for the developments and improvements happening in the municipality as manifested by the opening of new resorts and other tourism-related establishments and the enhancement of the already existing ones. She likewise congratulated Mr. Philip Bartilet, President of AGAP Bulusan for his aggressive efforts and abled leadership in managing the Bulusan Lake and introducing new tourism activities such as kayaking, canoeing, water triking, among others and for initiating national and international events such as the Bulusan Eco-trail Run, and the forthcoming events.

• Ms. Buela added, that based on the evaluation and validation conducted, most of the resorts in the area will fall under Special Interest Resort. She then advised that more improvements and upgrading is needed to qualify it to a higher resort classification.

DAY 2 – VALIDATION OF MATNOG & THE AQUA ADVENTURE PACKAGE
• From Bulusan, the team headed to Matnog of which the activity commenced with a brief stop-over at Mayor Emilio Ubaldo’s Headquarter wherein breakfast was served. Matnog is a town located at the southern part of the Bicol Region and the jump-off point to the Visayas area. It has a busy port as several ferry companies operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, specifically the Matnog-Allen and Matnog-San Isidro ferry route. Matnog is also beginning to gain popularity in the tourism industry and now drawing influx of domestic and foreign tourists because of its beautiful islands. The LGU in partnership with DOT and Bantay Kalikasan developed a tourism product/package dubbed as Matnog Aqua Adventure.
• The aqua adventure comprising island hopping activity took about 4 to 5 hrs, cruising the clear and calm water where the group first dropped at Juag Lagoon Fish Sanctuary. A family, housed in a native shanty made of bamboo stilts amidst the lagoon look after their fish pen and welcome visitors who would like to see their teeming collection of marine life. The group were provided with pellets and indulged in feeding schools of colorful and varied sizes of different fish species. Visit in this site accorded the team a unique and exciting fish feeding experience.

• Next destination was the Mariculture Park at Calintaan Island which was developed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The park showcases a commercial fish farm and offers favorable investment climate for fin fishes sea cage culture ventures. Managed by Councilor Christopher Hadap, Chairman Committee on Agriculture, he said that BFAR provides a grant of 155,000 for fisher folks which include the floating cages, fingerlings and feeds. These live fishes from the grouper sea cage project drew curious tourists in the area, hence the LGU finds the fusing of fisheries and aquatic resources as well as tourism to be an effective strategy to promote agri-ecotourism in the area that will pave the way for fisher folks to increase income from the BFAR project while at the same time benefitting from the tourism activity.

• The team then sojourned to Subic Beach passing by San Bernardino Strait which serves as the boundary of Bicol and Samar and where international vessels are sometimes sighted crossing the Pacific Ocean. Off the coast are dive sites of Matnog where magnificent corals reefs abound and also ideal for snorkeling and drift diving. The boat trip likewise passed by an old Spanish light house and underwater caves known to be inhabited by giant bats.

• The team finally reached Subic Beach known as La Playa Rosa or pink beach also located within Calintaan Island. Its pinkish sand was in effect of the crushed red corals washed out from the sea. The place has a stunning scenery and pristine beach with crystal clear waters that is very enticing for beach lovers. Open cottages are available for rent or tent can be pitched for camping or overnight stay.

• The last stop was Tikling Island which lies along the San Bernardino Strait, some 4 km offshore from the town proper of Matnog. It boasts of a fine white sand beach, however, swimming is only advisable for skilled swimmers because of the sudden drop in depth by the shore. The site is likewise ideal for camping

• After the island hopping activity, the team returned to Mayor Ubaldo’s Headquarter for the wash up and hosted merienda and went back straight to Legazpi.

Prepared by: Noted:

FE R. BUELA DANILO B. INTONG
DOT-V ALMASOR Consultant
ATTENDANCE

PARTICIPANTS NAME AGENCY/AFFILIATION
1. Fe R. Buela DOT-V
2. Milo S. Oropesa DOT-V
3. Danilo B. Intong ALMASOR Consultant
4. Ester B. Barria NEDA
5. Engr. Rosie Cantara DPWH-5
6. Engr. Ester M. Vargas DPWH-5
7. Annalyn F. Jacob DPWH-1st DEO
8. Faye B. bajamundi DOST
9. Ivy Grace L. Manila PPA
10. Ma. Ruth Mae Remonte PPA
11. Annabelle M. Barquilla DENR
12. Oscar Estillonio DENR
13. Millie C. Bueta PPDO-Albay
14. Francisco Sallena PPDO-Albay
15. Dominador Jardin PPDO-Sorsogon
16. Cristina Racelis Prov’l Tourism-Sorsogon
17. Rizza Daymo PPDO-Sorsogon
18. Engr.Funicillo Agnes Agnes PPDO-Sorsogon
19. Engr. Argeme. Gregorio PPDO-Sorsogon
20. Reynes C. Belgica PPDO Sorsogon
21. Joni Aspasia Jao PPDO-Sorsogon
22. Fe B. barrios CPDO-Tabaco City
23. Priscilla Galicia CPDO-Legazpi City
24. Reissa L. Gamos CPDO-Sorsogon City
25. Erwin D. Escanilla CPDO-Sorsogon City
26. Philip bartilet LGU-Bulusan/AGAP Bulusan
27. Elaine Antolin Artistshop, manila
28. Rose Olarte-Orbita DZMM
29. Rochelle Basanta Radyo ng Bayan
30. Don Gloriane GMA Network
31. Meljessa Balino Bicolandia Times
32. La Xavier Lauraya Bicolandia Times
33. Jonas C. Soltes Philippine Daily Inquirer
34. Jose Caritero ABS-CBN
35. Connie Destura APSEMO V
36. Aireen Jaymalin ABS-CBN
37. Jameson Salalima ABS-CBN

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