What’s FUN for you?

I love to travel. I dedicated my second blog post of the year to Philippine travel.

Last week, the Department of Tourism  (DOT) tapped social media to launch its tourism campaign. Launch date was scheduled on 10 a.m of January 6. Days leading to the launch date, the DOT hyped up the hashtag #1forFUN on twitter. Prominent bloggers met with Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez to discuss the campaign.  Mr. Jimenez even opened his own twitter account (@MonJQuotes).

I got curious. When January 6 came, I was on Twitter waiting for a word on the launch.  The official tag line was finally announced. Drum roll please. “It’s more fun in the Philippines”. The official website was also launched.

The criticisms

The campaign had some constructive criticisms, namely:

  1. It lacks the brevity and brand recall compared to other countries’ campaigns. Think “Incredible India” and “Malaysia, Truly Asia”.
  2. One does not need to compare Philippines against other countries to gain tourists. Hello, crab mentality.
  3. Grammar police took notice of the incomplete comparative sentence. More fun than what?
  4. The tag line was already used in the 1950’s tourism ad of Switzerland. The black and white poster read “It’s more fun in Switzerland.”

The praises

The campaign was received well.  The hashtag #itsmorefuninthephilippines became a trending topic on Twitter worldwide. Even acclaimed writer, Neil Gaiman, joined in the fun. As of this writing, the mood meter in Maria Ressa’s Rappler.com showed  64% of readers are happy with the campaign and 26% are inspired.

Screenshot of rappler.com

My 2 cents

I was a bit disappointed when I first learned of the new tagline. I have to agree with criticism number 1. I like Anna Oposa‘s suggestion better. It rebuffs all the criticisms raised.


*Note: (1/13/2013) I just read Anna Oposa’s article. Taiwan used “Fun Taiwan” in  one of its tourism campaign.

The memes

Despite my initial feeling about the campaign, the FUN started pouring in. I had to join in. On twitter, I tweeted about why Philippines is fun.  Mon Jimenez might really be the ad genius that people say he is. The end of work week was the perfect time to launch the campaign because by the time weekend arrived, people had the time to create memes.

A meme is "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture." - Merriam-Webster online dictionary

Taking the cue from the three photos from the official website, people started creating their own campaign images.

I made my own set of photos from my travels and uploaded them on Facebook. I got positive responses from friends.

Photo credit: Leo Borras (1st photo)

Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet has the best collection of memes made by people who joined the fun. I sound a bit biased. It’s because the two photos I shared to Anton ended up in the page. Check them out here.

Want to join the fun?

Download and install the Harabara font. Don’t worry it is free! Check your Philippine travel photos and think of a nice caption. Use your favorite photo-editing software to create the meme.  I use Photoscape.

I’m loving this Harabara font. Simple. Clean.

Tourists, choose the Philippines!  It is really fun in the Philippines.

My Year of Philippine Travel

I traveled a lot in 2011 that some of my friends have labeled me “laagan“. Laagan  is a Visayan term for wanderer. The word describes someone who can’t stay put.  I know a lot of travel bloggers who went to a lot more places than I do. Compare to them, my trips looked mild. Nevertheless, I felt I traveled more this year compared to my trips for the past 30+ years.

2011 was the year I started to fulfill my travel dreams.  I am hoping to see new places this year.

Dalaguete, Cebu

This is a town in Southern Cebu. My paternal grandfather came from this quiet town. Their town fiesta (300+ years!) is on a February. My cousins invited me to come along and coincidentally, we had a Cebu Pacific trip scheduled on those dates. (Dalaguete is pronounced as “dalaget”.)

Cebu City

We always visit the Sto. Niño whenever we are in Cebu.  However, it was my first time to check out Magellan’s cross.

Davao City

Although I spent 4 years of my life in this city, it has been 8 years since I last set foot on this place. I attended some important matters in Davao in April and I squeezed in some touristy activities by visiting Jack’s Ridge and People’s Park.

Masao, Butuan City

Butuanons (and several acclaimed historians) claimed that Magellan landed here and not in Limasawa.  For us, Butuanons, this is also our beach.

Checkout the sign: Do not "ride' the boat. If you want pictures, use ground area. (rough translation)

Luneta, Manila

My quest to visit the Rizal monument remained a dream. More stories on this post.

Magallanes, Agusan del Norte

The oldest tree in the Philippines can be found here.  One can reach this place via a 30-min boat ride.

Camarines Sur

It was the first time I traveled with friends. We had so much fun that we are planning another trip this year to another Philippine destination. There was so much to see in CamSur that I wrote 4 blog posts about this trip: here, here, here and here. 😀

Legazpi, Albay

The two-hour trip from Naga city was all worth it. Mayon Volcano, the world’s most perfect cone, was magnificent.

Bit-os, Butuan City

One need not go so far to see new places. Even a small city like Butuan has hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Intramuros, Manila

It was a short yet memorable visit. I will explore more of this place next time. I should join  Carlos Celdran’s walking tour .

Tagaytay City

The short trip with relatives was still fun.  Taal Volcano is always fascinating.

