ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – Even before Boracay was closed, tourists have been gravitating towards the North.
This was because of the construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway which has cut travel time by 3 to 4 hours. Some of those who traditionally go up to Baguio found themselves stuck in La Union and so decided to go to the beaches of Ilocos instead.
Tourist arrivals in Vigan City, for example, has almost tripled in only three years, from 580,381 tourists and day visitors (those who did not sleep there) in 2014 to 1,354,790 in 2017, said John Noel Andaya of the Vigan Tourism and Investment Promotion Office.
More tourists are expected to come to Ilocos Sur and Norte because of the “resting” of Boracay and some of these tourist destinations have taken notes about the incident.
Vitalis Resort in Santiago Cove in Santiago, Ilocos Sur is one poised to take in the upscale Boracay crowd.
Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler
Patterned after the Santorini Island in the Aegean Sea with its chalk white walls and blue-domed roofs, Vitalis Resort was literally carved from the right edge of the cove. To complete the Grecian effect, statues of Greek gods and goddesses were purposely sunk in the steady waters of the cove.
Kristine Singson Meehan, president of the Artstream Hospitality Management Group which manages the Vitalis Villas and Vitalis White Sands, said that they received more reservations after the closing of Boracay.
“Travel Agencies have increased booking inquiries as they want to offer more alternative options for Boracay guests,” Meehan said.
“Majority of our events are corporate conventions and seminars because of the seamless event management of our team and the unique experience of the delegates. We are also big on weddings and pre-nuptial shoots due to the beautiful and stunning concept of the resort, and the magnificent view of the ocean as its backdrop,” she added.
Meehan said that all these would evaporate if they don’t clean up their act like what happened to Boracay.
“Vitalis Villas and Vitalis White Sands both have proper sewage treatment facility. Our group has strong advocacy on environment care so we ensure that we comply with government-mandated regulations,” she said.
She also said that they have been working closely with Santiago residents to make sure that their sewage system would not go to the cove.
“We have a pollution control officer certified by Environmental Management Bureau who monitors our environmental compliance on both air and water,” she said.
Garbage segregation is also being implemented strictly by the LGU. We also have a regular schedule of siphoning of sewage from private sewage systems,” she said.
Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler
“Both Vitalis and the local community work hand in hand in maintaining the cleanliness of the Sabangan Beach. The local barangay provides people who clean up the public coastal area. The community also has a weekly collection for their waste disposal,” Meehan added.
Most of the residents are still either fisherfolk or farmers.
The few karaoke bars and small pubs near the cove have been hampered by a recent municipal ordinance which prohibits the selling of alcoholic drinks after seven in the evening. – Rappler.com