We are all passersby…

I’m sure many of us have heard or watched the news about a 2 year old baby girl in China who was a victim of a horrible hit-and-run accident last week (Thursday) and died today.

The toddler nicknamed Yueyue was innocently walking along a narrow market street in the Chinese Southern city of Foshan when a van hit her. CCTV camera showed the driver stopped for a few seconds only to hit her again and resume driving. The little girl was there in the cold street, blood-soaked, crying because of terrible pain. There were many passersby but no one seemed to notice her or just deliberately ignored her. After a few moments, another van striked her until finally a garbage collector saw her, pulled her to the side of the street because the baby is too weak and alerted the mother.

It is really heartbreaking to see through this incident, how  our society had gone very ill. It seems nowadays a lot of people do not have a heart for their fellow who needs help.

It is still unclear why the toddler was left unattended by the family which caused her walking freely on the road.

When this accident has gone viral through various websites and social networks, many people said the reason why no one tried to help is for fear of being wrongly accused similar to a case in China in year 2006 wherein the one who helped was accused of causing further injury and at the end made him to pay 10% of the total medical cost.

The case of Yueyue is very similar to the parable in the Bible about the Good Samaritan. A traveler was walking the roads of Jericho but unfortunately was beaten, robbed and left half dead. A priest passed by as well as a Levite. But both avoided the helpless man. Finally a Samaritan comes and helped the Jew. During that time Jews and Samaritans despised each other but in all ironies of life, the traveler found help in a most unlikely person which is the Samaritan.

As for Yueyue’s accident, most probably the drivers of the vans as well as all the passersby are well-educated (as it seems they know the possible repercussion if they try to help the victim and eventually wrongfully accused) and as well living a good life.
Meanwhile, the garbage collector may not even have formal education, possesses less material things but amongst all people only she have the pure heart and instinctively tried to save the helpless toddler.

All of us are passersby in this world… The roads are dark and dangerous…We will never know if we would be in the same situation…
Probably the world has really gone bad but I really hope there are still more people like the garbage collector.
Maybe Yueyue had been unfortunate in this world but surely she is in a better place now, up there in Heaven.

This story really made me heavy-hearted with the realities of our modern life.

I will pray for you Yueyue. May your soul rest in peace.

For the record- Ernie and Bert are just best friends!

Seems life is really goin’ bananas these days…

Last November- Marge Simpson, the fictional cartoon character in what is dubbed as the world’s most dysfunctional family “The Simpsons” made history by being the first cartoon character to grace the cover of Playboy Magazine .

Now, there was a statement from Sesame Street the world’s favorite children’s show clarifying a rumor about 2 of their most popular characters, Ernie and Bert saying they are apparently not gay and are just the best of friends.

This statement is in response to a Facebook campaign launched by gay rights activist Lair Scott. The campaign was created to ask Ernie and Bert get married in the programme as a way of teaching viewers acceptance of gays and lesbians.

Quoting Lair Scott:

“We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful. Only that they allow Bert and Ernie to marry or even add a transgender character to the show,” reads an online petition signed by some 7,600 people.

Sesame Street said:

“Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” the public television program said in a statement.

“Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”

I also personally feel that even though same sex marriage is acceptable in some societies, promoting it in a children’s show the way Scott suggested it, is too complicated for children as young as 3 or 4 to comprehend.

I believe there are better venues or means to make people including the young generation accept this fact in our society and not through the said TV show.

There was another controversy in the Philippines just recently when an artist named Mideo Cruz showcased his “works of art” entitled “Kulo” depicting various works featuring Jesus Christ in what many people believe to be “blasphemous” and a “mockery of their faith”.

I believe this is a free world and everyone has the right to express their beliefs, views and opinions but I also believe that we should do it in a way not offending to the majority of people in the society.

