ILIGAN CITY (PIA)–The city government here launched the “Balik LOVE Iligan, Tibuok Kalibutan” initiative to welcome Iliganons from around the world who come back to their hometown (balikbayans) and encourage them to support local communities.

“It’s actually the dream of the mayor to really strengthen all Iliganons all over the world. Mao nang nasugdan nato ni because we wanted to recognize the Iliganons labi na ang Iliganons nga naay heart to help the city [This is why we started this initiative because we wanted to acknowledge Iliganons, especially those who have the heart to help the city],” said City Administrator Darwin Manubag.

The event is part of the month-long celebration of the Diyandi Festival.

Over 200 tickets have been purchased for the inaugural event, with Iliganons returning from various countries such as Switzerland, Prague, the USA, Canada, the Middle East, Australia, and Manila, among others. Each ticket is sold for P1,000.

Through a fundraising project, half of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to selected beneficiaries, namely the Bajau communities, persons with disabilities, child delinquents, health center improvement, and Bayug Island rehabilitation and development.

The city has partnered with civic-oriented groups, Miss Iligan 2023 winners, and local government units to ensure the efficient channeling of support.

The city government also plans to make this an annual event to gather Iliganons from all corners of the globe, both in person and online. This initiative is just the beginning of a long-term effort to engage Iliganons worldwide in supporting their hometown.

Balikbayans were treated to a mesmerizing concert featuring Iliganon talents Tawag ng Tanghalan finalist Gem Christian and “The Clash Season 4”, grand champion Mariane Osabel.

Department of Tourism-10 Regional Director Marie Elaine Unchuan expressed her gratitude and warmest congratulations to the city government for their efforts in bringing back balikbayans.

“I would like to express our thanks, gratitude, and warmest congratulations to the LGU of Iligan City for bringing back our balikbayans. Please come and visit more of the Philippines,” she said.

The initiative is also in support of the DOT’s “Bisita, Be My Guest (BBMG)” program, which aims to incentivize Filipinos who invite foreign tourists by offering travel discounts and a chance to win a condominium and free vacation trips.

The program will run from January 2023 to April 2024 and aligns with the government’s call to make Filipinos the best ambassadors for the Philippines around the world. (LELA/PIA-10/Lanao del Norte) by Lou Ellen L. Antonio