Vendors hope for slice of San Juanico light show tourism boom

Jazmin Bonifacio

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Vendors hope for slice of San Juanico light show tourism boom

LIGHT SHOW. San Juanico Bridge, which links Leyte and Samar islands now has a nightly light and sound show that is expected to bring a tourist boom to the Eastern Visayas provinces.


Tourism officials see investors opening shops on the boardwalk in Santa Rita, Samar, but small vendors hope the local government will allot stall spaces for them

SAMAR, Philippines – Ray Alagdon, a student of marine engineering at the Palompon Institute of Technology, was among the 300 Samar folks who watched the launch of the San Juanico Aesthetic Light and Sound Show on Wednesday night, October 19.

“It lessens the stress of our training,” said Alaldgon, as streaks of green broke the night sky above the interchanging crimson and violet LED lights of the bridge that links Leyte and Samar island.

The cadet, who is undertaking a Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) course at the National Maritime Polytechnic in Tacloban, Leyte, praised the workers behind the P80-million project, part of the Spark Samar tourism campaign and funded by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

Vendors Jelyn Barcoba and Nancy Lacaba of Santa Rita town, where the 2.16-kilometer bridge exits in Samar, also pin their hopes on the light show alleviating the stress of poverty.

“This will help us, if they can give us some space to sell our food,” said the 57-year-old Barcoba, who hawks caramelized bananas skewered in bamboo sticks or rolled in rice wrappers.

HOPING FOR A SLICE OF PROGRESS. Jelyn Barcoba, a vendor of caramelized bananas, appeals for space to sell her wares near the San Juanico Bridge in Sta. Rita town, Samar, where a new light and sound show is expected to bring in tourists. Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

“Sana payag sila na makapagtayo ng stalls kung saan makapagtinda kami sa view deck ng San Juanico,” said Lacaba, who sells corn and cold drinks of sweetened thin milk and gelatin. (I hope they put up stalls where we can sell by the view deck.)

The two women said their families still have to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the government of then-president Rodrigo Duterte managed with one of the world’s longest lockdowns.

Like many other micro entrepreneurs, Barcoba and Lacaba were left high and dry by mobility curbs that deprived them of their customers in the town center.

“Tingin ko mapapalago nito ang ekonomiya ng town namin kasi madami ang turista na pupunta,” Lacaba told Rappler. (I think this will boost our town’s economy because it will draw many tourists.)

STALLS NEEDED. Vendor Nancy Lacaba says the provincial government should put up stalls for micro entrepreneurs like her on the San Juanico Bridge view deck. Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the guest of honor, spoke glowingly of “the engineering wonder.” 

He praised his father and namesake, the late dictator, who inaugurated the “bridge of love” on July 2, 1973, dedicating it to his wife, Imelda, a native of Tacloban.

“You can only imagine how genuinely delighted I am to be present to witness the lighting as your president,” Marcos said during a ceremony in Santa Rita.

Governor Sharee Ann Tan noted how the light show featured the colors of a phoenix, an analogy for the two Eastern Visayas islands rising from the ruins of the 2013 Super Typhoon Yolanda. 

TIEZA Chief Operating Officer Mark Lapid said the bridge is a symbol of hope rising after disasters and pandemic restrictions.

“We are witnessing a new history unfolding that is aligned with the Philippine modern society,” Lapid said. TIEZA also poured an additional P90 million for the construction of a boardwalk for tourists.

Marcos said he expected the San Juanico project to create economic opportunities that would also stimulate other Spark Samar initiatives, forecasting “complete recovery of the tourism industry in Eastern Visayas,” one of the poorest regions in the country.

Responding to Tan’s remark, “It’s time for Samar, Samar naman,” the President said, adding that his mother asked for the bridge to dispel the perception that Leyte hogged all development programs.

THE RIGHT TIME. Critics of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, who inaugurated the San Juanico Bridge in 1973, quipped that more carabaos than vehicles used its 2.16-kilometer span, but a revitalization project is just in time to boost recovery post-pandemic. Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

But nearly 50 years after the bridge opened, the three provinces of Samar island still lag badly on most indicators of progress.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 2021 first semester report placed the poverty incidence in Eastern Samar at 43.1%; Samar, 37%; and Northern Samar, 31%. In some towns, as many as six of 10 residents are considered poor. 

Even pre-pandemic, a quarter of Samaron boys did not attend primary school, with the figure increasing to more than half by high school. 

The light and sound show should lift Santa Rita, at the least.

“Those from the business sector have been planning to set up more shops near the boardwalk, and this will spur economic development within the area,” said Department of Tourism Eastern Visayas chief Karina Rosa Tiopes.

Barcoba and Lacaba can only hope small folks aren’t left out in the cold. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!