Category Archives: Department of Tourism

Manila Cathedral and Random Musings

The last time I ventured inside the vast Manila Cathedral was when I was in 2nd year college and had no idea of the historical relevance of the place. Yesterday, I bore witness to the grand re-opening of Manila’s cultural and religious jewel, the seat of the Catholic influence in the whole Philippines and a great heritage treasure we should cherish regardless of religion or absence of.

How beautiful is that?

How beautiful is that?

The Manila Cathedral sits at the center of Intramuros, the historic walled city, in the gardens of Plaza Roma in front of the Fort Santiago. It is one of the last cultural buildings that had retained its former glory and grandeur. Unlike the San Augustine Church, the original Cathedral didn’t survive the bombing of Manila during WW2 like most of the city’s old Hispanic buildings. Much of the old church was destroyed but the original plan and design were retained for old times’ sake.



Even before the destruction of the churches in Cebu and Bohol due to the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck Visayas last year, it is already a great concern for the church administrators and Manila city officials to preserve the Cathedral for future disasters. Starting from 2011, the Cathedral was closed for retrofitting so it can withstand strong shockwaves from earthquakes. Donations and pledges are made and after two years, the Cathedral is now ready to open its doors to the local worshipers and foreign tourists. Undoubtedly, it will be another precious collection to Intramuros’ rich heritage for non-Filipinos to see.


Stained windows

Stained windows depicting the patron of Manila, Immaculate Concepcion

A replication of the Pieta

A replication of the Pieta located at one of Cathedral’s inner chambers


Forgive the blasphemy but I have to say this: Manila Cathedral, you are a heck of a sexy architecture and I hope your glory lives as long as there is still a Philippines.


Random Musings 

The reopening of the Cathedral provided an excuse for a small college barkada reunion. And when you’re in a historic, solemn place with your nerdy, history-buff friends, discussions and stories are bound to be serious, if not philosophical.

Jayson, wearing his green-striped polo shirt tucked in his pants, has to sneak away from his work as a reporter to the local paper just to catch the event. When it comes to Philippine history, he’s the rockstar ever since our college days. Rene (my other friend) and I can only listen and nod agreeably when he’s spewing angry tirades and rants about anything from people ignoring and ambushing the performing Rondalla dancers once the doors of the Cathedral are opened, to the conspiracy involving the Bangsamoro peace deal. He knows the history of Intramuros in the palm of his hand and if there’s anyone who loves Manila inside and out, despite its blatant flaws, it’s him.

When you’re with a friend like Jayson, you will feel guilty of not being Filipino enough. He’s as precious as a heritage building: Few but true. That’s the most poetic description I could think of about a friend.

So late at night after the mass, as we strolled around the cobbled pathways of Intramuros, getting drunk over the mellow streetlights and melodic clamps of moving calesas, we engaged in our favorite pasttime of asking ourselves of what had gone wrong in Philippine history that condemned us in this culture of mediocrity and inferiority.

And the reason why I wrote down this anecdote is because of Jayson’s tirades. According to his lengthy but interesting exposition, even before the Spaniards came, the islands are already governed with several clans and tribes, each had the habit of waging war and killing each other off. In pre-Hispanic Manila alone, there are already three kingdoms thriving: The Kingdom of Maynila, Tundo and Namayan. Tribes across Luzon pledges loyalty to the Kingdom of Manila, but they are ruled autonomously, each with different leaders who seldom cooperate with each other.

“The Spaniards didn’t understand the complexity of the political system in the archipelago.” Jayson explains. “They didn’t understand that there’s a culture of strong regionalism in each island, in each province. Most people recognized Lapu-lapu as a hero of Cebu but Cebu and Mactan are ruled by different datus then and each held a bitter grudge against each other.”

What the Spaniards did, Jayson explained, is they rounded up all these kingdoms, tribes, clans, islands in one country in such a rush despite the obvious disagreements and grudges, hoping the hodge-podge would call itself a nation.

“Nasa dugo na ng mga Pilipino ‘yan.” (It’s in our genetic code). Jayson continues. “We inherently sided with the community than pledge our support to the greater society. That’s why we have political dynasties ruled by rich families  in each region or province until now. It is in our nature to be ‘loyal’ to this people. The lack of education didn’t help our situation.”

That observation can only come from someone who spent so much time thinking about the Philippines, and there’s no question that Jayson is like that.

The discussion moved from Filipino society to the Spratly Island tension against China. Rene pointed out that if there’s one thing that unites Filipinos, it’s the presence of a common enemy perceived as an invader or a bully, as what majority call China these past few weeks.

“Well, at least we have to thank China for that,” I quipped. “Without China the ‘bully’, we would be busy pulling each other down.”

“Mabuhay China!” we cheered, and a couple who were busy making out at the corner just sent us weird looks.

We enjoyed the sated calm that follows after the orgasmic discussion. Who knew having threesome could be so gratifying?



Philippine Tourism Ads: More “Fun” in the Philippines

I’m fairly critical to Philippine tourism videos. As much as possible, I always place myself in the feet of foreigners googling the Philippines and gauge what they’re feeling after watching a video about the Philippines.

