Marcos declares: ‘Darkest hours of pandemic are over’

LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte: President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Friday boldly declared that the “darkest hours of the pandemic are over” as he vowed government’s support to boost the country’s domestic tourism industry.

Marcos issued the statement as he joined thousands of his fellow Ilocanos in celebrating the annual Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival, which is Ilocos Norte’s cultural festival, here at the newly refurbished Ferdinand E. Marcos Memorial Stadium in Laoag City.

In his speech, the President acknowledged the efforts of the local government units, particularly in Ilocos Norte, “for bringing together the people, the visitors and alike to partake in our abundance.”

Marcos noted that though the past three years had sidelined the celebration of festivals and other crowd-drawing events in the country due to the global health crisis, the time has come to reclaim lost opportunities.

“The darkest hours of the pandemic we pray are over, and now, we are ready to reclaim the time and opportunities we have lost for the last few years as we now emerge stronger than ever,” the President said.

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“Beyond today’s revelry, this event is expected to stimulate economic activity and support Ilocano families by driving tourism industries, sustaining local livelihoods,” he added.

The President cited that the number of tourist arrivals is steadily increasing and would hopefully reach pre-pandemic levels.

“I assure you the government’s commitment to strengthen the domestic tourism industry remains a top priority and Ilocos Norte will play a very large part,” Marcos said.

“The number of visitor arrivals is recovering. It is my hope that, by working together, we restore Ilocos’ vibrancy in tourism to pre-pandemic levels and beyond,” he added.

The President also urged the next generation of Ilocano artists “to be proud of your identity and integrate our rich customs and traditions into the art that you showcase.”

“Let us share with our fellow Filipinos, and the rest of the world, the story of our roots in the upland indigenous communities, the vibrant communities of Ilocos, many of which have been crucial in molding us into what we are as a people today,” he said.

Marcos also thanked the people behind the renovation of the stadium where the celebration of the festival was being held.

“Named after my father, this stadium speaks well of the strength, the brilliance, the resilience of every Ilocano. I am certain my father is now watching us proudly to see how far we have fared as a people,” Marcos said.

“I feel in my bones that we all share the same blood and patriotism that have allowed us to achieve these things together,” he added.

“Indeed, this facility will become an iconic landmark that will not only showcase a design excellence, but also project our shared aspirations as a people.”

The Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals resumed on Friday after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The festival was launched in 2011 during the administration of then governor and now Sen. Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos with the aim of reviving “cultural pride and Ilokano identity by focusing on narrative-driven presentations produced by local creatives.”

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