Bantayan, Cebu

Bantayan rekindled my love for the beach.  This place is paradise. I hope Bantayan does not get too commercialized.

Cebu City

I traveled to Cebu again and explored it on my own.  I walked to the Plaza Independencia early in the morning before my trip back home.

Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur

We braved the roads during Sendong to attend a friend’s wedding. I would have taken pictures of Pagadian. The city’s unique features are the inclined streets and angled tricycles. I failed to take photos because my mind was in CDO and Iligan. We went to Lakewood and the place was beautiful. I relaxed a bit before traveling back again to Cagayan de Oro. We traveled during the night along Lanao del Norte.

I will travel more this year.

I end this post with this video.

Tara na!

Ode to the Sampaguita

One of my favorite Sunday morning activity is gathering sampaguita from the garden, cupping them in my palms and smelling them. The sweet smell would linger in palm even after I loosely spread the small flowers in the altar as an offering.

Perfume from the garden. :D

Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac) is the national flower of the Philippines. It  grows on shrubs just like what we have in the garden. It is a nondescript plant with tiny and fragile looking flowers. Don’t be fooled with appearances. This plant is resilient. I can’t remember someone taking care of the shrub in the garden. It stood on its own. It is low-maintenance and sturdy. The flowers bloom regularly and abundantly all throughout the year. Flood came and went and the sampaguita survived gracefully against those calamities. Because of that, it is no surprise why it was chosen as the national flower of the Philippines. It is a lovely representation of the good qualities of the Filipino spirit-  resilient, strong and giving.

Let me try to wax some poetry for these charming flowers:

Sampaguita, dainty and pure
Pretty little flowers, oh so demure!
A whiff of your essence, alluringly sweet
My Sunday morning is now complete.

June 12, 2011- 113th Philippine Independence Day

Last June, my aunt and I went on a trip to Hong Kong. We flew from Butuan to Manila on June 12. Our flight to Hong Kong was on June 13 around 8AM. We have the afternoon of June 12 to spare. What better way to spend than to visit Luneta. It was Independence day after all.

Luneta is the park in Manila where a monument of the Philippine's national hero, Jose Rizal, stands. Almost every town in the Philippines has a Rizal park. Luneta is the mother of all Rizal parks. Luneta was formerly known as Bagumbayan. It is where Jose Rizal was executed by the Spaniards through firing squad.

I have never been to Luneta. My mother used to tell as a child that the Jose Rizal monument has guards. I remember my mother saying, “Why do they have to guard him when he is already dead? It was only just a statue. It is not like they (the Spaniards) can kill him again.”  I was amused at her story.  I was doing my grade one project on heroes when she told me this. (Papa recorded our conversations on a cassette tape. One day I will convert it to digital format. )  My father, on the other hand, had some riddle in Bisaya (or Ilonggo?) referring to Rizal: “Hantungtung habato, hapilit ha posporo, ha uwanan ha initan, dili hahilantan“. Roughly translated: ‘ On top of the rock, glued on the match. Rain or shine, he will never get sick.”

Jose Rizal: On top of a rock (concrete) and on a match

 LUGGAGE & MORE

Because our flight is on 8am the next day, I already told my aunt beforehand that we are going to sleep at the airport. She needed no convincing because my cousin’s house is in Fairview and my aunt knew how far is that place from NAIA Terminal 3. While I was planning for the trip, my only problem is where to leave of our luggage. I can carry my backpack but I do not think my 65-year-old aunt would want to carry her bag while we stroll Luneta. Good thing I came across an article about Luggage & More. It is a luggage storage facility in NAIA terminal 3. For P150, you can leave your small bag for 3 hours; P300 for more than 3 hours up to a day. Large bags have different rates . The facility is tucked in the right wing of the arrival area. Ask an airport personnel for directions. Luggage & More opens at 6am and closes at 11pm. If you have a plane to catch early in the morning and you leave your bags there, make sure to pick them up before they close.

NAIA Loop and LRT

The commuter in me already search the cheapest way to reach Luneta. The airport taxi’s flag down rate is P70. So, that was not an option for the budget travelers like us. Good thing there is the NAIA Loop. It plies from NAIA3 to Pasay Rotunda for P20 per person. Waiting time is longer though. I think we stood in line for 30 minutes. My aunt had some crackers and candies so the wait did not seem long. Besides, we were busy chatting. It was a short trip to Pasay Rotunda. All I knew was that we passed Baclaran area. NAIA loop dropped us at the terminal near Taft MRT station. There is a McDonald’s and Chowking in that area so we picked the latter for lunch. I already researched beforehand the nearest LRT station to Luneta which is the UN Ave station. I already checked google maps and saw that I only need to cross a few streets to get to Luneta.


The Taft MRT station connects to the LRT station. We just had to follow the signs. The fare was P15 per person. When added, our fare from NAIA3 to Luneta was P70 -a steal considering the flag down rate for an airport taxi was P70. I am giving myself a virtual pat on the back.

