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.

 

 

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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!

 

 

Instead of Totally Relying on the Government, We Should Also Do Our Share of Action

Instead of Totally Relying on the Government,

We Should Also Do Our Share of Action

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The Philippine government in general, is corrupt. Even with Duterte, known for his abhorrence of corruption is around, the grime that for long has soiled the image of the country still sticks. This is because those who are being used as instruments in the perpetration of this hideous anomaly are still in place, “licensed” by the civil service eligibility. And, that is the sad reality….

 

The aforementioned fact should make us realize that it is futile to be always blaming the government for everything that we find not pleasing to our eyes. It is true that the government should take care of our needs as tax payers….short of saying that we pay ALL government employees from the topmost down to the lowest rank to serve us using the tax we pay. But, are we doing our share of action FOR SOME MATTERS THAT WE CAN DO AT OUR END?

 

We blame the government for the obnoxious public market and uncollected garbage…but are we cleaning our backyard of the long-abandoned and rotting garbage or ridding our front yard of the waist-high grasses that for long have grown thick or cleaning the street in front of our home or planting flowers or shrubs to help prettify our community or reporting to the police anomalies that we observe around us? Have we tried segregating our garbage and keep the recyclables and bury for composting those that should be, to lessen what are collected for dumping at the garbage site? Etc. etc. etc. Some of us even put fish scales and entrails in the garbage instead of burying them outright…simple act, yet, intentionally disregarded.

 

We blame the government for the drug problem in our community..but have we disciplined our children enough to veer them away from bad barkadas that introduce them to drinking, smoking, and finally, drugs? We blame the government for the internet cafes that are frequented by students who skip classes….but have we ever thought that such addiction started when we gave in to their whims to have expensive  “touch phones” that developed their fanatical adherence to this woeful technology?

 

We should realize that every time we point our forefinger to somebody as an act of accusation, our three fingers are pointing at us. There is a need to take a second look at ourselves…there is a need for a reflection to know, if at least, we have been or are….GOOD FILIPINOS! IF NOT, WE SHOULD STOP CALLING OUR GOVERNMENT BAD, BECAUSE WE ARE PART OF IT…INSTEAD, WE SHOULD DO OUR PART OF ACTION!

 

WE ARE THE PHILIPPINES. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT IN INTERNATIONAL COMPETITIONS, PARTICIPANTS ARE CALLED BY THEIR COUNTRY’S NAME.

 

The Prayer

The Prayer…

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The prayer should be said with heartfelt sincerity,

not only to ask for favor but also, thank Him with alacrity.

 

The prayer is a spiritual instrument for communication,

with Him in mind, it should be made with sincere intention.

 

The prayer need not be said loud as for others to hear,

as it is enough that  we bow our head and say it in whisper.

 

The prayer may be short oozing with love and humility,

the better for it to be heard and appreciated  by the Almighty.

Thanking-God