May 21, 2012

Our ‘palangga’ Chef Pauline

‘PALANGGA” means beloved, darling, or dear in the Visayan dialect. And there’s nothing closest to my heart than Ilonggo cuisine, and its primary purveyor in Manila, Chef Pauline Gorriceta-Banusing.

Chef Pauline Gorriceta Banusing explains the elements of Ilonggo cuisine.

I met Chef Pauline during last year’s Ilonggo food festival at the Mandarin Oriental Manila and was just wowed by her cooking. Nothing impresses me more than Pinoy chefs who can cook authentic Filipino (or regional) dishes really well. No more Pinoy fusion, ek-ek arte stuff, please! (And seriously, after all that rich, fat, foie gras-stuffed duck breast or edamame and pomegranate-infused pasta salads, we still come home to our traditional Filipino comfort foods like inihaw na baboy, sinigang na baka, or tortang talong, right?)

Chef Pauline got into cooking when she went home to Iloilo, after graduating from her Social Science degree from the Ateneo de Manila University. Her father had passed away by then and and she helped her mom run the latter’s fastfood and ice cream house chain called “Try Me!!!”

“At the time, we had 12 branches. Because of this experience, it dawned upon me that I really loved to be in the food and restaurant industry. Working hands-on in my mom’s restaurants showed me the reality that running a restaurant is not glamorous at all, but really hard work. I went to study abroad because I had this ambitious vision that I wanted to change the culinary scene.”

She confesses that she was not really into Ilonggo cuisine when she started cooking some 15 years ago. “Honestly, I did not know how to cook Ilonggo food. I just refused to learn. Kasi your maid will cook it, ’di ba? And hindi sosyal, and you always want to be sosyal,” she giggles at the recollection.

In fact, when she was studying at the Culinary Institute of America for her two-year course, she says she cooked sotanghon guisado and adobo, for the school’s international food festival!

When she returned to Iloilo after that CIA stint, she put up an Italian restaurant called Al Dente at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center, which is still around to this day. Knowing the Ilonggos (my family hails from nearby Roxas City), this probably made many think her as buang (crazy).

“They thought it would last only for a year or so, since Ilonggos are very picky with food. I had to be focused and humble to reach my goal and luckily, I succeeded,” says the ever-amiable Chef Pauline. (Since then, she has opened other restaurants in Iloilo as well, such as the Maki Japanese Restaurant, Villa Regatta, 101 Luna and Steps of Rome, and conceptualized the menu for Freska here in Manila).

Kansi (tender beef shanks in a broth soured with batuan seeds. It's like sinigang na baka, or bulalo.)

As her culinary talent became more well-known, she was hired to do caterings by private companies, local governments and politicians. “[They] would hire me as their caterer and they wanted to impress their guests with our local cuisine. That started it all. So I said to myself that if I had to do it, I had to do it right and it had to be good. I didn’t want to pretend to know something that I don’t and just come up with something mediocre. So I had to learn by asking, researching and experimenting.”

She adds that she’s been fortunate in this regard because these traditional cooks have been very generous in sharing their recipes with her. “I’m just so lucky. Every time I ask this person who makes this dish well, he/she teaches me. I ask these traditional cooks, ‘How do you do this?’ I have to be honest. I tell them I want to make it well. I don’t want to make it commercialized. They’ll teach you. You just have to ask them how to make it,” says Chef Pauline.

Using only the freshest ingredients and following recipes handed down through generations from several families, Chef Pauline weaves her magic and offers up the most delightful dishes that are sure to perk up your palate, fill your tummy, and warm your heart.

Her kansi, for instance, is just to die for. During a recent media lunch to preview her dishes for an upcoming food festival, I headed straight for the steaming pot of kansi at the buffet table. The beef was so tender, and the broth just had the right hint of sourness—a soup that just fills your soul! Of course, I just had to have two bowls of that.

Lobo-lobo (Local anchovy cooked in tuba, sugar, tomatoes, and garlic, and wraped in banana leaf)

There were oysters from Aklan, diwal (angel wings) clams from Capiz that were fresh and plump, as well as prawns also from Capiz which she served with a heart-stopping aligue (crab fat) sauce. Mmmmm.

Another favorite was the kinilawin na tanigue (Spanish mackerel ceviche), where Chef Pauline used tuba (coconut vinegar) to give the dish some light sweet notes. A new find for me was the lobo-lobo, tiny anchovy-like fish akin to the dulong in Luzon which she cooked in tuba, sugar, tomatoes, and garlic, and served wrapped in a banana leaf. I ate it, atchara-style, pampaalis-suya to my rather gut-busting meal.

She says her only regret is that she hasn’t learned to make the suman and other native delicacies that Iloilo is known for. “They just don’t want to teach me,” she said of the original makers. Well, no matter, your meal at the foodfest will still end on a high note once you get a taste of her Yema Cake. It’s rich and sweet, with some crunchy bits that will gladden your sweet tooth.

What makes Ilonggo cuisine distinctive, she explains, is the use of batuan seeds as souring agent, and the sinamak (spiced coconut vinegar). Most Ilonggo dishes cannot be cooked without either of those two ingredients.

“This Ilonggo food festival is special to me since I had proved that Iloilo food is so loved by many, not just by Ilonggos. Therefore, I am no longer hesitant to introduce other Ilonggo dishes that would seem rather too ‘native’ for others. All throughout the festival, I will be using this tul-tol salt that I got from Guimaras—it’s a slab of homemade rock salt. The salt is made from seawater mixed with small amount of coconut cream, then boiled for day in a vat until it produces a hardened rock salt. I’ve been told to make the dishes for the festival as authentic as possible, so I decided for this year to have everything—even the salt, vinegar and honey—from Western Visayas.”

Lukon na may aligue (Prawns with crab fat sauce)

After doing a number of food fests here in Manila, she says she has an “idea” already of what the public wants and expects from an Ilonggo festival. “But at the same time, I am more confident now in introducing other dishes that may seem very new for non-Ilonggos. For example, I’m bringing the lowly sidewalk lobo-lobo delicacy to a five-star hotel and making it look and taste good. Just expect the unexpected. What makes my Ilonggo cooking different from the rest is that I adhere to healthy cooking and using healthy ingredients. Nothing too fatty, nothing too rich, nothing too deadly. [Laughs] Everything’s just right.”

