The City of Naga has always had a penchant for pioneering groundbreaking programs minus the astronomical cost. In Naga, “Doing more with less” as former mayor and now DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo used to say, has become an integral part of governance.
The brilliance of the SMILES program can best be described as an effort that reinforces the city’s being the regional center of trade and industry, education, and governance innovations. Even before taking his post as the city mayor, Mayor Bongat and several city officials were already cracking heads to map out Naga’s future. Despite many sleepless nights and restive discussions, the SMILES concept was finalized. It would be an undertaking of massive importance to the city, its people, and the region.
The acronym SMILES symbolizes Naga’s goals of strengthening its position as a fast-growing progressive city in Bicol and in Southern Luzon. Each letter stands for the Bongat administration’s six defined, economically-driven promotional goals: S (See Naga), M (Meet in Naga), I (Invest in Naga), L (Live in Naga), E (Experience Naga), and S (Study in Naga).
The letter “S” stands for SEE Naga, which encourages both domestic and foreign tourists to come to Naga to enjoy its many natural and historico-cultural attractions.
As one of the oldest cities in the archipelago, Naga has a rich and colorful history dating back to the pre-Hispanic era. Even before the arrival of the Spaniards, the riverside community was already flourishing trading hub for many Indian, Muslim, and Chinese traders. The three centuries under Spanish rule also introduced a new form of arts and culture to the city that would ultimately define its people. Just recently, the city government and the Naga Preservation Society embarked on a campaign to formally recognize and promote several historical sites across the city, proving that Naga remembers well its past as a window to the future.
MEET in Naga
The City of Naga’s unique position in Southern Luzon as the center of trade and commerce is slowly transforming it into the country’s Convention City. The presence of new hotels and convention halls that cater to gatherings of different sizes has also convinced the city government to promote Naga as the city to meet in, hence MEET in Naga.
Interested parties can choose from 33 different venues to suit their needs. Of these, five offer convention halls that can accommodate more than a thousand delegates and guests. The slated opening of the new Metro Naga Coliseum this coming September will also add 10,000 seats to Naga’s existing capacity, bringing the total number of delegates that the city can accommodate around 19,260 at any given time.
The Metro Naga Coliseum’s unique location in the middle of the Central Business District 2 is also expected to be a crowd-drawer. With large shopping malls and the central bus terminal just a stone throw’s away from the massive building, tourists and visitors from across the region and even from other regions can easily experience Naga at its finest.
INVEST in Naga
As the undisputed trading hub of the Bicol Region, the City of Naga has enjoyed substantial economic growth in the last two decades alone. Despite its position in the region and the country’s economic map, Naga is not content with resting on its laurels. The city government is aware that for any economic progress to be sustained, there has to be a constant effort to draw in investments. Thus, the INVEST in Nagaportion of the SMILES program was incorporated.
Common business logic dictates that the private sector prefers a local government that is both cooperative and effective. Investors are naturally drawn to a government that is business-friendly. To address this need, city officials in the previous administration of then Mayor Jesse Robredo established the Naga City Investment Board (NCIB) to assist potential investors and to promote the city as a perfect market for investors, thereby spurring economic activity and generating employment.
Under the new administration of Mayor Bongat, the NCIB has been directed to intensify efforts in finding new investors to accelerate the momentum that Naga is enjoying.
They say that the best place is one that you never wish to leave.
This is exactly the idea behind LIVE in Naga. After evaluating Naga’s “liveability”, it was found that the city offers plenty of attractions for migrants, families, and professionals to come and reside in Naga. Not only is it the perfect place to work in, but it is also the best city to start a family. Quality public and private schools provide children with the best form of education they deserve. A significant number of housing subdivisions and villages offer different types of homes to families with different needs. Medical centers and practitioners abound in the city, able to provide complete, state-of-the-art health services.
LIVE in Naga aims to market the city as the perfect community to live in because of modern amenities, the low cost of living as well as peace of mind and security. Despite its growing economy, the cost of living and the cost of raising a family is relatively lower in Naga than in other sprawling urban centers. This translates to more people calling the City of Naga their home. Naga’s peaceful setting also attracts many families looking for a safe and secure community to call their own.
By strengthening already existing programs and by introducing new ones to further improve the delivery of government services, the Bongat administration hopes to sustain efforts in promoting Naga as the center for effective local governance. This has led to more local government units and agencies heading to the city to study its best practices. Last August 25, the City Government added a new award for being the most outstanding local government unit in the region to its more than 150 national and international awards.
STUDY in Naga
Naga has been the center of education since the Spanish colonial rule. It is home to one of the oldest Catholic seminaries, the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, as well as the oldest normal school for girls in Asia, the Universidad de Sta. Isabel. In recent decades, however, there has been an influx of students studying various fields of academic interests like science, the arts, and computer technology. Capitalizing on this strength, the City Government has placed emphasis on drawing in more students, both local and foreign to STUDY in Naga.
Mayor Bongat envisions a Naga that can be called a University Town because of the sheer number of students studying in the city’s 4 universities (including Central Bicol State University of Agriculture in nearby Pili town), 12 colleges, and more than 20 technical-vocational schools. Students can also choose from a variety of courses and degrees ranging from agriculture to banking, and to digital animation.
Different people look at the City of Naga in different ways. Tourists SEE Naga as the perfect destination. Companies and organizations MEET in Naga because it is fast-becoming a Convention City. A businessman decides to INVEST in Naga because of the profitable business climate. Families decide to call the city their home and LIVE in Naga because it offers them peace of mind. Government officials and employees flock to the city to EXPERIENCE Naga. And Students head to the regional center of education to STUDY in Naga.
Taken as a whole, Naga offers only the best SMILES to residents, tourists, investors, and the world. This is the very essence of the “Naga SMILES to the world!” branding – to proudly announce to the world what the City of Naga has with warm Nagueño SMILES.