More tourists are expected to visit Aloguinsan town, southern Cebu as the roads leading to its famous tourist destinations are finally completed.
The inauguration of the 2.967-kilometer Bojo-Kantabugon road also coincides with the reopening of Aloguinsan’s tourism activities especially its Bojo River Cruise, a 1.4-kilometer boat cruise that ends at the mouth of Tañon Strait.
The more than P200 million road project, which was started during Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s term as congresswoman in partnership with the Department of Tourism and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), was finally inaugurated on Wednesday, October 28.
“Mosamot kadaghan ang atong turista ani kay dali na lang ang access. Problema nato sauna ang access pero karon sayon na ang pag anhi,” Aloguinsan Mayor Cesare Ignatius Moreno said as he thanked the governor for making Aloguinsanon’s long-held dream a reality.
“Sometimes we call this the last mile. The purpose of the partnership of the Office of the Congressman, DOT-7, the national office and DPWH is really sumpayon ang destinasyon sa tourism spots sa existing roads, mao gitawag siya nga final kilometers na lang,” Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 Director Shalimar Hofer Tamano said.
Tamano said that then 3rd District Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia provided P60 million funding for the road leading to the Bojo River Cruise.
This year, the Office of Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia representing 3rd district of Cebu provided P135 million funding for the remaining road stretch leading to Hermit’s Cove in Kantabugon.
“Gisugdan ni January, paspas kaayo. Congratulations Gov. Gwen and Cong. PJ,” Tamano said.
The Garcia siblings also inaugurated the new bridge in Barangay Bojo prior to the Bojo-Kantabugon inauguration. They then proceeded to the inauguration and groundbreaking of the road concreting and improvement of the Zaragosa-Rosario Road Section in Aloguinsan, which is part of the governor’s 2020 road infrastructure projects.
Aside from the river cruise, Aloguinsan is also known for the Hermit’s Cove or the Kantabugon Beach which boasts of its stretch of white beach and a view of Mount Kanlaon in Negros Island.
Jewel in our midst
Wednesday’s Bojo River Cruise opening was historic as the site underscores Cebu’s tourism landscape which boasts of underwater activities to above-water adventures.
The Bojo River Cruise, in particular, was hailed as the world’s top 100 sustainable destinations for three consecutive years from 2016 to 2018 as it showed that nature and people can coexist to protect each other.
Garcia, who had been instrumental in the opening of the river cruise during her first term, reminisced how this enchanting site was given international accolade for being the best community eco-tourism project.
She gave credit to the role of former Aloguinsan mayor Cynthia Moreno for her steadfast commitment to push the Bojo River Cruise and the locals, especially the fisherfolks and various people’s organizations, for their work.
“Basta maningkamot ug nagkahiusa og paningkamot pagkanindot gyud sa resulta. I believe this is really the best example of a community based eco-tourism project,” Garcia said.
The tour guides were once fisherfolks who relied not just on fishing but making salt and cutting mangroves to sell them as charcoal and firewood.
But this all changed when the Bojo River cruise was launched in 2009.
During the boat ride, guests are treated to an enjoyable tale of the history of the site, and legends of mythical fairies that once resided in stones and caves in the mountains that engulf the river. Tour guides also name with ease the 24 varieties of mangroves, including their scientific names.
“This was the result of the community coming together in order to make something better of what they already had and to make something better of their lives. Dinhi mismo sa Aloguinsan, we have a jewel in our midst. Let us treasure this,” Garcia said.
Open to all
Moreno said that since August, local tourists have been slowly coming back to the town, but they had to refuse them entry because this was still not allowed by the Province.
At the time, Cebu Province has only opened tourism activities in Moalboal, Oslob and Barili and later on Cordova, Camotes Group of Islands, and Bantayan Island more than a week ago.
“From this day forward, di na ta mubalibad. We will now welcome them with open arms,” Garcia said.
Since the issuance of Executive Order 20-A which laid down the Province’s tourism-related protocols, more and more tourism spots in Cebu have been re-opened.
For the 43-members of the Bojo Aloguinsan EcoTourism Association (Baetas), it was a day of jubilation and gratitude as this signaled the revival of their livelihood.
Tour guides earn an average of P200 to P300 a day prior to the pandemic. During peak season, they earn as much as P600 a day.
“Nagpasalamat gyud mi pag-ayo kang Gov sa pagbalik sa river cruise,” said 48-year-old widow Marivic Arcaya.
When the tourism industry was put to a halt at the onset of the pandemic, Arcaya, a mother of four, resorted to planting vegetables in their backyard for her family’s subsistence.
Baetas President Rudney Carcuevas said when the lockdown was implemented in March, they distributed one sack of rice to each of their members. They also encouraged them to find ways to survive as their organization did not have enough funds to support them.
For eight months, members went back to fishing and sold vegetables and other goods to survive.
“Nalipay na lang sad mi bisag di daghan ang guests, (basta) naa siya makita namo nga income,” Carcuevas said.
Because restrictions on carrying capacity is only 50 percent, the river cruise can only accommodate 30 to 40 guests a day or a drop from their previous average of 70 persons. Entrance fee to the river cruise remains at P20.
Guests can book their tour to the Bojo River Cruise, Hermit’s Cove and other tourist accommodations in Aloguinsan through discover.cebu.gov.ph. (Vanessa L. Almeda)