DOT regional directors with historical reenactors at the Emilio Aguinaldo's tomb in Kawit, Cavite.

Rediscovering Calabarzon through DOT’s Philippine Experience Program

DOT regional directors with historical reenactors at the Emilio Aguinaldo’s tomb in Kawit, Cavite.

The Calabarzon region, situated at Manila’s southern doorstep, is a top-of-mind destination for motorists and weekend wanderers from the big city because of its proximity and diverse attractions.

These natural and cultural wonders took the spotlight once more as the Department of Tourism (DOT) rolled out its flagship Philippine Experience Program (PEP) Culture, Arts and Heritage Caravan around the provinces of Cavite, Batangas, Quezon and Laguna.

According to DOT Calabarzon Regional Director Marites Castro, the PEP will be replicated in various regions across the archipelago to rediscover and promote the natural, cultural, adventure, crafts and culinary gems in the countryside through tour packages and curated itineraries.

Tourism Secretary Ma. Cristina Garcia-Frasco at Taal Heritage Village in Batangas.

The three-day road trip fired off at the NHCP Museo ni Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite with a brief reenactment of the reading of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence, followed by a flag-raising ceremony, a Caviteno breakfast put together by Ige Ramos, and a tour of the historic Shrine.

The group then proceeded to Bacoor City to witness dozens of local and visiting marching bands in the Bakood Festival to mark its 452nd municipal founding day, with Tourism Secretary Ma. Cristina Garcia-Frasco as guest of honor. The city boasts of a rich musical brass band tradition dating back to the days of the Anak-Zapote Band founded by foremost musician Prof. Hilarion Rubio.

The delegation motored to Taal, Batangas to admire the age-old traditional crafts of Barong Tagalog knitting, panutsa mani cooking, and fan knife blacksmithing, and visit the Spanish-era ancestral homes.

Batangas province’s rich cuisine and culture took center stage at the welcome dinner at the Twin Lakes Hotel in Laurel town, along the scenic Tagaytay ridge with Governor Hermilando Mandanas welcoming the caravan.

Wood carvers of Paete, Laguna

Quezon province was the second day’s highlight with the group’s visit to the famed Villa Escudero Plantations and the gala dinner reception at the Quezon Provincial Capitol in Lucena City where Secretary Frasco did the “Tagay Dance” which is part of the Tagayan ritual featuring the popular beverage lambanog.

The evening event also featured music and dance cultural performances and a runway show which showcased the world-class creations of Quezon’s homegrown fashion designers.

It was Laguna’s turn for the spotlight on Day 3 with the heart-pounding shooting the rapids at Pagsanjan Falls, and pit stops in the Paete and Lumban towns to showcase their world-class woodcarving and embroidery industries. The PEP Caravan ended with a bang at Ted’s Kitchen of chef Theodore Salonga in Sta. Cruz which showcased contemporary take on the provincial cuisine meticulously curated by chefs Dino Datu and Gel Salonga.

Bakood Festival Marching Band

PEP’s second phase will roll out in Rizal province next year which will focus on faith, food, art, and family fun-oriented destinations and activities.

Delegates to the Philippine Experience included tour operators, DOT regional directors, tourism industry stakeholders, members of the media, online content creators and foreign diplomats from Indonesia, China, Korea and India.

With the engaging sights and sounds of Calabarzon, travelers can expect more creatively packaged travel itineraries for both the local and foreign tourist market.