I still remembered my first Philippine tourism video. Back in elementary, when Gordon was still the DOT Secretary, lots and lots of WOW Philippine ads are shown in between Sineskwela and Wansapanataym. Immediately, the song “Tara na, Byahe Tayo” became a household hit, after being performed by 21 Filipino artists including Sharon Cuneta, Ogie Alcasid, and Lea Salonga among others.

WOW Philippines is undoubtedly successful on its own way. Even the word “Wow” connotes wonderment and promise, and to put it right before the Philippines hints of a typical tourist’s expression once he set foot on the tropical islands. “Wow, Philippines” he would mutter under his breathe. But the genius of the slogan does not act lie on the objective to attract foreigners. It’s calling for us to visit out our own natural wonders and cultural heritage. Of us helping our fellow countrymen. Of us having to first say that “Wow, Philippines”

Needless to say, after watching the ad, I began begging to my mom to visit Cebu or Davao during the summers. Unfortunately we’re not so well-of as much as to plan traveling budget every year.

It’s hard to pick up a memorable tourism ad after WOW Philippines. Even now, most of my generation wished it would come back. Sucks to them, we live in a country where projects are cut, stopped, and replaced by lawmakers who are desperately trying to mark their own legacy in the alcoves of history.

Not much effort was done to create Philippine Tourism ads at the onset of 2000. The only time it was able to make a big break on TV was when Filipino netizens criticized the newly-unveiled “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” logo which was supposedly copied from a Polish ad.

Note the similarities between the Filipino and the Polish ad

Note the similarities between the Filipino and the Polish ad

For the hate of transforming this post into a personal rant, let’s now move on to the new and fresh ad from the Aquino Administration brought to you by DOT secretary, Mon Jimenez The internationally acclaimed, the social media celebrity, It’s More Fun in the Philippines

Critics were quick to point out that It’s More Fun is another rip-off from the Swiss tourism ad back in 1951. But the Swiss government gracefully backs the slogan and expresses its support to the Philippines (Good Guys Swiss)

It’s More Fun makes use of social media to tap the unique beauty of the Philippines as told by the people who knew it best – the Filipinos. In fact, thousands of memes were created out of the slogan and became viral to various social network sites for the whole world to see.

What I like about the ad is that it doesn’t fall into a nearly identical agenda of the WOW Philippines. WOW mostly shows the island’s natural beauty and hidden wonders, on festivals and culture. It’s More Fun focuses on ourselves, the people, our queer attitude as Filipinos, our people’s absurd but carefree ways. A Singaporean man once said that Philippines is the craziest place to live in, but you would find the sanest people here. The ad reinforces this quaint definition of Filipinos – our resiliency, our ability to laugh at things including ourselves, and making fun out of everything, hence, the term, more fun here in the Philippines.

Check out this meme for the It’s More Fun

Staring Contests

Staring Contests

Rice Terraces

Rice Terraces

I miss riding on top of jeepneys :( Back in the province, you can ride almost anywhere on jeepneys, except on the wheel of course

I miss riding on top of jeepneys 😦 Back in the province, you can ride almost anywhere on jeepneys, except on the wheel of course

Tourism ads do not have to be an effort for only the government. Choose Philippines, a regional project by multi-media giant corporation ABS-CBN to promote the country’s beauty, received attention for its beautiful video, Piliin mo Ang Pilipinas peformed by Angeline Quinto.

The video was also adapted by the El Gamma Penumbra, the shadow-dancers from Pilipinas Got Talent, into a stunning shadow presentation depicting the Philippines.

A lifestyle blog, When In Manila meanwhile received the ire of my facebook friends for their ad: What the Fuck is in the Philippines? I’m sure it doesn’t mean to make a bad image out of the Philippines, but it just sends the message the wrong way. You’ll be the judge.

Meanwhile, check out the latest ad by DOT for It’s More Fun.

Though the ad is good, I can’t help but to think that this time DOT seems to be similar with the When In Manila one, on the aspect of having fun, minus the sex tourism thing, (or maybe it’s hinted subtly?) And it focuses mainly on the capital, Manila. As one commenter once said,

kararating lang ng girl at nagcheck sa Manila Peninsula Hotel sa Makati,tas nagshopping sa Greenbelt sa Makati,kumain sa Singing Cooks and Waiters dun sa Roxas Boulevard,tas kumain ng mangga with Carlos Celdran sa labas ng simbahan sa China Town, tas kumain ng alimango dun sa MoA By the Bay,tas nagpapic sa Luneta at sumakay ng jeep, tas nagpartey partey sa kung saan saang bars at tumambay sa Intramuros! Everything happened in ONE fun night!!! papano sia pupunta ng Cebu at Davao nyan?

The girl checked into the Manila Peninsula Hotel at Makati and went shopping at Greenbelt, had her dinner at Singing Cooks and Waiters on Roxas Boulevard, and had her dessert of mangoes with Carlos Celdran outside the church somewhere in China Town, and then devoured some giant crabs in MOA by the Bay, then took her pictures at Luneta before riding the jeep, then party-party all the way in different clubs and finally, going to Intramuros! Everything happened in ONE fun night!!! How would she travel to Cebu and Davao then?

Still I hope DOT can improve its ads in the future. This time by focusing on the other islands of the Philippines and the people there. We are an island nation with different gifts and beauty each region. The fun that a tourist should be the collective fun the many islands of the Philippines can provide.

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