The town of Palompon, Leyte strengthened its positioning as a mecca for watersports with the successful staging of the recent Abre Grande sports festival which featured a 15-km kayak marathon and a mantaha regatta.
Organized by the Palompon Municipal Eco-tourism Council Inc. and supported by 2Go Travel Supercat and the Department of Tourism-Region 8, the sports fest is the kick-off to the monthlong Lawig Festival which is part of the town’s patronal feast of St. Francis Xavier.
According to Mayor Ramon Oñate, the sports extravaganza and the festival seek to promote environmental protection through eco-water sports and rediscover the town’s pre-colonial heritage of sailing and maritime trading.
He said that Kalanggaman is also an emerging scuba diving site with lush coral walls and marine life on both sides.
The tandems of homegrown paddlers Marjun Montealto and Joemer Montealto of Team Cyclist Palompon and Diosdado Paradero Jr. and Arnold Panilag of Team JoPao capitalized on their home water advantage to capture the first and second places, respectively, of the kayak marathon.
Visiting competitors Danilo Atendido and Joebert Abad of Team LGU Dimasalang from Masbate province edged the rest of the pack to secure their third-place finish.
The paddle fest ran from the Kalanggaman island, named last year as the country’s most amazing sandbar by the travel portal Skyscanner, to Palompon town proper.
In the mantaha category, Cambinoy Mangrove and Livelihood Association Paddlers and Brgy. Parilla 4Ps Paddlers, snatched the top two honors, with Dimasalang Masbate National High School Paddlers settling for third.
The mantaha is an improvised dragonboat made out of two hulls of the typical fisherman’s outrigger boat to simulate the excitement of sprint paddling. Crewed by eight paddlers, a drummer and a rudder man, the 300-meter race was held at the town’s Tabuk Mangrove Park.
Now on its eighth edition, Abre Grande also included with duathlon for kids and open categories (run, bike, run), longboard competitions, and a 6.42-km trail run at the Palompon Terrestrial Eco-Adventure Park.
Literally meaning “grand opening”, it is a recipient of the Pearl Award from the Association of Tourism Officers in the Philippines (ATOP) for being country’s best sports tourism event in 2017.
Meanwhile, Palompon town was elevated to the group’s Hall of Fame for winning the Best Tourism-Oriented Local Government Unit (Municipality Level) for three years in a row because of this event.
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