Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saturday Giant Lantern Escapade

After an hour of waiting for each other, a group of eight including Boyet, the project officer, Aleli, Gina, Gil, and two from the print media—Mike and Louie—and the driver, we finally embarked a van just an hour before lunch from the Lapu-Lapu side of Luneta in front of the renovated Children’s Park going to Pampanga on December 18, 2010.

An hour past noon, we arrived at a five-storey full-service Marlim Mansion Hotel, a bit archaic but one of the biggest hotels located at downtown Balibago, Angeles City, for lunch. We were greeted by a robust Peter and a young John, both hospitable staff of Director Tiotuico of DOT Region III. After almost an hour of luncheon meal and rest, we proceeded to the new Nayong Pilipino—one of the side trips for our festival escapade, the Giant Lantern Festival of which the program would start at twilight.

Side Trips: Consuelo de Bobo?

Nayong Pilipino sa Clark is a theme park depicting the history of the Philippines through architecture and cultural shows. It is subdivided into pre-colonial and colonial periods. The pre-colonial subdivide features the houses of different ethnic communities. Since it is impossible to cover all the communities in just half an hour, we decided to focus on Ifugao village with matching lady tour guide sharing with us some facts about ifugao houses of which the shape of the roof identifies the tribe it belongs to. I heard her saying, “rat gard.” I thought it was an Ifugao word. I was mistaken but bothered not to ask for a clarification. “Rat guard,” she said while pointing to a thick disk-shaped wooded provision attached to every column of four that supports the house that stands four to five feet above the ground, “serves as protection against rats trying to climb to the house.” Although, crude as they may appear, these houses can amaze even the likes of Palafox at such precision with no power tools and such sturdiness without a single metal nail or bolt. Every house is like a puzzle whose pieces fit together. In this village of four different tribe houses, there is also a souvenir shop of Ifugao products, of course. I decided to buy a key chain worth 15 pesos to benefit the Ifugaos neither that I need it nor that I love collecting that sort of things. It is my pledge that my travel should benefit the destination in exchange for some pollutants that I may, without knowing it, bring to it and leave behind. For lack of time, I just took photos of some houses in other “villages” and in the colonial subdivide.

Just a few minutes after three-o’clock habit, we found ourselves reminiscing war-time stories at Clark Museum. It features a rare collection of artifacts of the American period—before and after World War II—exhibition of paintings and dioramas of historic events during the period and of Filipino customs.

From the museum, we went to Puregold Duty Free for some “stateside” chocolates and cookies, which cost me, Aleli and Boyet a thousand and a half pesos each—worth the price though for once-in-a- blue-moon duty-free shopping. This ended our side trip in Clark—definitely not just a consuelo de bobo, though.

The Biggest Giant Lantern Festival: Truly Spectacular!

The City of San Fernando staged anew its spectacular Giant Lantern Festival, the biggest ever with each of the participating lanterns measuring 20 feet in diameter compared to last year’s 18 feet. The lantern festival, the only of its kind in the world, earned the city the title of “the Christmas capital of the Philippines.” Locally dubbed as Ligligan Parul, it was held this year on December 18 at Robinsons Starmills.

The festival is actually an annual competition of giant lanterns usually with nine competing barangays on a Saturday before the Christmas Eve. Since 1958 the lanterns have been redefined and named as parul sampernandu; however, it finds its roots in what was then Pampanga’s capital—Bacolor—where a simpler lantern activity was yearly held until the provincial capital was transferred to San Fernando in 1904. The predecessor of the modern-day Giant Lantern Festival was actually a religious activity which we know today as “lubenas.” The lanterns measured just two feet in diameter, a far cry from the 20 feet that we see today. These were created in each barrio out of bamboo and other locally available materials. During the nine-day novena before Christmas which is done during simbang bengi (midnight mass) from December 16 to 24, these paruls were brought around each barrio in procession. Before the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the lanterns, together with the images of the patron saints of the barrios, were brought to the town church (retrieved and updated from http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Giant_Lantern_Festival). As the lanterns grow in size from a mere two feet in its early years to 20 feet in diameter this year, the lantern festival also has found its own identity apart from being a mere part of a religious activity into a carnival with its own worth and crowd draw.

An estimated 70,000 spectators, locals and some foreigners, jam packed the parking area in front of Robinsons Seaport Gate for the showdown of giant lanterns composed of more than 8,000 bulbs each. The competition was participated in by the barangays of Dolores, Del Pilar, San Jose, San Juan, San Nicolas, Santa Lucia, Santo Niño, San Pedro, and Telabastagan. This time, Santa Lucia’s lantern, the crowd favorite for the beauty of its design, the color, and the timing of lights and sound, bested the face-off followed by those of Dolores, which championed the last year’s contest, and San Nicolas.

