The Philippines Needs Internal Cleansing and Rehabilitation
More than International Exposure Today
Ni Apolinario Villalobos
The Philippines is overexposed. No question about that. The internet is flooded with information about the Philippines. Browse for international singers and Filipino names will be flashed. Browse for exotic islands and white sand beaches of the Philippines will be flashed. Browse for Filipino international beauty title holders and the screen will flash a list. Browse for exotic birds and the Philippines will be shown on screen. Also, as regards politics, even before the 2016 election, the face of the new president Duterte has “graced” the cyber screen because of his intriguing personality. What else do we need to promote tourism for? There are hundreds of Filipino and international bloggers who write about the Philippines – for free. These are the people who are helping the country in their own unselfish way and driven by their unsolicited and first-hand fascination. Why pay agencies with copywriters whose ideas are copied from what they have browsed in the internet?
In this regard, the plan to host the next Ms. Universe pageant is untimely as the country is undergoing some sort of “internal cleansing and rehabilitation”. Whatever expense that may go to the beauty pageant hosting should go to projects with the aforementioned objectives. Due to the very obvious situation, the country is unprepared to host any international event. The direction should be toward what the new president is taking. Why not wait until “cleaning” is done before flaunting a “better” country to the world so that the desired image can be impressed on the mind of inbound-travelers?
The Department of Tourism (DOT) should instead, spearhead a concerted effort among travel and tour-related agencies in putting life to the dying and crumbling cultural landmarks. The effort would be like cultivating a garden to be planted with various vegetables which can be sold later. Along this line, it is important to check if the gateways leading to the interiors are just right. Corruption at the airport underlined by the “tanim-bala” scandal should be checked if already eradicated; if facilities of the four airport terminals in Manila are properly functioning; if airports in the provinces are at least presentably clean; if taxi drivers in Manila are no longer hustling passengers; if the traffic around Manila and other prime cities such as Cebu and Davao is minimized; etc.
It should be noted that despite the lack of impressive modernistic structures, neighboring Southeast Asian Nations are continually overwhelmed with tourists. Unfortunately, the Philippines is way behind them. The trade secret of these neighboring nations is in the maintenance of their historic and cultural landmarks… which are what their tourism is all about. While the Philippines is no different from them, as she belongs to their category – third world, the difference is in the country’s negligence of its landmarks, even allowing a photo bummer to rise in what was the former site of the Jai-alai fronton at Taft Avenue, so that every time a visitor takes a photo of the Rizal monument at Luneta, the condo hotel of a well-known developer also gets prominent space behind the statue’s image like a sore thumb.
A lesson or two could be learned from the wise administration of our neighboring countries on how ecology and tourism could co-exist, especially, because the Philippines is pinned down with an “exotic” tag, and not as a flourishing ultra-modern destination with the likes of China, Australia, America, and many others that the we are desperately and shamelessly trying to mimic.
I think the new secretary of Tourism should also check on why the previous administration chose the Makati area as the site of the agency’s headquarters, instead of one where the industry is bustling, thereby, where it is appropriately needed most. The Tourist Belt refers to Malate and Ermita areas where the agency should be, and where there are also buildings that could accommodate all its offices. On the other hand, the new location of the DOT at Buendia Avenue in Makati is far from the airport, port areas, tourism-related venues such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Center, Philippine International Convention Center, Luneta, Ocean Park and Intramuros. Worst, the new location of the DOT is prone to flooding, aside from being hampered with limited parking space, and going there, a traveler has to muster the practically, crawling traffic along EDSA and main Buendia Avenue from Roxas Boulevard.
Another concern that comes to my mind is the Philippine Village Hotel right beside the airport terminal 2 with the sprawling vacated area that used to be the Nayong Pilipino. Why not consider the rehabilitation of the hotel so that it can be used as the permanent DOT headquarters? For big events, moveable facilities can be put up in the sprawling area, instead of just being left at the mercy of tall grasses.