Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.



Latest DOT slogan brouhaha


Blind tourists O’Driscoll (l) and Uchimura.

I never thought I would be writing and putting my two cents in again on the latest Department of Tourism (DOT) slogan brouhaha.

The last time I did this was on Jan. 9, 2012 which you can read at this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/polish-tourism-logo/

This time around, five years after, we still haven’t learned our lesson and it is still the same banana, that of plagiarizing other county’s tourism ads and claiming it our own idea.

I am talking of course about supposedly the country’s new tourism campaign video, “Sights”, which used the tagline “Experience the Philippines”.

It featured the true life story of a blind Japanese retiree, M. Uchimura, enjoying the “sights’ and sounds of what is best in the country.

Truly an amazing, if not a brilliant idea, as a tourism come-on, for someone to experience the warmth and hospitable nature of Filipinos, even towards people with disability.

Unfortunately, as soon as DOT’s new tourism video was launched, netizens immediately noticed the similarity between this and last year’s Meet South Africa campaign commercial.

In the Meet South Africa tourism campaign video it also featured a blind British traveller named James O’Driscoll who was experiencing the “sights” and sounds in South Africa.

While the people from the advertising firm McCann Worldgroup admitted about the similarity with the ads of South Africa, they claim, however, that the biggest difference lies in the fact that what they conceptualized for the country is a true story in that the Japanese retiree is an actual retiree residing in the Philippines. What makes it even worse is that they just speculated that perhaps the British blind was simply a tourist.

But I don’t think that is the main thrust of the campaign ads – the ultimate residential preferences of the subjects.

There is no doubt in everybody’s mind that both ads are promoting their respective country’s tourist attractions and publicizing the amiability and warmth of its people and what better way to show it than make tourists, in any manner, shape and form, feel deeply and genuinely special and much welcomed in the country.

The good thing is that South Africa developed first the idea of a blind tourist with a walking stick being treated like a normal person and enjoying it tremendously.

The bad thing is that despite DOT’s P650-million budget for its ad campaign this year, it still had to put up with the McCann advertising people’s idea of the blind man ad knowing full well that it is a copycat.


More fun at Runway 32


You might be wondering what the heck is Runway 32 and where exactly is it found?

Well, Runway 32 is simply what it is, a 5334 ft long airstrip located in Barangay Dahican in Mati, the capital city of the province of Davao Oriental in the Philippines. It is the only airport in Davao Oriental.

Interestingly, during the heydays of the Marcos regime, this was famously called the Imelda R. Marcos Airport, perhaps due to the impulsive whim and scandalous vagary of the former iron lady who had things done, whether it will serve its purpose or not for as long as the project is named after her.

The airstrip with its lone, now worn out terminal building fronting a tarmac for plane parking, loading, unloading, boarding and deplaning was never really fully utilized for commercial purposes as domestic flights are available to and from Davao City.

Needless to say Imelda’s project never took off in Mati.

However, what is successfully taking off at the moment and helping make Mati City soar high up in the air again, as far as tourism is concern, is the ingenious idea of some Davao folks who founded the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (MSFC) for recreational purposes while suitably utilizing Runway 32 for what it was constructed for and for riders to enjoy the scenic beauty of the city and its surroundings like no one has seen before in exhilarating and breathtaking open cockpit ultra light planes and the like, especially when talking about the Sleeping Dinosaur Island, resort places and the famous Dahikan Beach with its 17-kilometer pure, fine white sand shore.

A must see in Mati is also the city’s Subangan Museum, where it showcases a great mixture of rich cultural and natural heritage thru its displays. It also houses the fossil of a 50-foot long sperm whale that was found by fishermen in 2010.

But the reason really why I am writing about this piece is because I simply want to share with you the experience and fun me we all had at MSFC. I was with my wife, Paz, our daughter Angie, with her husband Rodin and daughters Amaya and Mayumi. Yumi, who is just 6 years old, had the guts to fly with her Tito King, while older sister Amaya was just contented taxiing on the airstrip.

Iñaki (T. King) incidentally is the one managing MSFC. Next year, he says, MSFC will not only be a recreational club but will be a licensed flying school at the same time for small aircrafts.

(For more of MSFC you can go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/MindanaoSagaFlyingClub/photos/)

Enjoy the photos.



















Antic-showing Buckingham Palace guard investigated

For an important job like securing the Buckingham Palace, as we all may have seen it, one time or another, in reality or in images on TV, I never thought that this would ever happen.

But this video you are about to see, indeed, shows it happened as it even generated alacrity and comments from the audience watching the guard’s marching antics while on duty outside the Queen’s official residence.

Considered as one of the most boring jobs in the British army, this unidentified Grenadier Guard probably thought he was safe performing the unthinkable, like doing pirouettes and other funny acts, apparently for comic effect, during his two-hour shift routine while a crowd was watching.

But these days nobody in public is really safe from being video recorded and shared with many online, as what Andy Richards did, saying, “A Buckingham Palace guardsman misbehaves on duty while the Queen is on holiday. His senior officer might be having a chat with him later…”

Whether the guard was entertaining the sight-seeing visitors or amusing himself from what otherwise is a monotonous routine, the fact is that he has exposed himself at being remiss in his job while the Queen was reported to be visiting Scotland.

An Army spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the video. Anyone who is found to fall short of the Army’s high standards can expect to face appropriate action.”

Although the video was “lighthearted”, it is “not what we would expect from a serving member of personnel”, the spokeswoman added.

“If you are on patrol outside Buckingham Palace that is an important job and we do not expect people to be messing around.”

But if there is any consolation, it should come from an observer who was more forgiving, saying, “It’s a harmless bit of fun and entertainment for the crowd. He is still doing his job but showing his human side too.”