Chef Pauline says she will also be highlighting the traditional method of drying seafood, or lamayo. “Before, Iloilo used to harvest lots of seafood. What did they do with the excess? Well, they put calamansi and soy sauce, then dried the seafood under the sun for 24 hours. After that, you can fry it; it’s so good!” she enthuses. Namit! (Delicious!)

When in Iloilo, what keeps our bubbly chef occupied are her restaurants, her catering service which specializes in all kinds of cuisine, and of course her family. Chef Pauline is married to Gus Palmares Banusing, a businessman “now busy training for Ironman Philippines 2012!” She lets out a laugh. They have two bright-eyed kids named Justin and Nadine.

The Ilonggo food festival “Diwal and Other Ilonggo Flavors” will be from May 25 to June 3, available for lunch and dinner, at the Paseo Uno, Mandarin Oriental Manila. For information, call 750-8888 or e-mail

(My column Something Like Life is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on May 18, 2012. All photos copyrighted by this blogger.)

China tourist booking cancellations extend until Jan. 2013

MANILA, Philippines – It may be worse than we thought. In the latest development seen as part of the continuing fallout from the maritime spat between Manila and Beijing over Scarborough Shoal, cancellations by Chinese tourists on trips to the Philippines have already reached until January 2013, according to a regional tourism official.

In a text message to, Atty. Helen Catalbas, officer-in-charge for Region 6 (Western Visayas) of the Department of Tourism said: “as of 4 p.m. (on May 14), 163 AAA and AA rooms have reported cancellations of Chinese bookings and one AAA resort have 230 cancelled room nights from July 2012-January 2013.”

She declined to estimate how large a dent these cancellations would have on the overall tourist arrivals in the island, but said her office was still monitoring the situation in Boracay, one of the country’s biggest tourism draws because of its vaunted lovely beaches. (Click for the rest. Originally published on May 16, 2012.)

May 13, 2012

China travel ban to Philippines imminent?

The Philippine tourism industry is bracing itself for an imminent travel ban by the Chinese government, as tensions over the disputed Scarborough Shoal continues to heighten.

This developed as Cebu Pacific said it had to suspend its twice-weekly charter service between Shanghai and Clark, "effective May 12" after a charter company in China cancelled its bookings.

By late afternoon Thursday, the Department of Tourism confirmed that some hotels have already reported booking cancellations from China.

Latest data from the DOT showed in the first quarter of 2012, Chinese tourists jumped by 77.53 percent to 96,455 from 54,332 in the same period last year. China is the Philippines' fourth largest market for tourists, accounting for 8.4 percent of market share from January to March 2012. (Originally published in, May 10, 2012.)

Chinese travel agencies cancel trip to Philippines

SHANGHAI -- (UPDATE - 4:12 p.m.) Chinese travel agencies have suspended tourist packages to the Philippines and promised refunds to customers who have booked trips, Chinese state media reported Thursday, as tensions over disputed islands in the South China Sea escalated.

Companies including and Beijing International Travel Service have halted all tours to the Philippines and say they will not accept bookings until the situation improves, Chinese media reported.

China is the Philippines' fourth major source of visitors, with 96,455 arrivals recorded in the first quarter of this year, a 77.53 percent increase over the 54,332 arrivals in the same period last year.

The Department of Tourism said it had not been officially informed of the plans of the Chinese travel agencies to suspend tours to the Philippines.

In a text message through his office, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said: “As far as the DOT is concerned, we have not been officially informed of the advisory [from China travel agencies].” (Click for the rest. Published on May 10, 2012.)

Tourism-related stocks dip after news of Chinese tour suspensions
MANILA, Philippines -- Tourism-related stocks took a dip in mid-afternoon trade, shaken by the news that travel agencies in China are suspending tours to the Philippines.

As of 3:15 p.m., share price of Bloomberry Resorts Inc. fell 4.21 percent to P9.18; AGI, operator of Resorts World, was down 5.55 percent to P12.94; Waterfront Philippines Inc. was off 10.43 percent to P0.43; and Cebu Pacific dipped 2 percent to P68.59.

News of the suspension of the Chinese tours came a day before scheduled worldwide protests by Filipinos against China’s continued intrusion into disputed territory in the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

China has also issued a travel advisory warning its citizens against travel to the Philippines.

“Obviously their main business will be affected,” Astro del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Finance, said of the dip.

“China’s contribution to overall tourism in the country is quite significant,” Del Castillo said. “But the escalation tensions in the disputed territory are obviously brought on also by the stories in the media of the actions taking place here.” (Originally published in, May 10, 2012.)

Rising after a fall

LAST week the entire country had a chance to put its best foot forward as Manila played host to over 4,300 delegates attending the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The last time the country organized a similar ADB event was in 2003. I don’t remember it generating as much excitement and activities as this recent ADB meet did.

Similarly, I put my best foot forward as well as I strove to cover the various press events, but promptly fell flat on my face—literally. I don’t know exactly know how it happened. One minute, Torrid (a media colleague) and I were strolling inside the media center, and a split-second later I was splayed on the floor, my entire mouth hitting the floor rather painfully, and my ego bruised as hell.

It happened so fast, and the only thought balloon I could come up with was “WTF?!?!” The second thought balloon was “Shet. Buti na lang walang gwapo.”

A little rewind here. Prior to this rather unforgettable ADB “event” (my own contribution to the entertainment of delegates), I arrived in a rush at the PICC, where the main activities were happening. I was running late for the first press briefing of the day, and I still had to get my delegate ID at the adjacent building.

By the time I was on my way to the first presser, I must’ve already looked like a baggage handler at the Naia. Aside from my regular handbag, which contains half of my house of course, I had an extra bag for my iPad and keyboard. The laptop bag also held a pair of flat sandals for the trip home, as I knew my feet in heels would not survive the long day. Then of course, there was the ADB swag bag as well which contained not only a booklet of event schedules, but little tokens of hospitality from the government as well as sponsors—a photo frame, a coaster made from capiz shell, ballpens, notebooks, a USB flash drive, to name a few.

