I WILL take a break from sports now after I took an overnight break last weekend in Lucena City for the fourth Niyog-yugan Festival, a winner of a festival if ever I saw one.
The invitation to cover the event came from Department of Tourism’s Region IV-A Regional Director Rebecca Labid, an old friend of mine in the tourism industry.
The week-long festival came to a close last Sunday and our media group was there Friday and Saturday in time for the Bb. Niyog-yugan held at the Quezon Convention Center.
The parade of 18 floats and street dancers, and the most impressive for me, the 39 booths in the agri-tourism festival, after all, the 39 municipalities and cities that participated had millions of reasons to be creative with their respective booth designs as P3M was allocated as the top prize for that category, and another P3M for the overall champion’s prize.
And they overdid themselves in coming out with those native booths located at the Old Capitol grounds and that sold all sorts of things, the towns’ products, mostly foodstuffs like suman from Infanta, dried fish, longanisang Lucban, sinantulan, achara, coco sugar, virgin coconut oil, all sorts of jams and jellies, coco jam on top of the list, lambanog, fresh vegetables, and even unique native Christmas decorations.
I bought a few, in fact, while the provincial government, headed by Gov. Jay-jay Suarez, gave us a bayong full of local products.
I do not know if Infanta won in the booth design with its giant and very realistic-looking half-opened coconut on top of the booth but it was my bet.
The float design winners were Calauag, Quezon, and Pagbilao, while Bb. Niyog-yugan, Athisa Manalo, came from Candelaria. Too bad we did not have enough time to do a one on one with her as that would have been the highlight of my visit to this southern city, just three to four hours away from Manila, depending on what time you leave Manila.
A text message confirmed that indeed, Infanta won in the category A followed by Tagkawayan and Gumaca while in Category B, winners were Buenavista, Padre Burgos and Sampaloc.
The idea of coming up with a coconut festival came from then Cong.Aleta Suarez in 2012 and was supported by the governor with the objective of reviving the coconut industry in this province, considered as the coconut capital of the Philippines with an estimated 45 million nut bearing trees plus another 10 million senile trees.
The nut bearing ones produce around two billion nuts annually from the 389,000 hectares planted with this tree of life, this we learned at the media briefing held with Cong. David Suarez, the governor’s father , tourism officer Jun Bay, and the provincial agriculturist Roberto Gajo.
In the festival’s short history so far after starting off as a simple agri trade fair, from a total sales of P2.9 M in 2011, this year, in just the first six days sales was over 10 million already and by the time the event ends, organizers are looking at P12.7 million sales.
And if you were there, it is easy to believe as the crowd on the two days we were there were all buying and buying at the different booths. If last year, an estimated 200K people visited the fair, this year, the first five days already recorded close to 200K, meaning the attendance record will surely be broken.
And as early as now, I am already planning a return trip with my family for a short vacation there at the same time that I would like to do a special feature on the province’s manganagrits, never mind who are those, just wait for my piece on them, should prove to be an interesting one that would show part of the Filipino culture.
In a long chat with the DOT regional director , we also talked about the other attractions in Quezon, and to my surprise, in CALABARZON area which she handles, Quezon is on top of the list in annual tourism arrivals as Kamay ni Hesus alone attracts seven million visitors during Holy Week, not to mention the devotees who flock to the other side, Mt. Banahaw, my beloved mountain, while in the region, Japanese top the list of foreign visitors together with Koreans, Chinese, Americans, and Thais.
Among others, Rebecca, or Becky as how she wants to be called, shared DOT’s directions now, which is to promote equally both the developed and the developing, and those in the unbeaten paths as yet and she admitted that Quezon alone offers a lot of unbeaten paths to places like the Polillo Group of Islands where she says there is always an unexplainable beauty in different islands -- Jamalig Island with its golden sands, Alabat in Perez with its yet untapped waterfalls and caves, surfing in Real, Infanta for foodies who go for sea foods, crabs in particular, and a lot of other places.
As far as Becky is concerned, all the festivals in the region promote or integrate the Filipino culture, arts, and heritage and that is her philosophy as she continues promoting her region.
On the side, I learned that all regional directors have been asked to submit courtesy resignations. I just hope that the new government takes cognizance of the performance of each RD and not make a sweeping change among the incumbents, there are performers who regardless of who is the President, deliver good work for their respective regions, and not for anything else.
I believe Beck belongs to that list, mind you this is not a solicited or requested statement.
In fact, on Day 1 of our visit to Lucena, the group was brought up to the Atimonan Zigzag Park, where you pass the dreaded Bituka ng Manok road popularized during the old Tour of Luzon days.
The park will serve as a showcase of different organic herbal and medicinal plants that the province has decided to develop, among these are lemon grass, lagundi, and turmeric, according to provincial agriculturist Walter Dapla.
The government will also support in terms of providing processing centers for the raw products. Additional picnic huts will also be constructed in the park.
Oh, there was a sports component in the festival as there was a triathlon held that lured around 100 participants and afterwards, after visiting the booths at the trade fair, posted photos in their FB pages that resulted to more awareness for the festival.
And if I were you, next year, you could already plan to visit Lucena and see for yourselves what I am talking about when it comes to the Niyogyugan Festival.