The return of ‘kalesa’ to revive Laoag industrial heritage tourism

HIKE ‘KALESA’. A “kalesa” (horse carriage) evening tour will soon be available in Laoag City as part of the provincial government’s efforts to boost tourism and economic recovery. An urgent measure was approved on Monday (January 31, 2022) to cement a partnership between the government of Ilocos Norte and the group of kalesa operators in Laoag City. (File photo courtesy of Alaric Yanos)

THE CITY OF LAOAG – “Kalesas” or horse-drawn carriages with decorative lights will soon be available for public transport along the main arteries of this city as the province of Ilocos Norte moves to revive its industrial heritage.

Intended to attract tourists, including locals, who may wish to experience a kalesa ride through the city while providing livelihoods for the dwindling number of “kutseros” (carriage drivers), the Office Tourism of Ilocos Norte reported on Monday that at least seven kalesa operators have been selected to participate in the pilot race of the lighted night tour of kalesa.

Provincial Tourism Officer Aianree Raquel said the selected kalesa operators are all experienced, qualified and have expressed interest in joining the pilot scheme of the project which is expected to start in February in time for the 204th anniversary of the foundation of Ilocos Norte as a province.

Supporting the move, Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) or Ilocos Norte board members on Monday unanimously approved an urgent resolution authorizing Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc to enter into a memorandum of understanding with various kalesa operators of the province.

“The illuminated night tour offered by Kalesa is something we have been working on for some time now as part of our tourism and economic recovery programs. The design includes a metal frame attached to the kalesa to make it attractive to the equestrian public,” Raquel told Ilocos Norte board members before the measure was approved on Monday.

He said the project was also part of the government’s mandate “to provide a balance between modernization and the protection of heritage and the livelihoods derived from it”.

Although the kalesa remains an alternative mode of transport, the number of kutseros has decreased over the years due to the modernization of public transport.

The return of horse-drawn carriages here is benefiting commuters amid continued fare hikes resulting from rising petroleum product prices.

Before the pandemic, a kalesa ride cost PHP 11 for a short trip not exceeding one kilometer.

Kalesa was introduced to the country by the Spaniards in the 18th century. At the time, only the rich could afford this mode of transport. (NAP)

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