Manila, July 25, 2003  (BULLETIN) The making of Intramuros known as the “Walled City’’ within a city into a walued heritage site for Filipinas, Asians and other people of the world and as the venue in drumbeating “Visit-Philippines 2003 easily could be one of the achievements of the Arroyo administration this year.

With the President’s backings, Intramuros, comparable to the Agra Fort in India. Durnar Square in Nepal, Ayutthaya in Thailand and the Angkor Wat in Cambodia has been cleaned, spruced up, recast and revitalized as a flourishing center of 21st century Philippine cultural renaissance, tourism revival and socio-economic regeneration.

Tourism Secretary Richard J. Gordon said “Intramuros, a historical symbol in the Filipinos’ struggle against colonial bondage, is the center of activities for VPY2003. It serves as a perfect site to showcase the Filipino’s search for identity through various cultural shows and tourism-related activities,” said Gordon.

Known as the medieval fortress within a walled city, visitors go back to the 16th century as they walk on the cobbled street between Spanish colonial buildings and old churches. Within the complex, which the DOT has spruced up lies Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church, Plaza San Luis, the Intramuros Golf Course, among others.

A sneak preview of the R70 million lights and sounds museum has been made following the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Summit last month wherein officials of the organization visited the place.

The museum features an audio-visual, interactive show that projects historical high points in the Walled City during the Spanish era. An example is production numbers with national themes adopted from the life and times of the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

The establishment of a “cultural night market” was fast tracked to sell distinct arts and crafts from the country’s regions. Cultural shows on the “best of the best” from a hundred ethno linguistic groups of the Philippines as well as original theater production and contemporary Filipino musical presentation is being staged inside the place.

The lighting of Intramuros was the first phase undertaken by DOT to revive the historical place. It will be noted that Intramuros was originally constructed in the 17th century along the banks of the Pasig River to keep off the native Filipinos and Chinese traders from the Spaniards living within the walled city.

In order to promote VP2003, the Secretary went to several countries for its road shows and sales mission: USA (San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, San Diego, New Jersey and Toronto in Canada); China (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong), Japan and Korea.

With political and economic problems in recent years, the country has sunk to fifth place in terms of tourist arrivals behind Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and even Indonesia.

All is not lost, however, as the DOT is bent on regaining lost glory by aggressively promoting the country’s most exciting tourist hideaways. It has identified anchor destinations that will be given full logistical support in terms of budget, infrastructure requirements, manpower and marketing.

The anchor destinations include Manila, Baguio/Banaue, Laoag/Vigan, Boracay, Palawan, Cebu, Davao and Bohol.

For cost-efficient promotions, Gordon set forth the “WOW Philippines!” campaign with WOW serving as master acronym for “Wealth of Wonders.”

Under this “WOW” Acronym, several promotion subheads have been generated such as “Warm over Winter”, “Wacko over Wildlife”, “Watch our Whales”, “World of Weddings”, “Wear our Wares”, for particular markets that respond to various tourists attractions of the Philippines.

This year, Macapagal Arroyo signed into law a bill that granted additional benefits for balikbayans and other returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) that incorporates the “Kabuhayang Program” into the “Balikbayan Law.”

The DOT is hopeful that the signed law, dubbed as “An Act Instituting a Balikbayan Program” will boost balikbayan arrivals in the country not only during the holiday season but this year that we are celebrating the VPY2003.

The Department has also endorsed tourism-related projects to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Board of Investment (BOI).

At least 29 projects classified as tourists transports worth R301.98 million were endorsed to LTFRB while R75 million worth of water transport projects were endorsed to BOI and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and two hotel projects worth R272.591 million were also endorsed to BOI.

Recognizing the huge potential of the 7.3 million overseas Filipinos, Gordon came up with the “Volunteer 12” (V12) program to utilize this Filipino workers and migrants in attracting visitors to their home country.

“That’s about four times the 1.9 million tourists who came here in 2002,” Gordon said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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