Just my two cents worth…

Excerpts of the Ernie and Bert story were taken from this article found in: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/08/13/11/sesame-street-says-bert-and-ernie-just-friends

Stories in Siem Reap

Aw Khun Ch’ran Siem Reap…
That’s how they say “Thank You Very Much” in Khmer Language.
Me and 4 other friends spend 3 days/2 nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia last week because of a long Thailand public holiday.
I am glad the trip pushed through even if we only planned for it less than 2 weeks. It was discussed only briefly when our group had a mini-Pinoy party eating all Filipino Foods.
My friend, Tine said she will be going to Cambodia by land for holiday. In jest, we told her we want to join. Then suddenly we became excited with the idea of traveling cross-country by land and so what was supposedly just a joke became a reality.

Traveling from Thailand to Cambodia by land is a good option because road condition in Thailand is excellent and cost is a lot cheaper than flying. There is a van from Victory Monument in Bangkok that goes to Aranyaprathet which is the Thailand side of the border. Cost is around THB 230 per way. However, our friend Alek decided to bring his pick-up truck so we can just drive all the way to the border. It is definitely faster and cheaper. We left their home at 5:30 am and drove less than 3 hours. After securing our entry stamp we arrived in the Kingdom of Cambodia (Poipet Border).

From Poipet border, we travelled 2.5 hours to reach Siem Reap by taxi (which is actually an unmarked car, parked in their so-called Bus station). We paid USD 10 per person and the taxi dropped us off in our hotel. We stayed in Lin Ratanak Angkor Hotel, a 4-star hotel located only few minutes away from the Old Market. The lobby of the hotel is a bit dark and designed in a contemporary Khmer style decor. However, the staff were all very courteous, friendly and accommodating. We felt we are treated like Royalty considering we only paid around THB 800 per night (breakfast included). The receptionist suggested a good itinerary for us to maximize our stay in the city. We decided to hire their car for our tours because the price they quoted us is really cheap. The driver is also very friendly and professional.

During our first night, we had a dinner buffet with cultural dance in a local restaurant. Wide range of Khmer and International foods can be selected. Khmer dance is very similar to Thai including hand gestures and costumes evidently because they are neighboring countries so there are many aspects in their life that is influenced by the other culture.

We want to see the sunrise in Angkor Wat so the next day, we asked for a wake-up call at 4:30 am. We left the hotel before 5:30. Unfortunately on that day, the weather is gloomy and the skies very cloudy so we weren’t able to take a decent shot of the sunrise. The Angkor Wat is also undergoing restoration so big green drapes cover the temples and this sight is not so attractive to look at in camera. Anyway, this is  a UNESCO World Heritage site and naturally all efforts are being made to preserve this man-made wonder.

1 Day pass to Angkor is USD 20 per person. If you decide to visit for 3 Days, you can buy it for only USD 40 while the 7 days pass cost only USD 60. Since we have limited time, we just bought 1 day pass which I think is good enough as we are not a very hardcore temple fanatics.

Angkor Wat is the most popular and highly recognizable structure in the complex. The walls were designed intricately and you can find many artwork etched in it depicting various stories.  We then proceeded to Angkor Thom, which in Khmer literally means Great City. Angkor Thom is the last capital city of the Khmer Empire. We took many pictures and then proceeded to Bayon Temple. I like Bayon Temple because of the many ruins you can see in the complex plus the massive stone faces in many towers of the complex.

Next stop is Ta Prohm. This area was used as location for various movies including the hugely popular Lara Croft: Tomb Raider wherein the trees literally grow in the temple ruins some of which the roots of the giant trees literally enveloped the area.

After more than 7 hours of walking, taking pictures and being awed by the great Ancient Khmer civilization through the temples we’ve visited, it’s time for us to take our late lunch. We decided to dine in KFC, the only International Fast food chain in Siem Reap. The taste of chicken is not as good as in Bangkok or Manila but is ok cos the set meal price is cheaper.

Next, we went for a tour of Tonle Sap Lake. According to Wikipedia, it is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and covers a big part of the Cambodian map. Tonle Sap is unique because of the water mechanism happening in this body of water. During dry season, the lake shrinks to 2,700 sq. km. and 1 meter deep because the flow of water is drained in the mighty Mekong River. However during Monsoon season, the lake swells as big as 16,000 sq. km and depth up to 9 meters as the flow is reversed and the Mekong River pushes water into the lake.