Preceded by a number of folkdances and musical performances, the contest, starting at around eight o’clock, took almost two hours to conclude. It was composed of individual presentations in the first round with seven minutes for each entry, triad face-off in the second round with seven minutes for every group of entries, and simultaneous demonstration of all the nine entries in the last round also for seven minutes.

Two hours of way-out-of-this world spectacular experience is worth the trip from Manila of two hours. With side trips in Nayong Pilipino, Clark Museum, and a shopping spree in a duty-free grocery store, a Saturday night with this kind of event is more than enough to give you a dose of an experiencia de gran turismo. Side trips are not just a consuelo de bobo. They are actually an important ingredient in the overall experience—to give you a sense of fullness, a value for the time, effort and money spent. A destination must be as spectacular as that festival to be worth a trip of several hours. Or better yet, when planning a trip for a destination, consider some side trips to complete the equation.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

GB3: Clean, Sleek and Sexy

When I was working in Makati, over a year, I was always passing by GB3, which by the way is Makati's Greenbelt 3, on my way to EDSA for a bus ride to Tambo, Parañaque. I never cared how it looks except that young people working for WWF annoyed me sometimes with their "panda" not that I don't care about wild life being systematically and politically destroyed by unscrupulous powerful elites but that "panda" doesn't appeal to me. If it's tarsier, which although many Pinoys do not like to symbolize them in a travel logo, I might consider giving them away a fragment of my precious time. But, this post is about GB3 not WWF.

Last Thursday night, I made myself invited by one Chad G through a Rex B's change of Friday-to-Thursday schedule of what appeared to be more of a reunion of long lost camaraderie than a rendezvous of career men and woman bragging their accomplishments; thanks that it went that way--a five-head reunion. Way back in college in Aquinas University, these people are among the crème de la crème--lofty in intelligence and yet down-to-earth--of our Alma Mater. Chad G has made significant improvements in his looks, from bony to meaty; although still rugged in his getup, one can sense a deep sense of responsibility owing to a fact perhaps that he is a husband to one-only beautiful wife and a father to a boy. Emi (once a B now a G) has stunningly maintained her gorgeous looks that can put to shame the likes of historical Cleopatra despite the fact that she is a wife to a husband, a mother to a boy, and a dedicated sales rep to IBM, all at the same time. But what she awed me most with? She is more tolerant to her husband than her husband to himself when it comes to "2 botts" (bottles not "buttocks") escapades. Steve S, whom I thought was the C one when Chad mentioned his name last Dec. 7, has also made improvements in his physique. More meat or fats? I can't tell with his office attire on. An accomplished salesman or maybe a manager of a huge team of salesmen, that I can tell based on his choice of words and concoctions of sentences peppered with sales jargon. But in my humble assessment, his secret to success in his career is not his diploma he earned in the College of Business Administration and Accountancy...my apology to our Alma Mater. He succeeds by his own chameleon-like ability to speak like a Korean--from North to South (his Maoish eyes blend well with Koreans though), an Indian (with whom he can blend well with his nose and color except the smell), a British (I don't know if he can do Scottish; but I think, everybody can tell he's fake.), and an American--never mind, that's given. And then, there's Rex B--without his querida named Eos, nothing has changed except perhaps that he now looks better with polo shirts. This man, without his lens, is a slim Filipino version of Genghis Khan without beard. With his glasses and lenses put on, especially his powerful 135 mm, he is a formidable recruit for an infamous group of assassins who mastered the most modern art of spying--he can capture the most minute details of what you are in your most innocent "moment". If the journalists have nose for news, Rex B has lenses for all details. The challenge for this man as a photographer is to capture the background more detailed than his favorites--women of all sizes and colors--in Greenbelt...to entice more to go to this place and hopefully replicate the same environment in the likes of Baseco compound. This guys and gal have also something to say about the aborted "Pilipinas, kay Ganda." Like every Filipino who will struggle with any language just to communicate himself (or her self) to a foreigner, they are naturally against it. Unfortunately for my former boss, I shared with their views. But this post is not about it.

Greenbelt 3 or GB3 not G3 (which Chad said is Glorietta 3) is perhaps everything that you can wish for your immediate environment--vegetation side-by-side with the architecture of all schools of thought (a representation of Palafox's green architecture) all clean and sleek including the people themselves with high level of sophistication. For a green (eco-friendly) mind, GB3 is sexy--in whatever direction you want to extend its meaning, I leave it up to your own discretion. Visit and stay a while (the equivalent is four hours over two buckets of "light" beer; two bottles will not be enough once you get the feel of the place) in GB3 and judge for yourself. But, that's it--clean, sleek and sexy. Just don't mind the expense.

Chad, where did we drink that night?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Time: Wasting Away, Cleaning Up

Christmas time. Divisoria is the busiest business district in Manila whole year round. When Yuletide season is in the air, Divi is even more chaotic. The 168 Mall have expanded its capacity for commercial establishments which, as expected, attracted more stores and patrons of every imaginable toys, gadgets and wares--fashion, bags, jewelry, watches, cellphones, ipads, netbooks, speakers of all sizes, almost everything except wet goods that you can find outside. People regardless of state in life prefer Divi for value of money, specially those hard-earned.

