By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY, April 19 (PNA) — All roads will lead to this “City of Fun and Adventure” next week and everything has been set to make the stay of the thousands of people coming truly memorable. The grand occasion is the 99th Annual Communication (AnCom) of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, one of the biggest conventions in the country this year which the city is hosting on April 23 to 26.
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternity in the world that uses the ancient tools and symbols of masons to teach timeless lessons about ethics and morality and this AnCom will be the biggest event so far slated in Bicol or in the country, particularly here this year. More than 5,000 delegates are expected and since most would be having their families with them, around 7,000 people are coming to become the biggest crowd in one setting that the city would be having since the start some four years ago of its campaign to be one of the country’s convention capitals.
It is also expected to be graced by foreign dignitaries coming from various Lodges of the fraternity abroad. Most excited over this event is City Mayor Noel Rosal as it is recalled that the bidding in its hosting was won by Mayon Lodge No. 61 based here when he was its Worshipful Master or head last year.
He relinquished the position this year following his elevation as District Deputy Grand Master for Bicol. Antonio Reyes, the City Tourism Office chief, said Mayon Lodge No. 61 was able to convince the Grand Lodge that the city is very much capable of hosting this big event based on the availability of standard and world-class accommodation facilities and venues for the various activities of the AnCom.
The venue of the convention will be the Ibalong Center for Recreation, a huge stadium owned by the city government that can conveniently accommodate the gathering of around 10,000 people in one occasion. “We have all the over-2,000 hotel rooms around the city reserved for the guests, delegates and their families. Several other accommodation facilities in nearby localities like, Daraga, the home to the historical Cagsawa Ruins, the resort town of Sto. Domingo, the Misibis Island Resort in the municipality of Bacacay and the Cities of Ligao and Tabaco have also been tapped,” Reyes said.
And since the AnCom does not go without a sports fest, fun games, gaiety and tours, Legazpi — which now known in the world’s travel industry as the “City of Fun and Adventure” — is exactly the best place for the gathering. Delegates and visitors, Reyes said, will surely enjoy the cool ambiance of Legazpi Boulevard for their leisure walks and physical fitness activities during their stay. The boulevard is a coastal road network extending from the city’s central business district and port area to its southern barangays that is a favorite recreation area for the city owing to its cool, fresh sea breeze gently blowing from the gulf. It is considered the longest outside Manila and one of the most picturesque seaside roads in the Philippines, with a spectacular view of the Mayon Volcano and Albay Gulf.
Along the boulevard lies the Kapuntukan Hill, a historical landmark also called the “sleeping lion” where a monument to the great Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi stands near its foot. Ligñon Hill Natural Park, a 156-meter peak, is another place to visit as it features a carefully-designed landscape that caters to restaurants and shops on its summit that offers sightseers a panoramic 360-degree view of the entire city, its neighboring towns of Daraga and Sto. Domingo, Albay Gulf and the southern slopes of Mayon Volcano. Certainly, they are not going to skip Embarcadero de Legazpi, a privately-owned Php1-billion world-class waterfront lifestyle hub at the city harbor, the first of its kind in Southern Luzon.
With a beaming search light on top of its shimmering lighthouse and colorful lights reflecting on seawater, nocturnal party-goers are drawn to this new-found haven where serene nature meets stylish urban living. More than a venue for shopping, dining, and entertainment, Embarcadero is also home to one-of-a-kind adventure sport, the 350-meter zipline from a lighthouse over the Albay Gulf. According to Rosal, while the city has been playing host to big occasions, at the same time it caters to an influx of investments and massive urban development that continuously attract travelers. “Our quest for preference as venue of big national and international gatherings is anchored on our being highly capable now of hosting and properly handling friendly visitors from any part of the world,” Rosal said. He assured that the city has been making it to its best in handling big events as it considers them as inspiration for the local government and for every Legazpeño to strive more toward finally achieving the ‘convention capital of the Philippines’ recognition.
The AnCom is only one of dozens more of grand occasions taking place in the city during the remaining months of this year—among them the two meetings of the Philippine-hosted 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference which will be held at the Oriental Hotel on July 13-14 and on Sept. 9-11.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN