Wake Up, Philippines!

Parque España Residence Hotel feels like home

Posted in DOT, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on March 9, 2009

Updated March 01, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Are you a business traveler, balikbayan or just a local resident looking for an exquisite escape from a long, tiring journey, or from stress? Then try staying at Parque España Residence Hotel and experience the comfort and the hospitality you deserve. It is your home away from home.

Find the comfort of your own home right in the midst of the business district in the south. Parque España Residence Hotel accommodations have the look and feel of an ideal home with its dining area and kitchenette inclusive of refrigerator, cooking accessories, and dinnerware. It is a recommended spot for family-oriented gatherings if you’re thinking of organizing one.

So there’s really no need to go out of town for restful weekends with family or friends when there’s Parque España’s cinematic views of Rizal hills, Laguna Lake and the enticing elite villages that embrace Alabang.

Have a marvelous social gathering with the multi-purpose function room at the roof deck. Just like dining at any food haven elsewhere, you can have an extensive fiesta meal of international delicacies or a private dinner with someone special while serenaded by soft music at the Bistro del Cielo.

Located a few blocks away from the demanding business and entertainment centers, Parque España Residence Hotel is home to Alabang Town Center, Festival Mall, Westgate Park and Palms Country Club.

As for business travelers who can’t really get away from work and need to finish it during vacation, then Parque España has a lot more to offer — all rooms are equipped with broadband Internet connection and easy access to local and international calls. The one-bedroom Executive Room is even Wi-Fi ready.

Catering to different lifestyles, Parque España is your comfort getaway where every day is a good day to stay. Parque España is under the innovative management of Hospitality, International Inc. (HHI) thereby ensuring a superior class of hotel living.

For reservations and inquiries, call 850-5880 to 81 or log on to www.parqueespana.net.


Marco Polo Davao hailed for big role in Mindanao tourism

Posted in DOT, Hotel, Hotels/Restaurants/Bars, Tourism by Erineus on March 6, 2009

First-class international luxury hotel Marco Polo Davao has earned praises for its big role in promoting Davao City and the rest of Mindanao as a national and international tourism destination.

The accolades came during Marco Polo Davao’s celebration of its 10th anniversary recently.

Confirming and reaffirming the hotel’s role as a tourism icon in Southern Philippines, Halifax Davao Hotels Inc. (HDHI) president Carlos Dominguez said Marco Polo Davao would continue striving to give the city and the region a noteworthy reputation as a world-class destination.

With Dominguez at the celebration were HDHI directors and officers.

In a seeming state-of-the-business address, Dominguez said, “Our commitment to excellence certainly puts us at par with current global standards. Our global outlook and local approach allow us to harness homegrown talents to be exceptional performers in the world stage of hospitality. We really envisioned our hotel to be a major player in Davao tourism contributing to the growth of our city as a premier destination in Mindanao.”

“Our celebration tonight is a reminder to continue realizing that vision. We renew our commitment to take Davao closer to new markets as we work with the local government and the Department of Tourism. This is to uphold our image as an emerging regional and international city. Our leadership in the market shall continue to lift Davao as top-of-mind destination in the country,” he added.

Dominguez also paid tribute to the hotel’s loyal patrons and guests, suppliers, city officials and friends from the media for supporting and contributing to Marco Polo Davao’s success over the past 10 years.

Also at the affair were top executives of the hotel’s corporate clients, members of Davao City’s prominent families and Marco Polo Hotels vice president for operations Andre Scholl. Marco Polo Davao general manager Stanley Lau welcomed them in a brief speech.

Subsequently, Scholl presented video messages from Marco Polo Hotels president Steve Kleinschmidt, VP for sales and marketing Simon Pearson, VP for project development Ting Wah and VP for finance Francis Ling, congratulating Marco Polo Davao for its 10 years of exemplary service.

