The charming town of Pagsanjan in Laguna province, one of the country’s pioneer tourist hot spots, marked a historic milestone as it recently celebrated its 350th foundation day through the weeklong Lagaslas Bangkero Festival.
Themed “Sa Panahong Lumipas, Pagsanjan Lalong Tumikas,” the event-filled festival was a fitting tribute to the bangkeros or boatmen who skillfully navigate and shoot the rapids all the way to the picture-perfect falls.
Festivities kicked off with the unveiling of the commemorative marker of the Spanish-era Puerta Real or Royal Gate by the National Historical Commission, which was built in 1878 to memorialize Pagsanjan’s glory years as Laguna’s provincial capital from 1688 to 1872.
The site is believed to be the place where the town’s patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, appeared and drove away the pirates who are about to raid the town in the late 1800s.
The celebration coincides with the town’s patronal fiesta which converge at the Diocesan Shrine of the Our Lady of Guadalupe whose first church was founded in 1687. In its Chapel of the Tilma is enshrined the stone where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared in Mexico.
Pagsanjan Mayor Maita Javier-Ejercito said the festival showcased the town’s road to progress over the decades. She said this year’s observance is special with the Seal of Good Local Governance they have received from the Department of the Interior and Local Government for their stewardship and sound fiscal management.
Pagsanjan was rated by the Department of Trade and Industry as the country’s sixth overall Most Competitive Municipality because of its efficiency, economic dynamism, infrastructure and resilience.
The town is also a national finalist in the Best BDRRMC and Best GEMS Categories of the Gawad Kalasag Award by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and various accolades from the Province of Laguna, national government agencies, and socio-civic organizations.
Spicing up the festivities were street dancing contest depicting the exciting boat ride to Pagsanjan Falls, whose accompanying music was recorded by the lady mayor herself in an MTV.
Adding color were a Korean Traditional Folklore Group show, a Chef War which put the spotlight on upcoming homegrown chefs, the Ginoong Bangkero pageant, and the Lakan at Binibini ng Laguna with celebrity judges.
Other fringe events were drum and lyre competition, a hiphop modern dance, a singing contest, a photography tilt, Christmas-related activities, and screenings of award-winning movies of former Laguna governor ER Ejercito.
Pagsanjan takes pride in its well-preserved ancestral stone houses, as well as its vibrant culinary scene with its cozy home-grown themed restaurants which attract food trippers from various parts of Laguna.
A new attraction is the San Isidro Hill Religious Eco-Tourism Park which will become the newest tourist hotspot with its soothing panorama of Laguna De Bay sunset.
Built by the municipal government, it can be reached through a 292-step landscaped staircase, and will have a giant statue of the Our Lady of Guadalupe, prayer garden, public park, and a multi-purpose hall.