KLM, in cooperation with Lonely Planet Magazine Philippines and Digital Photographer Philippines, is proud to announce that On Assignment, one of the most prestigious photocontests of the country, is back for 2012!
Last year, the photography contest sent two photographers in the all-expense-paid trip to the Netherlands to do a travel feature published in Lonely Planet Philippines. This year, KLM has decided to up the ante: along with two photographers, it will now send a travel writer to fly to “le ville rose” (The Pink City), Toulouse, France, in September, for an exclusive travel article to be published in the Lonely Planet December 2012 Issue. The winning writer will create a travel feature on the culture, food, and city life of the Toulouse. The two photographers traveling with the writer will collaborate to determine the best photos for the Lonely Planet article.
You don’t need to be a professional to join this contest! Anyone – both photographers and writers – can join, as long as s/he’s 18 years old or older at the time of travel, and has a valid passport.
So how does one win a chance at France? Aspiring Lonely Planet writers must write an article entitled “Rediscover Manila.” The article must be 1,500-2,000 words long, and focus on Metro Manila – not just the
City of Manila. Upon reading the piece, locals and foreigners alike should want to visit and discover what the metro has to offer.
Likewise, photographers must submit a portfolio of 10 images – 2 images for each category. The categories are as follows: (a) Portraits, (b) Landscape, (c) Culture, (d) Architecture, and (e) Food. Aside from the portfolio, which comprises 70% of the score, the photographer must also pitch and state why they should be chosen. Be as creative as you want to be, simply be sincere with your reason; the pitch is 30% of the score.
All contest entires should be submitted at 12NN on Friday, 24 August 2012, to [email protected]
Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to travel to the South of France on an all-expense-paid assignment for Lonely Planet. Sponsored by our favorite European airline, KLM. Winners can definitely look forward to an unforgettable experience.
It was going to be a different year, I told myself. For starters, I would do away with the usual loud and head-cracking New Year revelry and stay where my husband and I could breathe clean air, fall asleep to the sound of crickets and the crashing waves, and have 360-degree views of Mother Nature at her best. We would figuratively and literally unplug ourselves from my gadgets and from the toxicity of a frenetic urban life, and begin 2011 in a place that is pristine and virginal, removed from the excesses of the life that we had gotten accustomed to in chaotic, cacophonic Metro Manila.
For that purpose, there was no other place on our mind but Batanes, that almost-mystical group of islands that has been likened to Scotland or New Zealand but which remains very much in touch with its Ivatan roots. Years ago, people scoffed at the thought of flying to Batanes because of the impression that it was too “backward.” (“We hated flying there,” I had been told by a former flight attendant. “There was nothing to do!”)
Now, however, with sustainability on everyone’s minds, and with a collective call to reimagine the way we live and adopt a back-to-basics approach in our lifestyles, people are training their eyes on Batanes not only as a superb getaway destination where they could (quite literally) throw their cares away, but also—and more importantly—as a model for a sustainable, reimagined Philippines.
Proud of their culture
Imagine this: Even from thousands of feet above the sea, the sights that will greet your eyes will already be enough to declare the majesty of the Batanes Isles deep-green mountainous islands stand proudly against the azure waters of the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, their lush mountaintops showing no signs of erosion or human intervention. Only three (Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat) out of the eleven islands comprising Batanes are inhabited by some 17,000 people, leaving plenty of space for vegetation to grow, for cows to graze lazily, and for Mother Nature to unfurl her virtuous best. The rest of the islands remain untouched and unspoiled by human hands.
A tour around the islands shows how the Ivatans take pride in their collective history and culture. Centuries-old churches remain preserved and stand proudly in the middle of the town, their clean exteriors belying the fact that they had borne witness to the wars, disasters, and struggles that have helped to define a people. In Savidug and Chavayan villages in Sabtang Island, even the ruins of the old stone houses bore the marks of quiet dignity and pride. I wondered about the stories behind these walls and the secrets that they kept, observing that even in the chilly winter weather and in the pregnant silence of the tour, the villages were not eerie at all but seemed to exude the quiet elegance of a grand old matriarch.
Imagine if more towns in the Philippines could show this much respect for history and culture: What would Intramuros or Binondo look like today?
What language is that? Esperanto? Jejemon? Bekimon?
Jawid sawen nu Vatan! is Ivatan. It means: How beautiful is Batanes!
Without a doubt, Batanes is beautiful. Together with Palawan or Siargao, Batanes is the poster image of the natural beauty of the Philippines. In my book, Batanes has one of the most scenic landscapes and among the friendliest people on earth. In Southeast Asia, it edges out Bali or Krabi.
