Roxas City - Capiz wants to become the hub of eco-cultural tourism in the Central Philippines Super Region.
Gradually, that hub is taking shape and could soon carve out a niche in the country's tourism map. Hopefully, that hub would become captivating.
Provincial Tourism Officer Alphonsus D. Tesoro said the province said the province is pursuing a provincial tourism development plan to put the hub in place.
The plan is a result of the development vision pillar on tourism adopted by Gov. Victor A. Tanco, Sr. for his administration.
The provincial government has allotted P7.9 million from its P104.3-million 20% development fund for this year for tourism development.
Kicking off with a visioning and strategic planning workshop in August 2007, the province has initiated projects and activities to set the plan in motion.
Notable among these are: conduct of a tour guiding seminar and festival management workshop; creation of tourism councils and organizations; technical assistance; passage of legislation on environmental protection, arts promotion and heritage presentation; year-round cultural and tourism education; forging partnerships with other government institutions, business sector, the academe, and non-government and civic organizations; artistic training and repertory guidance; assistance to performing groups, artists, cultural and historical researchers and indigenous people's groups; holding of Saot Capiz dance season; empowerment of IP communities; production of collaterals for tourism promotion; participation in tourism and culture related events; promotion of creative industries; technical support for the establishment of new tourism facilities and destinations; and, renovation, maintenance, improvement and management of tourism facilities and destinations.
Tesoro said that they have formed the Organization of Tourism Officers of Capiz (OTOC) to muster the support of the municipalities in pushing tourism.
An added push was provided by the passage of resolutions at Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) declaring February as Provincial Arts Month and a Provincial Tourism Week in September.
The first Capiz Arts Summit called "Tagbo" was held with the support of local school Filamer Christian College.
Starting last year, the province commemorated its April 15 foundation anniversary with a festival dubbed "Capiztahan" to highlight the historical and cultural significance of the event.
The provincial government joined hands with the city government of Roxas in hosting the visit of the Ambassador of the State of Israel, Hon. Zvi Vapni during the death anniversary of former President Manuel A. Roxas that also fell on the date of the provincial charter day, with a show of distinctly Capiceño culture through songs and dances.
The province also was able to establish a partnership with the business sector that gave birth to the Capiz Visitors and Convention Bureau, opening of new tourism related establishments and taxi operations.
The provincial tourism plan also launched the first Capiz Ati Festival called "Hirinugyaw Ke Meme Ati."
Capiz also played host to the Visayas Area leg of the Global Peace Festival.
For the first time in Western Visayas, the province initiated a festival of indigenous dances dubbed "Saot Capiz" that was staged on Saturdays during the last quarter of 2008 and culminating in "grand binayle" last December.
Sinadya sa Halaran, Capiz's premier festival, was enhanced with more cultural activities to underscore its value as a showcase of the Capiceños' rich cultural heritage, religiosity and way of life.
Tesoro explained that the big number of culture related activities initiated so far indicates the direction set by the provincial government for its tourism program.
By all means, it is towards the attainment of the goal to make Capiz as an eco-cultural tourism hub.
"We are packaging the culture and heritage of the province together with its natural attractions," said Tesoro.
The culture and heritage of Capiz come in a variety of forms - the Sta. Monica Parish Church with its gigantic bell in Panay town, former President Roxas, national artists Jovita Fuentes (music) and Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana (theater), indigenous people and their living masters (epic chanters) of Tapaz and their centuries-old embroidery, Moro watchtowers, and others.
What we're doing in Capiz has become a benchmark for cultural tourism in the country," confided Tesoro, who has been taped by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as a resource speaker for tourism seminars and trainings in other parts of the country.
The provincial tourism officer also acknowledged the valuable support of the Department of Tourism (DOT).
He added that the level of tourism awareness among Capiceños has gone up due to the activities to which they have been exposed.
Other people have also taken more notice of Capiz as a tourist destination.
Records from the Roxas City Tourism Office headed by Rodolfo Maestro, Jr. showed that of the 51,000 tourists who visited Capiz last year more than 2,000 were of foreign origins.
With the support and cooperation of the city government available as needed, the province is always within sight of its vision.
And, of course, there's the support of the national government.
The declaration by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Central Philippines Super Region as the country's tourism belt has become the major impetus for the provincial government to pursue a tourism program based on the environment and culture.
The upgrading of the Capiz section of the nautical highway - from Sapian town at the Capiz-Aklan boundary to Dumarao at the Capiz-Iloilo border - is going on with a funding appropriation of millions of pesos.
This road network is used by tourists to visit and explore destinations and attractions in the western part of the country.
Tesoro said the tourism program is part of the overall development agenda of Gov. Tanco to make Capiz more progressive, responsive, and capable of serving the needs of Capiceños with the ultimate goal of making the province "captivating," a word that sums up the governor's development vision.
Tourism is one of its charms. (PIA-JSC)