By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
THE people of the island province of Guimaras hope to bounce back from the horrors and after effects of the Iloilo Strait tragedy.
As they celebrated the 102nd fiesta celebration of Our Lady of Fatima Brgy. San Enrique, San Lorenzo, Guimaras on October 13, 2019, thousands of Guimarasnons and devotees from Iloilo province united in their prayers for the island province to regain its glory.
Guimaras Vice Governor John Edward Gando said now is the best time for Guimarasnons to further strengthen their faith as the province undergoes testing times.
“Ako isa ka devotee sang Lady of Fatima. Mas nami gid nga sa amo ni nga tion, where faith is tested, wala na kita iban nga dalangpan kundi pangamuyo, pagtuo kag pagsalig through the intercession of our Mother Mary and sa Ginoo,” he told Daily Guardian.
Gando is among the more than 1,000 devotees of Our Lady of Fatima who attended the celebration.
A mass headed by Archbishop of Jaro, Most Rev. Jose Romeo Lazo was also held at San Jose De Lebas Parish also in Brgy. San Enrique, San Lorenzo, Guimaras followed by a procession.
The event was capped off with the re-consecration and renewal ceremony of Our Lady of Fatima in Fatima Farms in the same barangay.
With the thousands of attendees, Gando noted that ever so slowly, Guimaras is bouncing back, more than two months after the Iloilo Strait tragedy which killed 31 passengers on board the three motor bancas.
“Kaina nagistoryahan kami, and nakita namon damo ang gasululod, amat-amat na, we are bouncing back and we are hopeful nga maigo naton ang targets in due time. Sa pagbulig sang Ginoo and pag-ubay sang Mahal nga Birhen, magabalik liwat ang Guimaras kag maga-umwad liwat ang turismo diri sa aton probinsya,” he said.
The Iloilo Strait tragedy has saddled Guimaras’ tourism sector.
The Guimaras Provincial Tourism Office recorded only 11,432 visitor arrivals from August 4-31, 2019, a 74 percent decrease from 43,709 visitors in the same period in 2018.
The tourism receipts of the province from August 4-31, 2019 also plunged from P42.9 million in 2018 to P9.8 million in 2019.
Despite this, Gando is positive that Guimaras will rise again with a vision to become the “Religious Capital” of Western Visayas.
“I consider this as the next big thing not only in the municipality of San Lorenzo but in the whole province of Guimaras. We are promoting the province to be the religious tourism of the province. We have here the Balaan Bukid in Jordan, Guimaras, Holy Family Hills in San Lorenzo, Guimaras and several churches,” he said.
During the Lenten season, devotees and pilgrims flock the province of Guimaras and witness the “Pamalandong” in San Lorenzo and the famous “Pagtaltal” in Jordan.