IN THE Pearl Awards Competition sponsored by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines and the Department of Tourism, Silay and Sipalay are always there. Sometimes, the one is mistaken for the other. Both cities start with “Si.”
Silay is now in the Hall of Fame of “The Most Tourism-Oriented Local Government Unit of the Philippines” (city category). In the past 10 years (until today), Silay has been reaping major national awards in tourism: Most Outstanding Tourism Officer, Outstanding Cultural- Heritage Program (heritage structures), Outstanding Festival (Kansilay), Outstanding Cultural-Traditional Program (Christmas Village), Outstanding Community-Based Tourism (Hda. Adela Folklore Village), and Outstanding Community Ecotourism Project (IKAW-AKO Mangrove Rehabilitation Program in Barangay Balaring).
All of these have their humble beginning with the collaborative efforts of the past and present officials who made solid cultural-tourism foundation for Silay as I saw from the time of the following mayors: Natalio G. Velez, Carlos H. Jalandoni, Ramon L. Jison, Edwin D. Velez, Carlo V. Gamban, Jose L. Montelibano...,and the incumbent mayor, Mark Andrew Arthur J. Golez wherein under his administration Silay sponsored two big cultural events – the hosting of the Philharmonic Orchestra and the International Rondalla Festival.
Mayor Oscar Montilla Jr. believes that if all these can be done in Silay, similar things can be made to happen in his city considering the cultural resources that are available in Sipalay. Vice Mayor Gina M. Lizares, the inspiration behind Sipalay tourism program, has already requested my good friend, Tourism Officer Jerick Lacson, to start the ball rolling in January 2019.
Sipalay’s festival, “Pasaway sa Sipalay,” will gradually evolve from its past glory, the mining of gold and copper, to what makes Sipalay very famous today...its tourism industry. The city has wonderful beaches and first class resorts. The airport is there ready to charter special flights. Agriculture and business in the area are very encouraging. Sipalay is noted for its “bantalaan” (tuna), “manombok” (blue marlin), and “barongoy” (San Vicente fish).
Nathaniel Jan Celiz, chairperson of Pasaway–Handurawan Cultural Dance Competition, said: “Currently, the major thrust of Sipalay is eco-tourism that strikes a balance between tourism promotion and development, and environmental preservation that focuses on protection and conservation. With its ever hospitable and welcoming people, Sipalay has now become a major tourist destination with a big share in tourist arrivals.”
Tourism Officer Lacson and Vice Mayor Lizares are strengthening the programs of the Tourism Office with intensive training on staff and stakeholders on tourism services and development; documentation of culture, history, and arts; updating of information center; improvement of parks and landmarks; and possibly the formation of reliable barangay tourism councils.
“Sipalay, the jewel of Negros” is on the rise. Visit Sipalay and meet the progressive Sipalaynons who are sharing and enjoying the blessings of nature.