Stones bring solid tourism in La Union

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The locals of Luna, La Union are puzzled why their town’s shorelines are covered, not with fine sand, but with stones of various colors and sizes. This mystery has long baffled the community, and some believe these stones are gifts from heaven.

The walls of the Bahay na Bato are adorned with coral stones which render a unique look for the structure. (Photo by Justin Paul Marbella, PITO La Union)

The walls of the Bahay na Bato are adorned with coral stones which render a unique look for the structure. (Photo by Justin Paul Marbella, PITO La Union)

The stones also seem to replenish year by year, and thus the unending supply has become a source of livelihood for locals. They hand-pick the stones which are then sold to become construction materials or garden ornaments.

And now, the locals found a new way of making money out of these jewels. With a great deal of imagination, they started carving figures out of stones and boulders, and these creations are now displayed in the newest tourist destination in Luna – the “Bahay na Bato” Open Art Gallery.

Built in 2000, the attraction was only meant to be a resthouse for Dr. Edison and Dra. Purita Noble. In 2014, however, Luna Mayor Marvin Marron had the inkling that the house could attract visitors, and so he persuaded the owners to open the property to public.

And the mayor’s instinct was right. Soon after, droves of tourists came to see the boulders shaped as turtles, fish, flowers and heart. On one corner, stone faces greet visitors with cryptic smiles while on the other, stones are piled according to size and color.

The local tourism office has recorded a staggering number of visitors to the new attraction. In December 2014, it registered more than 10,000 visitors, and another 7,800 for January 2015.

The attraction has also generated jobs for locals. The resthouse caretakers, Imelda Montison and Gloria Dizon, and their families now serve as the staff for the “Bahay na Bato”. Montison’s daughter, Beverly Kim, serves as the manager while her Korean husband Vong Kim, who trained the local artisans on stone-carving, is the in-house sculptor for the tourist site. On special days, other residents are hired to serve as security and maintenance aides.

The municipal government has been extending help in the development of the new tourist spot. It has put up promotional materials along the town’s major roads, and it has also helped in processing the registration of the site as a full-fledged tourist attraction.

“Bahay na Bato” collects P20 entrance fee for adults, while kids below four years old are admitted in for free. It is open from 6am to 8pm daily. It is located in Brgy. Nalvo Norte, Luna, La Union. (Justin Paul D. Marbella, La Union Information and Tourism)

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