So many adjectives with long and short syllables describe Batanes: breathtaking, panoramic, picturesque, stunning and spectacular, beguiling, charming, unspoiled, quaint, cool and fresh, rugged and stormy but also serene, relaxing and dreamy.
Batanes, we must emphasize, is not just about beautiful sceneries and hospitable people. Although rural and lacking in high-value economic activities, Batanes’s development is impressive.
It is one of the provinces that consistently ranks among the top provinces with a high quality of life, measured by the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI consists of variables on health, education, and income. Illiteracy and dropout for basic education are naught. If there’s something disturbing about health, the Ivatans are alcoholic, resulting in non-communicable diseases that could have been prevented.
Jawid sawen nu Vatan! is also the title of the book authored by Victoria Abad Kerblat. Kerblat is not an Ivatan name; it’s French. Vicky is married to a French national. But Abad is a famous name. Vicky happens to be the sister of Butch Abad, the progressive public official and close adviser of PNoy. Some know Vicky as the younger sister of the late Pacita Abad, recognized as one of Asia’s outstanding modern artists.
Vicky does not mind being in the shadow of her brother, the prominent politician, or of her older sister, the celebrated contemporary artist. A natural comedian armed with self-deprecating humor, she boasts that she’s handsomer than Butch. And she’d furtively but good-humoredly nod if someone suggests that she might be a better artist than Pacita.
It is hard to classify Vicky’s Jawid sawen nu Vatan! An art book? Yes, for it features the paintings portraying Batanes, done not only by Vicky but by other Ivatan artists. A collaborating artist for the book is the London-based Pio Abad, Butch and Dina Abad’s son.
It can also be a tourist book, for it depicts through illustrations and words the attraction of the different towns and islands of Batanes. The book can be used as a promotion material to entice foreign tourists, arguably more effective than shouting the slogan that “it is more fun in the Philippines.”
Some might describe Jawid sawen nu Vatan! as a coffee-table book. But I will disagree to that if a coffee-table book is only meant for display in the living room of a mansion in one of Makati’s gated villages.
The book is not for decoration. It is for reading, learning, and vicariously enjoying the way of life in Batanes. It is refreshingly educational. It gives insights into the sturdiness and resilience of the Ivatans, their collective spirit, called payuwhan, their traditional homes that resemble the stone houses in bucolic France, their produce from the blue sea and the rolling hills, their food and kitchen, their clothing (the vacul, for example, which is the head and back covering for women made from the palm tree). The book thus offers an anthropological and sociological perspective.
Yet, the book is not dense. It is easy reading and is in fact appealing to children for its art and story-telling style.
Although Vicky is now gaining prominence as an artist, she is a biologist by training. The biologist’s attributes of being curious and being meticulous define the quality of her paintings—for example, her exquisite strokes and her eye for detail.
These attributes influenced her writing —clear, specific, and colorful. As an example, take this lively phrase in which she describes Batanes: “…the sturdy, weather-beaten Ivatans, our velvet hills, old stone houses, and the dark moody waters where the Pacific Ocean meets the West Philippine Sea. Every hint of green, stroke of blue, and touch of grey become translations of my memories of slow afternoon strolls, passing the century-old Balete trees at the plaza, smoky dinner presentations in our stone kitchen, and the welcoming old Ivatan folks.”
Mr. Sta. Ana coordinates Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph). To get a copy of Jawid sawen nu Vatan!, contact Art Post Asia through telephone number 0916 6668605.
“Felicity, booked my flight to Manila! Is it really more fun in the Philippines? I want to commute there and have the world’s awesomest status update and climb those badass rice paddy stairs. Tell me where to go. Will I see you there in February?”
He’s one of countless foreigner friends who’ve hit me up for travel tips to Pinas in the last year, but his e-mail was the most intriguing. Living in China, I rarely have access to Facebook and Twitter, and it was through a Briton that I found out about this new slogan. Ahlavet.
Granted I’ve seen really clever mockups of ads made by a satisfied/hyped up netizenry, I haven’t followed the twitter and banter online or in the news about the new slogan beyond my tagged-on-Facebook wall. So here is my un-FB/Twitter-ized view on the slogan. It’s brilliant. Who cares if Switzerland used it 60 years ago? The delivery and the message is spot-on.