So you can probably imagine how I had to wrestle with all that and try to look good as well in my business clothes and heels. I managed to survive the press briefing after walking a rather long distance to get to the venue (pant! pant!), then also the media luncheon after where the usual jokes flew among my fellow reporters across the dining table.

Going to the media center was the next challenge. Despite the various notices along the halls, the media center was still beyond our reach. We proceeded to ask a guard who seemed to have a general idea where it was—the third floor, he said—the same floor Torrid and I had been scouring. Duh.

Of course, when we finally found our way after some yellow-shirted ushers pointed us to the right direction, I decided that I wasn’t satisfied with just Torrid’s attention. I was greedy for my colleagues’ as well and promptly dived to the floor, trying to swim without water, and with my clothes on.

I can laugh about it now but seriously, those initial moments shook me up. And it seemed like I was on the floor forever, the people around too shocked as well to know what to do. There was just no way in hell I could do a Miriam Quiambao and immediately stand up flashing a wide Close-Up smile, because I was simply too weighed down by my three ginormous bags.

Then I nervously giggled, amused at my predicament. Next thing I know, Torrid was helping me up, along with a waiter (I think), as the ADB media center folks expressed concern if I was okay. I asked some dude if I was bleeding, and he answered that I still looked like “a million bucks”. (Thank you, nameless ADB media person, for lifting my ego.)

My left arm hurt a little though, as I was assisted to a computer table where I plunked down by bags and sat still a bit shaken but with my wits finally about. With my left arm just hanging by my side, I proceeded to rush a few stories for my publications and my regular column, typing with only my right hand.

Of course, it happens to everyone, as a friend pointed out. It may not be as physical a tumble as what happened to me, but many of us do buckle under the weight of psychological stress, or our emotional baggage.

Problems involving our family, issues at work, or hiccups in our love life can trip us over. For a few, they can easily get up and dust themselves off with nary a dent to their self-esteem. For others, the spill can be more distressing—causing sleepless nights, loss of appetite, even depression.

When the latter happens, we must remember that we don’t have to work through the difficulties alone. I have found that in times of torment, there are quite a few people—close buddies or even family members—who are willing to help and assist us overcome our pain. All we need to do is reach out and accept their helping hand.

Sure, it may take a while to heal after one’s collapse, and the emotional scars will probably linger for a long time, but we have no choice but to get up and move forward. Doing otherwise condemns us to a bitter life full of resentments and grief-stricken misery, the capacity for any sort of happiness ultimately cut down.

No one wants to be around toxic people like that. And if we have any care at all about our mental or psychological health, rising after a terrible fall is the only antidote to any distress.

(Originally published in the BusinessMirror, May 11, 2012. My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section in BM, Image from Kid clip art.)

Saying ‘Bon appétit!’ in Beijing

One of the top entrees at Maison Boulud consists of thick cuts of well-seasoned seared lamb chops with ratatouille minted basil pesto. (Photo copyright owned by this blogger.)

I was in Beijing and I had been eating Chinese food for days. But it was getting to be a bore.

Don’t get me wrong. I found Beijing cuisine surprisingly superb, even if I did order from restaurant menus blindly. This involved a large amount of wild gesticulating and pointing on menus with photos over Chinese script, while I exchanged short simple words with the food attendants who said “yes” to everything, even if my question didn’t call for such a response. “So what’s in this dish?” “Yes.” (Uh-oh. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!)

But it was the fourth day of my stay and I seriously needed something different to appease my restless tastebuds.

Not sure if I would ever pass this way again, I grabbed the opportunity to dine in Chef Daniel Boulud’s first China outlet, the Maison Boulud a Pekin. (Click for the rest of the piece and a slideshow. Originally published on May 1, 2012.)

May 12, 2012

Clark too far for locals, tourists–Delta Air exec

Steven Crowdey (third form left), Delta Air Lines Inc. general manager for Australia, Micronesia, and the Philippines, was a guest panelist at a forum hosted by the Department of Tourism, which unveiled the agency’s national strategy to boost tourist arrivals in the country. Other panelists are (from left) Camarines Gov. LRay Villafuerte; Pagcor Chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr.; Joy Bulauitan, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority assistant chief operating officer; and Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz. (DOT photo)

AN OFFICIAL of Delta Air Lines Inc. urged the Philippine government to rethink its plans to transfer the country’s premier international gateway from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) in Parañaque, to the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

Steven Crowdey, Delta’s general manager for Australia, Micronesia and the Philippines, also told a gathering of tourism industry stakeholders on Thursday, that “I disagree that Naia is the ‘worst airport in the world’. There are others [which are] worst.”

While he didn’t identify those other airports, his pronouncement was met with cheers from the representatives of various tourism sectors who had gathered for the unveiling of the National Tourism Development Plan, by the Department of Tourism at the SMX Convention Hall.

His statement was in reaction to a travel blog’s tag in October on the Naia as the “worst airport in the world,” and to CNNGo’s ranking of the facility as fifth among the “world’s most hated airports” in November.

The DOT forum, dubbed “Tomorrow’s Tourism: Harnessing the Growth Potentials of the Tourism Sector,” was held in conjunction with the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank held in Manila from May 2 to 5.

“Clark is a very long way from Manila proper,” said Crowdey, in an interview with the BusinessMirror, after the forum. “It’s farther than Hong Kong is from the Hong Kong [International] Airport. It’s much farther than Narita [International Airport] from Tokyo.”

Besides, he added, foreign tourists don’t use public transportation in Manila like they do in Hong Kong or Tokyo.

“So I think there are massive challenges in trying to get people from Clark down to the city proper.”

Also the first vice chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR), Crowdey said if passengers had to transfer from Clark, on top of their long-haul flight, the country would likely not be recommended as a tourist destination.

“You’re not going to get too many tourists recommendations, and you’re not going to get too many repeat visits. So I think it’s important that the primary airport remains in place to serve both those [foreign and domestic] tourists, and those 25 million Filipinos living in Manila and south of the city.”

Clark International Airport from the air. (Photo from Clark-Subic Marketing.)

Close to 30 million passed through the Naia last year, according to data from the Airport Council International, exceeding the total capacity of its three terminals. Terminal 1 was built to accommodate only 4.5 million passengers a year, while Terminal 2 (Centennial) was built for 9 million, and Naia 3 for 13 million passengers, or a total of 26.5 million.