There are about 800 families along the Tonle Sap community  according to our boatman/guide named Ki, but I think it could be more. This community is considered the poorest in Cambodia. They rely only on fish and seafoods caught in the lake but during rainy season it is very dangerous to fish and they say many fishermen had died in the past because if they are out there in the middle of the lake, they will not know if there is a heavy rain or thunderstorm coming in so some of them drown in the lake or boats capsized.

This not-so-typical tour of the lake opened my eyes as well as that of my friends on the reality of life in Cambodia, considered one of the poorest nations in the world. Because they are so poor, they don’t have access to clean facilities, their small boat houses is where their living, dining, kitchen bedroom and bathroom are all rolled into one. They don’t have toilet so they just put their wastes directly into the river connected to the lake. We even saw one guy after soaping and shampooing himself, rinsed himself by jumping into the river which is full of mud, wastes and water hyacinths.

They also don’t have access to clean drinking water. If they have money, they will buy water from the refilling station but if none (which is the fact in most cases) they will just get drinking water from Tonle Sap (without even boiling) so a lot of them especially kids have poor health and are malnourished.

While we traverse, many of the families try to beg for USD 1 to buy some food and drinks. Ki is honest enough to discourage us giving these people money because if some others will know, all of them will just flock asking for alms. On the way back he took us to the only primary school in the community where he used to study and now 2 of his siblings were studying. The floating school is small but 200 children are studying. There are 3 small classrooms so they have to do classes in different shifts to accommodate all the students. Many of the children have no families so the school also serve as their home. When we went there less than 20 children were there (because it was a Sunday and almost sunset). We also met the Vietnamese volunteer teacher who is really kind and selfless for doing such deed.

There are many Vietnamese who went there during the Khmer Rouge time to help and a lot of them decided not to return to Vietnam and just settle in Cambodia specifically Tonle Sap area so in school they have to teach in Khmer, Vietnamese and English. Since we didn’t have enough money as we never expected this scenario in our tour, my group and I were only able to buy over 50 bottles of water and some treat. It may be small but we know it could help the children in some ways. We were discouraged to donate money because of rampant corruption in the country and we also felt it’s best to give goods or school materials next time we go back.

Before reaching the jetty port, we realized that Ki’s left arm is missing. We didn’t noticed it earlier because he is wearing a long-sleeved shirt. He told us he lost his arm when he was 11 years old because of landmine. At 21 years old, he is about to finish secondary school. He wants to go to college and study English so he could become an English teacher someday. Because of his physical condition, he cannot do some work so being a teacher is ideal for him because he can perform his best while helping the poor children learn English (we noticed a lot of them speak good English and can catch up easily even those children and sellers on the street). He said he used to have a Filipino teacher and that he love watching Filipino series (surprisingly many Cambodians know Pangako Sa’Yo and Marimar of Marian Rivera translated in Khmer language).

His perspective in life is good as I did not see or hear him sulk or complain about his life a bit and he still have a positive disposition despite his physical handicap and social condition of his community.

After our Cambodia trip and we were back to the busy streets of Bangkok, I just find it so surreal that in one part of the world many people are hungry and impoverished while in many other places life is very convenient and good. This fact made me feel very blessed and fortunate and I am very thankful to God for being in a better position. And this should remind us to be more compassionate and giving to our less fortunate brothers.

I saw the sun set in Tonle Sap but I did not fret, because I know the same sun will also rise above them the next day. This made me felt assured that there is always light after the darkest hours of these people.

Puppy hanged in a clothesline


The news I saw in Internet TV last June 12 about a puppy being hanged in a clothesline by its owner is disturbing. The teenager named Jerzon Senador took pictures of his puppy helplessly floating in air being saved from a free fall only by 5 pcs of clothes pin attached to the back of the pup and hanging in a clothesline.

At first, this guy was quite adamant and doesn’t feel sorry for his deed and feel it is just his way of expressing fun because he was bored. Even said he put his pet in the washing machine too.

But later on he said sorry in public and that it will never happen again.

