An open letter to Philippine Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat

Broadcaster, writer and 40-something backpacker Lourd de Veyra has a wish list

Dear Secretary Romulo-Puyat,

Congratulations! I hope you’re settling in well as tourism secretary, which I think you’re perfect for, given your sterling record in government. I’m sure you’ve got this new gig covered, but as a wannabe part-time pundit (like every other Pinoy I know in and out of Facebook), I’ve got some, er, suggestions.

Can we stick to one tourism tagline? “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”? Not bad. “Wow Philippines”? Sounds fine. “Experience the Philippines”? Sounds fine too. Know what’s even better? One tagline to rule them all.

That “Anak” TVC? Sorry, but too melodramatic for my taste. And highly unrealistic too, because I know and I swear that my aunts and grandmothers in Leyte would surely call that foreign backpacker by one name: “Joe”.

Can we set a standard for Boracay and get super pros to manage it? No one needs reminding that that one little island is the billion-dollar epicenter of our national tourism. There’s a huge difference between giving a permit to a coffee shop and another to a karaoke bar. You can’t have your Big Mac and eat it on the white sand too. We, the urban orcs — with our tacky music and even tackier selfie sticks — have had our fun with the island for decades already. Let’s put substantial restrictions in place.

And while we’re at it, no casinos in Boracay, please?

I also really, really, really believe there ought to be less karaoke in general but especially in tourist areas.
I understand the Filipino urge to bleat Aegis and Air Supply with or without the benefit of alcohol, but karaoke on the beach is pure aural pollution. And that’s not even counting the narrative of “My Way” and its concomitant body count.

And just one more on Boracay: Can you ban reggae music? Specifically Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers — no disrespect to our man Robert Nesta, but I’ve had it up to my receding hairline with “Stir It Up” in Station 2, and the next time I hear “Jamming”, I’ll be jamming those Marshall amplifiers up some people’s [bleeeep!].

The Thais have shown us how street food, with the right presentation, can become a key tourism attraction. Have you seen the YouTube videos?! I could watch them in a half-trance all day. If we’re going to play catch-up, we’ll have to go beyond fishballs, isaw and balut — and show the world that Philippine cuisine isn’t all about Bizarre Foods or a challenge on Fear Factor.

Lastly, can you pass a directive to all cave guides to please stop comparing rock formations to religious relics and sensitive body parts? You just can’t unsee some things, and I’ve had a lot of nightmares.

*Lourd de Veyra

This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of Smile magazine.

*Lourd de Veyra is a Filipino broadcaster, musician and an award winning writer, whose works were recognized at the Free Press Literary Awards and the National Commission for Culture and Arts’ Writers’ Prize for Poetry. The three-time recipient of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature is currently host and writer for the News and Public Affairs program of TV5, guitarist for the band Kapitan Kulam and frontman for the Radioactive Sago Project.

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Lourd De Veyra

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