Spicing up the event were world-class performances by husband-and-wife team Isay Alvarez and Robert Seña and dance numbers by the Kaliwat Theater Collective, with TV anchor David Celdran as emcee.


Durano: RP tourism defies global crisis

Posted in DOT, Tourism by Erineus on March 6, 2009

Updated March 06, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine tourism is defying the global crisis as jobs mount in various industry sectors, especially for a wide range of highly skilled professionals and other personnel.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said the industry’s manpower needs could easily run to tens of thousands based on the number of newly completed tourism projects, those to be operational within 2009 to 2010, and those in the pipeline.

Durano said 1,700 rooms are scheduled to open in Manila this year. “And these do not include the 2,000 others that will open in many areas of the archipelago during the year, all part of the P550-billion expansion projects of various investors involving some 7,000 new hotel and resort rooms,” he said.

This development could be gleaned from the growing number of tourism businesses and related enterprises joining the Trabaho sa Turismo (TST) Fair 2009 on March 13-14 at the SM City Cebu, “indicating the sustained viability and competitiveness of our tourism industry even during crisis and the continued rise in the number of jobs required to serve our domestic and foreign tourists,” he added.

Durano said the 4th TST indicates the Department of Tourism’s “successful efforts in finding and developing new and emerging inbound markets, attracting foreign investors in various areas of tourism, encouraging domestic investments in tourism facilities, promoting joint ventures, and sustaining government-funded infrastructure projects that boost tourism, all generating employment and livelihood for our people and serving as economic growth engine in both good and bad times.”

Durano cited the consistent 10.6 percent average increase in foreign visitor arrivals since 2004 when he assumed his post as tourism secretary.

He said the Filipino people, particularly the unemployed and those considering a career shift, could help the tourism industry by joining the TST fair in Cebu, or its Manila leg on May 22-23 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City, and pre-registering online at http://www.jobsdb.com.ph.

JobsDB.com members can use their existing log-in ID and password to pre-register for the event. Other applicants may create an online resumé or attach a word document file of their resumé.


Island craze

Posted in DOT, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on March 3, 2009

Updated March 01, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – As a country composed of 7,107 islands, sometimes we don’t really realize that here in the Philippines we are all truly islanders. Tropical weather? Check. Coconut and palm trees? Check. White-sand beaches? Check. But have you been to all of them… in a single day?

The M/S 7107 Island Cruise Ship does just that. It’s island hopping taken to a whole new level. And with the “Fly and Cruise, Pay Later” package, you don’t have to worry about finding your local paradise — right now.

Operating the 5,113-ton vessel is 7107 Islands Shipping Corporation. The ship has 137 fully air-conditioned cabins, with hot and cold showers, TVs and DVD players. It also has a swimming pool where guests are invited to relax and swim while gazing at the islands passing by (yes, islands and not buildings, for a change), enjoying a nice cool cocktail drink by the pool bar while having a deep-tissue massage on the sundeck with only the sound of waves and ocean breeze to rejuvenate you. The ship also has three function rooms named after the islands of Coron, Boracay, and Puerto Galera. Its capacity is good for only 350 people, so you can rent the whole ship for a great time with family, colleagues and friends. Share intimate and unforgettable moments with loved ones against a backdrop of Coron Island, with its majestic limestone cliffs and intricate rock formations; or view the spectacular sunset of Boracay island, watching the island come alive along the shoreline.

The best part of all is that the cruise takes you into the very heart of the Calamianes where a pontoon brings you to the islands of Ditaytayan, Malcapuya, Panlaitan and other island destinations. These lesser-known islands are virtually untouched, and totally beautiful. These are the destinations of tomorrow and only the M/S 7107 Islands Cruise Ship can bring you there in style. Escape into these islands for a romantic dinner, a sunset cocktail, or a snorkeling trip with family. The waters are so clean and pure that it’s easy to see the flourishing coral reefs from the pontoon.

