Lanao del Norte coastal town reopens doors to tourists
KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte, Philippines — Emerging after two years of restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this once war-torn coastal town of Lanao del Norte province opened its doors to visitors again as it showcased its organic farm and fishery goods to people joining its 74th founding day revelries.
Mayor Rommel Arnado welcomed the public to the town’s 21st Hugyaw sa Kadagatan Festival on Sunday, a day before the town’s 74th Charter Day, which also coincides with the town’s fiesta celebration in honor of San Vicente Ferrer, its patron saint.
Hugyaw sa Kadagatan, which features participants dancing on top of flower-decked bamboo rafts drawn to sea by two motorboats, used to be the province’s prime tourism attraction until 2020, when the pandemic suspended all crowd-drawing events in the country and put all celebrations here to a halt.
Through the Hugyaw sa Kadagatan, which is held beside a kilometer-long boardwalk where people flock to watch the colorful event unfold at sea, Kauswagan not only showcased its organic produce, but also offered a thanksgiving for the abundant harvest it gets from the sea, Arnado said.
The mayor said the town already registered zero cases of COVID-19 this year and that most of its residents had been fully vaccinated and were encouraged to take booster doses.
Festivalgoers, however, were still required to observe minimum health standards and safety protocols, including the wearing of face masks.
“We strongly implement sustainable environment protection, health and security measures in Kauswagan for a safe and healthy environment,” Arnado said.
“Those people who will be caught violating the environment like smoking in public places, throwing garbage elsewhere will be penalized and banned from entering public places like the longest boardwalk,” Arnado said.
The coastal village of Libertad Cluster No. 5 bagged the major prize that included P70,000 for the best in street dancing competition, the P100,00 reward for best in sea dancing and P150,000 for the best in “gakit” (bamboo raft) competition; or a total cash prize of P320,000 and three championship trophies.
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