Boracay…a case of abused tourism

BORACAY…a case of abused tourism

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

I was tempted to use the title, THE RAPE OF BORACAY”, but on second thought, I opted to use the subtle, “abuse”…

 

More than five decades ago, Boracay was a pristine island with sugary-white fine sands and littering the shores, were bleached to whiteness corals and sponges. The shores were sparsely dotted with lean-to shelters of fishermen. During the 70s, the puka and heshi shells were discovered by enterprising locals and made them into exotic bracelets and necklaces. Soon enough, its shores got pockmarked with diggings that were as deep as three feet down. The accessories and jewelries from the stringed shells were so much in great demand in Europe, that many villages as far as Tablas island of Romblon became engaged in this “cottage industry”. That was the time when I came to this part of the archipelago as a new recruit of Philippines….and I saw them all.

 

From where we stayed, Alcantara and later Looc, we would wait for calm seas under the full moon during which we would venture out to Boracay on pump boats, stopping for a short sojourn on the Carabao Island which was along the way.

 

Philippine Airlines through its Tours and Promotions Office was advocating some kind of a “backyard tourism” in which local residents were encouraged to accommodate incoming tourists in their homes or put up simply- furnished cottages preferably made of local materials, especially, bamboo. That was what we counseled the local officials of Aklan which has a jurisdiction over Boracay, every time we were invited during their tourism-related seminars. That was what the late Governor of Antique, Evelio Javier also advocated. He proudly guided me around Boracay despite my having told him that I had made previous visits to the island when I was assigned in Tablas station of Philippine Airlines.

 

A few years later, resorts that started with two or three cottages were built, followed by bigger structures, until in so short a time, the whole island literally got covered with modern accommodation facilities. Septic tanks leaked with the waste flowing to the sea encouraging the growth of algae. Prostitutions reached its peak as practically, the island throbbed with activities for 24 hours….drugs followed.

 

Where did the revenue of the touristic facilities, with some owned by foreign investors go?  Part of it of course found their way to the maintenance and wages. But does the remaining chunk, ever find its way to the local banks or are there any other investments in other parts of the province for tangible projects?…or siphoned to the investors’ banks in Manila and later diverted to their home country!

 

Practically, Boracay has been “raped” by investors as what happened to islands mined of their natural wealth such as black sands, copper, nickel, etc. The colonies of bacteria from the septic tanks that flowed into the shallow waters of Boracay shall be there forever…as manifested by the thick growth of algae washed to the shores every morning.

 

It took a guy with a firm resolve from a guy, Rodrigo Duterte to put a stop to the abuse of tourism that has destroyed Boracay. It is a shame that what he did could be done by local officials but they did not lift a finger….a big question that they, themselves, can answer!

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Huwag Batikusin si Gov. Pax Mangudadatu Dahil sa Ginawang Kasalanan ng Anak

Huwag Batikusin si Gov. Pax Mangudadatu Dahil sa Ginawang Kasalanan ng Anak

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

 

Simula nang pumutok ang balitang may pinatay ang isang anak ni Governor Pax ay nagtanung-tanong ako tungkol sa anak niyang ito. Lahat ng mga taga-Lutayang lehitimong taga-roon na mga Muslim ay nagsabing hindi daw talaga maganda ang ugali ng anak ni Governor Pax, kaya hindi na sila nagulat sa nagawa nitong krimen. Pinuntahan ng nakakatandang anak ni Governor Pax ang namatayang pamilya at ayon sa kuwento ng kasama niyang malapit sa akin, wala raw tigil ito sa pag-iyak dahil sa awa sa mga namatayan. Ang payo ko sa iba, hintayin na lang ang resulta ng ginawang aksiyon laban sa anak na ito ni Governor Pax….na maaaring ikakabigla natin.

 

Hindi maiiwasang magkaroon ng isa o mas higit pang “black sheep” sa isang pamilya. Ang mga magulang ay halos mabuwang sa pag-isip ng paraan upang sila ay mapagbago. Posible ring may mga magulang na naging pabaya kaya naka-develop ng masamang ugali o nagkaroon ng masamang bisyo ang ilang anak nila.

 

Kahit sa isang samahan ay mayroon ding “black sheep” at ang pinakasikat na samahang mayroon nito ay ang kay Hesus. Si Hudas ang itinuturing na tupang itim dahil sa pagkakanulo niya kay Hesus, kapalit ng ilang pirasong pilak.

 

Simula nang magdesisyon akong magsulat tungkol kay Gov. Pax Mangudadatu kahit noong sa Manila ako at hindi ko siya kilala ay nagsaliksik na ako tungkol sa kanya at mula nang maging magkaibigan na kami ay lalo ko pa siyang nasubaybayan. Nakakagulat ang mga sinasabi niya, tulad ng mga sumusunod:

 

  • Sinabihan niya ang isang opisyal sa Capitol na nag papirma ng dokumento para sa isang project ng “….ayaw ko niyan kung walang makikinabang na Christians diyan…dapat pantay ang turing sa mga makikinabang na mga Muslim at Christians….pakipalitan mo yan”.

