DOT Chooses “Mind-Numbing Stupidity” as a Promotional Strategy (Again)

I’ve sat in front of my computer for the better part of an hour trying to think of a clever way to preface this latest bit of astonishing idiocy from the Philippines’ Department of Tourism, but I think I’ll let Dexter See’s article from yesterday’s Manila Bulletin speak for itself:

Cordillerans told to tone down presentation of war dances

BAGUIO CITY – The tourism department has called on Cordillerans to tone down the presentation of war dances to avoid imparting the wrong impression that some tribes still practice tribal wars giving the impression that the region is not a safe place to visit, thus affecting the growth of the local tourism industry.

Several local officials have already informed tourism stakeholders that the showcasing of war dances will not be good for the tourism industry because tourists may have a wrong impression that because of such tribal dance, the places are not peaceful and are no longer safe to visit.

Because of such concern, the regional office of the Department of Tourism (DoT) advised cultural groups to refrain from performing war dances, especially in front of visitors.

Tourism officials said Cordillera-inspired dances must depict that Igorots are peace-loving people and that the places comprising the region are peaceful and are potential tourist destinations because of their distinct scenic spots worthy of visiting.

Earlier, Kalinga Gov. Jocel C. Baac pointed out that while the famous war dance may be part of the rich history of some Cordillera provinces, tribal wars are now a long gone practice, thus, Cordillerans must now accept the paradigm shift so that the impression that the region is filled with conflicts will be erased in the minds of foreign and domestic tourists.

Baac challenged other barangay, municipal, city and provincial officials regionwide to convince their constituents to accept the changing times and forego the portrayal of the war dance in order to give the region a new image that will help improve its economy.

At the same time, the tourism department is also looking into the possibility of discouraging the performance of the monkey dance, especially in places outside the region because it gives a wrong impression on the morale of the dancers and the Cordillerans.

In a recent performance of a cultural dance group from the region that showcased the monkey dance in Metro Manila, viewers were heard to have said that the image portrayed by the dancers puts down the standing of Igorots.

Since mid-November the DOT and its partners have given us the abortive “Pilipinas, Kay Ganda!” marketing campaign, the dubious white paper on “Branding the Philippines”, and now this utter bit of lunacy. If we follow the line of reasoning expressed by the tourism officials (and, most disturbingly, Governor Baac, who obviously has a less-than-keen understanding of his own constituents) then this example of a traditional war dance – which has, it should be noted, been performed all over the world in front of millions of people – ought to be enough to scare tourists away from its country of origin.

New Zealand, with a population about 1/20th the size of the Philippines’, attracts roughly the same number of visitors each year, between 2.5 and 3 million people. Call me crazy, but I think the cautionary implications of native dance might be a bit overstated here.

The whole notion that “tribal wars no longer occur, therefore, war dances are no longer culturally relevant or acceptable” is deeply offensive on a number of levels. The people of the Cordillera are as entitled to their own appreciation of their cultural heritage as anyone else, and like most indigenous people throughout the entire country, they are not just dancing for the hell of it; each of their many dances are deeply symbolic. Telling them they “must accept the paradigm shift” demeans them as a culture and as individuals – the attitude of the DOT and Governor Baac, not to put too fine a point on it, is institutional racism. The idea is offensive to prospective tourists as well, and unlike the possible misunderstanding of the meaning of traditional dances, sends a clear message to potential visitors that “We think you’re too stupid to understand what you see.” And the idea is offensive to other Pinoys who are not part of the Cordilleran culture but can appreciate it as a part of a shared Philippine heritage, as one of my Facebook friends commented:

“That is the most retarded bullshit I ever heard. I would rather have war dances that portray my people as strong and courageous rather than dancing “a doo doo doo a daa da daa”, “ocho ocho”, “point to the east and point to the west”, “igiling giling”, “ispagheting pababa” and sexbomb moves.”

The common thread that connects the recent gaffes of the DOT (apart from a stunning failure to grasp basic concepts in marketing) is the Philippines’ desperate, irrelevant search for a “national identity.” Faced with trying to find something in common among all the disparate cultures that make up this country, the champions of “Pinoy identity” are obliged to settle for the lowest common denominators. As a consequence, what “symbolizes” the Philippines is either trite – tarsiers and Boracay’s ‘famous’ white sand – or puerile. Since the empty symbolism is all the country’s promoters can provide, they come to believe that’s what the “outsider” wants to see.

