By Hannah Torregoza
Now that Baler has become popular among tourists, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said he believes it is time for other tourist spots in Aurora to grab the spotlight.
Angara, whose family hails from the province, said he is eyeing expanding tourism opportunities for other beaches in Aurora.
“Baler is already well-known. So, its time that we introduce and patronize other beaches in Aurora so that other towns and municipalities would also benefit from a growing tourism,” he said in Filipino.
The former congressional representative of Aurora cited Dinadiawan Beach in Dipaculao and Casapsapan Beach in Casiguran as among the pristine beaches that have yet to reach the popularity of Baler as a tourist destination.
These beaches, he said, can be compared to the beaches in Boracay island, which is now under a six-month rehabilitation.
From 10,782 tourist arrivals in 2007, Baler received 1.2 million tourists in 2017. Boracay attracts two million tourists every year.
“In order to sustain the tourism growth of Aurora, we need to expand,” said Angara, former congressman of the lone district of Aurora province.
The senator said that apart from Baler, there are other beaches and tourist spots in Aurora that should be promoted in order to sustain tourism growth in the province and to spread the benefits of tourism to other municipalities.
“Ang hindi alam ng karamihan, mayroon din kaming Boracay sa Aurora. Habang sarado pa ang Boracay, magandang pagkakataon ito para ma-promote ang iba pang tourist destinations ng bansa, lalo na sa mga pinakamahihirap na probinsya, (What the others don’t know is that we also have a ‘Boracay’ in Aurora. While Boracay is still closed to public, I think it’s a good opportunity to promote other tourist destinations in the country, especially those that are located in the poorest provinces),” he said.
Angara, chair of the Senate local government committee, said he strongly believes that that the boost in the tourism industry would generate more jobs in the countryside and help alleviate poverty in the provinces.
He said local governments units (LGUs) should invest in tourism and develop the necessary infrastructure and facilities that would entice and make it easier for tourists to visit the area.
“We should improve our road networks and fix our airports. Even Baler could attract more tourists if the establishment of its airport would be fast-tracked,” he said.
On Saturday, June 30, the provincial government of Aurora celebrated the 16th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day with the theme: “Amistad Duradera: Honoring Edgardo J. Angara, Father of Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day.”
The former Senate President, who passed away on May 13 in Tagaytay City, was laid to rest in his hometown in Baler, Aurora on May 22.
This year’s theme paid homage to the late Senate leader who authored the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Act and aggressively promoted ties with Spain, which resulted in various development projects of the Spanish government in the Philippines.
Those who came for the event included Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat who was the guest of honor, and Spanish Ambassador Luis Antonio Calvo. Angara accompanied Puyat on a food tour to showcase Baler’s famous pako salad, suman, peanut butter, coco jam, among others.
The Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day was enacted into law in 2003 by virtue of Republic Act 9187 and is celebrated every June 30.
The event aims to honor the act of benevolence of then President Emilio Aguinaldo who in 1899 issued a decree stating that the 33 Spanish soldiers who survived the Siege of Baler be treated as friends, not as prisoners.