 

  • Sa mga kinder pupils ng isang Methodist Prep School ng Esperanza, “kayong mga bata…simulan na ninyong gumawa ng mabuti dahil kung matanda na kayo, mahirap nang baguhin ang masamang ugali…”

 

  • Sa lumapit na isang Muslim na gustong tumakbong barangay Chairman at bumulong na kailangan “sana” niya ng financial na tulong, sinabi niyang, “…kung tatakbo kang opisyal, huwag kang mamigay ng pera, dahil kung matatalo ka magsisisi ka….at kung manalo ka ay siguradong magnanakaw ka ng pera sa gobyerno para mabawi ang nagasto mo…”

 

  • Sa isa pang opisyal na may papapirmahang dokumento tungkol sa expense, pinaalalahanan niyang, “…sa mga bagay na ito dapat ay maging transparent dahil ang ginagastos ay pera ng tao…kaya, lahat ay dapat totoo…”.

 

Narinig ko ang lahat ng mga sinabi niya dahil halos magkatabi kami…nasa harap din niya ang ilang pang naghihintay ng kanilang pagkakataon upang makausap siya at magpapirma. Ang hindi ko makalimutan ay ang hindi niya pagkain ng kanyang tanghalian hangga’t hindi nabigyan ang lahat ng nasa loob ng Capitol Gym ng Jollibee lunch pack…saka pa lang siya bumalik sa presidential table sa stage upang kainin ang simple niyang lunch. Nagsalita pa siya noon sa microphone upang pakiusapan ang mga Jollibee representatives na nagdi-distribute ng packed lunches na, “please lang….baka pwedeng bilisan lang ang pamimigay ng pagkain dahil pasado tanghali na at siguradong gutom na ang mga kasama natin….”. Nangyari yan noong Kalimudan Festival.

 

May popular ding kuwento tungkol sa pagiging matulungin ni Governor Pax. May dumating daw na constituent sa kanyang opisina at humihingi ng tulong panggastos sa ospital. Walang pera si Governor Pax noon kaya ang ginawa ay hinubad ang suot niyang mamahaling relo at sinabihan ang humihingi ng tulong na isangla niya ito pero ibigay sa kanya ang resibo para matubos niya pag may pera na siya.

 

Bilang panghuli, pinapakiusap ko na sana ay huwag batikusin si Governor Pax dahil sa kagagawan ng anak. Nasa Bibliya yata nanggaling ang kasabihang, “ang kasalanan ng ama ay hindi kasalanan ng anak” …ibig sabihin, ang kasalanan ng isang miyembro ng pamilya ay hindi dapat ituring na kasalanan ng buong pamilya.

 

Marami pang anecdotes akong ilalabas tungkol sa magandang ugali ni Governor Pax….

 

 

The Ambivalent and Critical Political Atmosphere in the Philippines

The Ambivalent and Critical Political Atmosphere

In the Philippines

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Politics is universally ambivalent and being such, nobody inside the political arena is a permanent ally and friend. In the Philippines, ambivalent politics is not just prevalent but literally, dirty. Proofs of these characteristics are turncoatism, vote buying with the use of drug money during elections, and slaying of opponents. A few of politicians who staunchly remain clean and idealistic pitifully lag behind during the election, while the rest of them who fortunately get elected, do not last long, as they are either murdered or become victims of image demolition scheme There are clear indications that the general desire of the dirty traditional politicians (trapos) to maintain their clout in the government at all cost is to recoup their expenses during the election, or simply stated, to amass a vast “return of investment” at the earliest possible time. There is a popular adage that says, “the shortest way to get rich is via politics”.

 

Currently, Duterte is a victim of the ambivalent dirty political system in the country. He got elected because Filipinos perceive in his person a “hope” that they have been wishing for, after the long decadence and downslide of the political system.  In his effort to merge with even the unfriendly elements aside from his political enemies, Duterte extended his hand to them. His effort seemed to have reaped success as peace talks have been undertaken with MILF, MNLF and NPA. Unfortunately, the NPA reneged from its promise to cooperate, proof that the said group is so splintered that its leadership has become inutile due to its inability to control their rank.

 

On the other hand, the relationship of Duterte with the MILF and MNLF seems stable despite the debacle at Marawi city which involved the initially taken-for-granted terroristic Maute Group. The Marawi debacle is the most acidic test of the Duterte administration as it has greatly affected the long-coveted federalization of the country. It has also diverted the attention of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from other urgent concerns.  The historic city and cultural seat of the Maranaos has impressed an ugly scar in the map of Mindanao that even the Islamic religious groups and elders have come out in the open to denounce the ruthless act of the Maute Group and their Christian recruits.