And then they wonder why they have to pad tourism numbers with ‘returning Filipinos’ to show any progress, and why most tourism capital inflows seem to end up in SM or Jollibee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About bkritz

I'm a writer, and I do things my own way. That might sound cool to you, unless you're one of the people who actually knows me, in which case you're probably shaking your head in exasperation at the depth of that understatement.
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21 Responses to DOT Chooses “Mind-Numbing Stupidity” as a Promotional Strategy (Again)

  1. kickapoo says:

    Yes true, the Maoris of New Zealand perform their traditional war dance called Haka with pride. The New Zealand rugby team, All Blacks dances the haka before matches. Tourist even visit them to watch this war dance in particular. They would even teach you how to do it the way hawaiians teach tourist to dance the Hula.

    DOT is nuts! They assume that tourists are as shallow-minded as they are. Typical Filipino ignorance. Just like when flipinos assume that hongkongers will get mad at pinoys in HK when PNOY bungled the Manila hostage crisis.

    Anong akala nyo sa ibang tao? sing kitid nyong mag-isip? Ang galing ng administration mo Pnoy, umaatras tayo…..Pusa-madre!

    • Jay says:

      See, that is hilarious. The Haka found its way to mainstream with the All Blacks rugby team, carrying its intention but at the same time, showing how rich that tradition is.

      BTW, there are people in the world like Anthony Bourdain (Foodies if you may call them) that prefer the real (or raw) tribal form of cooking that much of our country has forgotten. Once the attractive bora-puerto beaches lose its luster (and with it, the sex tourism), what else can you sell to these tourists? I mean why kill the possibilities to tell them things about the country with any avenue possible that ARE PART OF THE IDENTITY OF THE COUNTRY?

      • kickapoo says:

        i know. I read that the new generation of Ifugaos are leaving their roots behind because they are “modernized.” The technology and know-how to maintain the rice terraces are being forgotten. Salamat sa conversion nila sa Christianity.

    • Dark Passenger says:

      I really love watching the All-Blacks do their war dance. It’s the only reason I watch rugby, really. Once the dance is over, I change the channel. I appreciate the passion and cultural pride behind it. But it doesn’t make me think the Maoris will eat me alive if I ever set foot in New Zealand.

      Why do Filipinos keep suppressing the good things about our culture and keep perpetuating the bad ones? How about getting rid of the culture of corruption and impunity, which hurt our tourism industry more than any war dance possibly can?

  2. BongV says:

    What are they gonna do next? Tell the Maranao’s, bagobo’s and Manobos to tone down on using the kampilan and kris?
    The DOT folks aren’t exactly the sharpest blades in the drawer.

  3. Kotobuki says:

    Those people who said that the monkey dance degrades Cordilleran peoples are idiots. They’re basing their opinions on notions that a monkey dance is primitive and animal-like, without understanding that it is part of a culture – that the dancers have – that they can’t censor or tone down for the prejudices of others.

    Maybe the act of the Monkey King in traditional Chinese opera is degrading also.

  4. rubberkid says:

    Are they serious?! I am proud of our Cordillera culture (even though I am from Mindanao). Amid all these developments, they (the natives) are trying to keep their culture alive. Instead of supporting them, our government is killing it. This situation is like those western explorers colonizing the New World and calling the natives “savages” – only in the 21st century.

    • rubberkid says:

      Proud to be bisdak too! Whenever I hear someone wanting to be whiter, I tell them: “Ok lang lagom, basta di lang kagiron” =)

  5. BenK says:

    What really surprises me about this is that it’s coming from the region. If it were the ignorant opinions of paper-pushers in Manila, I could understand that. Wouldn’t make it right, but it would be understandable. But these are people – and especially Governor Baac – who ought to know better. About two months after I came to the Philippines, we moved up to Benguet and stayed there for about a year. I have a pretty good idea what impression outsiders get of the ‘safety’ of the region, and if there are problems with that (there usually are), it has more to do with bad roads, miscellaneous bandits, and jackass politicians and their hired thugs than anything the natives present.

    • ArticleRequest says:

      “That is the most retarded bullshit I ever heard. I would rather have war dances that portray my people as strong and courageous rather than dancing “a doo doo doo a daa da daa”, “ocho ocho”, “point to the east and point to the west”, “igiling giling”, “ispagheting pababa” and sexbomb moves.”

      The common thread that connects the recent gaffes of the DOT (apart from a stunning failure to grasp basic concepts in marketing) is the Philippines’ desperate, irrelevant search for a “national identity.” Faced with trying to find something in common among all the disparate cultures that make up this country, the champions of “Pinoy identity” are obliged to settle for the lowest common denominators. As a consequence, what “symbolizes” the Philippines is either trite – tarsiers and Boracay’s ‘famous’ white sand – or puerile. Since the empty symbolism is all the country’s promoters can provide, they come to believe that’s what the “outsider” wants to see.

