(MALAYA) The Light & Sound Museum preview (see related story below) afforded the tourism week delegates the opportunity to experience a different kind of a Philippines. For the past few days, delegates from 27 countries had spent most of their time holed up at the meeting rooms and conference halls of the Shangri-La Hotel Makati where they tackled issues on crisis management and tourism satellite accounts (TSA).

Among others, the summit's eight-point concluding statement encouraged WTO to address the issue of travel advisories; urged travelers from around the world to resume holidays and business trips to Asia with assurances that the region is now safe and more attractive than ever; and stressed the importance of public-private partnerships at all levels.

Eight per cent of the Philippines' GDP comes from tourism. In more probability, a more accurate TSA could reflect a higher figure and this could convince the Philippine government to give a bigger budget to the Department of Tourism. "Right now we have among the smallest tourism budgets in the region," he said.

The private sector has to do its role in forwarding data to the DoT and there has been resistance because of the additional work load it entails. Palabyab understood this and said that DOT must initiate a way to make it easier for the private sector.

Philippine Travel Bureau (PTB), a Manila-based tour operator and travel agent began developing the Malaysia market last April when it joined the Malaysia Association of Tour Travel Agents Trade Fair last April. PTB president Dennis Javellana said it was important for the travel agents to experience the Philippines first hand, thus the fam trip in cooperation with the Department of Tourism.

The country has ready products that would appeal to Malaysia, particularly golf tours. But in the past rates had always been an issue, making it more practical for the market to fly instead to Thailand and Hong Kong. Golf packages are more much more affordable as a result of the memorandum of agreement between the DOT and golf courses association of the Philippines.

Allan Chong, executive director of Kuala Lumpur-based First Travel & Tours, said PTB initiative is much needed because there is "lack of promo" in Malaysia. Pushing for the Philippines would also be easier for Malaysian travel agents because of the steadily improving air connections.

A Korean travel agent was also in the group. Jesse Koh of Worldwide GSA said that with SARs scare tapering, it won't be long before the Koreans start trooping back to the Philippines and he was starting to prepare for the influx.

The WTO Tourism Week has been fruitful. It seemed that everything was happening at the same time. Stakeholders are keeping their fingers crossed that everything would start going up again from there.


How about a short-cut route to Philippine history in reverse? Who would go for such an idea? Certainly not this writer. But that was what two colleagues and I unwittingly found ourselves last Thursday night in Intramuros.

That day, there were a lot was simultaneous activities for the members for the Tourism Press Corps, Inc to attend. First we had a meeting at the Clamshell Pavilion, the venue of anchor activities of History Town Philippines. Then a sneak preview of the Light and Sound Museum was held, followed by a dinner at Cuartel de Sta. Lucia and a fund-raising concert organized by the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association at Plaza San Ignacio.

At Tamayo's Restaurant just behind the Manila Cathedral, a group of Malaysian tour operators and journalists who would be spending the week-end in the Philippines for a familiarization trip, was being feted to a welcome dinner by its host, the Philippine Travel Bureau, a Philippine travel agent and tour operator, and representatives of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

While still at the meeting, we were told by a Tourism Information officer that activities at the Light and Sound Museum were revving up. It took us some time to wrap up before proceeding to Cuartel de Sta. Lucia, where the garden dinner spread was all prepared. But there were still no guests. A well-meaning photographer said that he too would be covering the sneak preview but was told to wait.

Thinking we had some time to spare, felllow Tourism Press Corps members Arlene and Ollie suggested a stroll along the baluarte, a system of elevated pathways along the walls of Intramuros which overlook the fairways of Club Intramuros. A view of low rise buildings framed the horizon and surprised us with a breathtaking perspective of the city that that was, well, so un-Manila.

We continued walking while keeping an eye out for some sign of the activities starting. From our vantage point, we saw guards all gawking at the direction of a building but exactly what we couldn't tell. We were on the same level of that building's second floor and from a slightly ajar door, we saw colorful lights flashing and worried that the light and sound show had started?

The best way to catch up, we thought, was to meet them at that juncture so we entered that door. No one was there, save for some men, who were obviously with the production crew. We moved on and still no sign of Tourism Secretary Gordon and his guests composed of delegates of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Tourism Week in the Philippines.

Every so often the path would lead us to a closed door with no knobs or handles. But just before we took another step, it opened, thanks to the wonder of sensors.

Even in such a rush, we were able to appreciate the beauty of the life-size statues depicting different stages of Dr. Rizal's life. Most interesting was his stint in Paris with his colleagues from Los Indios Bravos. Much as we liked to dawdle and appreciate the vignettes of art cum history we still had to had to move on and hook up with the official group.

We stopped dead in our tracks as we found ourselves enveloped in total darkness. From some distance we heard a man shouting "Flashlight! Flashlight!" Instantly, light appeared and guided us down a dramatically sweeping stairway. At a well-lit area not too far away was the biggest door we had encountered that night. I peeped ahead and decided we had had enough - another step and we would find ourselves serving as the backdrop to Gordon who has giving this welcome remarks at the museum's lobby!

Finally we caught up with the sneak preview group and this time were able to appreciate more fully what the show was all about. Through lights and sounds complemented by animatronics, Philippine history is recounted with focus on the role of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal in the country's pursuit of freedom from the Spanish sovereignty. Rizal was incarcerated in Intramuros and killed by firing squad in the adjacent Bagumbayan.

The show ended at that door we first entered. Gordon said it was a fitting symbolism that there were no more walls to stifle the Filipino's freedom, that they were finally free.

Once finetuned the show will run for about 30 minutes. Details on admission fees and opening date have yet to be announced. (Ruby Gonzalez)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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