Since the Ramos administration in the 1990s, the Philippine government has been eyeing Clark as a premier international gateway, due to the massive congestion at Naia. Summer, being a peak season for travel, has worsened the congestion with numerous flights delayed for hours, or worse, canceled, and causing hundreds of irate passengers.

The relocation plans to Clark have again been announced by the Aquino administration. Yet it has put on hold the controversial NorthRail project that would have linked Manila to the Clark terminal.

Meanwhile, Crowdey said there were no immediate plans for Delta to offer direct flights between Manila and the US. However, its Boeing 747’s currently serving the route via stopovers in Nagoya and Narita in Japan, are currently being refurbished.

“We’re about halfway through with the process at the moment. It will be complete by October. Some of the aircraft flying the route, all of them will have lie-flat beds and all of them will have video on demand in the economy class,” he said.

At present, Delta flies seven times a week from Manila to 10 gateways in the US via Narita, and five times a week to Detroit, the carrier’s hub for its flights to Asia, via Nagoya. Said hub and Manila routes were acquired when Delta merged with Northwest Airlines in October 2008.

“At the moment we’re looking at continuing to pass through Narita and Nagoya,” the airline official said when asked if Delta was considering direct flights between the US and Manila. “That’s how we can service the demand. That’s the best service. We can offer one-stop service to 10 gateways cities in the US. It’s very convenient. That’s how we think we can best serve the market.”

On the possibility of moving its operations to Naia Terminal 3 from Terminal 1, Crowdey said, like other international carriers, Delta is “willing [to move] subject to” certain conditions that need to be met by the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa), the manager of the Naia airport terminals.

“We have some security requirements. We have requirements in terms of space, offices and lounges. A cargo facility next to the terminal would be nice. And all these discussions are ongoing with current airport authorities. So we’re interested in moving, but only if ‘a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h’ [are] completed,” he stressed.

The Arroyo administration expropriated the facility in December 2004, when it was already 99-percent complete, alleging anomalous changes in the build-own-transfer contract between its original owners PairCargo and Fraport AG, and the administration of former President Joseph Estrada.

Foreign carriers bucked the transfer to Naia 3 then, citing uncertainties due to the legal issues arising from the government takeover.

Crowdey said the response from the Miaa regarding the requirements of foreign carriers “has been very positive. So we’re working through those with [Miaa].” If ever these issues are fully addressed this year, he said they could move to Naia 3, but “it is going to be very late in the year.”

Only AirPhil Express - the budget carrier affiliate of Philippine Airlines - Cebu Pacific, and Japan carrier All Nippon Airways - are currently flying out of Naia 3.

BAR is composed of representatives of some 30 foreign carriers operating in the Philippines. It has been very vocal in asking the government to address issues that are hampering the carriers’ profitability.

(Originally published in the BusinessMirror, May 7, 2012.)

DOT launches national tourism blueprint

THE Aquino administration is planning to spend some P74 billion beginning this year in an effort to reach its targeted arrivals of some 10 million international, and 35.5 million domestic travelers by 2016.

The amount will be poured into infrastructure, improvement of tourist sites and marketing support, over a four-year period until 2016, according to the recently unveiled National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP).

As this developed, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said initial promotion efforts of his agency have already started bearing fruit. In the first quarter of 2012, inbound tourism jumped by 16 percent to 1.15 million. This, he told a gathering of industry stakeholders on Thursday, brings the agency closer to its 4.6 million arrivals target for the year.

The increase is the market’s “quick response to promotion initiatives,” he said: arrivals from China grew by 77 percent, Korea 16 percent, Taiwan 37 percent, Australia 18 percent, the United Kingdom 21 percent and Germany 18 percent.

Under the NTDP, about P50 billion will be spent by the government to build roads and bridges, according to Rolando Canizal, director for the Office of Tourism Planning, Research and Information Management of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

For this year, P3 billion has been allotted to construct roads and airports, and P17 billion in 2013, he told the BusinessMirror.

The NTDP was presented by the DOT on Thursday (May 3) at an agency-hosted parallel forum during the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank.

The government investment under the NTDP, however, is only 29 percent of the P266-billion total investments needed by the tourism sector to reach its goal of increased visitor arrivals, and boost its contribution to the country’s total economic output.

Canizal explained that most of the investments, or P191 billion, under the master plan, would still have to be coughed up by the private sector.

“The balance comprises private-sector investment in hotels, resorts, leisure-entertainment-shopping, health and wellness, convention, event/exhibition, cruise and transportation facilities,” according to the NTDP.

An additional 50,867 hotel and resort units are being eyed for construction from 2012 to 2016.

During his welcome remarks at the forum, Jimenez said the plan lays out the strategies to be undertaken by the government to reach its tourist-arrivals targets.

Industry stakeholders, including representatives from the accommodations, transport, and conventions sectors, as well as travel agencies, attended the forum.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. unveils the National Tourism Development Plan, a P266-billion strategy aimed at increasing international tourist arrivals to 10 million, and domestic travelers to 35.5 million by 2016, at an agency-hosted forum on May 3, 2012. (DOT Photo)

The plan “cuts up” the country into 20 clusters, nine of which have been identified as priority clusters for investment and development, based on the “identification of secondary gateways as premier entry points” to these areas, explained Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz, for Tourism Planning and Promotions, during his presentation.

The nine priority clusters include Central Visayas, Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Central Luzon, Palawan, Western Visayas, Davao Gulf and Coast, Northern Mindanao, Bicol and Laoag-Vigan.

Corpuz noted that prior to the NTDP’s implementation, the goals of the tourism sector were hampered by “uncompetitive tourist destinations and products; limited flights and seat capacities, including the poor quality and limited capacity of international and domestic transportation and infrastructure destination, as well as other restrictions that have limited market access; and weak public-sector tourism governance and human-resources development policies and practices.”

To overcome these challenges, he said, the DOT will undertake strategic directions and programs—such as the development and marketing of competitive tourist products and destinations; improvement of market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure; and improvement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities.

The DOT said the implementation of the NTDP would raise the contribution of the tourism sector to 8.1 percent of the gross domestic product from the current 5 percent; and “directly employ 6.8 million that will account for 17 percent of total employment.”

