Who would have thought that the Licab Kariton Festival could match up with other more established, better known and already famous festival in the whole Philippines?
Not us Licabeños. No sir! Not even in our wildest dreams! That, despite the fact that we are known as people who are big in dreams.
But, believe it or not, our Kariton Festival is one of only 4 town festivals in the whole country – from Aparri to Jolo – declared by the ATOP (Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines, Pearl Award 2013) in cooperation with the Department of Tourism, as finalist in the recently conducted country-wide contest in the Search for the Best Tourism Event in the Phil. (Municipal level). The other 3 finalists were the Kneeling Carabao of Pulilan, Bulacan, Bangkero of Pagsanjan, Laguna and Sarimanok Festival of Kulambogan, Lanao Del Norte.
Yes, it was a phenomenal victory for Licab. We were number one in Nueva Ecija. We were two of the finalists in Region III and one of the four standouts in the Philippines. Although, there is one remaining phase of the national competition, the result of which we are waiting for until the awards night at the ATOP awarding ceremony on Oct. 4 at Legaspi City, in Bicol.
When Mayor Willy launched the KaritonFestival, there was no thought of vying for any prize in any competition. He came up with the Kariton Festival concept because he believed there should be a lasting symbol for Licab’s history and for it’s people’s heritage and culture.
It was also Mayor Willy’s desire to come up with a compelling reason for Licabeños, wherever they may be, to come back, at least once a year, to their hometown, reminisce the past and enjoy the present “Bagong Licab”.
All of us did not know that the Kariton Festival was under the microscope, being judged and rated by the ATOP, (just to comply with the invitation of Provincial Tourism Officer Ms. Carol Uy and DOT Reg. III Dir. Ronnie Tiotico as we submit our bid form). That, notwithstanding, we will gratefully take the honor of having been chosen as one of the 4 Best Tourism Event (Festival – municipal level) nationwide.
Mayor Willy, Marilyn E. Mendiola (LGU Tourism Officer) and Atty. Dante Alejandria (Legal Consultant in Community Affairs) represented Licab in the final phase of the competition held at Diliman Preparatory School in Quezon City. The 4 finalist municipalities, along with other category finalists, were there. All delegations went through the rigorous process of discussions and interviews. It was a nerve-racking experience for us.
Our 3-person delegation went to Diliman Preparatory School (Sept. 10, 2013) totally uninitiated on and ignorant of the procedures and mechanics of the sessions. The delegations from the other winning municipalities, in comparison, were much bigger and seemed well-versed and well coached on the conduct of the discussions and interviews. Two provincial governors were conspicuously present during the proceedings, presumably to provide support to their delegations.
The interviews were heavily slanted on how much income and revenue are produced by or through the festival and which go to the municipalities coffers. Another favorite angle often asked in the interview is related to the availability of hotel and other lodging accommodations to tourists attending the festival. Sadly, these are areas which are considered weaknesses of Licab Tourism. Despite this, we clawed and fought our way into addressing these issues. We did our best to explain that these priorities are in our immediate work-in-progress slate. We invited the panel’s attention to the fact that the Kariton Festival is barely 6 years old and that Licab is a tiny, 4th class municipality, with scarce amenities and therefore couldn’t compare with bigger and more progressive municipalities. Contrast our situation to the likes of Pagsanjan, for example, whose Falls and River Tours (they call Ang Bangkero) has been a big tourist attraction and prolific income-generating festival for a long time now.
Having been named one of the 4 outstanding festivals in the Philippines is quite a feat; it is a great honor, a monumental achievement. Accordingly, we have every reason to celebrate. We have a perfect right to be proud. Let us all stand tall. This is such a phenomenon for a tiny, rustic, unassuming 4th class town. Let us not forget that Licab, in comparison with the other competitors, is not blessed with a sea, mountain or any natural wonder which are the resources that normally attract tourists.
Licab’s greatest asset is people – you, all of us. This singular asset is proving to be enough to put Licab high up in a promontory. Who knows, it could even be enough to win a contest such as this one, over more formidable competitors.
We have just started. Let us continue to seek success. Remember, striving does not know any finish line.