Ditaytayan Island is a 96-hectare island made up mostly of powder-white sand and lush forests, reminiscent of Boracay back in the ‘80s. It has long swirling sand bars on both ends and at the center is a huge sand bar overlooking the sunrise and sunset. It is a secret paradise that soon will be transformed to the next party island with artists’ villages and boutique resorts.

Malcapuya is another haven. With monkeys swinging overhead, and wild ducks and dugong swimming around, it’s a back-to-nature haven, though the cove and nipa huts are where guests prefer to take their siesta.

Panlaitan is another island near the famous Black Island and its shipwreck sites. It is located at the other side of Busuanga. Panlaitan has a long stretch of white sand beach and the coral is so near the shore that snorkeling is not even necessary: you can see the marine life from above the water. Dibotunay is nearby and also a fantastic place for a picnic while sunbathing or swimming.

Aside from the islands mentioned above, guests can island-hop to other nearby islands such as Banana Island, Malaroyroy, Cheron, and so on.

These islands are what inspired British novelist Alex Garland to write The Beach; and the World War II wrecks submerged in the waters along with the abundance of endemic and exotic marine life are the reasons Jacques Cousteau kept returning for his dives. Hailed by National Geographic as having the best beaches in the world and Forbes magazine as one of the best dive sites in the world, it beats the Bahamas by a long run.

The island craze? It’s only just begun.

* * *

For more inquiries and bookings please visit www.7107islandscruise.net or call (+632) 887 7107. E-mail reservations@7107islandscruise.net if you can’t wait to begin the cruise.


A celebration of life, love and Nature

Posted in DOT, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on February 27, 2009

The Swiss had no idea what hit them.

When they invited the Philippines to become the featured guest country in the 2009 Muba fair in Basel, the Swiss probably expected a tame exhibit with a few colorful posters, a display of some local products, and a smattering of literature on our 7,100 islands.

What they didn’t expect was a full-on sensory experience that included culinary journeys, fashion shows, cultural presentations, and parades set within a lush tropical oasis.

But then again they probably didn’t account for the Filipinos’ penchant for celebrating life to its fullest.

“[Our tagline for this fair is] ‘Mabuhay!’ which is an all-purpose Filipino expression,” Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano explained to the crowd of Swiss, German, and French dignitaries who attended the opening of the exhibit. “Its root word is ‘buhay,’ meaning life. It expresses the spontaneous hospitality of Filipinos. Mabuhay can also mean live long. And we use that as a way to wish someone well or wish good health.”

Mabuhay is also a call to action, he elaborated, meaning to live life—a disposition typical of Filipinos used to celebrating a thousand fiestas every year and the message, which the Philippines, as this year’s guest country, hoped to impart to Muba visitors.

Important market

Muba is the biggest and most prestigious consumer trade fair in Switzerland. It attracts more than 300,000 visitors across the country, as well as neighboring Germany and France, to the city of Basel, where the fair is held every year. Each year, the fair highlights a guest country, which presents its economy, major exports in products and services, tourism, culture and arts, among others, to visitors.

The Philippines’ participation, a project three years in the making, was a collaboration of government and private sectors, with the Department of Tourism taking the lead.

For the Tourism, the opportunity to present the Philippines to the Swiss was “too hard to resist” because not only does it cement ties between the two countries but it also provides high-profile exposure in an increasingly important market.

According to Tourism statistics, the Swiss market grew by 6 percent last year, making it the fifth largest market from Europe. More than that, Swiss travellers spend an average of $3,500 to $4,000 per person for a seven to 14-day package stay in the Philippines, making it an important emerging market for the country.

Positive growth

The Swiss are very good clients, whether in good times or in bad times, said Durano. In fact, it was the Swiss market that helped shore up tourism arrivals in the Philippines which, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, is one of the remaining destinations achieving positive growth despite the slowdown in major markets.

