January 30, 2012

DOT moves to improve tourist facilities

NO tourism enterprise should be allowed to operate in the country, unless it meets the minimum standards set by the Department of Tourism.

Lawyer Ma. Victoria Jasmin, DOT undersecretary for tourism regulation, coordination and revenue generation, said the agency is currently working on new hotel and resorts standards to be published before the end of March.

“This would mean that all primary tourism enterprises should be accredited by the DOT prior to operation, hence, they should comply with the DOT’s minimum requirements,” she said in a memorandum to Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., a copy of which was sent to the BusinessMirror.

“Primary tourism enterprises,” are defined in the implementing rules of the Tourism Act of 2009, as “travel and tour services, land, sea and air transport services exclusively for tourist use; accommodation establishments; convention and exhibition organizers; tourism estate management services; and such other enterprises as may be identified by the Secretary, after due consultation with concerned sectors.”

Jasmin’s memo was prompted by the recent publication of the results of a 2009 survey of tourism establishments in the country by the National Statistics Office —a joint undertaking with the DOT—which showed that 548 of the 1,475 “accommodation establishments” surveyed did not offer essential tourism services such as laundry, airport transfers, spa/massage therapy services, tour services, medical services, cultural and recreational shows, among others. (See "Tourism-wise, Philippines was not fun in 2009–NSO", in the BusinessMirror, Jan. 16, 2012.)

But she said those who responded to the survey were “both accredited and non-accredited facilities,” and that most of those failed to offer the essential tourism services “are non-accredited by the DOT.”

According to the NSO, the 2009 Survey of Tourism Establishments in the Philippines (STEP) covered four tourism industries: hotels and motels, pension houses, other short-stay accommodation, and transport equipment rental. Also covered in the survey were establishments engaged in: accommodation, restaurant passenger transport, transport equipment rental, travel agency, tour operator and tourist guide services, recreation, entertainment, cultural services and similar activities, financial and insurance activities, and health and wellness.

The survey showed “only 194 establishments or 13.6 percent of the total” were accredited by the DOT in 2009 and that “more than half of the total establishments with DOT accreditation in 2009 were…tour and travel agencies.”

“The respondents are a mix of big, medium, and small-scale tourism facilities which have varying all types of services offered to tourists,” Jasmin said. “It would, therefore, be inappropriate to assume or conclude that same must be required for all types of accommodation facilities, since different categories of facilities required different sets of services.”

She said the survey was also conducted “to determine at the time of approval of RA 9353 [the Tourism Act of 2009], the state of accommodation capacities in the country, so that appropriate measures could be undertaken toward ensuring that most, if not all accommodation establishments, comply with the necessary requirements for mandatory accreditation.”

Meanwhile, the survey also indicated a robust growth among tour and travel agencies—one out of 10 of such establishments said they were going to expand in the next five years.

Other significant findings in the 2009 STEP survey were:

Tours and travel agencies accounted for the largest number, or 60.4 percent, of the 1,430 establishments counted by the survey. This was followed by supporting and auxiliary activities to water transport industry (10.6 percent); Booking offices/Tourist assistance activities, not elsewhere classified (8.3 percent); Inter-urban bus lines (6.2 percent); Chartered buses and cars operation/Other land transport operation (4.9 percent). Domestic air passenger and freight transport/International air passenger and freight transport, registered only five establishments and thus classified under “other industries.”

Overall, the tourism industry is male-dominated at 77.2 percent of total employees in 2009. Only tours and travel agencies (60 percent), as well as booking offices/tourist guides (65 percent) were dominated by female employees.

Transport operators, tour and travel agencies reported a total revenue of P164.5 billion, of which 41.6 percent was generated from tourists. Among industries, domestic air passenger and freight transport/international air passenger and freight transport earned both the highest total revenue and revenue generated from tourists with P97.1 billion and P54.3 billion, respectively.

There were 1,012 tour guides registered, of which 74.3 percent were hired by tour and travel agencies. “One out of three tour guides were freelancers or on commission basis.”

A total of 5,319, units or 42.2 percent, of the total land transport facilities owned and operated by the establishments were cars/sedans. More than half or 3,285 cars/sedans were used as public utility cars and taxicabs.

(My piece was originally published in the BusinessMirror, Jan. 24, 2012.)

January 23, 2012

Luck for Aquino, disasters for PHL– feng shui expert

Master Joseph Chau, resident feng shui expert of the Mandarin Oriental Manila.

