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The hidden jewel that is Guimaras

From breathtaking sights to mouth-watering delicacies, Guimaras Island is a veritable treasure trove of delights. As one of the lesser-known destinations in the country, it has managed to maintain its pristine charms, charms that more than a year ago w...

Apr 18
 

The hidden jewel that is Guimaras

Column: Life & Entertainment
Author: Alexander R. Bautista

From breathtaking sights to mouth-watering delicacies, Guimaras Island is a veritable treasure trove of delights. As one of the lesser-known destinations in the country, it has managed to maintain its pristine charms, charms that more than a year ago were threatened by an ecological mishap.

In August 2006, M/V Solar 1, an oil tanker chartered by Petron, sank off Guimaras’ shores, spilling 2.4 million liters of oil and contaminating 1,000 hectares of mangrove areas. The massive oil spill threatened species such as dugong and rare sea turtles. At that time, environmentalists called the accident the worst oil spill in the country’s history and estimated the cleanup to take at least a year.

But the joint efforts by the Department of Tourism, the United Nations Development Program, Canadian Urban Institute, and the Guimaras local government have worked wonders in restoring the province’s beauty. Last April 19, the coalition established a community-based tourism project called, “Guisi Discovery Quest” in Sitio Guisi, Barangay Dolores in Nueva Valencia.

The project focuses on the century-old lighthouse (Guisi lighthouse) to promote heritage tourism. The Guisi lighthouse is a remarkable landmark built in 1896 by the Spanish government located on top of the mountain. From the lighthouse, foreign and local visitors can also enjoy the previously undiscovered wonders of the Guisi beaches, or the lush wilderness trails leading to the majestic Panluron Falls.

“We want to show the extreme beauty of Guisi and the hospitable and natural charm of the community,” Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said.

Sitio Guisi was chosen to anchor the tourism project because of the municipality’s own initiative to protect its coast to ensure it is unaffected by the oil spill. DoT recognized Guisi’s potential to become a major destination launching a series of workshops glared towards preserving the environment and historical landmarks. It also established tourism-related training programs for tour guides, as well as in food preparation, pricing and business planning.

Mangoes jubilee

Guimaras is well-known for its produce, in particular its mangoes which are excellent to be served in the White House and Buckingham Palace. Recently, the Sitio celebrated the Manggahan Festival (Mango Festival) to commemorate the island’s separation from Iloilo and its establishment as a province. During the week-long festival, Guimaras is promoted as “Mango Country” with mango-picking activities and mango food festival. The varieties of mangoes produced are considered the best for making dried mangoes, jam and other delicacies. Aside from mangoes, there are also guavas, calamansi (local lime) and cashew nut trees are also grown in the island. Among the high points of the festivals are the search for Miss Guimaras and Miss Mangahan.

But the true beauty of Guimaras lies in its marine sanctuaries and islands where tourists can go boating or island-hopping with experienced local guides. The Hinalaran Cove and coral reefs can provide a breathtaking finale to visitors who wish to remember the allure of Guimaras. The DoT consistently promotes the local attractions and activities in this area to show the healing capabilities of ecological tourism on a distressed community and its environment.

The entire province is expected to benefit from the tourism project because of the plethora of job opportunities expected to open up, such as tour guides, kitchen staff and maintenance crew. The UNDP and the DoT donated P995,600 for skills development, purchase of equipment such as mountain bikes, rappelling and snorkeling equipment.

Visitors are bound to rediscover their spirituality in the religious havens of Guimaras. The province is home to the Our Lady of the Philippine Trappist Monastery, the only monastery in the Philippines, run by the Cisterian Order of Strict Observance since 1972. Then there is the Navalas church in Buenavista town, the oldest existing Roman Catholic church in Guimaras, built in 1880-85.

Exploring the natural wonders of Guimaras is the essence of this endeavor as you tour marine reserves and mountain resorts. Get pleasure from this island through different kinds of outdoor sports activities and amazing and relaxing ambiance that genuinely fit your taste.

Source: Manila Standard Today