Thursday, October 02, 2014

Editorial by Ernesto T. Solidum

Visit, Understood, Appreciate, 
Enjoy Aklan
In line with the celebration of tourism month, the Aklan Tourism Officers Association (AKTOA) and Aklan Provincial Tourism Office sponsored tourism officers, tour operators and members of Tri-media to a familiarization tour on September 17-19, 2014. The tour group visited Sitio Liktinon, Brgy. Maria Cristina, Madalag. On the second day we visited Zaulda Fishfarm in Brgy. Julita, Mangayaw Falls in Brgy. Guadalupe and Libacao National Forestry Vocational High School Forest Park all in Poblacion, Libacao. The third day was spent in Katunggan it Ibajay in Bugtongbato, Nito Handicraft Demo in Brgy. Mabusao. We viewed Nabaoy river and Living Museum in Brgy. Motag, Malay. A total of 30 participants left Kalibo aboard Southwest bus. Latter, some 20 local tour guides, rescue team and security personnel joined. Ms. Judith V. Malapit, member Kalibo Tourism Council was the senior of the group. The highlights are as follows:

Liktinon Boulders and Rock Formation
Cold crystal clear water swirls past huge white granite boulders and rocks creating frothy wake and rustling sound. Moisture laden air hangs above mating bird calls and cicadas while butterflies flirt from flower to flower. The scenery extends to some 200 meters upstream shielded by huge hardwood trees and verdant hills. The base of tangled rocks is home to ulang or freshwater shrimps, kagang or small crabs, eels or sili, snails or bangsud, native catfish and carp. Formidable headwater is Mt. Madyaas located approximately 10 kilometers away or deep into the forested South bordering, Culasi, Antique.

The site is accessible from Brgy. Mercedes up to sitio Igas, Galicia, Madalag. Trekking time is 3.5 hours including rest and pleasant bamboo raft rides. Brgy Maria Cristina is an Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS). Liktinon as a tourism site is an undeveloped and inaccessible. Hence the Municipal Tourism Council of Madalag must prioritize its development. The journey back to sitio Igas was exciting. Experience riding wooden banca/bamboo raft on the rapids of Maria Cristina/Timbaban river. Mr. Francisco Intela, Mun. Tourism Officer cited Mamipa Falls, 1.5 kilometers away from the Provincial road in Paningayan. Again, the problem is underdevelopment and inaccessibility.

Zaulda Fish Farm
Freshwater fish farm stocked with tilapia and hito is 3,500 square meters owned and managed by Mr. Zaulda. ilapia fingerlings are being bought and sold in Iloilo. Commercial feed is used to achieve the fish until its marketable size after 4 months.

Visitors from other places are accommodated in their spacious dining area and kitchen. Individual fishing is allowed. The fish catched is weighed in and paid at P100.00 per kilogram. The original fish farm is actually 7 hectares, but reduced to half because of super typhoon Yolanda. The source of water supply is a mountain spring connected to the fishpond by a plastic hose. Local visitors pay P20.00 to enter while foreigners are charged P100.00. Accessibility is rated good.

Mangayaw Falls
Mangayaw literally means to visit is two kilometers away from Guadalupe National High School or 7 kilometers from the Poblacion, Libacao. Cold crystal water plunges through 5 basins at a height of 80 meters. Base has been developed into swimming pool where bathers may enjoy and relaxe under makeshift huts. A bamboo raft allows diving in selected spots of the 400 square meters pool. Rushing waters divide, tumble and roll among craggy rocks and crevices. Façade of falls has a width of 7 meters but tapers off at the top.

Brgy. Kagawad Rolando Nacabuan, owner of the lot adjoining the Falls is now amenable to fully develop the area to attract more visitors. Presently, the Brgy. Council of Guadalupe does not charge entrance fee for the meantime that lodging quarters, car park and landscaping are not yet in place. Additional trees, access trail to the top and full time service personnel will soon be provided.

Katunggan it Ibajay
Katunggan it Ibajay is managed jointly by two Peoples’ Organizations which are Fisherfolks Association of Bugtongbato headed by Mr. Renante Castillo and Naisud Mangrove and Aquatic Organization headed by Mr. Carlito Alag. 

