During his now infamous “campaign” President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, held up tourism as the industry du jour that would go on to rescue us from our self-inflicted wretchedness. In his promise to the Filipino Voter, Noynoy laid out the pillars of this campaign to get more overseas folk to spend their hard-earned dollars in our little group of volcanic-islands. These pillars include:
(1) “involving our local communities in sustainable tourism endeavors”;
(2) “support small and medium enterprises by providing them access to credit, technologies and skills”;
(3) “construction and repair of roads, bridges, airports and seaports to increase accessibility to our sites”;
(4) “adopt a national sanitation program” that aims to “improve family and public health, protect the groundwater, lakes, rivers and coastal waters from domestic waste contamination”; and,
(5) a dedication to “upholding and enforcing law and order – within its security forces as well as among those who pose a genuine threat to our internal security”.
Quite obviously lots of work afoot squeezed into a six-year term — which brings one to wonder why much focus had instead been so far put into re-inventing the proverbial wheel that is the eight-year-old and relatively-successful Wow Philippines brand we have all become quite familiar with. Worse, whatever effort that underpinned this focus apparently had that uniquely-Filipino pwede-na-yan (literally translated “that’ll do”) signature written all over it. Not surprisingly, what has been a “much-maligned new tourism campaign” has since been “yanked off [the] net” by Malacanang…
Ministry spokeswoman Evelyn Macayayong said the government acknowledged the criticisms and pulled down the website on Tuesday for revisions.
“The writeups were not thoroughly edited. There were errors, and there are even allegations of plagiarism, that we copied from other websites,” Macayayong told AFP.
The aborted tourism campaign was topbilled by a candy-coloured logo of the slogan adorned with a coconut tree, an endangered tiny primate called a tarsier, the sun and waves.
Critics called for the country’s eight-year-old tourism slogan, “Wow Philippines”, to be retained.
Unforunately for Noynoy’s crew (and, perhaps, fortunately for us), we live in an age of instant feedback. And while many of us thrive on this technology-enabled instant feedback the way a rock star would embrace the thunderous applause of his audience right after an earth-shaking performance, the bloated “communications” machinery of Malacanang has so far exhibited a shameful track-record of failing to get what the the “New Media” is really all about. Just recently, it seems Noynoy’s henchmen had unceremoniously and under-handedly hijacked the hugely popular Facebook site built by volunteers of the 2009-2010 Aquino campaign — all because the much vaunted “Communications Group” consistently failed to face the horde of increasingly critical constituents at its gates like real men. In fact I wrote a while back how…
Seriously, this “Communications Group” have missed the whole point of “social media”.
The “Social Media” landscape is a battlefield. And the prize of this battle being fought on said field is the hearts and minds of those who inhabit this virtual social network.
The trouble is, the stodgy leaders of the Establishment to which oversight of “social media” was entrusted by Malacanang do not see their domain as a battlefield nor their mission as a battle.
Now comes this most recent gaffe of the Noynoy administration, all unfolding in the usual way that only the Noynoy government can make gaffes unfold. To give credit to Noynoy’s campaign blurb writers, they at least got right the fundamentals upon which a sustainable tourist industry could be built. But in doing so, they had highlighted what this government — and many others that had come before it — had consistently failed to prioritise — the fundamentals. These are things that serve as robust foundations not just for a world-class tourist industry, but a world-class anything.
But a failure to be world-class at anything is something that goes quite deep in Philippine society — far down into the very fibres that make up the very fabric of our national psyche. And the consistency with which these failures rear their ugly heads goes way back. From a failure to upgrade the nation’s premier international airport…
[Airport Terminal 3 development] Consortium members lost compensation claims before arbitration courts in Washington and Singapore, including on jurisdiction grounds, and appeals are pending. The terminal, mothballed from 2002 to 2008 due to the court cases, is only partly used.
…to a failure to secure the safety of the few remaining tourists that are willing to check out our sights, we fail.
Indeed, we fail at most efforts achieve in what is an undertaking that is uniquely human — building stuff. In fact the way we pitch our country as a tourist destination reflects this character of ours. We look to stuff that was served to us on a silver platter — our natural resources — rather than on stuff that people had a direct hand in bringing to life (our culture, infrastructure, and cities) as the primary capital we employ to bring home the bacon. How long are we going to rely on our natural resources for survival before we turn to ourselves for a solution to our chronic inability to prosper as a people?
Back in March of 2009, the Inquirer.net editor cited the tourist industry as the “doable stimulus plan“, highlighting how…
The Philippines has many tourist attractions like Boracay, one of the best beaches in the world; Palawan, “the last frontier,” which has exotic wildlife, white sand beaches and natural wonders like an underground river; Bohol, which has the world-famous Chocolate Hills and superb diving spots like Panglao and Balicasag; the Banaue rice terraces, called the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World; and Tubbataha Reefs, an excellent diving spot.
…from which I gleaned the following observation:
Notice how our land’s natural wonders utterly dominate this list of “incentives” to visit our fair land. The nature and character of our society, our culture, our history, or our heritage plays virtually no part in our value proposition to the the world’s tourists.
In short, there is nothing about the Philippines that is a product of the Filipino that can be considered to be attractive to tourists. All of what we hawk to prospective visitors are Mother Nature’s to offer and not by any stretch of the imagination something that Filipinos can claim to have been involved in bringing about. Far from it, as a matter of fact. Rather, the fact of Filipinos being inhabitants of the island group we had named after a Spanish King actually subtracts from the value of these islands…
Indeed, evidence of Filipino habitation is next-to-impossible to ignore in these named-after-a-Spanish-king islands. No less than 3.4 million hectares of forest cover has disappeared from 1990 to 2005. Primary forest cover now accounts for just 2.8% of total land area in these islands. Add to that the human excrement we regularly dump into our rivers and stormwater drains. Years ago, I took a helicopter flight over Manila and the thing I remember the most is looking down upon the port area of Manila Bay and seeing a huge blot of black water at the mouth of the Pasig River contrasting sharply with the green-bluish water further out to sea.
That’s “just” our forests and our water supply. But it reflects our society’s regard and respect for the land we inhabit and now rely on desperately for our future survival as part of the global economy in the face of this “crisis”. It makes the pitch of the “natural wonders” of our land that dominates our tourist brochures sound rather phoney and utterly out-of-sync with our collective character.
And here we are making claims about the the “beauty” of the Philippines. That’s just plain and simply a case of false advertising.