(One of the photos even got my ocean-and-large-aquatic-life-averse boyfriend wanting to go swimming with the butanding, two seconds after I showed him the new website. Donsol here we come…)
In my experience as an expat in three continents, I’ve never had such a wave of rave reviews about the Philippines until I moved to China. Living in Europe and America, I was such a go-to-the-Philippines promoter sabi ko dapat bayaran na ako ng DOT. It felt like work getting people hyped up to go. But that was 12-17 hours away from Manila. 5 hours away? I feel like a Philippines sounding board, where people posted their comments, photos and asked for advice. I just had to say “I’m from the Philippines” and the conversation turns to when’s the next holiday, because it’s time for the most fun under the sun.
Why is this?
1. The expat population is expanding exponentially in China, as is the number of nouveau-riche and can-affords in this country. They’re all looking for a place to get away. This is an excellent, and growing, market to tap. Southeast Asia is the number one choice for nearby holidays and quick getaways, and roundtrip flights to the Philippines are by far the cheapest. I can fly home and back in time for work for the same price than if I went on a weekend trip to Shanghai (about CNY 1200), and much less than to Hong Kong (about CNY 2500 if you’re really lucky) at the cheapest possible rate. Trips to ASEAN favorites like Bali, Phuket, KL, Singapore, Phnomh Penh and Hanoi are at least twice, even 3-4 times the price than to Manila. Foreigners and China’s new rich are catching on to this. PAL and Cebu Pac are always packed with vacationers when I travel home. The accessibility and affordability is but the icing on the cake.
2. When they come back, Word of Mouth works like magic. Nearly all the foreigners I’ve ever spoken to here have been to, are booked for, or are planning to go, to the Philippines. When I ask “Have you been?” I’m no longer surprised to hear “Oh yeah, many times.” They like going back. “Underrated” is a word I hear a lot. For those who are about to go or are planning to go, they always – and I mean always – say “I’ve heard amazing things about it.” And here are the three amazing reasons we’ve been hearing, and they come as a package response:
a. It’s beautiful. Makes (insert typical vacation spot here) look like a cheap holiday.
b. It’s not a tourist trap. Or, we were the only ones there/it’s like the island was all mine for a week. Or, Who knew someplace like this existed?
c. Everyone spoke English, they’re always smiling, they’re so helpful, the people made my vacation feel like an actual vacation. I didn’t have to worry about anything.
Now these three, 9 times out of ten, came topped with a variation of one of the following, with palpable excitement:
a. How was I supposed to go back to (insert crummy place of residence here) after this?
b. I had such a blast, where can I go next time?
c. I’m booked to go again on so-and-so-date.
d. I love your country. Don’t tell anyone else about it please.
Oftentimes prefaced by the word: “Ohhhmmmyyygggggoooooddddd.”
Chinese New Year is just around the corner. That’s a whole week of holidaymaking here. People are busy making plans, and all I have to say now is “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”
Well, I try to, but it’s become redundant. Unscientific survey says, all my expat (and some local) friends who can afford to go on holiday are already booked for one (or two) of our 7,000 islands. Let the good times roll.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is launching a new brand campaign to attract visitors to the country with the line – ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines.’
Focusing on the country’s core strength, the campaign singles out what no other destination can offer – and that is the Filipino people.
For example, the Lonely Planet guidebook calls Filipinos ‘among the most easygoing and ebullient people anywhere.’
“Our strategy is simple: while other countries invite you to observe, Filipinos can promise a more heartfelt and interesting experience. Wherever you go, whatever you do in the country, it’s the Filipinos that will complete your vacation and will make your holiday unforgettable,” says the new Tourism Secretary, Ramon Jimenez, Jr.
The Filipinos are already known around the world to be one of the happiest and warmest people on earth. The campaign hopes to enjoin the whole country in creating positive buzz of the tagline.
As the international campaign is underway, the DOT is also developinng a national initiative under the line ‘#1FORFUN’ to rally the nation.
On Kenneth Cobonpue’s Facebook page, he published a video on how NAIA terminal one could be made over. The proposal is pro bono from Budji Layug, Royal Pineda and Kenneth Cobonpue in cooperation with the National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines.
Cobonpue writes, “Its time someone did something about the worst airport in the world. So we made this design because we believe that no matter how beautiful our country is, our airports give the first and last impressions. This plan is relatively inexpensive and simple to adapt. The plan also involves renovating the interiors to allow faster flow of travelers between security, immigration and departure”. The first step has been done. Lets hope our government moves on this proposal quickly.”
Top 7 bidders successfully met the tedious process of selection of the Department of Tourism’s Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) for the formulation of a new Philippine country brand.
