Thursday, November 25, 2010

10 things that make PH ugly

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
THE DEPARTMENT of Tourism has taken a step back in its promotional campaign in order to do more creative thinking, after its new logo and slogan bloopers received a rain of heckles and even the President’s disapproval. Indeed, how could you sell Philippine tourism with an unoriginal-looking logo and a catchphrase that only Filipinos would understand? As in, “Ano raw?”
But enough with the heckling. The late, unlamented logo that bore close similarity to Poland’s, and the “Pilipinas, kay ganda” (Philippines, how beautiful) that netizens warned could lead to porno sites have both been dumped. A tourism undersecretary admitted to being overeager, took the blame and did the valiant act of resigning.

He didn’t have to resign irrevocably, if you ask me. How many government functionaries who have thoughtlessly or deliberately caused pain and embarrassment to this country have even hinted at resigning?

Now there is a rush of ideas on how best to sell the Philippines to the world through words and images. Many people still like the old “Wow! Philippines” campaign come-on that became popular during the watch of Richard Gordon as tourism secretary. His successor, Ace Durano, did not change it because it must have worked. If ain’t broke, why change it?
But I think the “Wow” has to be clearly spelled out as “world of wonders” which this country is. A sweeping “kay ganda” is not totally correct because of this country’s share of man-made ugliness (more on this later) that is evident as soon as one steps out of the international airport. “World of wonders” is more inclusive and could mean many things that don’t necessarily fall under “beautiful”: sun, sea and sky, music, food, art, nature, hospitality, spiritual healers, state-of-the-art medical facilities, religious sites, historical places, fiestas, etc. Wondrous is more like it. Even our garbage dumps have drawn special types of visitors, the so-called civil society “exposurists” and parachuting journalists. But that is another story.
I liked “Fiesta Islands,” which was the come-on during Mina Gabor’s stint at the DOT. It conjured images of endless merrymaking, azure skies, azure seas and islands gleaming in the sun. It had a mystifying feel and, just now, I remember writing a column piece titled “Islands”. The problem with “Fiesta Islands” is that tourists might not always find fiestas, which are held mostly in the summer, and, because of climate change, they might find flash floods instead.

Tourism websites vie with one another in Cyberspace. The first one I looked up was Poland’s which is highlighting the 200th birth anniversary of composer Frederic Chopin. You can even listen to some ├ętudes. No, they are not capitalizing on Pope John Paul II’s popularity alone, so we shouldn’t be looking at Manny Pacquiao to do it all.

Spain still has its “Espana” logo done in the style of famous painter Joan Mir├│. I have a T-shirt with that design. Malaysia still uses “Malaysia, truly Asia” and I liked the song that went with the first version. There is “Incredible India” and “Amazing Thailand.” Iceland (which I dream of visiting) uses the catch words “pure, natural, unspoiled” and Peru (of Machu Picchu fame) uses “Live the legend.” Sikkim promotes itself as “the land of mystic splendor” and the Maldives as the “sunny side of life”. There is “Definitely Dubai” and “Ultimate Italy.” These past weeks, one cable channel has been showing the “Enjoy Jakarta” ad without let-up, and I can’t take it anymore!

With the DOT “kay ganda” catch phrase out of the way, it behooves us to point out what are not “kay ganda”. These are the sights, sounds and smells which could easily be sensed and considered ugly but to which solution could immediately be found, if there is a will. We’re not tackling the more deep-rooted cultural faults and character flaws of Filipinos, but the tangibles that are obvious to the senses and which, come to think of it, may have its roots in our very selves, our attitudes, our selfishness. These are the ones that tourists would right away experience and be repulsed by. I asked around and here are some for starters (you may add your own):

1. Billboards from hell, the scourge of ad tarps—In just less than a decade, the urban landscape has been “uglified” by these gigantic outdoor ads that have defied regulation. Many times they have brought death and injury to people and destruction to property. Who would like to be in a place like that?

2. Garbage, garbage, garbage on the streets, in the creeks, rivers, seas and shorelines—Ugly, smelly and unsanitary, they have been a big cause of pollution, flooding, disease. Year in and year out we blame garbage for our flooding woes but…

3. “Spaghetti” cables—Look up and see snarled power and phone cables looking like cobwebs hanging on the Philippine sky. They’re not only ugly, they’re also dangerous when they became too heavy and fall because of their sheer weight.

4. Sticky matter left behind by spitters and nosepickers—Footbridges, overpasses, sidewalks, churchyards, markets and waiting sheds have lots of these shimmering blobs.

5. Buildings in a state of disrepair or with ugly architecture—Metro Manila has lots of these unsightly neglected structures that should be condemned and demolished. Many cities in the world have that certain look and feel that the design of their buildings, homes and other structures provide. We have not evolved our own look.

6. Potholes galore, bad roads.

7. Dirty toilets.

8. Untrimmed trees, neglected public parks and gardens.

9. Traffic and too many unregulated public vehicles, plus the noise and pollution they make.

10. Extreme poverty—This is not to say that the poor and homeless are ugly. It is poverty that is deathly ugly. Countless Filipinos are mired in it because...