The PAL TOPIC Magazine, PALakbayan Tours
And PAL’s Total Effort in Promoting Philippine Tourism
By Apolinario Villalobos
TOPIC which stood for “Tours and Promotions Information Office” was the publication conceived by the Marketing and Sales- Philippines during the time of Mr. Ricardo Paloma as a tool for the promotion and “selling” of the tourist destinations; festivals; tourist facilities such as restaurants, hotels, pensions, transport services; festivals; outdoor sports such as mountaineering, spelunking (cave exploration), bird watching, trekking, scuba diving; festivals; dive spots and mountains. It was administered by Mr. Vic Bernardino, the Manager of the Tours and Promotions Division. The early issues were edited by Alex Enrile, which was later on taken over by this writer. The magazine is the epitome of the typical Filipino “bayanihan” or cooperation spirit, as the whole staff of the Division contributed their skills to make every issue interesting.
As if by coincidence, the staff of the Division had various expertise in the fields of scuba diving, mountain climbing, cave exploration and birdwatching, not to mention outdoor photography. Thelma Villaseἧor was for instance, a scuba diver and mountain climber, and so were Ed Buensuceso, John Fortes, Reggie Constantino, Bong Velasco, and Julio Luz, Jr. Aside from diving and climbing, John Fortes and Ed Buensuceso were also spelunkers (cave explorers), who pioneered the exploration and mapping of the Palawan Underground River (formerly, St. Paul Subterranean Park), with the help of a caving team from Europe.
Ed Buensuceso, together with the Kennedy National Geographic Team recorded the first-ever in-flight mating and breeding of the Philippine Eagle (formerly, Monkey-eating Eagle), for which close coordination was made with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its Baracatan Breeding Station in Sta. Cruz, Davao City. For such effort, the Department of Tourism-Davao was also involved. On the other hand, John Fortes was exerting his own effort in promoting mountaineering in the country, the penultimate of which was the organization of all mountaineering clubs into the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines (NMFP).
Mayie Santos an intrepid writer who was among the original staff of the Division contributed her share of effort by attending festivals and making reviews on resorts, pension homes, hotels and restaurants. Even Vic Bernardino, the Manager, would lend a hand in gathering information as needed, by attending important touristic activities. Furthermore, the staff was also trained to speak in seminars on Philippine tourism aided with slides presentation and handouts. Information given to participants were first-hand, hence, even the Department of Tourism, the UP Asian Institute of Tourism, embassies, consulates, tour and travel organizations, and educational institutions would request for the group’s assistance.
Later, in line with the tourism-centered effort of the airline, Mr. Paloma also conceived the PALakbayan Tour Program which consolidated all the efforts, this time, with the cooperation of the domestic stations. The program was divided into several “modules” such as Excursion, Education and Culture, Conventions and Seminars, and Sports. During this time, the exhaustive endeavor in exploring tourist spots was doubled, bringing to light non-traditional destinations such Sorsogon, Romblon, Mamburao, Palawan, Fuga Island, etc. Development of outdoor activities which were new among local tourists involving study of butterflies, migratory habits of birds, and culture of tribal communities were also developed to stir their interest. Schools were encouraged to consult the office for their planned educational tour program and other out-of-town activities, for which PAL stations were tapped for assistance.
The PALakbayan Tour Program virtually catered to all the needs of air-travelers within the country…the airline’s proud legacy to the industry, and considered as “Asia’s First Airline”, which initially operated using rehabilitated post-war DC-3’s.