“Travel is part of the [Swiss] lifestyle. What happens during economic slowdowns is that they’ll be looking for more value, [which is perfect for us since] we’ve never positioned the Philippines as a cheap destination. We’ve always positioned the Philippines as high end. My optimism is not grounded on the natural Filipino optimism. It’s grounded on reality, it’s grounded on performance last year, which all in the industry are saying is better than expected.

“There is a need to fan the flames. This is the only opportunity we saw [to accomplish this]. There is [also] greater value added in our participation because this is more than tourism. There’s trade, there are investments. More importantly, the premium of being here is the fact that we have monopoly,” he said. The event also allows the department to reach out directly to consumers, the next logical step after wooing big travel wholesalers for the past three years.

More than a marriage of convenience

Joel Valdes, chairman of the Philippine Swiss Business Council, the lead organization on the side of the private sector, lauds the participation as the “first public-private initiative,” a perfect marriage of both the government and private entities.

“Muba typically invites a guest country once in a lifetime. They don’t ask the same country twice. But twice, we were invited. The first time, the invitation was addressed to us, the Philippine Swiss Business Council. But we’re private, we didn’t know who in the government to go to. We wanted to present something that would set us apart. If we presented the traditional manufacturing goods, we’d lose out to the Chinese. Our initial scheme failed, so we turned to the Department of Tourism. We figured we’d take care of the trade exhibitors, while DoT gave the added value we needed to make it like a Philippines Inc. In this way, we are not just promoting our products but the Philippines as a country.”

With the help of Fairs and More (an arm of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines which specializes in fairs and exhibits), the Sosiete Generale de Surveillance Philippines, and other entities (including the Department of Agriculture and the provincial government of Bulacan), the PSBC put together a diverse group of exhibitors that showcased the different facets of Philippine trade.

“Our mandate is to promote trade, investment, and tourism between the two economies. This is a door opener. We intend to pursue similar ventures in the future, like Basel World, the biggest jewelry and watch exhibit in the world, or Art Basel, the biggest art exhibition,” Valdes said.

Beyond tourism

Muba also opens the door to other avenues in promoting the Philippines, said Durano.

“We’ve started the Live Your Dreams campaign as a response to the lack of hotels [in the country], and to go up the value chains in terms of tourism by pushing the number of real estate developments in the country as an investment for second homes,” he explained.

The Live Your Dreams program gives global Filipinos as well as foreigners the opportunity to own condominium units in the Philippines.

“If you have people having second homes in the country, not only is their spending in the country higher than a normal tourist—because a condo by itself is already in the millions—but when you have a second home in the country they would think of visiting every year and they would stay long. So it creates that other dynamic outside of traditional tourism. It pushes the value of tourism in our economy.

“One of our basic strategies was not to put all our eggs in one basket. By broadening our market base, we made sure that the Philippines is resilient. No matter what happens in one market, there are other markets that can fill in. The other one is to really grow the value, the contribution of tourism in the economy. That’s why we’ve launched these higher value programs, like the Live Your Dreams, medical tourism, etc.”

Putting the ‘wow’ in Wow Philippines

As this year’s guest country, the Philippines occupied pride of place, with a 1,700 square meter pavilion covering the whole back end of Hall 1 in the Main Building of the exhibit.

The pavilion is nothing if not impressive.

Adopting the theme, “100% Natural, 100% Philippines, the stand is divided into several areas to accommodate the tourism sector, the trade sector, a turo-turo-style restaurant, a huge stage and eating area and a wellness center.

“For years, we were looking for something like the World Travel Mart in London or the International Tourismus Bourse in Berlin, something of that magnitude and importance, here in Switzerland to promote the Philippines and we found it in Muba,” said Eduardo Jarque, Tourism Undersecretary for Planning and Promotions. “I think it’s the best we’ve done so far. We wanted to showcase the best of what we have, the best of what we do, the best of what we cook in the Philippines. We wanted to highlight the Philippines’ unique culture through our folkloric dances and a sampling of our delectable cuisine.”

