‘I’ve gone through your suggestions,’ Berna Romulo-Puyat responds to Lourd de Veyra’s open letter

The Philippines tourism chief writes back ... with an invitation

Last month, “broadcaster, writer and fortysomething backpacker” Lourd de Veyra offered a few suggestions to the new Philippine tourism chief, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. This month, she writes back:

Dear Mr De Veyra,

Please, call me Berna.

Thank you for your well wishes and kind words. If there’s a pundit I look forward to hearing from, it’s you, the distinguished gentleman from Project 2. Your reputation precedes you. I’m actually a fan.

I’ve gone through your suggestions and agree with many — if not all — your points. Since you took the time to write me in the pages of this magazine, I thought it only appropriate to reply here as well.

On the tagline, I agree we should make up our minds on what to use. Or at the very least, agree on one and build from that. I’m quite fond of “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”. Not only is it catchy, it’s also true! That’s impressive given how vast our country is and how varied our people can be. I can’t imagine it’s easy to capture the diversity of the Philippines in one campaign, let alone a tagline.

Going around the country during my years as part of the Department of Agriculture, I still find there’s a lot to discover… and that’s just the food! Imagine, there are 7,641 islands (not 7,107) in our archipelago.

But we need not go that far. I can only imagine how many different people you meet on and around your neighborhood. (I’ll let you know the next time I’m at Aladino’s. Let’s have beer and peanuts.)

On TVCs, we should talk. I’m open to hearing your ideas. I’ve seen a couple of your commercials. They’re very funny, if a bit naughty. I admit that I’m not too fond of melodrama myself.

Regarding the management of Boracay and restrictions, I agree again with you about talking to experts. Not just in fields like urban planning or green energy but also in the arts, including music. Given your sterling credentials in that area, I’m inviting you to be part of the Department of Tourism’s consultative council for Boracay and its reopening. I promise no karaoke.

On restricting karaoke, and in particular any attempt to sing “My Way”, I’ll take that into serious consideration. My dad likes that song a lot, so I have very strong feelings about it being sung badly. (He also likes “The Impossible Dream” which I’ve heard sung a lot more in karaoke sessions. Not better, I’m afraid.)

I have no opinion on reggae, so I’ve suggested we ask the musicians on the island to learn Radioactive Sago Project and Kapitan Kulam songs instead.

Oh, and no casinos too. Boracay will be an example of sustainable tourism.

I totally agree on highlighting our cuisine as a tourist attraction. Food tourism is something I’ve been pushing and promoting over the past decade and it’s something I’ll continue to espouse. If there’s anything I’ve learned in all my years working in government, we can disagree on politics but we can all get along over a meal.

I’ll see what we can do about how we describe those rock formations. Given your imagination I’m sure you’d have plenty of suggestions. I’m keen to hear them!

Any more suggestions?

Your humble public servant,

Berna Romulo-Puyat

P.S. I’m serious about my offer for you to be part of the consultative council for Boracay. It’s pro bono work, but you’ll be able to make more suggestions and won’t need to trouble the editors of this magazine. It’ll be more fun. Where else but the Philippines, right?

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

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