Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Festival of Lights

MANILA, Philippines --- In a major effort to push tourism and lure more businesses to Poro Point, La Union, the Poro Point Management Corporation (PPMC) launched last April the Sillag Festival of Lights, from here on to be celebrated every year, and has taken charge as well of repairing and rehabilitating Poro Point's iconic Lighthouse, which is set to become the center of tourism activity in the area.

Sillag (Ilocano for moonbeam) the Poro Point Festival of Lights, will be La Union's yearly summer festival. It is intended to promote the six hectare-lighthouse property as a vital component of an Integrated Tourism Complex. Sillag was launched last April 28, with activities that highlighted the province's rich history and tourist destinations. Next year, it will be scheduled proximate to the Panagbenga Festival of Baguio and Hot Air Balloon Festival of Clark, Pampanga to synergize and complement with the other economic zones under the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) group.

According to BCDA President and CEO Arnel Casanova, "This is part of BCDA's endeavors to change the landscape of Central and North Luzon...We will see business and employment opportunities that will eventually translate to the upliftment of the lives of our countrymen."

BCDA Chairman Felicito Payumo added, "The holding of Sillag in Poro Point will play a major role, not only in drawing tourists, but also in promoting the Poro Point Freeport Zone (PPFZ) with its seaport and airport as the country's magnet for investments and wealth generator in the North."

This was seconded by PPMC Chairman Ives Nisce, who said, "Through Sillag, PPMC aims to attract domestic and foreign tourists to encourage business and commerce in the PPFZ, in San Fernando City and the rest of La Union."

Sillag Festival of Lights opened with an Air Show that featured ultralight aircrafts and paragliding exhibitions, and a children's show that created a festive atmosphere. Simultaneous with these was the signing by the PPMC of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which allows the PPMC to repair and rehabilitate the Poro Point Lighthouse. This is part of the PCG's "Adopt-a-Lighthouse" program that encourages third party participation in the preservation and maintenance of culturally valuable lighthouses.

After the lighthouse ceremonies, there were performances at the Thunderbird Resorts Boardwalk by the Philippine Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Team and Silent Drill Platoon. This was followed some time after by the festival highlight, the Lantern Fluvial Parade, a parade of illuminated and decorated boats from participating agencies and companies. The parade represented boats coming back to shore guided by the light emitted by the lighthouse.

Hope Lanterns were released after the Fluvial Parade. The lanterns symbolized PPMC's collective hope for the region's socio-economic development. The lanterns were sold to government agencies, business firms, schools, other groups and organizations, and individuals. Proceeds went to the beneficiaries of PPMC's CSR program, PPMC Helps, which include the impact communities of the PPFZ and Gawad Kalinga, among others. The Hope Lantern release was a fun and magical experience, reminiscent of the light festivals held in Thailand.

Following the Hope Lantern release was a rousing concert that featured famous rock band 6Cycle Mind. A spectacular Pyromusical Show punctuated the night's festivities.

Lighthouse Rehab

The Poro Point Lighthouse to be rehabilitated was erected in the 1970s, and is one of the oldest yet still functional lighthouses in the country. It is solar-powered and its lights can reach as far as 10 nautical miles. Its apex allows a clear view of the surrounding panoramic landscapes and seascapes of La Union.

Aside from the lighthouse, the PPMC will also rehabilitate the shotgun house used by the keeper of the lighthouse, and will turn it into a museum. The entire project is expected to be completed in time for the next Sillag in 2013.

Casanova said the adoption of the lighthouse is part of the BCDA group's efforts to preserve the country's national heritage while pursuing development in the regions. He said that while BCDA seeks to develop economic hubs that bring employment to thousands of Filipinos, "We also seek to enhance the Filipino's character and sense of history."

Nisce said that the rehabilitation of the lighthouse is but a first step in future efforts to highlight the province of La Union as a tourism and investment area. "We are confident other groups will follow our lead and replicate our rehabilitation and development efforts in their side of La Union," he said.

PPMC President Florante Gerdan added, "We hope that other entities from the private sector will emulate our efforts to preserve history while promoting tourism. Preserving our heritage sites would contribute to increase in tourist arrivals, and eventually increase in investments as well as business opportunities for local entrepreneurs."