      Sounds like institutional racism to me.

      I remember how Wowowee, Sexbomb, etc. songs and dance numbers like “otso otso” “ispageting pababa” etc. were considered Proudly Pinoy some years back.

      If you said “NO. I despise retarded Wowowee crap like”otso otso” and I would rather listen to a song made by a foreigner who makes good songs without pulling it from a dirty noontime gameshow, you would be considered unpatriotic.”

    • ArticleRequest says:

      “That is the most retarded bull**** I ever heard. I would rather have war dances that portray my people as strong and courageous rather than dancing “a doo doo doo a daa da daa”, “ocho ocho”, “point to the east and point to the west”, “igiling giling”, “ispagheting pababa” and sexbomb moves.”

      The common thread that connects the recent gaffes of the DOT (apart from a stunning failure to grasp basic concepts in marketing) is the Philippines’ desperate, irrelevant search for a “national identity.” Faced with trying to find something in common among all the disparate cultures that make up this country, the champions of “Pinoy identity” are obliged to settle for the lowest common denominators. As a consequence, what “symbolizes” the Philippines is either trite – tarsiers and Boracay’s ‘famous’ white sand – or puerile. Since the empty symbolism is all the country’s promoters can provide, they come to believe that’s what the “outsider” wants to see.

      =========================================================================
      Sounds like institutional racism to me.

      I remember how Wowowee, Sexbomb, etc. songs and dance numbers like “otso otso” “ispageting pababa” etc. were considered Proudly Pinoy some years back.

      If you said “NO. I despise retarded Wowowee crap like”otso otso” and I would rather listen to a song made by a foreigner who makes good songs without pulling it from a dirty noontime gameshow, you would be considered unpatriotic.”

      The so called Pinoy Pride Experts are perhaps the last people this country should turn to if we want to understand: “What Makes us Unique?”

      I think we are better of marketing ourselves as DIFFERENT type of Asian. Not the usual Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, etc. type of East that the world sees. We are better off marketing our Hispanic heritage and the heritage of our native brown “indio islanders”. Whatever it takes to SET US APART and to polarize ourselves. Rather than want to be viewed as similar to our neighbors we would be better off stating “what makes us unique in this region?”

      Or in other words we win by breaking stereotypes that the world has of people from this corner of the globe.

  6. bokyo says:

    It’s like a subliminal message that says tribalistic origins of our culture is prohibited. That’s rather foul.

  7. lester2k1 says:

    @bokyo, correct. this is actually contrary to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and possibly, even the Philippines’ own RA 8371, or the IPRA (Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act). Chap. VI, Sec. 29 states: “Protection of Indigenous Culture, traditions and institutions.- The state shall respect, recognize and protect the right of the ICCs/IPs to preserve and protect their culture, traditions and institutions. It shall consider these rights in the formulation of national plans and policies.” 

    • bokyo says:

      Gov. Jocel C. Baac might have been too ignorant about this part of the Constitution. But then again, most Filipinos has been violating the Constitution and gets away with it.

  8. no one beats filipinos in self-prejudice than themselves. i can’t believe that mainstream media is not all over this. wait. i can believe pala kasi mainstream media is selective. igorots can’t raise their respective networks and publications’ advertising revenue. our noontime shows sometimes do provincial tours and get to be broadcast abroad. why aren’t the stupid dance choreography and songs not being reprimanded by the DOT and the KBP for sending internationally the impression that our women are prostitutes and our men will jump hoops for money.

  9. Hyden Toro says:

    Noynoy Aquino has already been doing the Monkey Dance…together with his incompetent Cabinets. Blame Game Monkey Dances….Wowoowee, Giling-Giling, Igiling Mo, Baby…
    They are concerned about the image of the country…they are not concerned about the ECONOMIC IMPACT, the Philippines and the World is now facing…Tourism industry on all levels are down…The Price of Aeronautical Fuel, for commercial planes are up…so the travel cost of tourism is going higher and higher, everyday. And these Idiots, are worried about tourists not coming in the country?

  10. ChinoF says:

    Either it’s cultural insensitivity, or DoT listened to one faction in the Cordilleras at the expense of another faction. 

  11. LRBarrit says:

    Let the ignoramus among us be “learned,” even if through this process. Apo, ignorante ka met gayam! Ania metten!

  12. Alice Ty says:

    “Cordillerans must now accept the paradigm shift” — Kalinga Gov. Jocel C. Baac

    Does this mean they want dances depicting call center agents, caregivers, domestic helpers and such?

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