THE Year of the Water Dragon, which starts on January 23 will bring general luck and prosperity to the Philippines but because of a Disaster Star in the southeast where the country is located, it must be prepared for natural disasters during the year.

In a recent press briefing to announce the Chinese New Year festivities at the Mandarin Oriental Manila, its resident feng shui expert, Joseph Chau gave a preview of his forecasts for the coming year.

“The birthday of the Philippines is June 12, 1898, at 3:30 p.m. So the Philippines was born in an Earth Dog year, the month of the Earth Horse, the day of the Fire Horse and the time of the Fire Monkey. There are so many fire elements in the Philippines. In the Year of the Water Dragon, there will be an abundance of water. But what happens when abundant water and too much fire get together? They fight each other. But on the positive side, there is harmony because you need water to extinguish fire. So that means the Philippines will have good luck in 2012.”

The economy would face some challenges this year, he said, “fluctuating from time to time,” so businessmen are advised not to be “too stubborn” and to be “flexible in their work.”

The lucky businesses to engage in this year include lumber, fashion and garments, and publishing because all of these are ruled by earth elements.

“For the earth ventures to grow, you need water, isn’t it?” Chau said.

Lucky and unlucky directions this year. (Image courtesy Mandarin Oriental Manila)

He said banking, the production of raw materials and mining “will face many challenges this year,” with the real-estate industry and the construction business slowing down.

“If President Aquino wants to push the mining business, he must organize [the regulations] well so he can attract good business. For real estate, if the property companies want to be able to sell their buildings, they must consult a licensed feng shui expert before constructing,” he added.

He also said that for the banking industry to expand, banks should adopt longer hours like in Hong Kong, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“If you are a businessman, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. is too short a time to complete your business, especially if you’re coming from abroad, and your flight comes in the afternoon.”

What Chau was most excited about, though, was the tourism industry. He said the sector would prosper if the country were promoted well.

Lucky New Year platter at the the Mandarin Oriental Chinese New Year feast. Photo courtesy MOM.

On the heels of the newly launched tourism campaign of the country, the feng shui expert, who is a resident of Hong Kong, even declared “Chinese New Year is more fun in the Philippines!”

He said, “tourism is a water element, and can cool down the fire in the country’s sign. So President Aquino should tell the tourism secretary to do more promotions to encourage tourists to come.”

He suggested that the Philippines do away with visa requirements altogether.

President Aquino, having been born in the Year of the Golden Rat (1960), also has a lot of fire elements, and would need the water in the coming Dragon Year to “cool down. This will help him bring money luck to the country,” Chau said.

But he underscored the possibility of more rains, floods, earthquakes and “explosions” in the Philippines, especially in the southeast location, because of the presence of the Disaster Star in the southeast quadrant.

“These may happen in the months of April, October and January 2013. So I hope the government can prepare for these, and prevent them when possible. They must make adjustments to avoid flooding.”

Chau's forecast for those born in the Year of the Rat like President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Most of the zodiac signs are lucky in the Year of the Water Dragon, except for those born in the years of the Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012); Dog (1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006); Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009); Goat (1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991); and Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011).

The lucky colors of the year are gold, silver, white, sky blue, green, red, pink, violet, peach, orange, beige, yellow and brown.

The Chinese New Year festivities at the Mandarin Oriental Manila are among the most anticipated in the metropolis, outside of those in the Chinatown area in Binondo, Manila. They regularly attended by Vice President Jejomar Binay and his spouse, Dr. Elenita Binay, as well as business executives who work or reside in Makati.

(My piece was originally published on January 13, 2012 in the BusinessMirror. I own the copyright for the photos and video on this blog, except where otherwise indicated.)

* * * *

Here are the rest of Master Chau's forecasts for the different animal signs in the year of the Water Dragon (courtesy Mandarin Oriental Manila):

Your Chinese zodiac sign in 2012 (Year of the Water Dragon)

Or click here.

January 09, 2012

Impressive, incredible, sensational (slogans)!

WHILE doing research on the tourism slogans of other countries, I stumbled on the site of travel blogger, Fiona Cuillinan. In 2009, she compiled a list of slogans used in a number of countries, including our own (back then it was still "Wow Philippines, of course).

So I'm posting her list here. An asterisk means it's an updated entry or correction.

