Hailed as “padyak capital” of the Philippines with its about 3,000 pedicabs plying its streets as primary means of public transport, this booming Albay city has placed drivers of these pedaled vehicles at the frontline of its tourism industry.
Initially, 30 drivers who have been chosen by the City Tourism and Cultural Affairs Unit were recently trained into the city’s “Padyak Tour,” which outgoing mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro described as a “unique tourism program that puts in the forefront our hardworking and friendly pedicab drivers while creating alternative sources of earning for them.”
The selection process looked into the physical capability, general attitude towards tourism, moral character and communication skills of the drivers, according to Luistro.
The training handled by facilitators from the regional office of Department of Tourism based in Legazpi City taught the pedicab drivers the proper way of dealing with and handling tourists, she said.
Padyak Tour, according to Luistro, will be an ongoing program which will be highlighted during the two-week celebration of the yearly Tabak Festival, the city’s prime tourism activity to be held from June 16 to June 25 this year.
The event will cover the celebration of the city fiesta on June 24 in honor of St. John the Baptist, its patron saint.
Another part of the tourist-oriented celebration is the Tabak San Miguel Gateway, a “Love Boat, Love Tour” cruise featuring island-hopping tours that will explore Cagraray, Kabungahan and Pinamuntugan, the three exciting islands serving as main eco-tourism destinations in the city.
Tabak Festival, now on its 11th year, promotes the city as a tourist destination with its beautiful landmarks such as Mt. Mayon, the Mayon Planetarium and Science Park, the century-old City Hall which has a unique architecture, the St. John the Baptist Parish Church, the Tabaco Cimburrio and Isla Punta Beach Resort.
The symmetric Mayon Volcano, the most active volcano in the Philippines, lies south of the city which is one of the eight towns and cities that share jurisdiction on the volcano, dividing the peak like slices of a pie when viewed from above.
The San Juan Bautista church, on the other hand, is one of the most impressive religious structures in the province of Albay which was constructed in 1750 and designated as a National Historical Landmark by Presidential Decree 260 on August 1, 1973.
Tabaco City today is rapidly growing with a thriving commercial center and port area with its international seaport, the only and busiest port in Bicol contributing to the vibrant local economy.
The festival’s name, Tabak, is derived from the local term for bolo that represents the city’s oldest industry—cutlery.
Celebrating the Tabak Festival means that once a year, Tabaco City becomes the center of the world, Luistro said.
“Eleven years of Tabaqueños pride: ingenuity, cultural wealth and agricultural bounty… ten days to stand for a decade of grand and painstaking efforts to bringing the world at the doorsteps of local citizens,” Luistro said ofthis year’s festival that showcases their artistry and heritage.
The city has all the right to marvel at all its tangible beauty -- natural and man-made.
"But the best achievement of them all, is its people — the city’s greatest treasure. For without their beautiful minds, this grand and major occasion would only remain as an imagination," she said.
“On June 16 to 25, 2013, Tabaco City is the biggest and the brightest city in the Philippines. The best of Tabaco… the best of Tabak is coming to life to celebrate a good 11 years of resilience, steadfastness and growth of the community with our pedicab drivers as our day-to-day partners in keeping the city grow,” Luistro added.
City Councilor Nestor San Pablo, chairperson of the Tourism Committee of the City Council, said the trained padyak drivers will be certified as “pedal tricycle driver-tour guides.”
He said the project is consistent with the local government’s thrust of localizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly poverty reduction through gainful employment. (PNA/ hbc/FGS/Danny O. Calleja/cbd/)