Habitués used to the business-like atmosphere of trade fairs were quick to wrap their minds around the stand’s fiesta ambience, barely lingering around ergonomically designed booths like Ikea, and hurrying to the pavilion to catch the hourly performances and fashion shows of the Bayanihan. A lot of them flocked to the restaurant, run by Swissotel but presided over by Filipino chef Marilou Rodriguez Neumann, to taste Pinoy fare like Kare-Kare, Kalderetang Tupa, Kilawin, and Pinakbet. (The restaurant serviced close to 8,000 guests during the fair)

Some took advantage of the hilot services offered at the stand, where therapists accommodated more than 50 customers a day (203 total).

In the tourism area, Swiss-based tour operators (like Flex Travel, TourAsia, and Wettstein), as well as local dive resort operators (like Pinjalo Resort and Club Paradise) handled inquiries about the country, while Basel-based Filipinos checked out the condo units offered by Ayala Land, SM Properties, and Century Properties.

To say that the Philippines made an impact on Muba visitors is an understatement. Suffice it to say that there has never been anything like it before.

“I think we have set the benchmark for other guest countries from now on,” said Durano with a big smile.

By Gianna G. Maniego

Dipolog, the city of surprises

Posted in DOT, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on February 26, 2009

There’s more to this bustling city than its famous bottled sardines

Discovering Dipolog City for the first time is a lot like receiving a bottle of the city’s renowned Spanish-style sardines. There is actually more to this bustling city bounded by verdant rolling hills and the blue Sulu Sea than meets the eye.

“With rich fishing areas off its shores, Dipolog City is famous for the abundance of its marine resources and nowhere is that God-given blessing more readily apparent than in the Central Market,” said Mayor Evelyn T. Uy, who transformed Dipolog into what it is now – a progressive city.

Truly, we saw just right off the center of the city’s main street, the marketplace teems with an endless supply of the day’s catch of shrimps, prawns, crabs, yellow-fin tuna, shellfish, clams, and oysters. Seasoned buyers know that reasonable prices are almost always guaranteed.

The market also teems with the harvest from the land as well, with fruits like marang, durian, rambutan, lanzones, and mangosteen which are abundant in the months of August to October, while other popular pasalubong staples such as mangoes and papaya are available all year round.

With a lifestyle that flows as free as the sea-bound wind that rustles its many trees, Dipolog is the perfect escape from the worries of big city life. Here, one is within walking distance from the market and the city’s famous boulevard which offers a jogging experience unlike any other. The cool, relaxing seaside vistas are crowned by the magnificent sight of the beautiful sunset, yet another everyday treat in this city of surprises.

The onset of night, however, does not find that the wonders of Dipolog have retreated with the afternoon light. On the seaside boulevard itself, street food such as barbecue, balbacua, and fish balls are laid out for sale until the early dawn. It is this social “food court” that acts as a great leveler since one finds people from all walks of life eating side by side in small tables that dot the far end of the esplanade.

Referred to by the locals as “McDo,” after the popular Pinoy slang for the omnpresent American fastfood chain, the Dipolog version of “McDo” instead means “mag duko-duko,” a Cebuano term which describes one who bends low to choose which to order from the dimly lit barbecue grills.

After eating, one might be pleasantly surprised to discover that there is life after five, too, in Dipolog, contrary to what one may expect from its quaint provincial setting. Bars, karaoke joints, some ballroom dancing, and a quiet drink while listening to good music are all in store for would-be night hawks.

The art lover will never be a stranger here, too. The art scene is alive and active in Dipolog at the Goodtimes Café. Set against a rustic setting where artists converge to unwind or to paint or simply to talk art among a gallery of the works of Dipolog’s finest artists, the ambience itself makes it a place to visit even for mere artists-to-be.

