(PIO/Rafael Manuel III)
Lingayen- – – The vast greenery of the Capitol grounds served as a giant picnic area and playground to the thousands of Iglesia ni Cristo members who attended their church’ 95th Anniversary Celebration last July 27.
Before the start of the program at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center (NRSCC) here, young and adult church members were treated with a tour at the elegant and refurbished Capitol while others took a dip and frolic at the historic and spruced-up Lingayen Beach.
The rare experience to these people, including those from the neighboring provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Zambales, elicited various remarks such as: “Ito ang pinakamagandang Kapitolyo na nakita namin;” “Hindi kami makapaniwala na may ganito pang building sa probinsiya;” “Kahit mainit sa labas sulit ang pagpasyal namin;” “Para kang nasa palasyo, ang gaganda ng mga gamit at chandeliers;” “Parang bahay ni Samson (obviously referring to the huge columns of the building);” “Siguro mahal ang kapitolyo niyo;” “Mas maganda itong kapitolyo nyo kesa sa amin;” and to those who visited the rooftop that offers a scenic aerial view of the Capitol Complex: “Grabe! Ang ganda, makikita mo ang buong paligid na malinis;” and “Napintas (Ilocano for beautiful), nakita ko ang Pacific Ocean (referring to the Lingayen Gulf).”
These things alone will tell us that the province of Pangasinan has a lot to offer, for Pangasinenses to rediscover the province, and for visitors to experience a whole new different place and culture. It is not an exaggeration, therefore, that Pangasinan, according to the Tourism Operations Division, topped the arrival of tourists in Region I last year posting 198,462 arrivals of foreign and local visitors as compared to Ilocos Norte, the former topnotcher with 183,119.
It will be recalled that the province during the past administration ranked third in tourist arrivals out of four provinces in Region I.
Foreign tourists came from various countries that include Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Hongkong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, India, Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, England and many others.
During the first quarter of this year, the province already registered an arrival of 18,353 tourists as per accommodation establishments. The peak months of April and May were not yet included in this record.
The Provincial Tourism Office offers a package of guided tour of the Capitol Complex that includes the Capitol Building, the Provincial Tourism Center in Malong Building, Veteran’s Memorial Park, Maramba Boulevard, Lingayen Beach promenade, and other provincial offices like the Kalantiao and Finance Buildings, the Narciso Ramos Sports Complex and the Capitol Resort Hotel. It also includes a visit to bagoong factories and the FVR House and very soon, the Sison Auditorium which is still being renovated.
The Pangasinan Tourism Center, which serves as a tourist assistance office, pasalubong center and display center of Pangasinan products, for its tourist assistance, already had 7,456 visitor arrivals particularly in the towns of Lingayen, Bolinao, Manaoag and Alaminos City from January to June this year.
There are at present 18 active provincial tour guides who are all employees of the provincial government catering to visitors for a Capitol Tour and for visits to various major tourist destinations in the province.
Among the documented prominent visitors of the Capitol Building were Hawaii State Representative Dennis Arakaki, Minister and Deputy Head of Mission of Australian Embassy Stephen Scott, Chinese Consul Tian Qixiang, Former President Fidel Ramos and family,Jesus Is Lord founder Eddie Villanueva, Senator Manny Villar, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando and DENR Secretary Lito Atienza.