The Philippines is a country of rivers. In fact, we have about 421 river systems spread all throughout the archipelago. There is no doubt how the rivers have influenced us as a people. For example, Tagalog, the language, the people and the region, came from the word Taga-Ilog (from the river) as the provinces surrounding the region evolved with the river system.
And from what I learned in my Asian Civilization and World History classes when I was studying, it is in river systems where great civilizations flourished -- Tigris and Euphrates Rivers for the Persian and Mesopotamian civilizations, Nile River for the Egyptian civilization, Indus River for the Indian civilization and Huang or Yellow River for the Chinese civilization. This body of water provide communities with food, water for drinking, household chores and domestic animals, irrigation for farm lands, access to transportation, a venue for trade and a place for rest and recreation. There's no doubt, rivers have been part and parcel of our lives.
The river has already evolved. In other countries, and in some places in the Philippines, the river does not only provide the basic benefits it has been known for, it has been a driver of economic growth through tourism and commerce. In the Philippines for example, one of the most famous river attractions is the Loboc River in Bohol which has been drawing tourists who are heading south of the the country. I experienced it last year and was mesmerized by the beauty of this river cruise.
|Sunrise scene at the launch pad of the project|
Recently, I heard of a very interesting project, another river cruise attraction, this time in Pampanga. The project, dubbed as Lubao-Sasmuan River Cruise, is a tourism program that coincides with the 20th Anniversary of the Mount Pinatubo eruption and the 113th Philippine Independence Day.
I got curious and interested about this project because as a chronicler of the Bayanihan Republic section of this blog, I support projects that advocate for our country's heritage and tourism. And I was fortunate enough to have been invited to witness the preparations being done for this grand project.
The project is called Baybay Ilog, Bye-bye Basura, a one-day river clean up drive in preparation for the Lubao-Sasmuan River Cruise spearheaded by the local government units (LGUs) of Lubao and Sasmuan together with its volunteer citizens in cooperation with the Provincial Government and the 2nd Congressional District Office of Pampanga.
Project Leader Christian Narito who headed the social preparation phase of the project said, "It must be remembered that after twenty years of volcanic devastation brought by Mt. Pinatubo, the said program is meant to revive the state of people's livelihood and popularize Pampanga's pride. This includes cuisine, heritage, educational tours, eco tourism sites, river cruise, and specialized tours. The recent development in the riverine system of Pampanga involving seventeen (17) barangays is inclined to boost tourism prospects in the area.”
|A house along the Sasmuan River coast|
|A volunteer working on the viewing deck for bird watching|
|The bird watching site|
|From boardwalk to the viewing deck for bird watching|
|At the bird watching boardwalk. In photo are (from left): Christian Narito, Jenny Manongdo of Manila Bulletin, Florencio Jusay, Jr. of Manual to Life, foydi of Tatak Digitista and Arvin Ello of Vintersections.|
|The volunteers at the bird watching boardwalk|
|A sample souvenir item from one of the barangays|
|EJ Lagrimas, one of the leaders of the social preparation team briefing the volunteers of the Baybay Ilog, Bye-bye Basura project|
Project officials and volunteers were gathered at the Banqueruan Port in San Nicolas 1st, Lubao where the kick-off the clean-up drive started. After a brief program, the whole contingent coursed the river, checked the preparation of the communities and conducted the river clean-up.
|The launch pad of the Loboc-Sasmuan River Cruise|
|Photo courtesy of EJLagrimas Photography|
This modern day Bayanihan spirit, the river clean-up, proved the community’s solidarity, voluntarism and environmental stewardship. Christian Narito explained, "Prior to the clean up drive, the identified 17 barangay communities located along the river cruise route were educated about the positive benefits that tourism can bring in their communities."
|Photo courtesy of EJLagrimas Photography|
It has been proven that successful tourism projects were deeply rooted from community involvement. Hand in hand with strong willed leadership and support from the public and private sector, the people who takes ownership of the tourist attraction can really make the change and define their future. I personally salute the organizers of this project and the people of Sasmuan and Lubao for taking these first steps. I'll be happy to visit again the place and experience the beauty of this river cruise attraction.