 

Meanwhile, politicians in Manila, have all eyes towards Duterte who is from Mindanao, not because they appreciate his effort, but because they view him as evil in his effort to suppress the drug menace. Many of them have not been to Mindanao, yet, they compete with the ageing Catholic bishops in filling the air with condemnations of the guy. That’s how it is with politics in the Philippines, the ambitious and the unthinking make noise to be noticed.

 

 

The Mechanization of Tourism Industry and the Relevance of Bloggers or e-Journalists

The Mechanization of Tourism Industry

And the Relevance of Bloggers or e-Journalists

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Practically, almost every endeavor in this world has got to do with “tourism”…as anything that can elicit visits can be called a “touristic result”. A city with plenty of trusted clinics and medical practitioners can become a destination for “medical tourism” program. A village that became popular because of a Marian (Virgin Mary) appearance becomes flooded with pilgrims, and that is “religious tourism”. The situation of a place as regards security and hygiene affects tourism. And, the likeability of a place in general, revolves around tourism.

 

Tourism is about sports, nature, wildlife, food, culture, education, as well as, various segments of travel industry such as air, water and land. The constantly varying cost of fuel that affects the various modes of travel at the end, affects tourism…. even the food and the hotel accommodation.

 

The travel craze has brought about the BLOGGING PHENOMENON. Suddenly, anybody who has a facebook and maintains blog sites in the internet has become a blogger. Even a mug of coffee with a floral design formed by squirted cream becomes a subject for the blog posted on the facebook. Visually recorded travels, foodie trips and drinking sprees have become curious subjects and unwittingly become honest references of future travelers who would like to retrace the steps on the trails taken by the bloggers.

 

The effect of the e- journalists on the tourism industry is impressively tremendous. It has made travel easy and direct, booting the government tourism offices out of the picture and transaction, as bookings are directly made with travel and tour agencies. And, many travelers today are using direction applications in smart phones. The phenomenon has practically relegated government tourism offices on the sideline for  ”coordination” purposes which actually, are generally viewed as no longer necessary….making them inutile. Even for international conventions, there are professional seminar and convention handling agencies. As regards the Travel Tax, it can be handled by a representative of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) at all points of entries and exits of the country.

 

I have personally observed that the quality control of services of touristic facilities that is supposed to be handled by the local tourism offices is not carried out properly. Facilities found in small cities and towns are left on their own to cater to their clients, as they show their best smile. While in Manila, Cebu and Davao, touristic establishments are stuck with supposedly sticker of guarantee indicated by the number of stars, the rest around the country have none. If the small touristic establishments do not “come up” to the standards indicated by stars, then, such system is useless as they are just good for the big hotels in equally big cities. THERE ARE PLENTY OF AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN TOURISTIC  ESTABLISHMENTS  IN FAR-FLUNG TOWNS  WHERE “TOURIST ATTRACTIONS” ARE FOUND, AS WELL AS  SMALL CITIES WITH PROVINCIAL SETTING THAT SERVE AS “JUMP OFF POINTS”, INSTEAD OF BIG HOTELS, MALLS AND SKYCRAPERS.

 

It has been found out that real tourists, the seasoned ones who comprise the biggest chunk of the statistics on this industry, do not give a damn on the number of stars stuck on the door of a hotel and restaurants….they are after the cheap hotel rates, clean rooms and safe foods. They rely more on the suggestions and recommendations of their agents and personal experience that make them “repeat customers”, and, “WORD OF MOUTH” OR STORIES OF FRIENDS. These “stars” may be good for the glossy pages of magazines not read by the aforementioned travelers who “KNOW” what they want as seasoned travelers.

 

Here are important points to ponder on:

  • If a tourist has lost a baggage at the airport, the airline acts on it.
  • If the bag of a tourist has been snatched while he is shopping, he goes to the police.
  • If a tourist becomes sick in a hotel, he is brought to the hospital.
  • If a prospective tourist wants to visit a place, he consults the internet for blogs.
  • If a tourist destination is made accessible by road, the budget either comes from the LGU or the congressman.
  • Photos and write ups on festivals, activities and foods in the internet and made as references of tourists are uploads of bloggers. (Most LGU tourism offices collect photos via contests among the visual bloggers.)

 

The “tourism office” is not in any of the situations mentioned above. On the other hand, the information needs of the tourist can be handled by the Information Office of the LGU- from the province and city or town, down to the barangay level to MAXIMIZE their function while maintaining their being an INFORMATION OFFICE staffed with KNOWLEDGEABLE researchers.  The tourism-related functions  have become purely coordinative and informative, hence, do not need any managerial skill. In other words, ANYBODY WHO HAS A KNOWLEDGE OF ANY TOURIST SPOT OR DESTINATION OR ACTIVITY OR WHATCHAMALLIT, CAN BE A “TOURIST GUIDE”….even the guys who sweep the streets can be such and they may prove even more effective than those sitting out their time in their aircon offices chatting with fb friends.