Now, there are several profiles created in Facebook some supposedly by Jerzon posers and others simply just to show their indignation about his cruel act.

Cruelty to animal has been very rampant lately. Just last April, a UP student JC Candare was in the news for deliberately killing a cat inside the school campus in 2009 because of his supposed “internal hatred” to cats. This hatred is aggravated every time he sees a live one so on that fateful day, he wrestled the poor thing to death.

After posting the incident in his blog, hate messages flooded his Multiply account and the news spread like wildfire in all media.

He also said sorry but was charged with animal cruelty, got fined a small amount and required to do volunteer works in Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

I hope our legislators would do something to make stricter laws or heftier fines for people charged of animal cruelty. Like humans, animals have life and created by God and they truly deserve a better life either in the wild or our homes (for domesticated animals as pets).

I just can’t help but think how some people can do really terrible things to other creatures… Look how cute and innocent this puppy is…

Honor and Excellence

While I was trying to watch some videos of Philippine TV programs in Pinoy Channel.TV I came across a video of Prof. Winnie Monsod addressing University of the Philippines (UP) Students.

It seems she is talking to freshmen of the University by the way she talked.

I always admired Prof. Winnie’s eloquence, courage and integrity. She is definitely an iron lady..and she knows what she is doing and what she is talking about.

Back to that video, the beginning part of her talk is encouraging the students to take pride of being part of UP, the Philippines’ best University. Truly being an alumnus of UP is something to be proud of and can be considered an achievement in itself.

She also told the students to give something back to the country because it is the people of the Philippines who had paid (or partially paid) for their tuition fees being a university scholar or so-called Iskolar ng Bayan.

I myself used to be an Iskolar ng Bayan and its true that our fees are highly subsidized considering we are getting quality education though I think the tuition fee of State Universities are getting higher and higher these days.  At any rate, even if we are paying low fees, there is no reason not to study hard and earn a diploma.

She encouraged everyone in the audience to stay in the Philippines after graduation and work in the country. This is one way of giving back to the society. She asked everyone to make that commitment or else she will haunt them even on death (not sure it is half meant, hahaha).

One part that I don’t agree much with Prof. Winnie is her statement which I quote:
“And if any of you have, mga little ambitions of going abroad so that you can earn more, please disabuse yourself, because by doing that you are essentially betraying the people in the Philippines who trusted you and invested their money in you”.

Ouch!

Am I really a traitor by being an OFW?

I don’t know if it is her way of trying to convince the students to stay put in the country, what with the thousands and thousands of brains being drained out of the country for decades now.  But I find it quite unfair for OFW’s like me who is just trying to earn a decent living overseas.

Yes, we must work in our country to help in its recovery but if there is no better job so where do we go? By working abroad, it entails a lot of sacrifices with every penny that we earn.

I would rather put it this way…it is better to work overseas and “betray” my country if I am earning decently and righteously than staying put in the country but in the process stealing the Filipino’s money through corruption.

Many of us working overseas are trying to give honor while striving for excellence. This is our way of giving back to the country while in the process helping our families.

Just my thoughts..anyway, overall her talk is very informative, encouraging and sensible. And I would always admire her.

Full video here:

http://www.philippinechannel.tv/watch/v-239562?title=Honor%20and%20Excellence

Fur kids or real kids anyone?

Last night I was watching in Channel News Asia the programme called Blog TV. The episode is titled “Fur Kids”. The guests debates and gives opinion as to which one is better, raising your own child or owning a fur kid (read as: pet). Wooaah what a topic. Owning a pet has been a trend nowadays and many pet lovers spend a lot in grooming, dressing up and feeding their “fur kids” which is good because most household pets (especially dogs) help relieve stress, are very loyal and fun to look at. However, personally I believe the topic is non debatable in the first place. In totality, it is a lot better to raise your own child as opposed to raising a fur kid.

Please don’t get me wrong with my opinion. I have no objection if some people spend a lot in raising and maintaining their pets. I also emphatize to those couples who want to have their own children but cannot so have to resort to owning a pet for diversion. It is definitely a good deed. However, if a legally married couple has the financial, mental and physical capacity to have their own children, then by all means do not think twice having your own. It’s all about satisfaction, fulfillment and pride of raising your own children.

