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Pledge for Pagudpud

Eco-tourism spot in the north finds advocacy allies via a beauty pageant

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FROM left: Col. Ricardo Nolasco; 2nd runners-up Philip Amer de la Cruz and Stephanie Romawag; emcee Slater Young; Hannah Nolasco; title winners Patricia Camille Reyes and Stephan Cativo; first runners up Yhen Diaz and Allen Ong Medina.

The title may sound a little too homespun for inveterate watchers of beauty contests. But in winning the recent search for Mr. & Ms. Hannah’s Beach Resort and Convention Center, Stephan Cativo and Patricia Camille Reyes signed up for ready-made responsibilities that are more immediate, straightforward and concrete than promoting world peace.

Cativo and Reyes are now spokespersons for the seven-acre international tourist destination and, inevitably, of the big little town in the north where it is located—Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

DE LOS Reyes was also best in swimsuit, formal wear and national costume. PHOTO BY CARLOS VELARDE

Because Pagudpud has been listed on several travel websites as next only to Boracay in terms of value and appeal to visitors, the quest, whose finals were just recently held, was very timely.

Hannah’s white-sand beach front is Barangay Balaoi’s famous Blue Lagoon—pristine, picturesque and welcoming (50 meters from the shore, the water is still chest-deep). It is little-known that the cove was short-listed as a location for the Hollywood hit movie that starred Brooke Shields.

Weekend throngs troop to the smaller “home stay” facilities outside Hannah’s gates; but weekdays off-season, the cove reverts to being a quiet sheltered corner of the China Sea, stunning in the daytime, deeply calming after sundown.

Boracay used to have such days and nights. Had ecotourism awareness descended on it as early as it did in Pagudpud, cleanup and rehabilitation efforts would be scaled down in extent and require less time.

MISS Philippines-Earth 2013, Angelee Claudette de los Reyes, guest of honor and judge. PHOTO BY CARLOS VELARDE

Hannah’s has been operating for only five years but its president and proprietor, retired Air Force Col. Ricardo Nolasco, already feels the pressure of a race against time. “I’m trying my best to keep Blue Lagoon in this [unspoiled] state,” he told Inquirer the morning after the pageant. “I know I can’t expect the same level of commitment from everyone, but I’ll certainly keep at it.”

Nolasco is a Manileño; his optimism about Pagudpud’s future in the tourism industry is fueled by a trusty support group that includes mayor-elect Marlon Sales and the Department of Tourism’s Region 1 director Martin Valera. Both were present at the pageant finals on May 25.

Valera was guest of honor and speaker. Sales was a member of the panel of judges, which also included 2013 Miss Philippines-Earth Angelee Claudette de los Reyes, Miss Elite Body 2011 Kookai Sarmiento, Manila Bulletin entertainment editor Crispina Belen, actor Mark Gil and broadcaster Rey Langit.

If the premiere staging of the new pageant was any indication of things to come, there will be obstacles to Nolasco’s task. Due to intermittent showers that resulted in energy failure, the outdoor setting was moved indoors. But when the skies cleared, back to the garden the stage and all the props went.

In his opening remarks, Nolasco pointed this out, and gave his word, “as a soldier,” that he would not be so easily deterred.

THE FINALISTS at the Blue Lagoon

Hannah’s, named after Nolasco’s 15-year-old only child, is an exceptional proof of his resolve. Where there used to be only wilderness, there are now 126 villas, two dormitories, 30 cabanas, pools, restaurants and recreation facilities including a 1.2-km zip line above the lagoon. The complex is DOT-accredited as an ecotourism spot and enrolled in Philippine Air Lines’ PALakbayan program.

“We built around nature,” Nolasco pointed out. “Or else, we will have ruined our dream from the start.”

Cativo, 20, whose family is from Dingras, Ilocos Norte, and Reyes, 21, who is from Angono, Rizal, each won P50,000 in cash, a trophy and a P100,000 promotional contract with Hannah’s.

They have their work cut out for them.


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