Albania A New Mediterranean
Anguilla Feeling is Believing
Aruba One Happy Island
Belize Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret
Brazil Sensational!
California Find Yourself Here
Canada Keep Exploring
Croatia The Mediterranean As it Once Was
Ecuador Life at its Purest
Viva Cuba
Egypt Where It All Begins
El Salvador Impressive!
Visit Finland Breathe
Visit Florida
Florida Keys Come As You Are
France Rendez-Vouse En France
Germany Affordable Hospitality
Grenada Rhythms of Spice
Hong Kong Best Place Best Taste
Hungary A Love for Life
I heart New York
Incredible India
Indonesia Admit It You Love It
Italy Much More
Jamaica Once You Go, You Know
Cool Japan
See the world. Visit London
Malaysia, Truly Asia*
Maldives Sunny Side of Life
Montenegro Wild Beauty
Namibia Land of Contrasts
New Zealand 100% Pure
Romania Land of Choice
Discover Peru
It's more fun in the Philippines*
Uniquely Singapore
Slovakia Little Big Country
Slovenia I Feel Love
I need Spain*
Switzerland Get Natural
Taiwan Touch Your Heart
Tanzania Land of Kilimanjaro Zanzibar and the Serengeti
Texas (visual representation of ‘Everything’s bigger in Texas’ – I think)
Amazing Thailand

Btw, the "I❤NY" is probably the longest-running tourism slogan in all of history, and according to marketing experts, it is the most successful as well. No wonder New Yorkers don't have any reason to change it. It was created in 1977 primarily for New York City, but was later adopted as a campaign for the entire NY state.

January 02, 2012

Doomsday you say?

FROM my friend, Manila Standard columnist Jojo Robles comes this cartoon:

Haha! ;p

Happy New Year folks!

Sharing the Noche Buena feast

Last of two parts

THE holiday season continues as we eat through more parties, food presents, and reunions with family and friends.

So what is your dream Noche Buena feast?

On my family’s dining table, the staples are usually a Chinese jamon, queso de bola (we prefer the more biting Dutch Master edam to the usual Marca Pato or Piña brands), and a pasta dish done by Big Sister or Kulit Niece. Then there are the ensaymadas from Mary Grace and the steaming Tsokolate Eh (Antonio Pueo) whisked to a froth with a batidor in an ancient blue ceramic chocolatera that’s been in my family as far back as I can remember. (For New Year, we decided to go a little more decadent and bought the fluffy and light delicious Cunanan ensaymadas.)

The other accompanying dishes usually vary depending on our mood and budget—sometimes there is Pancit Molo and prawns in lemon butter sauce. This year, we tried something new and had Baked Norweign Salmon with Pesto Parmesan from Dulcelin. (For some reason, Big Sister and I got particularly obsessed with a fish dish this Christmas.)

(Apples Chen with husband, Peter)

Our Christmas Day lunch would never be complete without a lengua dish from Mama or Big Sister. It takes me back to memories of my lola who was a superb cook, and whom I always hung out with in the kitchen as she experimented with a new recipe from a cookbook or from the women’s magazines she subscribed to. But her fork-tender ox tongue with tomato sauce, potatoes and carrots had been my favorite since I was little. It is a dish that will always remind me of the comforts of home and family, and I’m glad that Mama has learned to make it.

Of course, if I won the Super Lotto, I’d probably fly in Chef Eric Ripert of the three Michelin-starred Le Bernadin to whip our Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve feast. I know there are far more experienced French chefs out there, but Ripert is way hotter! And he’s a Buddhist, so I’d like to see if the family’s loud squabbling over the dining table would eventually annoy him and send him screaming back to New York. Hahaha!

(Rep. Jun Abaya w/ his wife Ria and their kids)

To continue, more thoughts on the Noche Buena feast from friends:

Rafaela “Apples” V. Chen, general manager, International Hoteliers and Associates (Shanghai) Ltd.—This year will be very different from my other Christmas Noche Buena feasts. For the past 15 years, my husband and I were always in the Philippines, but this time we will spending our Christmas in Shanghai. It will be a cold and chilly Christmas, but I will try to put on the table my favorite dishes that I could prepare here, like puto (China has this in their supermarkets), fruit salad, queso de bola, and I will have stuffed chicken that I can ask our chef to help me grill in the oven.

We will be missing the sumptuous food festivities but our thoughts will always be there for our families and mutual friends out there this season.