While Christmas certainly stimulates commerce as it inspires gift giving, it also produces tons of wastes, especially plastics that clog drainage canals and eventually results to flooding during rainy days. We know well that flood spoils everything including the economic gains of the season. So, the losses outweigh the gains--this makes Christmas a time of wasting away.

A simple action makes a big difference. Bring with you a bag, large enough to contain all you need (not wants) to buy for gift giving. With this you don't need plastic for every purchase that you make--less plastic, less waste.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More About Cleanliness: Judgement Day

Today...Judgment Day!

Secretary Bertie Lim is on the hot seat. The CA has to make the decision. Will this be another cleanup? If so, the consumers--especially the travelers--will lose advocate for Open-Sky Policy, the positive Pandora's box to boost the speed of the crawling Philippine tourism industry. The local airlines' initiative to lower their rates in the form of promos is not enough to substantially stimulate domestic travel. Aside from low cost of air-traveling, the policy will bring about better services among the local airlines so that they can stay afloat the competition. The perceived losses of these airlines will be eventually compensated in the form of increasing the people's air-travel frequency and the number of people traveling through air. Besides, they can also traverse new routes in the international airways.

It is the call of the CA--to make or to break. I am just hoping that cleanups should be based on the gravity of merits and demerits. What is best for the Pearl of the Orient should be of utmost consideration.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Still About Cleanliness

I've been busy these past days. But, I'm back on board. My last post was, untitled, about the resignation of then Tourism Planning and Promotion Undersecretary Enteng Romano III. Although an extended meaning, it is still about "cleanliness".

The issue that led to his resignation is not about corruption but a simple rejection of his radical idea of promoting the Pearl of the Orient Seas as "Pilipinas, Kay Ganda". That does not worth a resignation. Many in the Department wanted him to stay; perhaps, they are more eager to see "radical" change in his management style, i.e. full transparency of his plans and widest possible consulation with the tourism stakeholders, most especially the DOT career officials and employees who are supposed to be the first to know of whatever plans the new administration has for tourism. He could have introduced novel styles of management out of that mess. Anyway, it is a spilled milk and nothing more we can do but to accept his way of cleaning things up, unfortunately, including himself.

We hope that we will see in the not so distant future worse people in positions doing the same...for the sake of our beloved country, the Pearl of the Orient.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotion Vicente "Enteng" Romano III accepted full responsibility on the branding "Pilipinas, Kay Ganda" during the press conference held at Department of Tourism's auditorium, November 23, 2010. He also tendered his irrevocable resignation this day.

Usec. Romano considered the rejection of the brand as a vote of "no confidence" not just for the brand but also for him being the man behind it, the "preview" of which spewed a lot of controversies, like the absence of consultation with industry stakeholders, the alleged plagiarism of the logo being copied from Poland's travel logo, "Polska", and the amount spent for the Preview Event.

He ended his statement with "Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with a nation so beautiful. Pilipinas, kay ganda."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Philippines - The Pearl of the Orient

This is a private initiative to make the Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient, truly a "pearl" in all sides.

The objective of this blog is to support the Department of Tourism's international marketing campaign program by way of strengthening the culture of tourism in the country. No amount of millions of money shelled out and efforts exerted in coming up with marketing strategies will bring good results if local communities are not ready or ill fit to welcome the visitors, which, by the way, include both the domestic and the foreign tourists.

The first in line is about the basics of cleanliness.

Once, I was able to set on foot in the city of Davao, the most clean city I have ever visited , which may be rivaled by Puerto Princesa. I asked myself, "if in Davao they can do it why not in other cities?" Awed and absorbed by a man's initiative to pick a candy wrapper beside a tricycle, I missed the moment with my point-and-shoot camera. So, the word initiative is a key. I learned later on that the local officials passed an anti-littering law and that it is strictly implemented. And the combo words for that is political will. Initiative begins with the local governments--pass a law, implement the law. That is the role of governments--to govern, to bring about order. Something in between, of course, is communication. You've got to communicate the benefits and worse-case scenarios not just the law with all its penalties. As they say, the letter of the law kills but the spirit gives life. If and when the political will is present and greatly felt by the members of the community only then that their initiative will be spurred and become a culture as long as it is sustained by political will. That is as far as those in power are concerned.

Man or woman has the capacity to initiate change without being told. While waiting for such a law, let's put our acts together and begin small--little insignificant acts amount to something when put together. Don't litter your candy wrappers--keep them in your purses or pockets. Don't litter your cigarette butts--or better still, don't smoke--the best way to clean up your lungs and the-already-polluted city of yours. Oh, come on...we can do that.