I don’t have children of my own yet but as I see my parents, siblings, relatives and friends who have their own children, I can see how proud, happy and contented they are having their own offspring especially for my parents as all of us are grown ups now and are successful in our own ways. No matter how obnoxious, underdisciplined or naughty kids these days can become, a parent will always love their child.

We are happy when our pups would learn how to bark and compliment them how brave they are even at a very early stage. However the feeling is entirely different when our baby starts to say its first word like Mama or Papa or giggle when we do peek-a-boo or tickle them. The world seems so full of happiness and the sight of a very innocent face staring at you is priceless.

When a dog learned it’s first trick like sitting still or rolling, we are very proud and would show these tricks off to our friends. However, when our baby responds when we asked them to close or open their hands, blink and do “beautiful eyes” gesture or when they learn to take first small steps, some parents can’t help but become teary eyed with their child’s progress.

When they start to go to school, learn how to read, write us short poems or messages or even draw a picture of their family and show to us, we will treasure these memories for a lifetime.

The list of memories and events shared together between a parent and their children goes on and on. Of course there are random instances wherein the children may grow up not as expected like giving the parents some problems like unwanted pregnancies, being hooked up in drugs or other vices, not following parents orders and stuff. But these are isolated cases and not usual to all families.

Overall, the bond between a parent and a child is stronger than the Great Wall of China, deeper than the Pacific Ocean and greater than the Great Barrier reef. It’s all because the foundation is love, trust and physical and emotional connection.

Let us continue to become a good parent or child or both, whichever role we play in life.

Cheers!

A Letter of Apology from a Filipino teenager about the hostage tragedy…

By now most of the world has heard about the very tragic incident that happened in Manila on the fateful day of August 23, 2010 when a busload of Hong Kong tourist was hijacked by a former Police Officer by the name of Rolando Mendoza. The 11 hour hostage tragedy claimed the lives of 8 persons including the gunman himself.

Emotions have been high since Monday and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are abuzz with posts and comments from various regions of the world giving prayers and message of sympathy as well as condemnation of the incident. Sadly, there were harsh comments like Filipinos being tagged as Monkeys which is unfair and totally uncalled for as well as the Government and Police force as inefficient, incompetent sitting ducks.

Many had already been said. I would also like to share my piece about this tragic event….

Personally I condemn the violence and feel very sorry for the loss of lives as well as the trauma brought about by the incident to the survivors and I understand the high emotions. Like many, I also do not approve of how the incident was handled by authorities . It could have been better and no innocent lives lost. The media should also be more responsible in their news reporting.

The ruthless act of 1 person doesn’t mean the whole country is rotten. Filipinos are generally loving and God-fearing. Many Filipinos working abroad have helped and continuously helping a lot of people, companies and organizations in many ways. We are also helping our families.  I really hope this single unfortunate incident will not wipe out all the good things we’ve done in the past and striving to do in the present and that no harsh repercussions to any Overseas Filipino Workers because of the incidents. These fellows are just trying to earn a decent living and has nothing to do with the ruthless act of the gunman as well as inequities of some authorities.

I would like to share in my blog a letter from a Filipino teenager by the name Reigno Jose Dilao making an apology for what has happened. Some people actually do not approve of his letter because they say there is no reason to apologize. But being a compassionate Christian, I also feel we should be sorry for the loss of lives.

As the bodies of the people who died are now flown to Hong Kong and most of the survivors have gone home as well, it is time to show affection and compassion to the families who are grieving and together with it, a prayer that the said incident will not happen again in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world.

Full text of Reigno’s letter here.

Why P.Noy should use the Wang Wang?

It seems P.Noy is off to a good start since he assumed the Presidency. Everyone is in high spirits especially seeing former President GMA finally step down from her most cherished and treasured post as the country’s Chief Executive. The Filipino people are keeping their hopes that P.Noy will bring about the changes that the country badly needs. In a bid to “impress” the people, the new President is trying to shy away from the conventional with some changes in the practice of other former Presidents which on the first glance is a welcoming gesture as he is trying to set a good example being the leader of the nation but on a second thought, I personally feel these changes being made are not practical not to mention improper for a person with that stature and responsibility.