One probinsiyana (from the province) booboo though: A man standing beside me on the LRT asked me for direction. Uh-oh. I was not prepared how to react. I knew he was from the province like me. He spoke to me in Tagalog with a hint of Bisaya (like me!). Plus, he was carrying a luggage. He asked, while we were approaching the Gil Puyat Station, “Dito ba Buendia?” (Is this Buendia?) . I stared at my ticket. There is no Buendia in the route. So I answered, “Gil Puyat, po“. The man did not get off on that station but he quickly realized his mistake and hurriedly left the train when we reach the next station- before I can say sorry. I should have said, “I don’t know” so he can ask other passengers. Gil Puyat Avenue is formerly named Buendia Avenue. Oops.

LUNETA

The map was right. Luneta was a few steps away from the LRT station. Since it was Independence Day and a Sunday, there were a lot of people in the park. I see families spreading a mat and having a picnic in the park. Mental note: I should do that one in my lifetime.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines showed their wares (hehe power?). I saw people posing for a picture holding some kind of weapon. There were long lines of kids waiting for their free ride in an armored personnel carrier. Cameras clicked on people in different poses in different areas of the military tank. Some posed with the soldiers. If not for the number of people, I would have had my picture taken there, too.

Tanque de Guerra

What to see in Luneta?

There is the relief map of the Philippines commissioned by Ferdinand Marcos.

Information on the Relief Map

I was trying to locate Mindanao. It is somewhere there.

There is a very imposing statue of Lapu-Lapu (the Filipino who killed Magellan in Mactan). While I was looking at the statue, I was thinking, “Lapu-lapu or Dagohoy?” I know. My ignorance showed. I got confused why Lapu-lapu was given a prominent place in the park. When you think about it, Lapu-Lapu is the first Philippine hero. He fought against Spanish invasion. (Dagohoy led the longest revolt against the Spaniards.) He deserved to be immortalized in stone! ( or is that bronze?)

Lapu-lapu

There are beautiful, old buildings near the park. The National Museum is near the park. This is the Department of Tourism Building.

Department of Tourism

The highlight of being in Luneta is to visit the Rizal Monument. FAIL! My senior citizen companion got tired of all the walking. The weather was warm and sunny. It would have been a perfect time for strolling. There are trees for shade. I even wanted to go Intramuros. As we walked towards the road that will lead to Intramuros, my aunt hesitated. The roads were empty and she was afraid we will get mugged or something. I was telling her, ” Why should we be afraid? This is the Philippines. Our country. You should be afraid tomorrow. We’re going to Hong Kong.” It has been my wish to visit Intramuros but my travel companions before were not as thrilled as I was in visiting there. Neither was my aunt. Hmp! Maybe I should start traveling alone.

Not yet Rizal, not yet. I will visit you one day.

The Mall of Asia

Because of the heat, my aunt wanted to go the nearest mall. After a train and a jeepney ride, we arrived at the Mall of Asia. I told her we should watch a movie. We checked what is showing and none caught her fancy. I wanted to try any 3-D movie but she doesn’t. So, we just roam around the mall and passed by an open area. I was curious so we checked it out. It is the Manila bay!

The Manila bay from MOA

I was thinking, “This is a good time to experience the sunset!” I wanted to wait for it but my aunt was too tired and wanted to sit down. She wanted to be in an air-conditioned area.

Tired feet.

We were sitting on a bench where people gathered. My aunt dozed off while I watched people go about their business. There was Filipino music in the background so I sang along to the ones I knew. When she woke up, we decide to find a place to eat. As we went near to an entertainment area where the music came from, we found out there was a free concert featuring Kuh Ledesma. We looked for a good vantage point and enjoyed the free concert. Henry Sy was there. He was on his wheelchair looking down from the second floor. I did not see his face but I saw the wheelchair as Kuh acknowledged his presence. It did not look like he had many bodyguards. He was watching like regular people.

Nice concert. Thanks, Kuh!

After we had dinner at Jollibee (Filipino fastfood chain for Independence day), we rode the jeep to the MRT station. I made a mistake of using the pedestrian walkway instead of the LRT station to cross the busy EDSA traffic. It was scary. We were on this metal platform traversing over a very busy highway (EDSA). We could see vehicles in moving fast underneath us. I could feel the walkway vibrating as I took a step. I kept praying that the walkway will not collapse. Thankfully, we reached the NAIA Loop station in one piece.

Another booboo: I thought the drop off point of the bus in the airport is the same place where we took the bus. While quite a number of people got off in the middle of the arrival area where the bus stopped, we stayed on our seats thinking we should stop near the area where we took our exit because the Luggage&More is near that area. There would be less walking for the senior citizen. I saw the confused look of the driver when I asked to be dropped there. As we reach the door where we exited, I realized my mistake. There is only one entrance. The door we used to exit was for exit only. We walked (long walk) again towards the only entrance (where the bus stopped first).

We gathered our luggage and found a good spot were we could spend the night. I thought sleeping at the airport was my novel idea.  Nope, there were a lot of people who found a good spot for themselves. A lot of them were sleeping soundly already.