Despite the hard work of Department of Tourism secretary Mon Jimenez and his team, the country is still struggling to attract large numbers of foreign tourists.
We all know that it’s more fun here in the Philippines, so just why are tourist hesitant to visit the country?
Some cite the crime rate. One Filipino in the tourism business said there’s a perception that the Philippines is a dangerous place. Something like the ‘Wild West’ complete with pirates and bandits.
Yes, it should be more fun in the Philippines.*
Then there are horror stories of tourists being stranded due to erratic transport facilities when flights or ships are cancelled at the drop of a hat.
And the rather misguided reaction MMDA chair Francis Tolentino had to the Gates of Hell comment in Dan Brown’s new book didn’t help either. That’s now a running joke around the world.
Traffic came to a standstill in downtown Bacolod City on Sunday afternoon as a throng of beautiful young ladies adorned in opulent gowns paraded along Araneta Street and around the Plaza in celebration of Santacruzan, the Festival of the Holy Cross.
"Reina Elena" Kayla Mirano with "Prince Constantine" Robert Harland Jr.*
The Bacolod Cultural Foundation (BCFI) has hosted this religious event in the city for the past 27 years. It was staged in association with the City of Bacolod, Negros Occidental Cultural and Sports Foundation and SM Bacolod.
The tradition, introduced to the Philippines by the Spaniards, honors the story of Saint Helena. She and her son, Constantine the Great, emperor of the Byzantine empire, made a pilgrimage to Calvary in the hopes of finding the original cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
"Hermana Mayors" Charito Parreño, Violeta Caram, Elsie Gonazaga, Stessie Hecita.*
Consular officials from the British Embassy in Manila will be conducting a town hall-type clinic at the Del Rio Hotel in Iloilo on Thursday, May 30. All British nationals from Iloilo, Bacolod and Guimaras are invited to attend.
British Embassy Warden for Negros Occidental, Robert Harland, said the clinic will give Britons the opportunity talk to embassy representatives one-on-one. And a great opportunity for British nationals to learn more about how the embassy can help them.
As British Embassy Wardens for Negros Occidental, fellow-Brit Hazel Stuart and I have to deal with a wide range of issues among the British community. Most of it is pretty routine such as advice on renewing passports or providing help for people applying for visas to visit the UK.
Occasionally, there’s something more serious such as an incident last year when a vacationing Brit fell ill in the province and had to be evacuated back to England.
Through direct contact with British Embassies and consuls and sometimes through the worldwide volunteer warden system, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) received over a million consular inquiries in 2012. It also supported over 50,000 British nationals facing difficulties overseas.
But the FCO could not help everyone. It said it received some odd requests last year – perhaps the strangest was someone asking if they could silence a neighbour’s noisy cockerel. Sorry, but that’s a little beyond the remit of the British consular system.
Please silence that cockerel.*
Negros Occidental Garden Club members were treated to a private viewing on Saturday of a BBC documentary film featuring Prince Charles and the famous gardens at Highgrove House, his English country estate.
The film was presented by the Sampaguita Group at the club’s monthly meeting at the Sugarland Hotel.
The Highgrove gardens, covering some six hectares, are a showcase for the Prince’s interest in traditional and organic growing methods.
In the film, the Prince provides celebrity British gardener and broadcaster, Alan Titchmarsh, with unprecedented access to the gardens and gives a remarkably informal and candid interview thereby offering a rare insight into a royal passion.
The Prince bought Highgrove in 1980. It came with six hectares of almost featureless garden. In the ensuing 30 years, Prince Charles set about transforming the landscape into a beautiful array of diverse gardens.
Highgrove is an acclaimed promoter of the organic movement, both in terms of environmental sustainability and by its sheer natural beauty.
I know they exist. I have a friend in Bacolod who does it. But I’ve never understood people who want to photograph and document their meals online.
Who on earth could possibly be interested in what someone else had for their lunch yesterday?
And I’ve discovered there’s even a name for these weird people – they’re called ‘Foodstagrammers’. To make matters worse, there are even websites dedicated to them. Perhaps a sign of the times or a fashion that has yet to reach an old codger like me.
But now medical experts are saying that people who obsessively take pictures of what they are eating or cooking and post them online using Instagram, Facebook or Twitter could be ill.
There are many aspects of traditional life in Britain that are changing – and in some cases, changing fast.
The latest casualty is the iconic British red telephone box. Loved by tourists who are only too happy to pose inside one, these famous red boxes are vanishing at an alarming rate – all victims to the mobile phone revolution.
Fortunately, they are not being scrapped, but instead are being refurbished and sold to an admiring public. Prices start at 1,950 British pounds (Php122,000) each, rather more than the original price in the 1920s of 35 British pounds (Php2,200).
Called a ‘K2’, the distinctive red phone box was designed by distinguished British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who was invited in 1924 to enter a competition to design a public telephone kiosk.
As a recently-qualified tour guide, I’m learning how important good timing is.
Pasalamat – a great festival, lousy traffic arrangements.*
If I’m picking up guests at 9:00am, I need to be at the hotel at 8:30. Driving north through Bacolod City? I know we need to leave early if traveling after 4pm as Lacson Street is usually very busy.
I’m getting the hang of how long it takes to get from A to B and how long an average tour will take at landmarks such as the Ruins and the Cathedral.
Fortunately, when I paid a visit to La Carlota recently to experience the last day of the Pasalamat Festival I did not have any overseas guests with me. Otherwise it would have been embarrassing.
British conservationist Dr. William Oliver, director of Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc (PBCFI), believes another species of Philippine hornbill will become extinct within the next five years.
Oliver, a frequent visitor to Bacolod as the PBCFI is a partner of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI), made the prediction at last week’s International Hornbill Conference in Makati.
"It’s inevitable and it’s depressing," he said "But, with sufficient effort the future can be secured if enough priority is given to these magnificent birds. Having said that I don’t hold out a lot of hope for a large percentage of that species."
Oliver stressed that the extinction of a hornbill sub-species was not new to the country.