1.) P. Noy refused to use the Presidential vehicle as he prefer using his own SUV.
2.) He reiterated a no-siren (wang wang) policy on all his travels and official engagement and that he will stop at all red lights just to experience what’s it like to be traversing our highly congested roads even if it means he has to wake up earlier so as not to be late for appointments.

Being a concerned citizen, I believe the President MUST NOT avoid using the Presidential vehicle as well as using the siren when travelling just to make a stand and set a good example of being a responsible citizen. This is because the practice that he is trying to impose to himself is high security risk. Surely, there are a lot of people who wants to be on the spot where he is in right now and not riding on the Presidential car (which I assumed is a bullet proof, high security vehicle) or using a siren will mean the President is very vulnerable to attacks from unscrupulous cohorts while on the road.

Likewise, everyone’s time is precious. By not using the siren while travelling or by stopping at every red light, it means the President’s travelling time is longer. Precious time is lost in the horrendous Metro Manila traffic. The time wasted can be used in more fruitful endeavors especially with a lot of pressing issues our country is facing. OK, the President might say time is not an issue since he can wake up earlier just to avoid traffic and still be on time, etc but just imagine if he wake up earlier and the travelling time is lesser then it means he will be more productive in each day with more time for official engagements compared to just sitting inside his car and waiting for the traffic to move. Surely he can make quick phone calls and still do his duty while on his car but since he is immobile, his capacity is quite limited.

I think the problem does not lie in using of wang wang per se but in the usage of this ubiquitous gadget by some people who are not even supposed to have it or if they are entitled to use it, tends to be abusive by using it even during personal travels. I believe this problem will be resolved if it is fixed from within- -meaning fixing the abusive person’s conscience. But the bigger problem is if they do not have a conscience at all.

Anyway, I am making a personal commitment to support President Noynoy as long as his desire and intention for the Filipino people and the country in general remains pure. This is by being a better (not bitter!) citizen and anyway I can help to promote the Philippines or imbibe positive results in my capacity, I will.

God bless us all.

Pumasyal sa Pilipinas kahit puno na ang Jeep…

Many Tourism promotions always highlight that the Philippines has 7,107 islands…Too many islands to explore right? But the million peso question is “Where are all the Tourist gone?”  According to a tourism report, tourist arrival grew to 5.2 million. This is actually a positive sign if compared to the past years but I believe this figure includes Balikbayans or Overseas Filipinos visiting Philippines for Holidays. So even with the positive figure, why does it sound like I am whining?

Thailand enjoys over 14 Million visitors a year, Singapore in March alone enjoyed a brisk arrival of 928,000 and projects tourist arrival to 12.5 million at the end of this year especially with the opening of new Integrated resorts like Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. Malaysia tops the list of SEA countries in terms of visitor’s arrival at about 21.5 Million in 2009.

Figures don’t  lie ayt?

Why am I highlighting these facts? Simply because the Philippines has all the factors to be the Tourism Haven in Southeast Asia (perhaps even whole Asia).

1.) We are the 2nd largest English-speaking nation in Asia (2nd to India). Everywhere you go even on the boondocks, locals can more or less communicate or understand English. Very Tourist friendly. In Thailand, some of those working in the hotels or restaurants cannot converse fluently in English. But Tourist still flock.

2.) We have the Sun, Sea, Sand and smiles. Activities and attractions are endless. Boracay still remains a big draw to tourist with its talcum powder-like sand and party atmosphere all day and night. Palawan is simply the best and so is Bohol, and Batanes, and Camiguin and Cebu and Davao..the list goes on and on.

3.) We are a melting pot of cultures. It’s true some countries have very strong and easily recognizable culture and heritage like that of China, India, Japan, Thailand. However our uniqueness lies on so many cultures and traditions to explore and experience at such a smaller place than the former mentioned places.

