MANILA, February 10, 2004 (STAR) Citiguide Metro Manila, the first ever free bi-monthly guide to the city held its formal launch party last January 12 at the Sta. Lucia Gardens in Intramuros, Manila, with guest of honor outgoing Tourism Secretary Dick Gordon.

The event kicked off at 5 p.m. with DJ Patch spinning cozy lounge beats. In no time the place was packed and swinging. Major sponsor Jimini Whole Pizza was serving its mouthwatering signature six-inch Chicago-style deep dish pizzas fresh from the oven. Dinner was catered by Club M, and drinks such as San Mig Light and Coke were courtesy of major sponsor San Miguel Corp. Also among the major sponsors was Aboitiz Express.

All throughout the evening’s program, hosted by the charming Audrey Tan and the energetic Paris Murray, gift certificates were raffled out from various Citiguide advertisers – Sari-Sari Store, Discovery Spa, Subic International Hotel, and the CMG Group’s Figlia and Salabianca.

The world-class Philippine Madrigal Singers rendered a smashing performance amid the backdrop of the historic Baluarte Plano Luneta de Sta. Isabel ruins.

Citiguide managing director Ray Alimurung gave a brief history of how the idea for the publication came about during a vacation trip to Hawaii in January 2003 with his brother, production director Mike Alimurung. Over there, they found an abundance of free guides easily available all over the place, filled with all kinds of user-friendly information interspersed with coupons and special offers. The Alimurung brothers realized that in order for the Philippines to establish itself as a premier destination, a free guide was a basic necessity, much in the same way that everyone can easily pick up such a guide for free in Hong Kong, San Francisco, Vancouver, Singapore, and major cities around the world.

By May, a partnership with Secretary Richard Gordon and the Department of Tourism was formed, which was essential in generating the kind of support necessary to push the Citiguide vision forward and in establishing the publication as a definitive source of information for tourists and locals. Since then, hundreds of sponsors/advertisers have rallied behind Citiguide as an ideal venue for promoting their products and services, while simultaneously promoting the Philippines.

Before introducing the guest of honor, acting Tourism Secretary Oscar Palabyab reiterated the country’s need for a first-class guide with maps and useful information, and that the DOT would be behind efforts to increase circulation and distribution. Gordon commended the entrepreneurial force behind Citiguide for its efforts and its willingness to undertake a bold risk in attempting to provide a service to people. He emphasized that such public service, however, could not survive on good intentions; it would obviously need a sound business plan and the support of advertisers and sponsors to sustain it. He espoused his dream of a "Bagumbayan" (new city), alluding to the site of Jose Rizal’s martyrdom. He talked of Bagumbayan as not just a place but an attitude – an attitude of tearing down walls that pervade in Filipino society, much like Rizal did by his life and death. These walls were symbolized by the physical walls of Intramuros that were built to separate Filipinos.

Also in attendance were: DOT Special Events Division head Romulo de los Reyes, Manila Councilor Roger Gernale, WHO Senior Editor Alastair Dingwal, Manila Japanese Travel Agents & Hoteliers Association President Teody Espallardo, PHILTOA Sec. Gen. Paul So, Indonesian Embassy Information Minister Andang Pramana, Jimini Whole Pizza Proprietor Kerwin Tan, Aboitiz Express Team Leader Mayette Marasigan-Santos, ANC’s David Celdran, Citiguide co-directors Mike Julian, Charlene Castillo, and Steve Harn.

Capping off the evening was a brilliant acoustic performance by Jimmy Bondoc who captivated the audience with his soothing voice, rugged boyish good looks, and witty commentary. He also accompanied surprisingly excellent impromptu song numbers by IO KTV manager and Citiguide co-director Edwin Reyes and guest Christian Pobre. By then, quite a crowd had gathered around the Sta. Lucia Gardens venue. It was a fitting close to a good night for tourism, entrepreneurship, and entertainment.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved