LAKBAYAN: CHEERS Tours in Lubao and Sasmuan Pampanga

I am not really a from Pampanga but I always want to go here because of its natural wonders and also the cuisine. When we were invited to an river cleanup event in Lubao, I was interested. Of course as a backpacker, going places is my thing. And to be in Pampanga specifically in Lubao and Sasmuan are towns that I have not explored in the province.

I was also intrigued with the River Cruise which is a new to this district. We know Pampanga with Clark field, Mount Arayat and Candaba Wetlands but on this side of Pampanga there are more than that. But before it is officially launched, citizens and officials went hand in hand to clean up first the river and its shores to make sure people will love to visit and recommend it.
More than 700 volunteers participated in a one-day river clean up drive in the coastal and inland barangays of Sasmuan and Lubao, Pampanga last weekend in preparation for the launch of a tourism program that coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

The symbolic river clean-up dubbed as “Baybay-Ilog, Bye-bye Basura”, is the first step in preparing the people in 17 identified Barangays that will benefit from the Pampanga bayou river cruise project spearheaded by the local government units of Sasmuan and Lubao in cooperation with the Provincial government of Pampanga and the second district congressional office of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“The river clean-up proved the community’s solidarity, voluntarism and environmental stewardship. Prior to the clean up drive, the identified 17 barangay communities located along the river cruise route were educated about the positive benefits that tourism can bring in their communities. It must be remembered that after twenty years of volcanic devastation brought by Mt. Pinatubo, the said program is meant to revive the state of people's livelihood and popularize Pampanga's pride. This includes cuisine, heritage, educational tours, eco tourism sites, river cruise, and specialized tours. The recent development in the riverine system of Pampanga involving seventeen (17) barangays is inclined to boost tourism prospects in the area,” project leader Christian Narito said. Narito headed the social preparation phase of the project collectively called as CHEERS tours.
Aside from the river cruise, Barangays Sta. Monica and Sasmuan were identified as perfect for migratory birds watching while Bgy. Batang first has been identified as great for community stay.

Similarly, Piskador in Bgy. Bancal Sinubli as well as its neighboring fishponds is good for crabbing and sugpo hatching and Bgy. Malusac in Sasmuan is being targeted as pasalubong center because of its alimango, sugpo and bangus resources. There is also the island community of Malusac that also plans to have souvenier items available for tourist who will visit and take interest in their produce.

The river cruise could take about an hour however, you can already see a lot of sights on the way like lahar dunes, marshes and some species of migratory birds depending on the season and tide levels. And on Barangay Batang 1, they have set up a viewing deck for tourist to have a view at the end of the river that flows out to Manila bay and shows the view of Bataan province and Mount Samat. Indeed a promising site for tourism in the second district of Pampanga and also gives livelihood to more residents that are also dependent of the river for their bread and butter, now find hope and progress as tourism promises new horizons for the district.
 For the CHEERS program, aside from the river, other things like cuisine, heritage, etc can also be discovered in the district. We took a short sidetrip to Lubao church is is said to be the second oldest church in the Philippines, and one of Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo's favorite which she is helping to give it a facelift. It was a fine experience that one should not miss when passing Pampanga.  I am hoping to be back once the river cruise is operational and see the changes that this natural wonder had improved as it attracts local and foreign tourists.

CHEERS to Lubao and Sasmuan!

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