4.) We have several of the biggest shopping malls in the World. The newly renovated SM City North EDSA is the 3rd biggest mall in the world. SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall and many others are also included in the biggest mall list.  Why simply can’t we be the Shopping Haven of Asia? Why are so many Pinoy businessmen into retail business buy clothes and accessories in Bangkok, Hong Kong or mainland China?

5.) Our country has the geographic advantage.  We are in the heart of Asia and the Pacific. Easily accessible to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, there are also critical reasons why we do not get the numbers that we want:

1.) Lack of infrastructure- our Airports and sea ports cannot compete with our neighbors. Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Incheon Airports are highly recognized for efficient service, cleanliness and all the awards you can think of. Not to mention the size of these airport are simply humongous. Our road network also needs face lift. Few years ago, I was on the way to the Underground River in Puerto Princesa. The scenery is simply breath taking if not out of this world. Imagine a river traversing under a mountain and tourist is underneath this mountain for about 45 minutes going in and another 45 minutes going out. Really awesome. But to reach that spot, you have to travel by land for about 2 hours from the city and an hour of which is on a very bumpy road. The tour guide would always joke it is a natural body massage cos you are literally shaken and twisted by the rough road. Even thousands of tourist flock the Underground River, the road badly needs cementing or even asphalt for many years now.

Our public transport like MRT, LRT and even Bus or Jeepney transport are not tourist friendly. Either it is too crowded, or needs to be pulled to the garage especially a lot of public Buses and taxis.

2.) Lack of Promotion. Some months ago, I was dining in a Seafood Restaurant in Bangkok with a friend and beside our table are a couple of Hong Kong citizens. We tried to be friendly and asked if it is their first time in Bangkok and what is the purpose of their trip. We were surprised on their answer. They said it was not their first time and the purpose of their trip is just to eat Seafoods! WTF! Eating seafoods but you have to spend on airfare, hotel and travel 3 hours? But it is understandable because seafood in Hong Kong is very expensive. They can enjoy seafood dinner ever day or night while they are in Bangkok but the price is nothing compared to having just one full seafood meal in their country. And Thailand is actually earning a lot on Culinary Tourism. Cooking schools in Chiang Mai are very popular. Thai cuisine has been one of the factors why tourist visit this country.

Malaysia is very good in their PR campaigns to promote their tourist spots. Every time I meet a foreigner and I told them I am from Philippines or Manila, they usually ask me, what can you do in Manila or Philippines? Is Manila in an Island or near the beach? Many other questions. It is due to the fact that our Tourism related campaign is either insufficient or lacking of magnets to lure the tourists.

3.) Traveling in the Philippines is expensive. It is good now that Cebu Pacific has started the trend of budget airfare across the country which paved the way for the healthy growth of Domestic Tourism. Hotel accommodations in tourist spots in the Philippines are very expensive and so are foods and souvenirs in these areas. Going back to my story earlier about the couple traveling to Bangkok just to eat, I believe many of our fresh sea foods are being exported to Hong Kong, Japan, China and nearby countries wherein the prices if served on the table are triple or quadruple than the local price before being sent overseas. If we can only find a way for these seafoods or even fruits to be enjoyed here in the Philippines and no need to be sent for export, not only will the prices be cheaper but everyone will be able to enjoy (tourist and locals alike). If tourist go to the Philippines, airlines will be full, hotels will be occupied, restaurants can cook. Many establishments will benefit.

There are many more advantage and disadvantages. Maybe my blog is not enough. However, I still believe our country is great and we can show it to the world. The Aquino administration is coming in and there was a recent controversy about a rumor that President-elect Noynoy Aquino is considering Talent Manager, Boy Abunda to become the next Department of Tourism Secretary which got some nods and some flak from supporters and critics alike. But come to think of it, why not put former DOT Secretary Richard Gordon in this post again? Not so familiar if the law would allow it, but if this is possible then he is the best man for this post since he is outgoing Senator anyway and I believe he performed well during his stint in the DOT or even at Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. Btw, He was my Presidential bet. Unfortunately, he lost.

