By Anna Oposa, Blog Watch
Dear Future DOT Secretary,
Hi. You will be introduced to us in a couple of weeks. I’m anxious to find out who you are because, well, you have my ultimate dream job. While others dream of winter wonderlands, I am consumed with chronic wanderlust for our lupang sinilangan, having traveled everywhere from Batanes to Bukidnon. After chasing kangaroos in Australia, watching Broadway shows in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of (i.e. New York), going on a South African safari, and hiking up Mount Fuji, I can say in full faith that we live in the most beautiful country in the world. I wish you, as the Secretary of the Department of Tourism, believe the same thing.
For a long time, Bangkok’s #1 source of income was tourism. It’s marketed well as an exotic backpacker’s destination. Singapore had to create artificial tourist attractions such as Sentosa and most recently, Universal Studios, to draw visitors in. The Philippines, with its 7, 107 beautiful islands, doesn’t have to. I don’t know what your definition of tourism is, but I do hope that these proposals find you:
1) The airport is the first and last thing that tourists see. Only in the Philippines have I experienced having our cars checked, tickets inspected, and bags x-rayed before entering the airport. I strongly suggest incorporating travel taxes and the (rather exorbitant) terminal fees with ticket fares as well. These would cut check-in time (and hassle) in half. Please close down NAIA1 because it looks like Shake Rattle and Roll XII-XX could be filmed there. You may want to consider transferring all international flights to the clean and gleaming NAIA3 too.
2) The DOT needs to work with Manila Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to fix ourpublic transportation system. We may have several public transportation systems (e.g. the bus, taxi, tricycle, MRT, LRT, and jeepneys) but all of them are inefficient. This is one of the major reasons why traveling here is so difficult. Instead of spending billions on the Skyway, why not a train like New York’s subway or Hong Kong’s MTR? We also need bike lanes so that biking in the city won’t be equivalent to a suicide attempt. It’s possible—just take a look at Marikina! To protect our pedestrians, we need lots of covered walkways. And MMDA, what possessed you to change the sign “BAWAL TUMAWID DITO, NAKAKAMATAY” to “BAWAL TUMAWID MAY NAMATAY NA DITO.” My good friend Dino wrote to you guys, saying it should have been “MATATALINO ANG MGA GUMAGAMIT NG OVERPASS” to promote positive reinforcement. “Gaganda pakiramdam ng mga tumatawid gamit ng overpass, tapos iisipin ng mga hindi gumagamit ng overpass, tanga sila,” says Dino.
3) Prioritize culture and the arts. To borrow words from Sir Butch Dalisay, my professor and idol, “Culture defines us as a national community with shared values and visions, albeit with diverse ideas and expressions; the arts embody those ideas and enable those expressions.” Before we were known for boxing, we were known and will always be known for our excellence and innate talent in the arts, whether in literature, film, music, dance, theatre, or visual arts. We don’t necessarily have to perform the tinikling orpandanggo sa ilaw a million times, though those are always a treat to watch. Take a look at the song “Biyahe Tayo” which showcases our fantastic singers and musicians, and “Take Me to the Philippines” by Apl.de.Ap featuring different street dance clubs. Work with the National Commission for Culture and the Artsand the Cultural Center of the Philippines to create and promote shows by and for Filipinos. I have this fantasy of Manila becoming the Great White Way of Asia. We have the talent for it, that’s for sure. We can’t keep losing our performers to ship cruises, lounges, Disneyland Hong Kong, and Universal Studios Singapore. And I beg you, please coordinate with the National Historical Institute to preserve (what’s left of) our heritage.
4) Partner with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to make the Philippines lead inecotourism. Mt. Makiling has more species of plants than the entire USA. Our marine waters are home to more than half of the species of corals, six out of the seven species of marine turtles, and the biggest andsmallest fish in the world.
In a recent study by the United Nations, the Philippines was indentified as the “center of the center of marine biodiversity on Earth.” However, there’s a lot of work to be done. From the 500, 000 hectares of mangroves that we had, we now have a dismal 28, 000 hectares. From 3 million hectares of coral reefs from the “center of the center of marine biodiversity on Earth,” it’s down to about 100, 000 hectares. For a body of water to be swimmable, it must only have 200 units of fecal coliform bacterium. Our Manila Bay, lauded for its sunset, has one million. If Manny Villar was swimming in a dagat ng basura, then those who take a dip in Manila Bay are swimming in a dagat ng…
Sorsogon’s latest tourist attraction is their Firefly Watching Cruise. Fireflies are a biological indicator of clean air. I say they are also biological indicators of hope that our environment is improving and can continue to. All it takes is a bit of imagination, ingenuity, and a whole lot of political will. The rest of the Philippines can learn from the city of Puerto Princesa, touted as the ecotourism capital of the country. Under the leadership of Mayor Ed Hagedorn, Puerto Princesa pioneered projects such as “Love Affair with Nature”among others.
5) Have a clear vision of how you want our country to be advertised. Should we market it as a premiere destination for leisure, business, wellness, ecotourism, or even medical tourism? Would it be possible to follow the footsteps of Indonesia and work with the premise of “unity in diversity”? There are so many undervalued geological and geographical marvels of this country, such as Calaguas and Camiguin. We need to take care of Mindanao too, because when people think Mindanao, they think MILF and bombs. Mindanao’s beautiful and relatively safe, but it’s the dangerous parts that always get the limelight. I hope, Dear Secretary, that you have something like Sen. Dick Gordon’s Wow Philippines campaign or Sec. Ace Durano’s Awesome Philippines campaign to encourage and inspire both local and foreign tourists to explore the Philippines. Provide easily accessible materials, like our very own, locally made version of the Lonely Planet book, for proper guidance. And please make sure it’s grammatically correct. See this photo from the DOT website.
WRONG GRAMMAR: “Discover the fine white sands of this world-reknown beach.”
There is so much untapped potential that this archipelago has to offer. Like Sec. Durano says in this brilliant TVC, “Maglakbay at mamangha sa sarili mong bansa.”
Anna Oposa is an English Studies major at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She was on the campaign team of Gilbert C. Remulla, who ran for senator under the Nacionalista Party. She blogs at freckles in the sky. Blog Watch is a bloggers’ initiative aiming to cover underplayed stories that traditional media cannot always cover due to limited resources and time.
Here’s written on the bottom of the ad:
“*This value driven campaign promotes the Philippines to its own people, many of whom opt to travel abroad unaware of their country’s beauty. “Tara na” means let’s go.”
Nga naman, tangkilikin ang sariling atin! :)