Most of these tourism workers will come from the poor sector, based on the cluster destination framework of the master plan.

In addition, according to the NTDP, the planned investments versus the projected increase in tourist expenditures will result in an economic internal rate of return of 21.05 percent, and a net present value of P24.1 billion.

The NTDP cluster development plans will be undertaken in close coordination with relevant government agencies like the departments of Public Works and Highways, and of Transportation and Communications, as well as local government units.

Meanwhile, Jimenez defended the agency’s slogan—“It’s more fun in the Philippines”—against critics who said that the problems of the sector couldn’t be solved with just a tagline.

“Those who say that have limited knowledge of the persuasive power of words, of communications,” he said.

In his speech, he said the slogan “makes a compelling argument for choosing the Philippines as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. It is rooted in our competitive advantage, a ‘deliverable,’ where Filipinos put genuine value in being able to participate to make their guests feel at home.”

It is second nature to Filipinos, he said, “to be hospitable and seize every opportunity to make guests’ every visit to his home successful.”

The slogan has “energized” the system and “contains one thing that works so well in an open competition…it is the truth. It is about Filipinos and their infectious love of things the world tends to forget‚family, friends and communion with God and Nature,” he said.

The Aquino administration has just undertaken a P63-million advertising campaign over CNN. The DOT, and the departments of Budget and Management, Finance and Trade and Industry, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will shoulder the funding for the campaign. (See DOT starts intl tourism ad campaign on CNN.)

The DOT said the 30-second spots on CNN cost about P19,000 each. The rollouts of the ads was timed for the ADB meet and CNN’s special Eye on the Philippines programming. It will run in key international markets until August.

The 30-second ad, inspired by the memes generated by the slogan, is aided by music from Boney M’s “Gotta Go Home,” whose rights were secured by the DOT for worldwide use.

The agency also clarified in a press statement that of the Black Eyed Peas was not involved in the ad soundtrack.

“However, [he] is a very strong supporter of Philippine tourism as he reaches out to Filipino-Americans with various projects,” it added.

With close to 4 million tourist arrivals in 2011, the country still ranks way behind its neighbors—Malaysia (25 million), Thailand (19 million), Singapore (13.2 million), Indonesia (7.6 million) and Vietnam (6 million).

(Originally published in the BusinessMirror, May 6, 2012.)

NAIA is NOT 'the worst airport in the world' - Delta Air exec

"I disagree that NAIA is the worst airport in the world."

Thus said Steven Crowdey, Delta Airlines' general manager for Australia, Micronesia, and the Philippines - a pronouncement which was received with resounding cheers from a gathering of tourism stakeholders on Thursday.

Crowdey, one of the guest panelists at a parallel forum hosted by the Department of Tourism during the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank, also expressed optimism that the issues currently hampering the profitability of foreign carriers in the country, will be resolved by the government very soon, some of these, perhaps within the year.

The forum – attended by representatives from the accommodations, conventions, and transport sectors, as well as tour/travel agencies – was meant to unveil the DOT’s new strategy to boost visitor arrivals in the country. (Click for the rest. Originally published May 5, 2012.)

Making a Mark in the Olympics

WHENEVER Mark Barriga steps into the boxing ring, he feels a mixture of excitement and trepidation. With his heart pounding like a hammer in his chest, he knows that each fight is not just his own, but also for his family, the country, and the people who have helped him get to where he is.

In July he will be going to the 2012 London Olympic Games—an event that he admits is something that he’s never dared dream of. “Parang panaginip!” he tells me as we sit for a chat. “Sabi nga po nila, suntok sa buwan, pero kaya naman pala!”

Mark grew up in the outskirts of Panabo, a progressive city in Davao del Norte. He may not have had lot of material possessions, but he had a beautiful, supportive family and a good head on his shoulders. After all, boxing is not about just the physical punching; you need intelligence and the smarts as well to outwit your opponent.

His father Edgar, also an avid athlete in his younger days, encouraged Mark and his siblings Edmel and Kristel to engage in sports as well. Mark played basketball and other team sports from age 5. He and his Kuya Edmel often participated in barangay or school-sponsored sports events. They later concentrated on boxing because they felt it was the best sport suited to their abilities.

Even at the young age of 9, Mark’s skills and talent were spotted by boxing aficionados who convinced him to train further at the local sports center. More than the talent, they saw that he had the passion for training and exercise, as much as he did for throwing punches.

When I met Mark, I was kind of doubtful about his prowess. I mean, he wasn’t exactly the hulking Muhammad Ali or the towering George Frazier I watched years ago as a kid. Mark is actually slightly built, standing 5 feet flat—a few inches shorter than me—and he says he weighs 49 kg. But his handlers tell me he has won against much bigger opponents in international matches.

“Matatangkad po ang mga nakakalaban ko. Pinakamatangkad po siguro mga 5'7" na Russian nung game po namin sa Azerbaijan,” the 18-year-old shares. Mark apparently leverages on his speed and agility to beat opponents who are taller and have more reach than him.

Mark is currently in Manila training hard for the London Olympics, where he will fight in the light-flyweight division. He has also been to several Asian countries as well for further training.

“Si Coach Roel [Velasco] ang nagte-train sa akin. Nanalo na din siya ng medal dati, kaya siya po ang nagtuturo sa akin ng mga techniques. Gusto ko syempre mauwi ’yung gold, kaya po dedicated kami sa training at pag-ensayo.”
Mark says, his voice lifting, hoping.

His rigorous training includes several hours of exercising at the gym to toughen him up and running every day to condition his body further. This strengthens his legs enough to be able to continue shifting and moving to quickly evade his opponent’s jabs.

Mark’s father has always been supportive when he fights, but his mother Melita, whom he fondly calls “Momsky”, understandably gets all anxious. Most mothers, after all, are engineered to protect their children.

“Nasasaktan ako kapag nasasaktan siya,” says Momsky, almost teary-eyed when she talks about the struggles of being a mother not just to Mark but also to her other two children. “Pero dahil sa boxing siya masaya, doon talaga ang hilig nya, suportahan ko na lang siya,” she sighs in resignation.

