2 Region 12 festivals finalists in Pearl Awards

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 18 Sept) – Two popular festivities in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao have been chosen as among this year’s finalists for the Pearl Awards or the best tourism practices in the country.

Cora Tito, city tourism officer, said the famed Kalilangan Festival here and the Sarangani Bay Festival of nearby Sarangani Province made the final list of the annual awards following a screening conducted by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) and the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The Pearl Awards, which mainly recognizes the country’s top tourism events and best practices, is a project of the ATOP and DOT.

Tito, who is also ATOP’s national vice president for Mindanao, said Kalilangan will attempt to bring home the top award in the culture and arts category for the third consecutive year.

Considered as the city’s banner festivity, she said the event was adjudged as the country’s best culture and arts tourism event in the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Pearl Awards.

Tito said another win for Kalilangan, which is managed by the Mindanao State University (MSU) General Santos unit, would mean its elevation to the Pearl Award’s Hall of Fame this year.

Kalilangan, which is held every last week of February, coincides with the city’s foundation anniversary celebration.

Derived from the root word “kalilang,” which means celebration or commemoration in the Maguindanaon dialect, Kalilangan Festival mainly showcases the city’s history, artistry, cultural heritage and tourism potentials.

Tito said Sarangani Bay Festival is joining the awards for the first time under the local government festivals category.

Sarangani Bay Festival or SarBay, which is dubbed as the biggest summer beach party in the country, is a three-day festivity held every May to pay tribute to the importance of the bay to the area and local residents.

Organizers said the festival is “a venue to inculcate to all stakeholders the importance of protecting and conserving Sarangani Bay through eco-tourism.”

Tito said a team from ATOP and DOT conducted the final evaluation last week for the Sarangani Bay Festival and Kalilangan Festival.

“Based on the award’s selection process, the proponents of each entry will have to defend the event before a team of national evaluators,” she said in a media forum.

Michele Solon, chairperson of Sarangani and Region 12’s tourism council, presented the Sarangani Bay Festival while Vice Chancellor Mary Lyn Abiera of the MSU General Santos made the pitch for the Kalilangan Festival.

Tito said the awarding rites will be held during 15th ATOP national congress, which is slated on October 2 to 5 in Legazpi City.