MANILA, AUGUST 18, 2006 (STAR) C‘EST CEBU By Honey Jarque Loop  - Due to the growing number of Japanese tourists to the Philippines and the even greater potential for future arrivals, the Department of Tourism has relocated its West Japan Headquarters, which is based in Osaka, to the more accessible location along Honmachi Dori in the city’s bustling Chuo-ku business district.

The new sterling address in the city center is where major travel and tourism stakeholders, such as airlines and cruise lines, hotels and resorts, wholesalers, travel agents and other industry establishments, are located.

Designed by Shien Co., the leading Japanese company in its highly competitive field, the new DOT office showcases furniture and furnishings made of indigenous materials from Philippine manufacturers and exporters. It highlights some of the most notable and talented artists of the country. They include Impy Pilapil, famous for her iconic stone and glass sculptures, and multi-awardees Budji Layug and Al Caronan of the elite Movement 8 designers.

An information officer is available to personally assist guests, and answer queries on the Philippine islands, as well as recommend exciting travel destinations and suggest possible itineraries. Visitors and would-be travelers may likewise browse through a vast collection of resource materials and travel references, from books to videos shown on the plasma screen.

Adhering to the time-honored contemporary Philippine tradition, guests of honor Consul General Maria Lourdes V. Ramiro Lopez, Tourism Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr., and Kansai International Airport executive vice president Tadakuni Hiranu cut the ceremonial ribbon, while Father Amado Caballero blessed the premises.

The daruma is a paper doll and a traditional lucky charm in Japan, which represents the Zen monk Bodhidharma in sitting meditation. It is their custom to paint its left eye upon setting a goal and then the right eye when the goal is achieved. It is also customary to paint one of the doll’s eyes in the beginning of the new year or while making a wish. The second eye is painted when the wish comes true.

Members of the Japan Philippine Tourism Council highlighted the ceremony with explosions of paper cracker pop-ups.

The opening of the new office coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Japan. The countries have worked together to rise above challenges through various avenues of cooperation and mutual assistance.

In her brief welcome remarks, Consul General Ramiro Lopez had this to say: "We envision the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan to grow even more in the years to come and we hope that this new office would symbolize the strength of this continuing partnership."

The entire group of the Department of Tourism-Team Japan, headed by Rosvi Gaetos; Stanie Soriano, manager, corporate relations department; Benito Bengzon Jr., tourism attaché, Tokyo; Valentino Cabansag, tourism attaché, Osaka; Araceli Soriano, marketing specialist, Osaka; Grace Horii, marketing specialist, Tokyo; and Judy Nazareno, convention and incentive travel unit, has set its goal of 500,000 Japanese tourists to visit the Philippines for 2006.

With so much optimism and enthusiasm and without a doubt hard work and perseverance, the right eye of the daruma will hopefully be painted by yearend after all.

Kampai! Mabuhay!

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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