The Philippines’ London Olympics hopeful, flyweight boxer Mark Barriga (second from left), and his “Momsky”, Melita Barriga. (Photo courtesy P&G)

Momsky, of course, is as supportive now of Mark’s as her husband. Even if she can’t give him advice on boxing techniques, she makes sure that Mark’s fighting gear is complete in his bag, or makes sure he has some baon—the little things that make a difference in any child’s day.

“Nag-aalala lang po ako kapag lumuluwas siya sa Maynila o sa ibang bansa, ’di ako mapalagay,” Momsky confesses. “At ang layo-layo ng mga laban nya. Mahirap puntahan. Mahal syempre ang pamasahe,” she says timidly. This is just her second time to Manila and her husband’s first visit.

And this is where Procter & Gamble (P&G) changed the Barriga family’s life. The company is a worldwide partner of the International Olympics Committee. This year it intends to go beyond supporting the athletes by honoring the loving mothers behind their success.

Starting off with a cleanup and modest makeover of the Barriga home in Panabo, the P&G team ensured that Momsky will have less to worry about when she returns from the Olympics. With a year’s worth of P&G products, the team hopes to lighten Momsky’s load of daily chores and tasks.

The company will also be bringing Momsky and her husband to London to watch Mark fight, and hopefully prevail over his opponents. “Salamat sa kanila, pati nga ’yung asawa ko makakasama. Mapapanood na namin si Mark.” Momsky says, her excitement quite palpable.

“As a company, P&G is in the business of touching and improving all people’s lives. Those who share this goal are the mothers,” said Chad Sotelo, P&G country marketing manager.

“We take this as an opportunity to reward our nurturers who saw the heroes in us and reared us to be the champions that we are in our respective fields. P&G is a proud sponsor of moms. We are now and we will continue to be,” he added.

Sotelo said the company is thrilled that Mark has made it to the qualifiers. “That alone is a victory to be celebrated. We would like to congratulate Momsky for raising an Olympic hopeful and all the mothers for raising everyday heroes. P&G is committed to walk hand-in-hand with you in providing the best for you and your families.”

I’m crossing my fingers that Mark does bring home the gold. It would be such a great honor for his hometown in Panabo, and for the entire country. But there will be no one more proud than Momsky.

To all momskies, I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day next Sunday. Keep inspiring your kids and help them reach for the stars, or in Mark's case, the gold!

■ How did your mother inspire you? What do you love most about your mother? Tell her at

(This piece was originally published in the BusinessMirror, May 4, 2012. My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday, in the Life section of BM.)

DOT starts intl tourism ad campaign on CNN

THE Aquino administration will spend about P63 million for its initial tourism- advertising campaign over CNN, government sources said.

The Philippines started its international brand-awareness campaign with a series of TV ads with the cable news network.

The first ad, a 30-seconder, uses photos and ideas created by the public, which was invited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to produce their own take on the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan it launched in January.

The ad is set to the popular dance vibe “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce, a collaboration of DJs Armand van Helden and A-Trak, which riffs on another artist, Boney M’s “Gotta go home” song. The ad also features of the Black Eyed Peas, rapping “It’s more fun in the Philippines” within the tune., or Allan Pineda Lindo Jr., hails from the Philippines, and has been creating songs for the BEP that incorporate Filipino lyrics.

A shorter version of the TV commercial, just 15 seconds, features a tarsier—known for its huge eyes—clinging to a tree branch and looking at the camera, with the sounds of the jungle playing in the background. The video ends with the caption: “Staring contests. More fun in the Philippines.”

Both TVCs have gone viral on the Internet and social-networking sites, a tack adopted by the DOT to enable the citizens to “own” the campaign, agency officials said.

The ads were produced by advertising giant BBDO Guerrero/Proximity Philippines, which bested seven other agencies last year in a bid for a P5.6-million brand awareness campaign for the Philippines.

The country hopes to attract 10 million visitors by 2016, when President Aquino steps down from office. With close to 4 million tourist arrivals in 2011, the country still ranks way behind its neighbors—Malaysia (25 million), Thailand (19 million), Singapore (13.2 million), Indonesia (7.6 million), and Vietnam (6 million).

In an interview, Domingo Ramon C. Enerio III, DOT assistant secretary for tourism planning and promotions, said, “many agencies participated in the funding requirement” for the TV ads currently running on CNN.

These agencies, he said, include the Departments of Budget and Management, Finance, Trade and Industry, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, aside from the DOT.

The collaborative effort among the different agencies, government sources noted, shows the seriousness of the Aquino administration in using the tourism sector to generate more income for the country.

With a sluggish manufacturing sector and export industry, owing to the slowdown in purchases by its major markets in the West, the country is hard-pressed to expand its economic output to cope with its burgeoning population.

At present, the economy is supported by billions of dollars in remittances from overseas Filipino workers, whose families are driving the consumption growth in the country.

In 2011 however, economic growth slipped to a feeble 3.7 percent, a substantial drop from the stunning 7.6-percent growth in 2010, as the government failed to invest in infrastructure and other projects on concerns of continued corruption within agencies.

While Enerio declined to reveal the total budget outlay for the TV commercials, government sources told the BusinessMirror it would be “around $1 million to $1.5 million.” The agencies, however, have yet to be informed of their respective shares.

This is still far below the advertising budgets of other Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Tourism promotion budgets of these countries range from $200 million to $1 billion annually. The DOT alone has a meager operating budget of P2 billion annually.

Earlier, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said the international campaign would also include billboards in major tourism markets, brochures and other collaterals. These are scheduled to be released by June.

Enero said the ads “will run [on CNN] all the way up to August in the US, Asia Pacific and Europe/Middle East.”

The DOT said the memes used in the ads were donated to the agency by several well-known local photographers like George Tapan and Gutsy Tuason. (The others who donated their memes were: Joey Rico, Abby Yao, La Venta 2012, Henson Wongaiham, Company of Ateneo Dancers, Darwin Dumaraos and Bottle School.)

The ads are being concentrated this week as CNN airs its special “Eye on the Philippines” programming and in time with the 45th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank Board of Governors, to be held from May 2 to 5 at the PICC. Enerio said the ads will run with the same frequency on CNN “until next week.”

Over 4,300 delegates from across the globe are expected to participate in the ADB meeting. The meeting, which focuses on “inclusive growth through better governance and partnerships,” will be attended by ministers and senior government officials, business leaders, representatives of other international financial institutions, and civil society representatives, a bank press statement said.

