THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is encouraging the Filipinos to go around their country and see beautiful places, witness wonderful festivals, taste the gustatory delights of every region, and make friends with the people in varied communities. That is “Lakbay-Aral” (Travel and Learn).
One aspect of tourism that DOT wants to highlight is religious tourism. This is about faith... not religion. DOT wants us to strengthen and deepen our faith by using liturgical arts and meaningful rituals that could remind us that we are still here because God has a mission for each one of us. This has nothing to do with religion. God created man and woman. He did not create religion. Man and woman established religion as a vehicle to reach out to God.
Here in Negros Occidental, “the Land of Sweet Surprises,” our Provincial Tourism Office under the leadership of Cristine Mansinares manifested the readiness of our province for religious tourism. For places of worship (to mention a few), we have San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod, San Diego Pro-Cathedral in Silay, Church of St. Joseph the Worker (featuring the mural of Christ with a craggy face) in Victorias, Chapel of Cartwheels in Hda. Sta. Rosalia in Manapla, and churches in Vito and Talisay that are popular for “palapak kay San Vicente.”
During Christmas season, many of our town and city plazas have been converted into Christmas Wonderland. Our Holy Week dramatization of the death of Christ, and the procession of the “pasos” are crowd drawers. The festivals of our patron saints feature meaningful liturgical rites and our churches have special designs for the events. Here, we have towns and cities that have dances for Sto. Nino and colorful display of lanterns for San Roque.
Our cluster of schools responded to our invitation for “Lakbay-Aral and Dasal” tour (April 10 to April 14). Peak Perks (tour operator) brought to Negros 169 faculty members of Infant Jesus Academy coming from Kalibo, Marikina, and Antipolo. Bacolod coordinator Jason Tan handled this event. As consultant on Sociology of Silay, I was invited to go with Marikina group. Kalibo and Antipolo groups were handled by our local tour guides: Virna Tan, Mike Poblador and Cidne Mapa.
From the airport, I brought my Marikina group to El Ideal Bakery for them to taste the authentic Silay delicacies. After breakfast, we went to Marian Missionary of the Holy Cross (Silay) for a short tour and to pick up Fr. Martin who would be their retreat master in Lakawon Island. In the island, the open beach area was utilized for their team building and the sunset area for their retreat.
Their third day (invigorated from the retreat), was for tour of Silay. Balay Negrense enlightened them on the life of the “hacendados” who lived in their comfort zone during the golden days of sugar industry. San Diego Pro-Cathedral featured faith based on Vatican I and Vatican II. The visitors were amused when I told them the kind of faith possessed by the Silaynons from Cinco de Noviembre Revolution up to the construction of the wonderful church.
The mini-ruin at the back of the church made them perform their “dasal” activity. The kitchen of Emma Lacson managed by her daughter Baby Nora offered them the sensational “empanada”, satisfying “lumpia ubod,” sugary “saging panyo-panyo” and the best seller “pili” square. The running tour of Silay completed their curiosity on the “pueblo” that was once a “Paris of Negros” and now the “seat of arts and culture.”
Other attractions visited were “The Ruins” (Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson Mansion) and Campuestohan Highland Resort. Sidelights include “pasalubong” shopping at MassKara T-shirt outlets, “pasalubong” centers in Bacolod, a view of Negros Showroom, a running tour in Bacolod passing the Provincial Capitol, San Sebastian Cathedral, New Government Center, Negros Museum, and the projects undertaken by Ayala.
All these and many more could be done in Negros if we will always unite... government officials, tourism officers, tour operators, tour guides, hotel managers, transportation companies, business sector, law enforcement, and even our vendors. We did it and after Infant Jesus Academy, we are expecting for more.
Mayor Mark Golez of Silay is encouraging all tour operators to bring guests and tourists to Silay. It could be his best way to inform the country and the world that Silay is hosting the International Rondalla Festival in November 2018. This is “Lakbay Musika!”