THE TNT Tropang Giga is one of the Philippine Basketball Association teams in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. — PBA IMAGES

ILOCOS Norte is steadily building its standing as a go-to sports-tourism destination in the country.

The province has been very active in promoting the area, even during this time of the pandemic, to sports teams and enthusiasts to consider for their training, anchored on the safe and standard-grade facilities it offers.

Currently, Ilocos Norte is hosting the TNT Tropang Giga and Meralco Bolts of the Philippine Basketball Association as they gird for the league’s 46th season as well as the Philippine beach volleyball team for its international competitions this year.

TNT and Meralco are in a “bubble” training in the capital city of Laoag where they hold scrimmages at the Laoag Centennial Arena, while the men and women’s beach volleyball teams have set up training camp at Villa Del Mar in Saud beach in Pagudpud.

“This bubble is an opportunity for us to show what we can offer the sports community. We may be far, but we have safe and standard facilities they can use to make it worth their trip,” said Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Manotoc in his session at the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday.

“Hopefully, we can welcome more. We are a safe and comfortable destination.”

Pre-pandemic, Ilocos Norte hosted other national teams as they prepared for international meets like the canoe kayak squad which trained at the Paoay Lake for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

It is a thrust Mr. Manotoc shared they are looking to build on not only in economic sense, but also to do their part in helping sports return from the pandemic.

“We want to establish Ilocos Norte as the sports tourism capital of the north. If there’s anyone interested and we have the facilities, I’m all for it. My real passion is sports,” the local executive said.

“I’ve been a firm supporter of resuming sports despite the coronavirus. For me, it’s as important as education.”

Mr. Manotoc went on to say that “so long as we can fulfil our responsibilities and requirements” they are willing to serve as training shelter for different sports like surfing, biking and marathon. So do international meets like the Asian Beach Games. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo