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Passionate crusade to promote Antique

By Nelly Lumbaca

I met an extraordinary young man in Antique.

He is passionate about promoting his home province through tourism, using as springboard his stint as provincial tourism officer.

Flord Nicson J. Calawag

To be able to market Antique to tourists, Flord Nicson J. Calawag operates Katahum Tours, Tibiao Fish Spa and Calawag Mountain Resort in the mountains of Tibiao.

Flord has been arranging tours, entertaining tourists at his fish spa and mountain resort with so much passion that he almost forgot it was his wedding last May 8 to the very beautiful Detchie Pine Gaad who has already given Flord 2 lovely children.

When guests compliment Flord – after being awed by his wife’s beauty – he reaches for his pocket to offer cash in jest.

Katahum Tours is the only accredited tour operator in Antique by the provincial tourism office. Other local tour operators may have to keep up with Flord’s passion.

Flord ensures his guests are personally welcomed upon arrival at the airport – Philippine Airlines currently operates three flights a week from Clark to San Jose de Buenvista, capital of Antique – to experiencing the New Zealand-like mountains, white sandbars and of course the unique kawa hot bath at his resort.

Flord talks enthusiastically to his guests about his vision of sustainable eco-tourism by promoting Antique as a rustic, eco-friendly paradise with various untapped attractions for both backpackers and discriminating foreigners.

He is aware of the danger of overdevelopment that could ruin Antique’s rustic charm so the emphasis is in preserving the ecological balance of the province.

With a very good road network, the province – with the tagline Where the Mountain meets the Sea – still needs support in terms of communications infrastructure (for better internet connection), broader tourism promotions, bigger hotels and resorts and increased access to the islands and mountains.

He maintains close relations with his former office, the Provincial Tourism Office, Governor Rhodora Cadiao and other local government officials. It’s as if he has no enemies anywhere in Antique. With such wide network of friends, it’s a surprise he is not running for public office.

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Flord’s family-owned Calawag Mountain Resort claims to have pioneered the kawa hot baths, a fish spa, river tubing ride, boodle fight on the waters of River Tibiao, rappelling at a nearby waterfalls and all-bamboo cottage accommodations.

Stacked stones, native hammocks, a big tree house, clean running river for bathing and coffee scrubs by the river keep a regular influx of guests coming.

The resort staff are friendly and attentive to guests’ needs while exuding rural charm and Filipino hospitality.

Flord makes manifest his vision in his resort but hopes the word goes out that Antique is no longer laidback but on the brink of full blown progress.

Flord’s success comes from Antique’s innate beauty and the support of fellow resort owners as well as family and friends.

At age 31, Flord can still accomplish more. Now that Antique is blessed with regular air service, Flord hopes to finally bring his home province in the international tourism map.

Antique beckons and I promised to myself I will return.

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