Roosters’ cock-a-doodle-doos creating nightmare to tourists


roosterAdmittedly, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today.

Many countries consider tourism as a key driver for socio-economic progress as it promotes investment, creates job and development.

Thus, most countries never stop advertizing their tourist attractions for them to experience their respective exquisite sights, food and of course the sounds.

Like most countries, too, Croatia boasts of their resorts or holiday spots that are scenic, quiet and relaxing.

One of the places the country has been promoting, however, the Stomorska resort on the island of Solta, is not living up to the expectations of some tourists.

The reason is that the two small hotels in the place are also near a private property owned by two octogenarian sisters, Mirjana and Tereza Novakovic, who have been reported to own around a dozen roosters.

The roosters apparently crow not only at dawn, but the whole time – day and night.

“People cannot sleep all night long and they came here to rest. It’s horrible,” Marino Jakovcevic Martinov, a tourist agency owner, said.

Martinov described the roosters’ cock-a-doodle-doos as ‘terrorizing’ the hotel guests.

“Out of 12 reservations in one house, 11 were cancelled and tourists left the island, while one family accepted an alternative accommodation far away from the roosters,” Martinov was quoted as saying.

The raucous poultry, like a never-ending croaking of frogs during wet season, will always be a nightmare to tourists.

South Korea issues warning on crimes against nationals

South Koreans in Boracay, the Philippines' most famous beach.

South Koreans in Boracay, the Philippines’ most famous beach.

With a large South Korean invasion in the country I really can’t blame if their embassy here has issued a warning to our government on crimes against their nationals.

Not only are there more S. Korean tourists visiting the Philippines, but they are making their sightseeing tours in the country a prelude to what would become eventually their second home.

Thus, it is no longer surprising that you see Koreans everywhere – I mean everywhere in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao – now taking up residence as students, business people, etc.

You just have to look around and see the ubiquitous presence of establishments – from restaurants, to groceries, to massage parlors, to car dealership, to repair shops, to churches, to schools and even language centers – all bearing Korean-language signs.

These people have really the green bucks to bring here and invest for they can afford to have high-end hotels and resorts, to include golf courses, which Koreans love to play.

Since everything is affordable with their dollars, those staying here become themselves the number one expeditionists in the country, thus, you see them traveling everywhere.

But, I do not know if South Korea’s apprehension is fair and proper or that we deserve the kind of warning given us.

“The rising incidence of crimes committed against Koreans while in the Philippines either on vacation or on business is a trend that has alarmed the embassy,” said the statement.

“It is feared that if crimes against innocent Koreans persist, businessmen will avoid the Philippines and seek safer places for doing business.”

Oh yeah?

Well, the S. Korean embassy should tell that to the marines.

I am more inclined to believe police spokesman Chief Superintendent Reuben Sindac who diminished the warning, saying, “It is not a cause for concern, it is not yet alarming. It is not as if Korean nationals are the only ones being threatened”.

Frankly, I am more disappointed, scandalized and outraged every time the media reports about Koreans killing each other in this country because of business rivalry, love triangle or bad blood that goes back to their own country being settled here.

These are the crimes that I often hear and read committed by their own nationals in our own country more than the allegation that Filipinos are committing the crime against them.

Zamboanga conflict taking Fun out in the Philippines


logoWith the Zamboanga conflict still unsolved, there seems to be a deafening silence from the Department of Tourism (DOT) in promoting tourism and proclaiming to the whole world that IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES.

I have written a few blogs about the country’s tourism slogans, both past and present, and expressed my two cents worth of opinion about them. An example is this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-philippines-is-fun-wow/.

Suffice to say that the latest slogan, a brainchild of DOT Sec. Ramon Jimenez, has not been able to convince me totally that it is, indeed, a tailor-made slogan for the country as I find it too exaggerated and pretentious.

What made me skeptical about it is the adjective used to describe the fun – ‘MORE’.

How could it be MORE FUN compared to other countries in the region when fun is relative?

I think when you make a pitch for tourism, the gist is on the allure of the place – what is captivating about it that you get ‘seduced’ to visit it and get awed by what makes it the country that it is.

That is the essence of every country’s tourism propaganda.

We can be a fun country, why not? But, that IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES is certainly not the case.

Our uniqueness as a country, dubbed as The Pearl of the Orient Seas, is tantalizing enough for a foreign tourist to book a flight and experience the sights and sounds of the place.

One can even be awed by the country’s internal conflict in Zamboanga City, perhaps, unbelieving that it could happen in an exotic place like the Philippines.

But, MORE FUN is not what it is. Not to the Zamboangueños. Not even to some of our brother Muslims. And, certainly, not to the freedom-loving Filipinos.

So how could it be MORE FUN, generally, in the Philippines?

Let me tell you when IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES:

When dust settles down in Zamboanga City, Nur Misuari, Habier Malik and the rest of the rebels are either dead or captured and jailed with no discussions of mercy whatsoever.

When prosecution of the PDAF scam goes unhampered, and, in fact, fast tracked, so that most of the senior citizens in this country can still witness Janet Lim-Napoles, Tanda, Pogi and Sexy and the rest of the culprits involved being found guilty and meted out with sentences that will see them incarcerated and disgraced from their lofty and mighty positions.

When PDAF will no longer be a milking cow of corrupt lawmakers and other shameless public officials.

When political dynasties will be a thing of the past. (Hopefully without no longer any PDAF, as suggested, creation of dynasties among the wealthy politicians stop.)

When ridiculous thespians can only be seen in the small and big screens and never in the Halls of Congress.

When stupid people stop giving celebrities elective positions.

 Lastly, when MORE is removed from DOT’s overambitious and stilted Philippine tourism slogan.