VP race casts shadow on party
PAOAY, Ilocos Norte—The province partied all night on Saturday, amid the unresolved vice presidential race involving one of their sons, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., at the fourth staging of this town’s “Himala sa Buhangin! Art and Music Festival.”
A major tourist-draw, the annual festival held at the 81-kilometer stretch of this town’s sand dunes had drawn the spotlight for statues of cinematic legends.
On Saturday night, the Ilocos Norte government unveiled a tableau of statues about the movie, “Temptation Island,” as originally envisioned by director Joey Gosiengfiao, and the 2011 version directed by Chris Martinez.
The event first honored Nora Aunor’s character, “Elsa,” in the movie “Himala” with a statue in 2014, followed in 2015 by the statue of “Flavio” as performed by the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. in the movie, “Ang Panday.”
But Bongbong’s sister, reelected Ilocos Gov. Imee Marcos, could not help but refer to the recent elections.
“Let us all enjoy but do not forget that the contest is not over. Let us fight alongside BBM (the senator’s acronym). We need clarity to enlighten us about what is happening,” she said.
Bongbong is trailing with 13,802,459 votes against leader, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo’s 14,020,498 votes in the May 15 unofficial tally, after commanding the lead at the start of counting.
Marcos’ camp had attributed his slide to a controversial program alteration committed by a Smartmatic official, while results were being transmitted from the provinces.
“But after all this dreadful campaigning and elections, May is the month of our La Virgen Milagrosa,” Imee said, referring to the annual tribute to Ilocos Norte Catholic patroness, La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc.
“Let us pray that the miracles with which we are blessed would continue to flow,” Imee said.
The Saturday event hosted over 6,000 partygoers, partly because of celebrities that were there, according to the Ilocos police.
In 2014, Aunor helped unveil the “Elsa” sculpture. The following year, defeated presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe, joined the event which honored her father.
“Himala,” “Panday” and “Temptation Island” were shot in the sand dunes.
The crowd cheered when the governor treated everyone to ice cream because of the evening heat, while artists performed on stage.
Ianree Raquel, head of the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO), said this year’s festival promoted unity and equality, “inspired by the vibe of ‘Temptation Island’ as a film which expresses the fun and outgoing attitude of the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) community.”
Summer tourism in Ilocos Norte has been brisk, gauging by INTO records which show more than 400,000 tourists spent their Holy Week break in Ilocos Norte, topping the 232,678 visitors recorded during last year’s Holy Week vacation.
The province’s northern tourist trail received the highest number of visitors, with the new Burgos lighthouse museum hosting 137,737 guests and the Bangui windmills drawing 61,363 tourists.
INTO’s data also show the Marcos Heritage Trail received a high number of visitors with the Marcos museum welcoming 39,012 visitors and the “Malacañang of the North” drawing 14,516 tourists. The Paoay Church recorded 19,959 visitors.
The influx has brought the usual problems to this town, from overcrowding to litter.
But 7-year-old Anthony Casil from nearby Nagbacalan village collects the plastic bottles scattered in the sand dunes. Every plastic bottle he collects is sold for a few centavos, which Casil saves for pocket money when the next school season opens.
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