The meeting will be held “to discuss challenges and opportunities to ensure future growth reaches all members of society in Asia and the Pacific, where impressive economic forecasts often mask the reality that the region is still home to the majority of the world’s poor,” it added.

It is the second time the Philippines is hosting the annual meeting of the ADB, which is headquartered in the Ortigas central business district. The last time the country hosted it was in 2003.

Meanwhile, DOT Spokesman Benito Bengzon Jr. told the BusinessMirror that the agency has secured the rights to the song “Barbra Streisand” produced by Sony Music Entertainment. “We are still negotiating on the price but we already have the clearance to use it [worldwide].”

According to music industry sources, fees paid to use music especially for promotions vary depending on the market and the artist. One source said if used just in the Philippines, for example, “the minimum rate would be around $5,000.”

According to Enerio, the ads will have “different feeds and frequencies. This week Europe has 81 spots, Asia-Pacific 305, and North America, 153.”

Independent research showed a 30-second ad on CNN costs at least $25 per thousand viewers. The network is seen in more than 280 million households across the globe.

The Atlanta-based cable TV news giant is featuring the Philippines in a series of news stories, features and videos for its regular “Eye on” programming.

CNN began its “Eye On the Philippines” series on its web site on April 26 by posting a brief history of the country in photos, basic facts and figures in graphs, a feature on the newly opened Mind Museum at Fort Bonifacio, the search for the next boxing superstar after Manny Pacquiao and an opinion piece from New York-based Filipino journalist Sheila Coronel on fighting corruption under the Aquino administration.

CNN correspondent Andrew Stevens also interviewed the brothers Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala for the network’s Talk Asia program. The brothers discussed what it was like growing up in their illustrious family, which founded the conglomerate Ayala Corp., and their business philosophy.

Also on Talk Asia, CNN news anchor Anna Coren will be speaking with President Aquino. In a press statement sent to the BusinessMirror, the network said Mr. Aquino would be discussing opportunities and challenges currently facing the Philippines, as well as some of the experiences that have shaped him on a personal level.

Other features in the network’s “Eye on” series focuses on prima ballerina Lisa Macuja and Ballet Manila, the call-center industry, anti-piracy training, reproductive health, as well as in-depth reports on child labor and poverty.

According to CNN, its series on the Philippines will run until May 14.

Although long considered a shopping mecca as well as a beach lovers’ and divers’ paradise, the growth in tourist arrivals to the Philippines is often hampered by the country’s lack of adequate infrastructure, inadequate direct air connections and peace and order issues.

In August 2010, for example, a disgruntled policeman took hostage a busload of Chinese and Hong Kong tourists. The bungled rescue attempt by local police enforcers—covered by international news networks—led to the deaths of a number of the hostages. This resulted in an immediate decline in visitors from both countries. But the numbers have recovered since.

(UPDATE) : The DOT clarifies that their 30-sec. ad uses Boney M's "Gotta Go Home," not Duck Sauce's "Barbra Streisand." Also, did not participate in the making of the ad soundtrack. Subsequent interviews with DOT officials also indicated that each ad spot costs P19,000.)

(This piece was originally published in the BusinessMirror, May 2, 2012. Videos from YouTube.)

Sabal brothers rule Apo

(Veteran marathon runners Cresenciano Sabal, left, and Gerald Sabal, representing Team Bebang, win the 2nd International Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, Sunday. The Sabal brothers, both soldiers of the Philippine Army, clocked in at 15:38:33. The team, which also includes logistics crew Jhanalodin Lucman (not in photo), received the grand prize of P150,000.)

VETERAN marathon runners Cresenciano and Gerald Sabal finished first as a team, in the Second International Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge in Davao del Sur over the weekend.

Soldiers of the Philippine Army, the brothers Sabal with logistics crew Jhanalodin Lucman representing Team Bebang clocked 15:38:33 as they crossed the finish line at 7:02 a.m. on Sunday, beating last year’s record of 22:51:42. They won a cash prize of P150,000.

Cresenciano is a three-time Milo Marathon champion, while Gerald also regularly joins marathons. Both were in the CamSur Marathon last year, a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

Last year’s champion, Team Carmen of Davao del Norte, came in second with a time of 15:59:18. Composed of P01 Jonathan Pido, Ronald Dagaang, Edwin Bueno, the team won P100,000. The team was first to reach the summit of Mount Apo at 3 p.m. on Saturday, but a slight injury suffered by Dagaang may have slowed them down, according to race organizers.

In third place was Team Apo Ville from Digos, Davao del Sur, composed of Marcial Catanggui, Romeo Mascardo Jr. and Hilario Ladra, which clocked in at 17:12:58.

The Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge is a 24-hour extreme challenge using various disciplines such as mountain biking, trekking, water tubing and road running. The race covers a distance 90.3 km, including the 10,000-feet elevation of Mount Apo, and as such it is considered one of the toughest adventure races in the country.

In an interview with the BusinessMirror, Arturo Boncato Jr., regional director for the Department of Tourism-Davao, said this year’s race attracted 13 foreign and 35 local teams. Some of the racers come from Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. Last year, the first time the race went international, there were only 18 local and foreign teams which participated.

But it was the Filipinos who dominated the race.

He explained that most of the foreigners “were unfamiliar with the terrain,” participating in the race for the first time. “It also rained hard in the mountain and at the peak [Saturday]; that slowed them down.”

Team Champion Systems Adventure from Hong Kong composed of an Australian, an American, with a Filipino logistics crew was the first foreign team that made it through the finish line. They placed fifth in the race after Team DOTA, also Filipinos, from Davao City.

Fourth-place to eighth-place finishers get P10,000 for their effort.

Still, according to Boncato, “this is the biggest set of prizes among adventure races in the Philippines.” DOT-Davao co-organized the race with the municipal government of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

The Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge was started in 2008 and is one of the highlights of the annual Pista sa Kinaiyahan (Feast of the Environment) of the municipality.

(Participants in the 2nd International Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge set off on their mountain bikes for the first leg of the race, Saturday morning. Organized by the Department of Tourism-Davao and the municipality of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, the race this year attracted 13 foreign and 35 local teams.)

