President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attended the inauguration of the newly-completed Port of San Juan.

The said port and road was built in order to provide a better transport facilities and livelihood services for the people and Southern Tagalog through the Roll-On, Roll-Off Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH). According to reports, San Juan Mayor Danilo Mindanao said that the opening and development of the Port of San Juan in Barangay Subukin, just 10 minutes drive from the popular Laiya Beach Resorts here, is expected to increase the levels of living of the residents and will make Laiya as an alternative tourist destination. “The development of the Port of San Juan is a testament to the successful efforts of the national government to provide better transport facilities and services to my constituents. The Port is envisioned to realize the gains of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway,” Hon. Mayor Mindanao stated. The port will play a very vital role to the economic progress of San Juan because it will boost the trading partnership of San Juan town with Marinduque, Romblon, Mindoro and Masbate through the use of ro-ro vessels. Also, the Laiya road project will certainly help San Juan tourism for it will attract more tourists to come and have fun at the nearest white beaches from Manila, which can be found only in Laiya. On hand who assisted the President in the inaugural drive-thru and unveiling rites were: Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, 1st District Rep. Eileen Ermita-Bonoan, 4th District Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza, 3rd District Rep. Victoria Reyes, 2nd District Rep. Hermilando Mandanas, Mayor Mindanao and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Oscar Sevilla, and among others. Completed in 2006 with a total project cost of P43,642,242.38, the port covers the construction of rock causeway (9.0m x 378m), Ro-Ro ramp (11m x 9m), access trestle (42m x 9m), breasting dolphin or docking protectors (2 sets), mooring and fendering system, and port lighting system. (Official Website of the Republic of the Philippines) Being an integral part of the Batangas City-Lucena City Coastal Road, the improvement of San Juan Laiya Road is aimed to promote the Batangas-Quezon Eco-Tourism destination. Meanwhile, one of the important sections of the San Juan-Laiya Road is the Aplaya Section, where famous and beautiful beach resorts of international standards are located, such as the Aquatico Resort, Kabayan Resort, Blue Coral Resort, Palm Beach Resort, Sea Escape Resort, Sabangan Resort, Virgin Beach Resort, Porto Laiya Beach Resort. And to further promote the beach resorts in Batangas, the country’s top land developers like Landco Pacific and Active Group, are putting up residential-resorts community, golf courses and hotels. Started on March 2008 and completed on Sept. 2008 at a total cost of P60 million, the Laiya Aplaya Road Section features a two-lane carriageway with drainage and shoulders on both sides, with a length of 3.50 km

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Lastly, aside from the inauguration of the Port of San Juan, PGMA also led the ceremonial drive-thru of San Juan Laiya Road project that would further enhance the booming tourism industry in Batangas.

The old acacia trees that line the streets of San Juan in Batangas evoke images of the past and were once silent witnesses to the meetings of Katipuneros who fought with the Spanish soldiers under Gen. Malvar. The numerous stately mansions and historical landmarks create a beautiful nostalgia setting which reflects the town’s illustrious past, considered then as a very aristocratic town. One of the founders of San Juan is the Salcedo/Quizon family. Their ancestral house was built in the 1920s and is popular for its unique wood carvings. The wood carvings in the house created by a certain “Pedro” in 1930. It is said to be one-of-a-kind because of its intricately designed, not just front but also back carvings. The original statue of the town’s patron saint carrying a lying cross, San Juan Nepomuceno (Patron Saint of all Confessors of the World), can also be found in the house and is estimated to be over a hundred years old. We also went to the place of Jose Rizal’s nephew, Capt. De Leon Mercado, which is considered as the most beautiful ancestral house in the town. The 100-year-old ancestral home of our tour guide Bilog Lopez, has a collection of old jars from the late metallic era, around 900- 1200 A.D. and some old frames made of brass. His father, Eusebio Lopez, Sr., who was appointed judge of the People’s Court and a ConCon (Constitutional Convention) delegate during the time of President Manuel Roxas, has an impressive pre-Spanish collection of letters and stamps, the oldest of which is dated around 1700s. “Simbahan ni San Juan Nepomuceno”, built in 1843, is the town’s first Catholic Church. Built with nipa and bamboo, its original site was in Pinagbayanan, formerly San Juan de Bocboc. Its delicacies and specialties such as “panutsa”, “calamay”, “pilipit”, “pinaltok” and “bilo-bilo” are among the “pasalubong bestsellers”. San Juan’s potteries and “lambanog” (fermented coco wine) are also popular export products. Jessie Palutnaw, a potter, sells their products between R8 to R25, smallest and biggest, respectively. According to him, San Juan has enough clay deposits, in which a person can produce approximately 200 pots a day, depending on its size. The biggest takes 30 minutes to mold, three days to dry and another three days to “cook”

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Laiya Coco Grove Beach Resort is producing its own “lambanog”. Mel Guevarra, a native of Bulacan, is one of the “mangangaret” (local term for coco farmers) in the resort for two years now. He said that the distillation of “tuba” takes at least 24 hours, then it is boiled in a “cooker”, delivered to the market and sold for wholesale. Often referred to by foreigners as the “devil’s wine”, lambanog has been traditionally the life of every Filipino’s celebrations especially in the provinces. Aside from its long shoreline and pristine mountains, San Juan also has one of Batangas’ richest ecosystems characterized by dense mangrove forest, marine and wildlife species. Mt. Daguldol and Naambon Falls are the top tourist attractions in the area. Daily trips to Mt. Daguldol, with guides, porters and horses for hire, are available. It is one of the highest mountains in the province with an elevation range of 672 meters above sea level. Naambon Falls is known as a picnic and relaxation site. It is approximately a oneand-a-half-hour-walk leading to the secluded and undisturbed series of falls. Located 43 kms. east of Batangas City, San Juan is accessible by land via a Southstar Bus. Day tour packages are available, call Adventure Tours and Destinations at tel. no. 245-4854 for details.

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