Tourism is very important. Tourism creates business. Tourism brings money to our coffers and contributes to our GDP. I just wish the time would come that tourist arrivals will full our sights to the rafters similar to the picture above..and so us OFW will not have to work abroad cos many jobs are waiting for us.

So bring in the millions (of tourists).  🙂

Company Outing with a heart…

Last weekend was personally a special day for me in the sense that it is my first company outing experience working here in Bangkok. We went to a resort called Rai Kusuma in Saraburi Province, about 2 hours drive from Bangkok. What makes it special then? Well, first I am in a group of local people who speak their native tongue, have their own brand of humor and activities which some may not be the same style as ours. Food is definitely Thai including the level of spice, though I love Thai food so it is definitely not an issue…We had our team building activity which you guess it right…was conducted in Thai. The facilitator would penalize the person who is unable to follow instructions correctly or is the slowest in the group..since their is language barrier, it is doubly hard for me cos I have to mind on my speed and accuracy of action as well as the language. I truly appreciate colleagues who has to quickly translate for me what the facilitator just said before they action so that I will not be penalized. I don’t know if I looked like a burden to them..lol. Anyway, the best part is that I was not penalized in any of the activities of that team building and was able to work with my team well. We were even successful creating a nice and strong tower made of newspaper!

After the dinner and the programme, we had karaoke and dancing sessions which we truly enjoyed. The night is still young so some decided to play cards while I joined a group who prefer drinking while singing and playing the guitar..some of them requested me to sing..since they do not know how to play Philippine songs in the guitar, we had to search from a laptop about music cords from International artists..at the end, we were able to enjoy singing together while helping ourselves with shots of alcohol mix. Luckily no one got drunk since singing and playing guitar is the main agenda.
Next day we had early breakfast because we had to check out from the resort around 10:00 am to go to our selected temple for visit and donation. We went to Wat Phra Baht Nam Phu which cares for full-blown AIDS victims. This for me is the unique part of our company outing. I’ve been to several company outing in the past and mostly it comprises of sightseeing, team building games, eating, singing and drinking..mostly rest and recreation. However, at this time we really see to it that we are able to share some of our blessings to others. About a month prior to the company outing date, we placed a coin bank in the office for donations to the temple. I wasn’t able to know how much is the total amount however, as I see it, many staff would drop coins or bills almost everyday. We also allotted some for buying items needed in the temple either by the monks or the patients themselves.
There were several pavilions in the temple compound. Some were individual units for the patients. The “guide” directed us to one building. Upon entry, we saw bodies of people who died from AIDS encased in glass or metal caskets. It was actually a scary experience seeing decayed bodies of men, women even children who died of AIDS. In each casket you will see descriptions of their name, age, how they acquired the disease and their statement about donating their body for purpose of AIDS research. Commonly, you can see from the description that they are either sex workers, drug users (using shared needles), women who got the disease from husbands or children getting it from their mothers at time of birth..

In another building, before entering you have to wear a surgical mask. When I get closer to the building I realized, it is the area where living patients with AIDS are housed. I actually wanted to go inside together with some of my colleagues but sadly, I didn’t have enough courage to go inside and see the conditions of these patients because before I stepped in, I saw one patient, a child (which I presume to be not over 7 years) lying in bed, very thin and looking like a living skeleton. It is a sight which will definitely break my heart and I may not be prepared to see worser conditions inside so I decided not to go and just wait outside..

.
It was a very hot afternoon and Lopburi is one of the hottest province in Thailand  so we only had to allot only 30 minutes inside the temple and also because the location is quite far and in the foot of the mountains though the scenery was really beautiful. In addition, we had to rush back home before it gets dark due to the still unstable situation in Bangkok. I had to admit this experience was such an eye opener for me and it made me ponder that the night before all of us were enjoying the food, drinks, games, prizes and entertainment while in another part of the country, there are actual sufferers and many had died already and only few would care for them.
Anyway, it is not too late and by this blog post, I hope some readers who are able to read it would also be encouraged to do the same by including outreach programme in their company activities to help the poor and needy which is an ingredient of true happiness…