NATIVIDAD, Pangasinan—In celebration of Pangasinan’s annual Tourism Month this September, the Provincial Government of Pangasinan, through its Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office (PTCAO), launched Tongtóngan: The Governor’s See Pangasinan Listening Tours this September 20, 2022.
The Pangasinan word “tongtóngan” means “purposeful talk or discussion.” Tongtóngan is a program that provides a collaborative and consultative platform for the provincial government headed by Governor Ramon V. Guico III and the province’s key tourism players and stakeholders. Alongside the valuable consultations and dialogues, it is also an opportunity to visit and promote tourism destinations in the province. The first of these tours saw Governor Guico visiting Natividad, a town in eastern Pangasinan headed by Mayor Rosita G. Rafael.
A site visit at R.Rebs Integrated Eco-Farm officially started the tour, where Governor Guico, Board Member Marinor B. De Guzman (Chairman of the Committee on Tourism, Foreign Affairs and Migrant Workers Concerns) and Provincial Administrator Melicio F. Patague II met with Mayor Rafael, Director Rogelio C. Evangelista (DPA of the Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center I), and the 1-Samahan ng Itinataguyod ang Kaunlaran ng Agri-Turismo (1-SIKAT) headed by Ms. Lea A. Santiago, owner and manager of Our Farm Republic in Mangatarem.
The event proper took place at the Sky Plaza Hotel Function Hall where PTCAO Head Maria Luisa Amor-Elduayan provided the orientation of the activity as well as the introduction of the participants, with the assistance of PTCAO Tourism Operations Officer II Monika Aliguas N. Labaupa as facilitator.
“Tunay na mapalad ang ating bayan sapagkat tayo ay pinaligiran ng iba’t ibang mga natural na likas yaman na siyang nagsisilbing turismo (Our town is truly blessed because it is surrounded by various natural resources that serve as tourism),” Mayor Rafael expressed in her welcoming remarks as she also cited tourism sites in Natividad such as Maranum Falls, Sky Plaza and R.Rebs Integrated Eco-Farm.
Meanwhile, in her own message addressed to the farm tourism stakeholders and other local participants at the event, Board Member Marinor De Guzman asserted: “Hindi lamang natin paiigtingin ang pagtatanim kundi palalakasin din po natin ang turismo hindi lamang sa kabundukan, hindi lamang sa karagatan. Palalakasin din po natin pati na rin sa kapatagan (We won’t only strengthen farming but we will also strengthen tourism not only in the mountains, not only in the seas. We will also strengthen [tourism] in the fields).”
Taking all of what had been shared by Mayor Rafael and Board Member De Guzman, Governor Guico expounded on the need to improve roads and infrastructure to improve accessibility within and around the province, further citing the on-going Pangasinan East-West Expressway project. In addition, Governor Guico expressed his support in the construction of public parks in the province’s towns and cities that may stand as valuable sources of culture and history for locals and visitors alike.
Tongtóngan fosters the bottom-up approach wherein decision-making starts from the bottom of the hierarchy rather than from the top. In this way, the activity began with a dialogue among Governor Guico and the farm tourism stakeholders who were present, particularly the members of 1-SIKAT, who expressed concerns regarding irresponsible environmental stewardship such as deforestation and improper waste management, insufficient or interrupted water supply, and the need for land rehabilitation. Speaking on behalf of 1-SIKAT, Ms. Santiago also shared the group’s advocacy to encourage students to visit farms and learn about the process and the agricultural sector, thus highlighting the importance of developing farm tourism in the province. Vice Mayor Rodrigo L. Rafael also suggested the installation of a cable car along Sky Plaza, explaining that this would make travel to the said uphill destination easier for visitors. He also voiced out his concern to rehabilitate Maranum Falls as climate change has continuously affected the strength of flow of water at the site.
The fruitful discussion ended with Governor Guico assuring the stakeholders that he would work closely with officials involved with their concerns, especially with the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in terms of legislation and necessary intervention.
Tongtóngan: The Governor’s See Pangasinan Listening Tours coincides with this year’s United Nations World Tourism Organization theme, “Rethinking Tourism,” in celebration of a more empowered, more sustainable and more inclusive future for tourism in Pangasinan’s local communities.