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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mardi Gras fantasy nights


The 38 th MassKara Festival celebration continues to bring awe, excitement and thrill to the Negrenses and visitors, both young and the young at heart. Under the leadership of our hardworking and multi-awarded city mayor, Bing Leonardia, Bacolod continues to soar to unprecedented heights.

The city recently unveiled another milestone, another history in the making. Dozens of contestants dressed in fantasy-inspired costumes illuminated the dimly-lit Bacolod public plaza as they showcased their shimmering masterpiece attires. It was a sight to behold as the Negrenses personally witnessed the launch of the awesome “Nights of Mardi Gras!” another festival breakthrough conceptualized by the creative minds behind our successful MassKara Festival.

Twenty-five different participants each night took our breath away as they parade along the city's major thoroughfares – San Juan, Gonzaga and Gatuslao streets – and end up at the public plaza. Every night, the top eight participants are selected to advance to the grand finals today.

Be sure to choose a nice spot at the Diamond Jubilee Tower located at the Gonzaga side of the plaza for this is where the announcement of the five winners will be done. Tonight, the grand winner will receive P10,000 in cash, first runner-up P7,000, second runner-up P5,000, third runner-up P3,000, and fourth runner-up P2,000. The remaining 11 finalists will receive P1,000 each. All the 50 participants will also receive P1,000 each.

The Nights of Mardi Gras was conceptualized as a special event to entertain MassKara revelers at the plaza, especially those dining and drinking at the kiosks there.*

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Key driver to economic growth

In the recent gathering of about 1,152 tourism officers and officials of different local government units in the Philippines in Ioilo City, Undersecretary Alma Rita Jimenez of the Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation, delivered a very interesting message on the importance of tourism in the country.

Revenue earned on inbound visitors in 2016 reached P313.6 billion, domestic visitors as well as expenditure reached P2.1 trillion with a 9.29 average length of stay each tourist and an average daily expense of $100.23.

Top foreign market in the country was visitors from the United States of America, Australia, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Canada, United Kingdom, and Malaysia.

She also mentioned accessibility wherein 98.79 percent of visitors travelled by air, 90.20 percent were independent travellers who booked tours, tickets and hotels online with 53.40 percent visiting the country more than once. We have 216,088 rooms and 9,329 accommodation establishments according to the 2015 survey of accommodation establishments.

The economic boost was, indeed, felt, especially with the creation of jobs. In 2015, about five million Filipinos worked in the tourism industry and have increased to 5.3 million in 2017 out of the total Philippine population recorded in 2016 at 102,467,483.

Jimenez said that sustainability is in us, doing more good not just less harm. She further motivated us in the local government units that indeed LGUs can, which meant law and order, good governance, up skilling, sustainability and to capacitate, activate and nurture a culture of tourism in the community.

With this, the delegates of the convention went into an immersion tour of the towns around the province of Iloilo. More than 10 buses went to different destinations. With the Association of Tourism Officers of Negros Occidental, we decided to visit the agri-ecotourism destinations. First stop was the Iloilo rice processing complex in the town of Pototan where we had a tour of the drying area, with the white rice area which can mill 2.5 tons of rice per hour, and the brown rice with a hulling capacity of 3 tons per hour.

Then we went to the town of Badiangan to the Ephrathah Farms which is a resort and farm at the same time, there were cottages, swimming pools, the flowers in bloom welcomed us in this non-smoking resort, a place ideal for family and teambuilding where facilities are available, such as a glass chapel, a basketball court, an amphitheatre, mini-zoo, campsite, butterfly farm, training room and a restaurant. Mayor Serafin Villa Jr. hosted snacks for the delegates at the farm.

Then we went to Damires Hills Tierra Verde, another place for ecotourism and adventure with accommodation facilities, a swimming pool and a view of the mountain, and they serve good food as well with all officials, headed by Mayor Jose de Paula and Vice Mayor Joseph Lutero. We also visited the town of Lambunao with tourism officer Jennifer Osorio, home of the Binanog Festival, where performers danced in the street and right by the river while we were able to walk on a hanging bridge. They also have a wildlife conservation park named Mari-it, home to endangered species like the warty pig, a cloud rat, the blue-headed racquet tailed parrot, and the hornbill, spotted deer and civet cats.

It rained hard when we arrived at Lambunao and even at Calinog town, our last stop. It was heart-warming to see street dancers of Tribu Burulakaw, Banaag and the performance of BQSA pupils, headed by Vice Mayor Rene Hurtada and the SB members with National Living Treasure Panay-Bukidnon Federico Caballero. A native delicacy of puto, ibus, cassava, with coffee was served while they entertained us with the local dances. It was seven in the evening when we arrived, yet the 12-hour tour of the towns, experiencing the hospitality of the LGUs and their active participation in hosting the delegates of the ATOP National Convention is an indication that, indeed, our leaders have realized how tourism can be important as an economic driver for the country.*

Tourism: Key driver to economic growth

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