 

Information about local destinations may have the chance to land on the pages of international magazines and the internet. HOWEVER, THEY ARE INNATELY AND VERY MUCH AVAILABLE IN THE MINDS OF THE RESIDENTS OR LOCALS…MAKING THE HIRING OF “CONSULTANTS”  FOR THEIR PROMOTION ALSO, NOT NECESSARY.  For budget proposals, the Finance guys of any LGU can do it. For the description of tourist spots or activities, the most appropriate is the Information Office, again, to maximize their function.

 

My suggestion ONLY is, dissolve the Department of Tourism and the rest of the government tourism offices and replace them with INFORMATION KIOSKS TO BE SITUATED AT STRATEGIC AREAS SUCH AS AIRPORTS (INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC), PIERS, MALLS, PROVINCIAL CAPITOLS, CITY/MUNICIPA/BARANGAY HALLS. THESE KIOSKS SHOULD BE EQUIPPED WITH COMPUTERS THAT CONTAIN TRAVEL AND TOUR INFORMATION ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES, ESPCIALLY, THE PLACES WHERE THE KIOSKS ARE LOCATED, AND WHICH LOCAL AND FOREIGN TRAVELERS CAN EASILY ACCESS. THE UPLOADED INFORMATION SHOULD BE BACKED UP BY PRINTED OR HARD COPIES IN CASE OF POWER BREAKDOWN, AND KEPT IN THE FILING CABINET OF THE INFORMATION OFFICE WITH A REPRESENTATIVE POSTED AT EVERY KIOSK. AS FOR TOUR GUIDES, “JOB ORDER” EMPLOYESS WITH MULTI-FUNCTIONS CAN BE UTILIZED.

 

FINALLY, THIS IS WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO CALL AS THE “MECHANIZATION” OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY.

 

 

Directions

Directions

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

In the jungle, tribal communities help each other in getting to their destinations through signs using broken twigs, heaped rocks, seeds left along the trail, etc. Other telltale guiding signs come in the form of sounds such as those made by currents of rivers, waterfalls, as well as, direction of wind, position of the sun, etc.

 

In the highly civilized world, a person gets his direction from road signs and street names, aside from landmarks. In the not-so-civilized communities, pouted lips pointing to desired direction are used aside from the universal “finger pointing” if there is a language barrier. For the fortunate stranger whose language is understood in a strange community, there could be verbal exchanges.

 

Unfortunately, all of the above become useless when the forests are suddenly denuded by unscrupulous illegal logging activities resulting to floods, creating new rivulets that dry up in time. On the other hand, in the civilized communities of lowlands, vandals deface street names and road signs using spray paints. Some even go to the extent of changing the direction of sign posts.

 

Directions are important as they lead us to where we want to be at the most convenient and safest way. And, that is how a nation should be led by one who gives correct directional signs not tainted with selfish motives… as bungled directions can lead a nation to a disaster.

 

 

The Touching Courtesy Call of Prep Kids to the Honorable Governor, Sultan Pax Mangudadatu

The Touching Courtesy Call of Prep Kids

To the Honorable Governor, Sultan Pax Mangudadatu

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

What I like with the ambience of the Sultan Kudarat Capitol is that the Honorable Governor, Sultan Pax Mangudadatu is such a fatherly guy that even while having a meeting for as long as it is not a matter of life and death, he can be interrupted, especially, if the unannounced visitors are kids. It happened when I was having a meeting with him. When one of his staff whispered that there were kids who would like to have their photos taken with him, he smilingly obliged.

 

The pupils of a Methodist Prep school in Esperanza were having an educational tour in the Capitol Building with their parents and a teacher/coordinator, the morning of January 19, 2018. When they learned that the kind-hearted Governor was in his office, the pretty staff who was guiding them around brought them to his office. The governor immediately stood up when the door opened wide and the kids without much ado went to him to put his right hand to their forehead as a sign of a blessing from him. The kids were all well-behaved, while Sultan Pax exuded a picture of a happy grandfather! The group gave him a certificate of appreciation for being a great Patriarch of the province and a gift. As his habit, he read aloud what is printed in the certificate.

 

With the kids around him, some already having claimed a space on which to slump on the floor in front of his desk, he began his pep talk, as if addressing professionals. He expertly condensed his historical speech into one that fit his audience. And, he did it on the spot without much effort, as if he was speaking to a friend. He even advised the teacher to teach the kids the basic rudiments of physical hygiene such as brushing of teeth.

 

The scenes that I witnessed that morning were just emotionally touching…inspiring!