Pagsanjan Falls, one of the country’s pioneer attractions, is one of the most memorable images of Philippine tourism in the 1970s, and has been featauared in countless posters and postcards.
“Shooting the rapids” on the way to the fabled waterfall was among the must-do out-of-town day tours among foreign and local visitors. Four decades later, this adrenaline-pumping activity remains on top in the bucket list of travelers.
To relive its old glory, the charming town of Pagsanjan is welcoming summer with a refreshing treat with the annual Bangkero Festival from March 13 to 21.
According to Mayor Maita Javier-Ejercito, the festival showcases the town’s march to progress as a result of its tourism and investment thrusts.
This year’s theme is “Sama-samang pagsagwan Para sa Mahusay na Bayan.” The festival was nurtured by then Mayor Emilio Ramon Ejercito, a champion of tourism among local chief executives.
Now on its 17th year, the weeklong festivity is a tribute to the town’s mga bangkero or boatmen who are able to maneuver the boat and shoot the rapids skillfully on the way to the picturesque falls.
The lady mayor said the Bangkero Festival has won a string of awards from tourism bodies, the most recent of which is the Pearl Award of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines in 2013 and 2014.
Festivities will kick off on March 13 with a trade fair featuring local products and a fluvial parade in the river of gaily decorated floats made out of dug-out canoes.
Adding flair will be a sagwan (paddle) painting contest, local kakanin cooking contest, native games, brass band parades, dragonboat race, and a pageant for boatmen.
There will also be musical talent shows and screenings of award-winning movies of former Laguna governor ER Ejercito.
Celebrations will close on March 21 with a regatta. Boatmen will showcase their paddling prowess. The Lakan and Binibining Pagsanjan pageant coronation will be held in the evening.
In addition to the picturesque river and waterfalls, the town also takes pride in its Spanish-era Royal Arch built when it was made the provincial capital from 1878 to 1880.
Other heritage spots include the Diocesan Shrine of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the well-preserved ancestral mansion of Don Telesforo Ejercito.
It also has colonial-era houses that have been converted to adaptive reuse as restaurants and shops, tmost notable are Calle Arco and Rajah Sulayman.
Pagsanjan was declared by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as the “Tourist Capital of Laguna” more than a decade ago because of the volume of its visitor arrivals.
In the past two years, it had some 140,000 tourists who did the Pagsanjan rapids tours.
The municipality government was also conferred a Seal of Good Housekeeping (Silver Grade) by the Department of the Interior and Local Government in 2014 for its stewardship and sound fiscal management.
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