FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos once jested: “For a long time, our province, Pangasinan, had become famous for its three B’s bagoong, bangus and bukayo.“
It’s easy for travellers to agree with the remark. The junction before the Carmen bridge in Rosales town is Pangasinan’s main show window of its famous three-B products, sold by stores and hawked by ubiquitous ambulant vendors.
Years ago, that impression rankled in the mind of a young PMA cadet from Bautista, Pangasinan. That cadet is now Pangasinan Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. who initiated amazing transformation that had erased the 3-B bromide.
Consider this: When Espino became governor in 2007, Pangasinan was lowest in poverty-alleviation in Region 1; poor third in tourist arrivals despite its world-famous Hundred Islands and other; its marine rich resources imperilled by extinction due to systemic degradation and constriction of the waterways by greedy fishpen owners.
A recent tour of Pangasinan showed us what government and private sector award-giving bodies have seen. Pangasinan now reaps superlatives from all over, including long-time expatriates who come home regularly to savor what they proclaim as the “rediscovery of the pride and glory of Pangasinenses.“
One of the more visible changes is seen at the Lingayen Capitol, an old magnificent American colonial structure that has been painstakingly restored, refurbished and enhanced by Gov Espino. Declared as the grandest and cleanest in the country, the Capitol accounts for many vacationists and tourists who have helped establish Pangasinan as No. 1 in tourist arrivals in the Ilocos Region.
One of Espino’s pet projects, health care, now boasts of 14 medical institutions whose facilities and service can rival the best in the country. The provincial hospital in San Carlos City has a 14-station dialysis center, largely for indigent patients.
Likewise, the historic Sison Auditorium in Lingayen is now considered as one of the most elegant facility for culture and the arts. Pangasinan has also become a favourite venue of national and regional events like the recent Palarong Pambansa 2013 and National PRISAA Games.
Now underway are a gigantic eco-tourism center that includes a large golfing facility with green corridors, and the modernization of the Sual sea and fish ports and the Lingayen airport. No wonder Espino has easily trounced his political opponents.