Magalang is now thriving as a recreational and heritage tourism hotspot in the province of Pampanga.
Mayor Maria Lourdes Lacson underscored that part of her top priorities as the reinstalled local chief executive of the town is to ensure the sustainability of all efforts to boost tourism.
“We want to sustain our tourism activities so that not only the people today, but also the future generation will appreciate that we have various tourist spots in Magalang,” she said.
She added that the local government has already initiated plans to further revamp their local attractions to entice tourists and in turn help in the town’s promotion and economic development.
On recreational tourism
As a municipality sitting at the foothills of the majestic Mount Arayat, Magalang is a safe haven for nature lovers with the presence of resorts, coffee shops, and recreational parks.
The mountain is a tourist spot itself beautified by the Banal a Bunduk, Dalan ning Krus or Holy Mountain, Way of the Cross located at Orchard Village which is visited every Holy Week by thousands of pilgrims from Pampanga and its nearby provinces.
The place features life-sized 14 Stations of the Cross, a 1.6-kilometer trek toward the end which is a 35-feet tall Risen Christ. Trekkers may also opt to go further for a harder climb to the white rock, and up to the mountain’s summit.
“Nothing can beat the beauty of Mount Arayat. It is where resorts thrive best, it is where recreational activities can be done best specifically at its foothills,” Lacson said.
She shared that the local government is looking for funding for an adventure park to be built at the foot of the mountain, with the help of Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.
On heritage tourism
Magalang town is also a sanctuary of the past and a preserver of history as it is a home of two heliograph towers located in the barangays of Sta. Cruz and San Isidro regarded as important cultural properties.
The Municipal Tourism Office said these towers were erected in 1863 during the Spanish regime in the Philippines to serve as stations of communication for faster transmission of messages and signals.
Lacson emphasized that with the mentioned cultural heritage, her administration is planning to pass an ordinance ordering those who will build establishments in the town proper to design them as heritage like, following the style of the town’s patio or plaza.
“In this way, all establishments here will eventually look like heritage sites. We are not expecting this to be fast, but we know that the people here will be able to adapt,” she stated.
With its culture and arts, the municipality of Magalang received the First Philippine Heritage Awards, a presidential honor for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.
It was Lacson herself who received the said award on October 24, 2018 from then President Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacañang Palace.
On other tourism activities
Apart from the mentioned tourist attractions, Magalang also stands out with its uniquely styled festivals including the Camaru or cricket Festival which is conducted every third week of August just in time for the town’s fiesta celebration.
Lacson highlighted that they staged a face-to-face celebration for the festival this year, after a two-year cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, symbolizing that the people and the whole town are now leaping forward.
“The reason for us doing that is not only to celebrate, but also to create an avenue for people to come together as one in Magalang. This is to make people know that here we are, we will develop and jump again as crickets,” she explained.
She further shared that the local government is striving to maintain these festivals to urge people to cooperate in their activities, and reflect that Magalang is a continuously-thriving town.
Another celebration that Magalang is famed for is the Taramindu or Tamarind Festival, with the town eyeing to be the tamarind capital of the Philippines.
Lacson stressed that Pampanga State Agricultural University (PSAU) that is located at the town is grafting and propagating the Aglibut sweet tamarind which is at par with the bangkok tamarind, and is acclaimed to be the sweetest tamarind in the country.
“We have various tamarind products here including tamarind shake which is unique in our town, and tamarind candies. PSAU also makes tamarind wine, soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Eventually, we will be making a tamarind pasalubong center here in Magalang,” she detailed.
In addition, Magalang is also holding an occasion called Ing Banal a Batuin Qng Magalang: Lubenas Ning Pasku or the The Holy Stars of Magalang: Nine days of Christmas which is a procession with traditional Kapampangan lanterns and masses.
Simply called Lubenas or novena, Lacson said the celebration encourages Magaleños to create traditional Magalang white lanterns, and the winners will receive cash prizes.
This occasion paved the way for the local government to be awarded as the 1st placer under the Best Practices on Community-Based Responsible Tourism category in the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) and Department of Tourism (DOT) Best Tourism Practices of the Philippines Awards, or the ATOP-DOT Pearl Awards.
“Our festivals are not just festivals for the sake of having some festivities to conduct. Our festivals are organized to urge the participation of the people from the barangay level up to the household level,” Lacson pressed.
With everything that the town could offer, the town’s first woman Mayor pledged that her governance will continuously strive to develop Magalang as an emerging tourist destination in the northernmost part of Pampanga.