ALMOST four years after suffering from devastation brought about by Super Typhoon "Yolanda," Tacloban City has recently earned the distinction of being number one in terms of growth rate in the entire Region of Eastern Visayas (Region 8).
And for one fleeting moment, the entire populace have totally forgotten all woes and bad memories of the calamity that failed to expunge the hopes and faith of the people of Tacloban as they merrily celebrate the annual Sangyaw Festival.
The Festival is the city’s way of showing the world that the future is bright and full of hope for Tacloban and its people. Locals and foreign tourist trooped to Tacloban to bear witness to the city’s joyful celebration.
The month-long celebration was highlighted by the Sangyaw Parade of Lights which features brightly lit and decorated floats and with street dancers partying to the upbeat “Sangyaw Theme.”
The festival likewise featured a host of activities that include a grand motorcade, the inauguration of the Sangyawan Park at the Balyuan Grounds, a Job and Business Fair, Battle of the Bands, and the Balyuan Rites.
In addition, A Golf Tournament was staged together with National Jet Ski Competition.
The pageant for Miss Tacloban and the Mister Sangyaw Tacloban also provided pomp to the month-long event and was capped by the Annual Sangyaw Foundation Ball, Waray Talents Concert, Fiesta Trade Fair, Fluvial and Land Processions, and Pontifical Mass.
Tacloban City’s steady growth has been noted despite the continuing challenges as it has regained its position as the economic hub of the region.
“The city is booming in terms of business, but right now, we’re focusing on the new townships in the north because after "Yolanda," many people who lived near the shoreline were affected so we needed to look for homes them to live in safe areas,” said Mayor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez.
Tourists have started to flock to the famous Kalanggaman Island and since the 2013 calamity, there has been a steady increase of tourist arrivals (both domestic and foreign) in the city, according to the regional tourism office.
Pre-Yolanda, Tacloban used to have 43 hotels. Today, there are now 75 hotels and expansions are also under way.
One of the big malls extended and opened an annex; still another one is opening in the north. Four malls and a couple of large supermarket chains have also been established recently.
Other tourist spots in Tacloban City include the Santo Niño Shrine, San Juanico Bridge, the Memorial in the Astrodome, and the Price Mansion which will be open soon.
The National Housing Authority builds the houses and the city’s counterpart is the land. We have almost 8,000 homes in the north but we are targeting 15,000 homes for 15,000 families,” Romualdez said.
The lady mayor disclosed that the University of the Philippines is also moving to that town where a hundred hectares is waiting. The regional hospital, ABRMC, is almost finished as well.
More than three hectares of the town will be developed into an eco-tourism zone. There will also be an agri-tourism zone and industrial zone.
“We want to preserve our downtown area but a lot of people live in the danger zones so we will relocate them and create economic activity for them as well as livelihood in that area. It’s actually upland and inland so it’s safe from storm surges,” continues Mayor Cristina.
However, with progress come some problems as well, like heavy traffic.
“We’re dealing with the traffic. We might reroute some and bring back the one-way routes. We are also limiting transportation like the tricycles especially in the downtown area. We’re also considering moving some of them to the north area to have more transportation options there; also to and from the north,” says the mayor.
“Definitely by end of this year, we will come up with the new branding of our city. We are working on it already and we continue to promote the city,” ends Mayor Romualdez.
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