The top 7 bidders who were carefully chosen out of the 26 companies who joined the bidding will have two months to prepare to pitch in their ideas to DOT’s SBAC and the final winner will also have another two months to deliver the final package with the complete manual, audiovisual presentation, and print and TV ad designs which is slated to be carried out on November.
DOT is set to locally launch the new brand before the year ends before introducing it internationally at the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Manado, Indonesia during the Philippine Night on January 13, 2012.
DOT Secretary Alberto Lim stressed the importance of commissioning a Country Brand which can be used by all national government agencies and local government units in their promotional and messaging work so that there will only be one strong message and theme for the Philippines internationally and domestically.
The initial application of the winning Country Brand will be first applied to the DOT to help the agency to continuously stimulate greater demand for international and domestic tourism and to generate more awareness about destinations among others.
According to the latest data of DOT, there was a 1.6 million influx of foreign visitors in the country during the period of January to May 2011 – a 170,000 increase compared to the same period during 2010.
This figure reflects a 12% improvement considering that we are still on the
second quarter of the year. Sec. Lim is expecting that with the current rate, the tourism sector will be able to hit the target 3.74 million tourists for 2011.
Korea, United States and Japan remain the top three countries accounted for almost half of the foreign visitor arrivals in the first five months of 2011.
Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism, in one of its press releases, announced that it is set to unveil its new National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2011-2016 with a new accompanying call: to transform the Philippines into a must-experience destination in Asia.
“Our vision for tourism is anchored on nature, culture, MICE (Marketing, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibits) and health and wellness tourism, among other selling points. The NTDP has outlined three strategic directions for achieving this vision, namely improving market access and connectivity, developing and marketing competitive tourist destinations and products, and improving tourism institutional and human resources capabilities,” said the DOT Secretary.
The new NTDP is expected to serve as an outline for national and local government agencies to identify tourism development areas, infrastructure requirements, human resources development programs, and marketing and promotions directions, among other goals. Aside from this, the new plan will also re-examine the accomplishments of country’s tourism sector under the National Tourism Master Plan for 1991-2010.
It’s been 36 years since diplomatic ties were established between the Philippines and China, and to celebrate, the lovely folks at the Pinoy Embassy here in Beijing teamed up with Chefs Gene and Gino Gonzalez of the Asian Centre for Culinary Studies to bring regional cuisine to the capital. There are no Filipino restaurants here, Pinoys usually get our fix of Filipino flavors from friends’ kusinas, so this was very refreshing. And it’s specifically Davao cooking, making it even more special. The Chinese loved it, and so did my non-Pinoy friends. Here’s a story I filed for CCTV. There’s a quick recipe for an unconventional adobo dish in it too!
1. Marinduque. Marinduque is a small heart-shaped island in the Southern Tagalog, which, coincidentally, is also in the center of the Philippines. Dubbed the “Lent Capital of the Philippines“, Marinduque welcomes thousands of tourists here during the Lenten holidays to experience religion and culture at the same time.
On the first week of Lent, which usually starts on Holy Monday, Morions or the masked Roman soldiers can already be seen roaming around the streets of Marinduque, or Boac, its town capital.
Tourists are also welcomed by the Morions at the Balanacan Port in Marinduque to give an instant feel of the province’s Moriones Festival.
The Senakulo, a Lenten play that depicts the life, suffering, and death of Christ, starts staging on the evening of Holy Wednesday. The Via Crucis or the Way of the Cross starts on the early morning of Good Friday. You have the option to go along with Christ, the other penitents, and Morions or simply watch–though it is highly suggested that you go with the Way of the Cross so you can also internalize Christ’s suffering and just consider it as another form of penitence. The Via Crucis usually starts between 7:00AM and 8:00AM and ends with a “crucifixion” before lunch.
The Senakulo ends on the midnight of Easter Sunday and with the most anticipated presentation of all, since the resurrection of Christ will be staged. Early morning of Sunday, most people run to the beach as a sign of celebration for the risen Christ.
When in Marinduque during Holy Week, be sure to take some snapshots of its famed Moriones Festival. Take a pose with some Morions or, specifically, look for the Morion Longinus. He’s easy to spot–he’s blind on one eye and is the most famous Morion off all. Read the Bible or, better yet, listen and watch the Senakulo carefully to know why.
2. San Pedro, Cutud, Pampanga. The Cutud Lenten Rites is famous for the re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion, with the actual nailing of people on a wooden cross. Tourists and foreign media flock to Cutud just to witness the 55-year-old street play, thus, turning what is supposed to be a solemn religious celebration a highly commercialized one. Just a word of caution though: this is not for the faint-hearted. If the mere sight of blood makes you queasy and nauseous, then better not go here.