The race kicked off at 6 a.m. on Saturday with a mountain-bike race starting from the municipal plaza.

After the biking leg, racers had to scale the boulder face of Mount Apo, whose peak was first reached at 3 p.m. by Team Carmen. However, on the way down from the summit, they were overtaken by Team Bebang which reached the Sibulan pit stop at 9:30 p.m.

The race resumed at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, with a water tube ride down the river, then running back on foot toward the finish line at the municipal plaza.

Boncato said the annual race has made the Davao region a leading destination for eco-adventure tourism. It has also helped increase awareness about the importance of protecting the environment.

Mount Apo, an active volcano, was declared a national park in 1936 and a protected area in 2004. It is home to the Philippine eagle, and hundreds of other critically endangered bird and plant species. The national park is on the tentative list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as a Heritage Site.

At 10,000 feet, it is considered the highest mountain in the Philippines.

Data from the Sta. Cruz municipal government showed 923 climbed Mount Apo using the Sta. Cruz trail in 2011, up 19 percent from 2010. There are two other major trails going up the mountain’s summit from the North Cotobato side.

The 2nd International Mount Apo Boulder Face Challenge was also supported by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Region 11, Department of Trade and Industry-Davao del Sur, San Miguel Corp., Aboitiz Power Corp.-Hedcor Sibulan Inc.; Columbia Sportswear Co., Primer Group of Companies, Recreational Outdoor Exchange, and Zest Air.

(This piece was originally published in the Sports section of the BusinessMirror, April 30, 2012. Photos courtesy, the Department of Tourism-Davao.)

What are your kids up to this summer?

(So many workshops for your kids to enjoy this summer! Photo from

SUMMER is one of those seasons most parents dread.

Their kids are out of school for at least two months while they are at their offices toiling away. Who knows what sort of mischief the kids would run into?

And what if there are no househelp, grandparents, or other grown-ups to help supervise the kids? When I used to work for a government office, I’d espy some parents bringing their kids to work. (“Walang bantay.” “Walang pasok.” Etc. etc. etc.)

When my siblings and I were much, much younger, there seemed to be no surfeit of grown-ups around to supervise us. There was either a yaya or a smart househelp, and my ever-present Lola Ding and her sister Lola Lily. So even when my parents weren’t around, I was pretty much kept in line.

I would usually play with the neighborhood kids or by myself, reading or sometimes vegging out in front of the TV watching Sesame Street or Dolphy/Nora Aunor movies (my yaya’s influence).

But there were also the piano and ballet classes—which were de rigueur among middle-class families back then. I don’t remember what my brothers did during the summer—probably making mayhem with their friends, as there were no martial arts classes that are so popular among kids today.

When I grew into my pre-teens, there was tennis—I already had dropped ballet class by then, as it was just way too early for me at 8 am, whereas my tennis classes started at 4 pm. (I had always been an afternoon person even as a child.) I loved playing tennis so much I actually had dreams of becoming the first Filipina to win at Wimbledon.

One summer tennis clinic, I remember even watching the three Castillejo sisters—Jackie, Dyan and Nina, all budding tennis stars then—show off their form. I marveled at how the littlest one, Nina, could pack a wallop with her racket—the yellow ball sailing smoothly across the net into the other court and she was hitting it from her end of the baseline, mind you! She must have been only six or seven years old then, half the age of most of participants in the class. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments making me believe if she could be that good, I, the older player, could do better. (Unfortunately, college soon intervened and all my dreams to win at Wimbledon faded away.)

The point in these ruminations is that while kids do deserve a break from their studies this summer, it doesn’t mean that parents should just let them run wild and go unsupervised.

Kids still need structure and discipline even during vacations. Sure, they can wake up later than usual, but they should never miss any meals. Even if they’re allowed to watch TV more often than usual, the kids still need to be monitored on their viewing habits. There’s just too much trash airing on TV these days—yes, I’m referring to Jersey Shore—that some kids still manage to watch, especially when their parents aren’t home. Seriously, who would want their daughters idolizing Snooki and growing up like her? Ewww.

(Art classes allow your kids to express themselves in colors and paints. Photo from

Try to keep your kids occupied. Enroll them in short classes that will expand their knowledge or hone any talent that may have already been surfacing. Unlike my time where the parents’ de facto choice was either just ballet or piano, kids these days have so many classes and workshops to choose from – swimming, creative writing, painting, dramatic arts, taekwando, soccer, etc. (I leave out computer classes here because most of these kids are already tech experts anyway.)

Classes like these not only instill some organization in the way kids think or behave, it enables more face-to-face interaction with their peers and authority figures. They learn to deal with other people, how to solve problems, and they expand their social circle. More importantly, the learning happens in a fun, safe environment.

Of course these classes won’t babysit your kids for the eight hours that you’re in the office, but at least they’re not sitting at home just bored waiting for you parents, and getting into trouble. (You know what they say: “The idle mind is the devil’s playground.”)

Many of these classes don’t even have to cost a centavo. I’ve noticed several local governments that have announced summer classes for the kids in their districts. So parents should check with their city hall for these.

For the older, teenage kids, I think it’s also a great idea to make them get summer jobs. It’s never too early to instill the right work ethic in your kids, and since you may not have the time to teach them yourselves, making them work during the summer would accomplish that. (Or if you own your own business, then make them work for you.)

I’ve always admired Americans for encouraging their kids to get summer jobs, and learn to make money as early as possible. These kids are not afraid of manual work, e.g. they do paper routes, help out in stores, become waitstaff or kitchen staff at restaurants, etc. They learn the value of working hard early enough.

Also, these summer jobs are a good addition to one’s resumé for anyone who’s graduated from college and looking for a job. Companies on a hiring mode would normally prefer job applicants with previous work experience.

These summer classes and summer jobs will help your kids discover who they are and in many cases, the lives that they may want to pursue in the future. One foreign friend, for instance, used to work for a restaurant kitchen every summer when he was young, he later became a chef, and is now a popular hotelier here.

This summer, don’t let your kids’ free time all go to waste. Enroll them in summer classes, or tell them to get a job. These will help them become more responsible adults in the future.

(Originally published in The BusinessMirror, Apr. 27, 2012. My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of BM.)