NEGROS Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said the province has come a long way in terms of its economic gains during the opening of the 25th Panaad sa Negros Festival at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City on Saturday.
“It is a promise fulfilled and the fulfillment is beyond our expectation. I'm sure in the next 25 years, Negros will also progress much more if we continue to unite if we continue to work together especially to solve the biggest problem of this country, which is poverty,” he said.
He added: “If we can solve poverty, if we can solve the drug problem and other criminalities, so we do hope and pray that in the next 25 years, poverty will be much less.”
He also pointed out that Negros Occidental is always blessed for 25 years. Despite the calamities, the province has been spared.
“When Yolanda hit some parts of the country, we have been thankful that we were not much affected. And that it only affected the northern part of the province – in Sagay City, Cadiz City, and Manapla - with no a single death reported,” the governor said.
Marañon also acknowledged the presence of the mayors and other local officials in the province including the village officials who spared their time even at the height of the election period for the May 14 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
For his part, Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, in his welcome remarks, recalled that Panaad Festival was conceptualized in 1992 and the first Panaad was held in 1993 at the Capitol Lagoon.
“It was a small area. For four years, it was held at the Capitol Lagoon. Everything then was very temporary because, after the festival, we would dismantle all the structures.”
“In 1997, we moved to the bigger ground at the reclamation area and finally in 1998 when the Panaad Park and Stadium was built for the Palarong Pambansa. Panaad has found its permanent home,” he added.
“Because we now have the permanent site, we would like to thank all the LGUs (local government units) for their pavilions where we could see a lot of change and we are grateful for continuing to improve the pavilions. Panaad Festival is now the reflection of what is happening in the province. It shows the economic gains that we have achieved over the last 25 years,” he said.
The vice governor said: “When it started, the idea was to showcase all the festivals in the province of Negros Occidental but now more than just the showcasing all the festivals, we are giving honors to farmers, livestock raisers, hog raisers because they are most important personalities when we celebrate the Panaad Festival.”
The provincial government has been establishing permanent structures at the Panaad Park Stadium in addition to the LGU pavilions.
The year-round activities will be done gradually.
“We will open Panaad year round for tourists. We will do it once a month first, then weekly. We will continue the auction of the animal product and the food court and organic market,” Marañon said.
“To fulfill this dream in the next 25 years, the provincial government has put up permanent structures such as the Bamboo Village for processed bamboos, the organic village and livestock village,” said Panaad Festival executive director Ma. Lina Sanogal.
She said they will generate people out of the permanent structures and that the pavilions will also be open whole year round.
For this year, all 32 pavilions of the towns and cities are open unlike in previous years where some of the pavilions were closed.
Sanogal also said are not banning any soft drink companies, but Pepsi Cola is the official sponsor for this year's festival.
She stressed that on top of the gun ban relative to the May 14 Barangay and SK elections, the PNP has also granted the gun ban request covering the Panaad Park and Stadium for the entire duration of the festival.
Meanwhile, among the local chief executives present during the opening rites of Panaad sa Festival were Mayors Evelio Leonardia of Bacolod City, Mark Golez of Silay City, Isidro Zayco of Kabankalan City, Nicholas Yulo of Bago City, Cicero Borromeo of Candoni, Ernesto Estrao of Hinoba-an, Jose Benito Alonso of Pontevedra, Enrique Miravalles of Valladolid and Rhumyla Nicor-Mangilimutan of La Castellana.