By John Noel E. Herrera
This year’s celebration of the Manggahan Festival marked its sweetest return after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as Guimaras province’s tourist arrival numbers during the month-long festivities returned to pre-pandemic level.
Data from the Guimaras Police Provincial Office (GPPO) indicated that the island province recorded around 53,000 tourists from the opening of the festival on April 29, until its highlight on May 22, 2023.
Out of the 53,000 visitors, 52,436 were locals from different parts of the country, especially across Western Visayas, while 635 were foreigners, the GPPO added.
GPPO director Police Colonel Richard B. Baluis said the influx of tourists was due to the loosened COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Last year’s pandemic celebration of the Manggahan Festival gathered around 18,000 visitors and the provincial government earlier said that they are expecting around 50,000 to 60,000 tourists in 2023, noting that there are no more COVID-19-related restrictions.
“I think the way ang lakat subong, for pila ka weeks, puno man ang aton hotels and resorts. So, I think ang ila target, we can hit that number,” Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava said earlier.
Baluis, on the other hand, stressed that despite the increase in tourist arrivals this year, the authorities managed to maintain peace and order in the province.
He added that the GPPO was on full alert status during the entire celebration of the festival, and over 350 police personnel were deployed for the highlight last May 22.
The provincial government earlier lined up full-packed activities during the month-long celebration of the Manggahan Festival, which includes the Agri-Fishery and Eco-Tourism Expo, Dance Sport Competition, Battle of the Bands, Coof-off Challenge, Bike Fest, Street Dance Battle, Job Fair, Mango Harvest Festival Pick, Miss Guimaras, and the Cultural Competition.
During the highlights, Sibunag town’s Hubon Balsahan was declared champion of the Cultural Competition, bringing home a P1.5 million cash prize.
Hubon San Lorenzohanon of San Lorenzo was declared as the first runner-up, winning P1 million, and Jordan town’s Hubon Bulantihan was awarded second runner-up with a P500,000 cash prize.
As part also of the 31st provincehood anniversary of Guimaras last May 22, 2023, Professor Hazel P. Villa from West Visayas State University (WVSU) turned over her doctoral dissertation entitled, “Ang Mariit kag Palhi nga Lawud (The Uncanny and Accursed Sea): The Waterlore of Guimaras, to Governor JC Rahman Nava.
Ang Mariit Kag Palhi nga Lawod is a collection and analysis of the waterlore of Guimaras composed of around 158 variants of stories, which the provincial government noted to be a great contribution to the preservation of the Guimarasnon identity and an addition to its intangible cultural heritage.
Meanwhile, Nava earlier noted that the Eco-Tourism Expo alone generated an initial income of not less than P10 million for this year’s Manggahan Festival.
“Let’s say that is only sa expo naton, waay pa na labot ang sa drinks. So, sa food, expo, more products gid sang Guimaras and I think it will trickle down kay ti ang hospitality business naton sa palibot, ang food and beverages business, ang transpo gabenipisyo from sea to land-based transport,” Nava previously explained.
Daily Guardian also reached out to Guimaras Provincial Tourism officer Liberty Ferrer, asking for the total generated income from this year’s Manggahan Festival, but she has not responded as of the writing.