Preparations in full swing for 27th Ibalong Festival
By Connie Calipay and Emmanuel Solis LEGAZPI CITY -- Preparations are now in full swing with a fiesta atmosphere prevailing in the city as locals anticipate the opening of this year’s Ibalong Festival. The celebration, which is now on its 27th year, is set to kick off on August 10 and culminate on the 19th. On opening day is the most awaited street dancing and float parade that would showcase the epic of Ibalong. Mayor Noel Rosal, in a press conference on Tuesday, said Ibalong symbolizes not only resiliency in times of calamities but also showcases the best talents of Bicolanos. “We want to take advantage of promoting the city not only on regional level but national and international level. We have maintained all the activities especially those with an impact on our tourism,” he said. Some of the highlights of this year’s festival are the Asian Paratriathlon championship and the Mount Mayon Triathlon. Some 33 persons with disabilities (PWD) from seven countries including the Philippines are expected to join the Paratriathlon while 600 triathletes from different parts of the world are expected to arrive for the Mount Mayon Triathlon. On August 10, the Paratriathlon race will start with a 75-meter swim at the Albay Gulf in front of the city boulevard. It will be followed by a 20-kilometer, four-loop bike along the Embarcadero de Legazpi and boulevard and a two-loop, five kilometer run on the boulevard. On August 12, the Mount Mayon Triathlon Asian Cup race will start with a 1.5-kilometer swim at the Albay Gulf, to be followed by a 40-kilometer bike race going to the northern area of this city and parts of the Municipalities of Sto. Domingo and Bacacay, and a 10-kilometer run back to the Legazpi landmark at the city boulevard. These events are clear manifestations that Legazpi City is considered as one of the safest and beautiful places for any kind of sporting event, contributing to the increasing number of tourist arrivals, Rosal said. The Paratriathlon is a variant of the triathlon for athletes with physical disabilities. This sport is governed by the International Triathlon Union (ITU), and was first held as Paralympic event at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On August 13, there will be a medical and dental mission for all the registered senior citizens as well as lecture series regarding Epikong Bikolnon to be held at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation (ICR). The Mutya ng Ibalong is slated on the same day at the Pacific Mall. Coronation night will be at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation on August 17. Meanwhile, there will be a fashion show on August 14 at the Ayala Malls. On August 16, the Epikong Ibalong Cultural Night, another highlight of the festival, will be held at the Legazpi City Convention Center. The Ibalong Street Dance competition, the major event of the celebration, will be on August 18, starting at 2:30 p.m. in front of the city hall building. Ibalong festival is a yearly non-religious fiesta depicting Bicol’s early beginnings based on the Ibalong Epic written by the late Professor Merito Espinas. It tells of mythical super heroes, villains, monsters and wild animals in the ancient times. Rosal said Ibalong is the longest running tourism promotion-related festival in the entire Bicol region that expresses warmth and goodwill to all people. He invited everyone to come to Legazpi to celebrate and witness all the festival activities.