However, if you are into photojournalism, then going to Cutud is an experi
ence not to miss. The event has a VIP area for media and photographers so taking photos won’t be a problem. Just be sure that you can endure the heat of the sun.
Aside from the crucifixion, flagellants, also known locally as “magdarame”, walk barefoot around the town and whip their backs with a bundle of bamboo sticks at the end of a rope and use razor blades to cut their swollen backs so blood can come out.
3. Quiapo. Since most people head to their respective provinces during Holy Week, traveling around Metro Manila during Good Friday is always a breeze. In fact, Visita Iglesia in Manila has always been a tradition among Catholics who choose to spend Lent in Manila, and the Quiapo Church is probably one of the favorite churches among pilgrims.
During Good Friday, Black Nazarene devotees flock to Quiapo Church for the Black Nazarene procession, which usually starts as early as 5:30 AM. Various Black Nazarene replicas are also paraded along the streets of Quiapo while devotees go barefoot in imitation of Jesus on his way to Mount Calvary.
There have been various accounts of people who have touched the Black Nazarene are reported to have been cured of their diseases. Thus, like the actual Black Nazarene feast on January 9, towels and handkerchiefs are also hurleto the marshals and escorts guarding the Black Nazarene, requesting their cloths to be wiped to the statue in hope for a miracle.
Nearby churches that can also be included in your Visita Iglesia itinerary are the Malate Church, Binondo Church, Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, Santa Cruz Church, and San Sebastian Church.
On the other hand, the usual rowdy and busy Escolta and Delpan suddenly transform into peaceful streets during Good Friday–a perfect time for photojournalists to capture this very rare quiet moment in Manila through their lens.
4. Balaan Bukid Shrine, Guimaras. If you love outdoor activities, then trekking to Balaan Bukid Summit in Jordan, Guimaras is the best activity for you this coming Holy Week. Balaan Bukid, which means “Sacred Mountain” in the Hiligaynon dialect of Panay, is a pilgrimage site of Catholic devotees that sits on top of the mountain.
At the summit of Balaan Bukid is the Ave Maria Purisima Shrine where a chapel is marked by a huge, white cross. It is hard not to miss this large cross when you’re coming from Iloilo to Guimaras. Climbing Balaan Bukid is free of charge but be sure to bring lots of water to keep you hydrated, and put on some sunblock before climbing as the trek will take 45 minutes. On your way up, be sure to take note of the 14 Stations of the Cross.
Also, a local version of the Passion of Christ, called “Ang Pagtaltal sa Guimaras”, is performed during the Lenten Season. In 2009, a new kind of Christ’s Passion and Death on the Cross was experienced by the Guimarasnons and tourists as the stage play inspired by the Seven Last Words was transformed into a street play dubbed “Ang Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid.” “Ang Pagtaltal sa Guimaras”, which is already on its 35th year, was once called as the “Golgotha of the Philippines.”
The website sleepinginairports.net recently came out with its annual worst airports, voting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 1 as one of the worst in the world. The good news; we’re not number 1 (Charles de Gaulle in France tops the list) the bad news; we’re the worst in Asia.
Known as the Manila International Airport, it was named after P-Noy’s father, the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino who was assassinated in 1983 after years in exile in the United States. While two new terminals have been added (NAIA 2 known as the Centennial Airport and NAIA 3), terminal 1 still holds the biggest port, with many of the airlines still holding its flights there.
Back then, the Philippines was looked up to from the economy to its facilities. NAIA 1 was used by many air carriers as its port for many flights in Asia. Flag carrier Philippine Airlines also use to land in NAIA 1 until it moved to NAIA 2. Now, the airport is old with smelly carpets and unclean washrooms.
The government has yet to react to this news but I do hope that they act on this. If they want to increase foreign tourists in the country, they should make the necessary repairs to the airport or better, move to NAIA 3 all together. True, there is still a case to be resolve (government has yet to fix its problem with Fraport) but with its new facilities, NAIA 3 can handle all the flights coming into the country.
One observation the government must fix definitely is the toilets in the airport. For pete’s sake! Cleanliness is big factor for tourists and running water and tissue paper in the bathrooms are a must. Unless people complain and complain, we get what we bargain for so please ensure running water and tissue paper.
Being the worst airport is a wake up call for us. True, we’re not the worst in the world but may be seeing our name in the worst list is enough to realize that it’s about time structures in this country should be fixed properly.