If traveling around the city is the cause to build up an appetite yet again, one need not worry. Truly, no one ever really stops eating in Dipolog since, with the temptation to eat present at every street corner and hidden nook, the urge is never difficult to satisfy. From fine-dining to fast food joints, coffee shops and pastry shops, hole-in-the-wall snack counters, carinderias, name it, Dipolog has it, such that to go hungry in this city of a thousand and one treats would be only a self-inflicted punishment.

A special treat for any first-time visitor to this lovely city would be an array of seafood, Dipolog’s own version of the lechon, and luscious fresh fruits laid out in a grand buffet while one enjoys a cruise along the placid waters of the Dipolog River. Passing through verdant foliage of large trees and green fields, the cruise takes the guests to the old town site of Dipolog, where a replica of the old Subanen village now stands.

Dipolog City is fast becoming the new convention destination in this part of Mindanao. In August of this year, the Mindanao Business Conference will be held in Dipolog, attracting 500 delegates and guests including high-profile personalities like ambassadors and business tycoons. In October, the Jaycees will likewise hold their national convention here, and before the year ends, other national organizations and civic groups will have scheduled their own conventions in the city.

However, the rising popularity of Dipolog as the convention and vacation destination of choice shouldn’t be surprising. After all, it is but an hour’s flight away from Manila, and Cebu, the Queen City of the South, is just 30 minutes away by plane. Ships, ferries, and fast crafts ply the Dipolog–Dumaguete–Bohol and Cebu route several times a day. Plus, one can also travel by bus all over Mindanao from Dipolog.

Must see: The twin falls in Sungkilaw, barely an hour away from the city proper, or enjoy a short trek in the forest of Cogon Eco Park, 30 minutes into the suburbs of the city. Beach lovers can just hop into a motorized banca and go island hopping while watching the dolphins along the way. A good way to end a memorable Dipolog visit is to go back to one’s roots through a heritage tour which includes a visit to Dipolog’s Holy Rosary Cathedral and Jose Rizal’s place of exile in historic Dapitan.

Dipolog beckons, so next time you plan an out-of-town trip, consider Dipolog and discover the wonders that await every visitor in this peaceful city of simple and happy people. You will experience a different high when you mix with the locals and allow yourself to just be part of the flow of everyday life.

Manila Bulletin

Nature’s wonders

Posted in DOT, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on February 26, 2009

Explore the majestic coastal waters of Batangas

The province of Batangas is a destination of endless holiday getaway possibilities. Only two hours away from Manila, the pristine coastal waters and lush forests of this Southern Tagalog wonder will make tourists (both local and foreign) experience a ‘natural high’ – away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The unimpeded view of picturesque earth and water landscapes along the way to Nasugbu is already a form of relaxation. Tourists will feel even more relaxed when they are in the most secluded area where the beach is surrounded by a cluster of different coves and bays with lush terrain, cool breezes, and fine sand, with a handful of water sport activities.

One such spot is the Hamilo Coast situated in the coastal water of the South China Sea that encompasses 13 different green coves in varying sizes and shapes, namely: Pico de Loro, Papaya, Santelmo, Subli, Baybay, Etayo, Balibago, Arkaya, Dorado, Bucanita, Limbones, Neela, and Patungan.

This 5,800-hectare development and recreation area of Hamilo is located within the boundaries of the famous coral triangle area, which is maintained and protected by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The coral triangle area is the epicenter of marine biodiversity, spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste with an abundance of coral reefs and marine life.

This extraordinary area holds the richest concentration of 75 percent of all species known in the world – more than 3,000 species of fish live in the protected area. Most yachtsmen traveling around the country are awed by the beauty of the place, and they make it one of their stopovers during their travels.

Moreover, Hamilo has a natural habitat to diverse marine life – giant sea clams, blooming corals, and sea turtles – with a little current making the place an ideal location for diving.

Tourists can also explore other coves and bays through a speedboat ride starting from the main recreation area at Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club.

Hamilo Coast was developed by Costa del Hamilo, Inc., a subsidiary of SM Investments Corporation.

Julius P. Vicente