With the national government reportedly preparing to end the “state of emergency” brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, LGUs in Laguna province are now in a rush to put their places back on the map by resuming the fiestas and other celebrations that have been put on hold due to the coronavirus.
April and May has been, in the decades preceding the Covid-19 pandemic, the ideal time for holding traditional fiestas in the Philippines.
Marking fiestas has been rooted deeply in the Filipinos’ soul and culture to thank God (or the town’s patron saint) for the bounty that residents received.
Many local governments, especially in Laguna province, have considered fiestas as an approach to boost economy through the promotion of their town and local products and talents.
In fact, presently, most fiestas have less religious or cultural significance and are geared more on the pecuniary aspect in promoting the LGU's unique products and entice tourists that contribute lots to the local economy.
But when the pandemic hit in 2020, many of such events were canceled or scratched or held virtually as restrictions took hold.
According to data released by the Department of Tourism (DOT), "overnight travelers" whose presence were marked in celebration periods in Laguna,
showed a significant drop from 1,298,279 visitors in 2019 to just over 83,993 by December of 2021.
With the national government reportedly preparing to end the “state of emergency” brought by the pandemic, LGUs are now in a rush to put their places back on the map by recommencing fiestas and other celebrations.
In the aftermath of the revival last month of the Anilag (Ani ng Laguna) Festival, which was spearheaded by the provincial government of Laguna, several municipalities and cities in the province, are energized and optimistic in planning to kick off their own festivities.
In line are this month’s Marilag Festival in Santa Maria, which aims to highlight the town’s reputation as Laguna province’s “rice granary,” and the Kesong Puti Festival in the provincial capitol of Santa Cruz, which celebrates the town’s main cottage industry.
Next month, San Pedro City is set to resume its much-vaunted Sampaguita Festival, to revive what was once the city’s main industry with the highest potential of improving its economy and as well as in promoting its greatest wealth -- its people. (See article on page 4).
Meanwhile, the city of Biñan is also preparing for the full in-person celebration of its Puto Latik Festival, which also highlights one of the city’s most popular delicacies.
Impact of Anilag
Are all these events enough to jumpstart a sector that was once one of the bulwarks of Laguna’s economy before the Covid-19 pandemic?
If the recent Anilag Festival were an indication, the provincial government believes there is a great possibility for Laguna province to recapture its reputation as a tourism magnet in Calabarzon region.
"Nakita natin kung gaano nasabik ang ating mga kababayan sa ganitong klaseng mga selebrasyon," was how Pam Baun, officer-in-charge of the Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts and Trade Office (LTCATO), put it in a message to OpinYon Laguna.
“Batay po sa aming pagtaya, at least 20,000 people po ang nakiisa sa celebration ng Anilag Festival on a daily basis, habang umabot naman po sa 40,000 ang naging bisita sa ating lalawigan over the weekend [of the Anilag],” the tourism officer also reported.
It should be noted, that the current approach of the Laguna provincial government under its “Love Laguna” campaign is less on enticing foreign tourists and more on encouraging fellow Filipinos as it took advantage of a growing trend of “revenge” traveling post-Covid-19.
After all, of the 1,298,279 “overnight travelers” recorded in Laguna in 2019, 1,292,589 were "local" travelers while just over 19,776 were foreigners.
With almost all of the restrictions that went with the pandemic now shelved, the LTCATO believes that LGUs’ decisions to revive their annual fiestas and activities is the right step in encouraging more local tourists to the province thereby boosting local economy.
“Malaki ang magiging tulong nito dahil nagiging pangunahing dahilan ang mga festival para dayuhin ng mga turista ang isang lugar o bayan. Sa makukulay na activities at masayang vibes na ibinibigay ng mga festival nahihikayat ang pag bisita ng mga turista sa mga bayan na nakapagdudulot ng pagtaas ng ekonomiya nila sa tuwing magkakaroon ng festival,” Baun explained to OpinYon Laguna.
Baun also hopes that these festivals, along with the provincial government’s intensified Love Laguna campaign, will enable it to reach – or even beat – the province’s pre-pandemic record of tourist arrivals.
“Kung ihahalintulad natin sa pre pandemic tourist arrivals ng Laguna, umaabot sa four million [tourists] sa isang taon ang nagpupunta sa lalawigan ng Laguna. Inaasahan natin na sa mga darating na taon ay mahigitan pa natin ito,” she said.