Mangrove reservation is 44 hectares that boosts of century old bakhawan trees. Thriving are 28 of the worlds 35 species of mangroves and favorite stopover of migratory birds like: zebra dove (Geopelia striata), Brahminy kite (Halistim Indus) and Pied triller (Jalage nigra). The most common tree species are: piagao (Zylocarpus molucunsis), gapas-gapas (campostemon philippinensis) and bungalon/api-api (Avicennia rumphiana). Boating on serene river affords one to see fiedler crubs, mudskipper and occasional monitor lizards.

A crab fattening project (32 sq. m.) is managed by the above-named PO’s that uses trash fish. Mature stock are sold at P150.00/kgm after fattening for 15-20 days. The average selling price fetches at P350.00/kgm.

Funding of impressive multi-functional hall is from Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA). Grant of P9 million was spent for building and 600 meters boardwalk construction. Another funding of P1.9 million is for 400 meters boardwalk to reach the 300 year old api-api or bungalon trees, considered the oldest in Panay Island if not in the whole Philippines. The tree has a circumferential width of 8 meters and 20 meters high.

The modern building serves as venue during birthday, wedding, baptismal, parties, and seminars. The Bakhawan Park collects P20.00 entrance fee per head. Students are given 10 percent discount. 

Nitto Handicraft in Mabusao
Nito products are serving trays, placemats (varied sizes), coconut shell containers for jewelries and accessories, basket and trinkets. Chiefly made from nitto, its cottage industry projects can hardly meet purchase orders. The supply of nitto comes from other places like Tangalan, Nabas, and Makato. A placemat of 1.3 feet in diameter can be finished in one day sold at P250.00 each. There were six women weavers at Mabusao Day Care Center during the time of our visit.

Living Museum in Brgy. Motag
A 500 square meters brainchild project of Brgy. Capt. Nenette Aguirre Graf, showcases the native culture and life of Malaynons before tourists came to Boracay. Some 30 villagers perform respective routine tasks like threshing rice panicles by foot on a suspended bamboo platform; pounding rice with mortar and pestle; cooking rice using earthen pots placed over coals of fire held up by 3 large stones; mat and basket weaving using nitto and bamboo as raw materials. Some guests can take turns in plowing or harrowing field using carabao as beast of burden.

Native rice variety known as camoros is transplanted on a well prepared rice field. No spraying of pesticides is allowed while organic fertilizer is judiciously applied. Harvesting of rice is done by pangayog or half moon-shaped hand cutter targeting the panicle one by one.

Traditional way of fetching water from a well is observed. A timba attached to a long bamboo pole is used to draw water and promptly poured into a sag-ob, a 1.5 meter long, large bamboo container. Kitchen utensils are coconut ladles, coconut cups or bagoe and bamboo tubes as liquid containers. Use of monosodium glutamate (vetsin) and other appetizing ingredients like soy sauce are taboo.
We were served native dishes like inubarang manok and ginataang ulang. Desserts include ibos (glutinous rice cooked in coco milk and sugar wrapped in coco leaves), puto or rice cakes and biko (glutinous rice cooked in coco milk and sugar until it turns brownish). Drinks include buko and ginger tea.

Comfort rooms with running water are provided but lodging accommodation is not yet feasible what with a limited area. However, expansion plans include lodging houses and bigger farm area.
While the project started barely 18 months ago, and domestic and foreign tourists are coming just because it is educational, inter-active and unique. It is one in the whole Philippines. Consultant is Ms. Louis Henwood, a museum enthusiast from the United Kingdom. Entrance fee is P700.00/person, P250.00/child and P1,200 for the whole family. A memorable experience is watching Tinikling dance where two dancers demonstrate the steps and then urge visitors to join them apparently in a test skills.

The food and snacks including muddy immersion in plowing using the carabao, weeding, transplanting and harvesting rice are involved in the entrance fee. This place is five kilometers away from Caticlan Jetty Port, adjacent to Nabaoy National High School.

Our Municipal Tourism Officers namely: Francisco Intela of Madalag, Reitte Teodosio of Libacao, Lyn Ilinon of Ibajay, and Felix Gregorio of Malay are cited for their invaluable roles in the promotion of our rich cultural heritage and eco-tourism spots. Tourism month has been very productive because of the familiarization tour provided the Tri-media, tour operators and other stakeholders. Our warm congratulations to Ms. Roselle Q. Ruiz, Head Aklan Provincial Tourism Office, Ms. Concepcion P. Labindao, Supervising Tourism Officer and Ms. Rhea Rose E. Meren, Tourism Operations Officer I and incumbent Pres. of AKTOA. /MP

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