FESTIVITIES. Performers take part in a street dance competition during thee Hundred Islands Festival in Alaminos City, Pangasinan on March 18, 2023. The month-long festival is expected to attract more tourists to the famous national park. (Photo courtesy of Alaminos LGU)

ALAMINOS CITY, Pangasinan – After a long hiatus due the pandemic, the Hundred Islands Festival is back with its colorful grand parades, night parties, trade fair and food strips, among other exciting activities.

The month-long festival will feature a street dance competition, Light Parade, Talaba Ihaw-Ihaw (grilled oyster) event (March 24), Search for Miss Hundred Islands, singing contest, Miss Gay contest, kiddie show, agri-trade expo, fun run, Zumba for a cause and a bonsai show and competition, among others.

Coinciding with the festival is the 22nd Cityhood Anniversary of Alaminos on March 28.

In an interview, city tourism officer Miguel Sison said the City Tourism Office will introduce again this the "Drop-and-Pick" scheme to prevent a shortage of motorboats that will ferry guests to the Hunder Islands National Park, which is expected to see a peak in tourist arrivals this Holy Week.

Sison said in the Drop-and-Pick scheme, the guests (group) will tour three islands, then will be dropped off or unloaded at their choice island.

The guests will also set the time of pickup while the motorboat they rode in will go back to Lucap Wharf to pick up other guests and ferry again.

To date, there are 1,055 motorboats accredited with their boatmen having undergone Safety Management Training, he said.

“These are anchored mainly at the Lucap Wharf, some at the satellite stations at barangay Bued and at Bolo Beach. Part of their preparation, he said, is the inspection of the motorboats, from the engine, life vests, painting of the boars, and other safety measures,” he added.

Tourism income

Sison said the city's target income from tourism this year is PHP40 million.

“It’s a big challenge but we are confident we will achieve as the city had introduced and opened new attractions at the Hundred Islands, not to mention the fact that people are excited to travel,” he said.

A recovery in the tourism sector was already seen in 2022 with a PHP33-million income from the more than 300,000 tourist arrival.

Sison said from January to March 18, 2023, their collection has already reached PHP9.9 million with the number of tourist arrivals at 98,640.

Although, not yet at the pre-pandemic level where they recorded 500,000 tourist arrivals, it is already beyond the record in 2020 and 2021, he said.

“2023 is revitalized. We are looking forward to generating more income. We are enriching our services, with more projects. We are fixing the ziplines as these were not utilized for two years. Aside from Pilgrimage Island, there is Ramos island which is a product of volunteerism by different sectors. There will be a gallery of government officials sort of a political-historical museum,” Sison said.

There is also a coffee shop and a view deck at the modern-type building atop the island.

Vice President Sara Duterte, during her visit at the opening of the agri-trade expo, commended the local government unit of Alaminos City headed by Mayor Arth Bryan Celeste for its commitment and dedication as the pandemic nears its end.

“I’m happy to be part of this celebration after the pandemic. Hundred Islands Festival is a timely event to celebrate victories and to re-establish Alaminos as the country’s cherished treasure. Let me commend your commitment and dedication that enables you to rapidly revive a culture of high spirits and regain your sense of pride and shared belief in creating a positive outcome thru community efforts,” she said.

She cited Alaminos City not only as the heart of Western Pangasinan but also the first and only leading bearer of national park tourism.

“You have preserved HINP for years and continue to build strong consensus to cohesively represent it as an international tourism destination. I am in great awe,” Duterte said.

She also encouraged fisherfolk and farmers to be part of her advocacy program “Magnegosyo ka, Day,” which targets women, homemakers, and housewives. Monica Pearl Valle, the newly crowned Miss Hundred Islands 2023, has vowed to advocate for the protection and promotion of the HINP. (PNA)