(Chef Joie Candelaria and daughter Jasmine Danielle)

Rep. Joseph Emilio “Jun” Aguinaldo Abaya, LP, Cavite
—I have an eclectic taste for food. I love mussels and oysters prepared by Mommy Alice in any of the fine-cooking traditions of my hometown Lawit, Mama Vivien’s laing, a bowl of chirashi, some fajitas or gyros, pizza with everything on it, cold shrimp salad. End the meal with a bar of Butterfinger and a hot cup of excellent Cavite coffee, and I’m content!

More important for me, however, is sharing my meal and a good conversation with my favorite people: my wife Ria; my kids Miong, Gogo and Ichay; my family and my in-laws. And if God will grant me a miracle, I would be most delighted to be in the company of my daughter, Veanna, and my great grandfather, Emilio Aguinaldo, both of whom have been granted, ahead of us all, the privilege of celebrating Christmas with the ultimate birthday boy, Jesus, in Heaven.

Chef Josephine Yu Tanganco-Candelaria, executive Chinese sous chef, Mabuhay Palace, Manila Hotel—Well, for me I still go for the traditional comfort food and then add a twist of something different. A Noche Buena feast should be a delectable combination of all the dishes that a family loves.

(Anthony Abad)

My family and I still take pleasure in drinking Tsokolate (Chef Konrad Walter’s recipe) to accompany my homemade bibingka topped with adobo flakes, melt-in-your-mouth ensaymada with queso de bola (Marca Pato) and bone-in-ham from Hong Kong served with Mantou bread. We also have creamy leche flan, lechon and lechon manok with my very own version of liver sauce, pancit malabon, barbecue pork, and—for dessert—moist dark chocolate cake, and of course my very own salted duck egg ice cream which my family and kids love!

Anthony Amunategui Abad, CEO, Trade Advisory Group—My dream Noche Buena feast would be a baked lechon de leche stuffed with truffle rice. Try it and you will know why!

(Patrick Tan)

Patrick Tan, vice president for commercial affairs, Southeast Asian Airlines
—For the past years, the Christmas/New Year staples on our family table have been an assortment of prepared foods like confit de canard (from the can, and then baked), pate de foie gras with truffles which we serve with crackers and lumpfish caviar; smoked salmon with capers, and different cheeses.

Our home-cooked foods include pata tim, cha-misua, duck casserole a’la chinoisse, callos, bacalao, and ox tail ragout. For dessert we have chocolate truffles, as well as fresh grapes and oranges.

The meals are characterized by richness and a variety that includes Chinese, French and Spanish dishes. This is what we have gotten used to and this is our dream Christmas meal. Of course we can never finish what’s on the table, but the meal symbolizes abundance, so it is appropriate.

(JJ Yulo)

JJ Yulo, founder, choreographer, GRO, Pinoy Eats World
—My lola’s food will always make it to my list of my fantasy Noche Buena, starting with her galantina. It’s basically a mixture of pork and other spices that’s been stuffed and rolled into a chicken—a terrine of sorts that is an absolute pain to make. It’s a labor of love, and it shows not only when you see it, but when you eat it. It’s been a Christmas tradition for me since I was small to get a slice, put some mustard and a bit of mayo on the side, and eat it with her signature bread called frescas (sort of like a brioche), and a bit of Russian salad, colorful with boiled beets. These are my real flavors of Christmas.

Since we are in fantasy mode, my lechon would be a bit different: the best Cantonese suckling pig I’ve ever had would be at this restaurant called The Manor in Hong Kong. I can’t figure out what it is about it, but my educated guess is that 1) it’s a specially sourced pig; and 2) they’ve been doing it so long that they’re masters in the art. The skin is impeccable—not a single bad piece—all loudly crunchy (you can hear your seat mate crunching), and with meat that’s so tender and succulent and flavorful with every bite. Their special seasoning is masterful too—it never gets too salty. It’s a game changer for me, palate-wise. I’ll take my Cebu lechon for Noche Buena anytime, but this—this is something else.

(Carla Humphries)

This meal would be consumed with all my loved ones around me, all laughing and making merry with no talk of politics or sad stories, and in attendance would be the Christ child himself, because even Jesus deserves a birthday party, don’t you think? And I really think he’d like my lola’s galantina.

Carla Humphries, actress—If I could not worry about gaining weight for a night, a Willy Wonka-inspired Christmas would be nice. Imagine all the chocolates, candies, etc., and not a single calorie on them.

(cont'd from last week, "The true spirit of Christmas is in giving," BusinessMirror, Dec. 23, 2011. My column, Something Like Life, is published most Fridays in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was published on Dec. 30, 2011.)