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NO TRASH, BIG PARTIES

Village in Guimaras shows tourism need not be messy

/ 05:31 AM April 21, 2018

PERFECT FOR SELFIES Balas Balabag at the village of La Paz in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, is a white sandbar between two islets ideal for swimming and lounging around. —RANEL PITPITAN

NUEVA VALENCIA, GUIMARAS—The first thing you notice about the coastal village of La Paz here is its unusual cleanliness.

Sacks hang from bamboo fences for passersby to drop plastics, cigarette butts and other trash.

Soda bottles are but colorful plastics on display but not strewn around.

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Men and teens mill around small stores but none drink liquor.

There’s no yelling from men sending their children on an errand to buy beer or cigarettes, which is banned by a local law along with gambling.

Welcome to the village of La Paz in the town of Nueva Valencia, which could be a microcosm of an ideal Filipino coastal village and off the beaten path of Guimaras’ tourism map.

Mini-forests

With its population of 2,681 spread in seven hamlets, La Paz boasts of mini-forests, pastoral scenes, clean beaches, snorkeling and fishing sites near Taklong Island National Marine Reserve managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

It has become a way of life for La Paz residents to keep their environment clean, a legacy of their late village chief, Ramon Ortiz.

Ortiz was a strict but beloved leader whose death on Aug. 5, 2017, inspired La Paz residents to try to make him proud.

While not yet exactly a bed-and-breakfast destination, La Paz has welcomed local tourists and a few foreigners.

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It is 30-45 minutes by jeepney from the capital town of Jordan.

Himal-us Tours

La Paz’s council and residents are to hold a soft launch of their tourism initiative, Himal-us Tours, by the end of April.

The tour will start at 4 p.m. with snacks and a visit to Sitio Sumirib, the community center of La Paz.

Before dinner, visitors will have several activity choices—check out local craft, recharge under pine trees, go on nature photography, watch the sunset, paddle, kayak or swim in Sumirib.

Stargazing comes after dinner.

The next day starts at 7 a.m. when tourists can watch the sunrise and join fishermen in hauling their catch, a task called “hulik.”

After breakfast, thousands of mangroves await visitors in Suba Malawig, or Long River.

Perfect for selfies

A side trip to Balas Balabag, a white sandbar between two islets, offers scenes “picture perfect for selfies.”

By 9 a.m., Piagao Island beckons to swimmers. It has a watchtower atop a hill overlooking islets, mangroves and crystal clear waters around a marine protected area.

Kalirohan Islet offers white sand beach. It is home to Tabon birds that nest near the beach.

The day-and-a-half tour of Himal-us Tours by La Paz native Ranel Pitpitan costs P1,200 to P1,500 per person for a group of six to eight persons depending on choice of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Visitors, however, should not expect fancy accommodations. No rooms with air conditioners are available, only nipa huts and cottages.

Connie del Rosario, a “balikbayan” from New York, is renting out rooms overlooking rice paddies and Bayog Beach.

Exclusive

The Del Rosario couple’s house, dubbed “Manhattan in La Paz,” is the nearest thing to “exclusive” here but they accept only visitors recommended by friends.

Local folk say an awesome sight to behold is “tangkal-tangkal” fishing, which happens every night from 6-9 p.m.

There are 10 to 20 “tangkal,” or fish shelters, set in shallow portions of coastal waters with box-shaped nets hung from a platform of bamboo poles in or near the seabed.

Kerosene lamps above the center of the net work like beacons attracting fish. On good nights, between 300 to 500 kilograms of fish is hauled before the net is cast again.

Visitors can also try to hug Tabuhangin tree, which has a trunk 7 meters in diameter. Imbao shells (mangrove clams) and crabs are in abundance.

(For bookings please call Jocelyn Ortiz-Jison at 0929-188-3333, or e-mail boldraki69@gmail.com. Be patient, though, as mobile phone signals in the area are erratic.)

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TAGS: Guimaras, Regions, Tourism
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