SILAY CITY – The P600-million theme park called Magic Island that will soon rise in this northern Negros Occidental city is positioned to steer economic development for the province, particularly in tourism.

Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez, the prime mover of the project situated in Barangay Guinhalaran, said the dream of having a catalyst for growth in the province’s tourism industry is now a reality.

Silay is under the jurisdiction of Benitez’s congressional district.

“There’s magic in Negros Island and this theme park is the first step to its discovery,” Benitez said, adding that “it’s about time that we should look in other directions and harness our resources here in the province, including good food, hardworking and productive labor force, great landscape, and rich history.”

He said the development of Magic Island, which he considers the first theme park in the Visayas, can provide additional income to Negrenses through employment.

Commercial spaces up for rent could also give opportunity to local enterprises to earn more, he added.

“This is the first venture for us to explore other sectors that can make the province more progressive and well-developed,” Benitez said.

The lawmaker is a grand nephew of Simplicio Palanca, chairman of Aton Land and Leisure Inc., developer of Magic Island. The project will be helmed by Aton Land president Reynaldo Bantug.

It is located on a 3.75-hectare lot is about 12 kilometers away from Bacolod City and is expected to open in summer next year as rides will start arriving in the province later this year.

During the groundbreaking ceremony Sunday, April 2, the master plan for the project was shown, including facilities for rides and entertainment, educational and cultural exhibitions and programs, food and beverage, merchandise, and lifestyle hubs that were presented by Ken Quintal of DQA Inc., a leading design and planning firm.

About 15 rides which include the tallest Ferris wheel in the Visayas, roller coasters, carousels, kiddie and family rides, thrill rides and go-karts, a haunted house, and arcade games will be placed at the theme park.

Artistic consultant Peque Gallaga shared a brief background about the Magic Island's theme, which he got from Negrense folklore.

Gallaga said four children: Boy Bakunawa, Kit Canlaon, Manang Marapara and Pit Patag, are the chosen guardians that will fight against the villain, who hid the jewel at the Magic Island.

The jewel represents the harmony among Negrenses, he added.

Philippine Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Founding President Cesar Mario Mamon said he is honored to be given an opportunity to assist in the development of the Magic Island.

He envisioned that the project will be a success because there is a market for it.

“We are opening our doors to investors to learn from what we have started almost 25 years ago (in the Enchanted Kingdom, the first theme park in the country).” Mamon said.

Mayor Mark Golez said the development of the theme park in Silay City will help boost the economy and socio-culture of the Negrenses, especially the Silaynons.

Golez added the theme park will greatly contribute to investments in infrastructure, tax revenues, tourism revenues, and community support.

He pointed out theme parks are star players in the tourism industry and play a special and important role in generating tourism demand.

These also act as main motivators for tourism trips that offer visitors entertainment and new experiences, the mayor added.

“By providing gateways to heritage, both for locals and visitors, these cultural initiatives shall be accompanied by a social and economic rationale so that the entire theme park project shall be able to work for the improvement of the well-being of the people,” Golez said.

“We will undertake this project, in part with much consideration on reinforcing a sense of identity for Silay City,” he added.

Moreover, Bantug said the project aims to satisfy the people of Negrenses and their visitors through an experience of a world-class theme park right at their doorsteps.

“We hope to develop a tourism destination that should serve as catalyst for a rapid tourism growth in the province,” Bantug said.

They also hope to create a community for Negrenses who can live in a peaceful, relaxing, secure, and happy place, he said.

For his part, Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. expressed his gratitude to those who made the project a reality.

Marañon said the project will definitely boost the tourism industry in Negros Occidental and will create more jobs.

With the development of the theme park, the governor said he is hoping that more investors will come to the province to also experience what Negros can offer.