NEW YORK CITY — When I had a chance to engage Iloilo City Tourism Officer Junel Ann Divinagracia in a long tete-a-tete at the Madison Square Park after the 120th Philippine Independence Day parade here organized by the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) on June 3, the first thing I asked was “Where is Department of Tourism (DoT) Regional Director Helen Camarista-Catalbas?”
Since two flashy regional festivals–Iloilo City’s Dinagyang and Guimaras’ Manggahan–and one trade mission were involved in the sizzling East Coast event, Atty. Catalbas should have been in the entourage, Divinagracia explained.
But because the new DoT secretary, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, has just assumed and has been constantly communicating with all regional directors in the country, Atty. Catalbas probably needed to stay behind, she surmised.
Divinagracia pointed out that Atty. Catalbas “has been very supportive” of all their programs, including both in their tourism and business-related activities, especially when Iloilo City hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministeral meeting in 2015.
I also missed Divinagracia’s predecessor, city tourism consultant Ben Jimena, who first accompanied the Tribu Panayanon during the 2013 Philippine Independence Day parade here in a delegation led by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
As I have asserted several times, City Hall should bring one representative from the Public Information Office (PIO) in the next trade mission and investment forum.
PIO Chief Lucy Montealto-Sinay or her representative would be able to greatly help sustain the publicity of the day-to-day week-long activities.
Mayor Jose Espinosa III talked lengthily and enormously about Iloilo City’s peace and order during the open fora.
It won’t hurt, if in the next trade mission, they bring along the chief or a representative from the Iloilo City Police Office (IPPO) to speak about peace and order and assure potential investors of their security.
There were other Ilonggos in the delegation who worked silently and were sparingly mentioned in the media but who, in one way or the other, have made gigantic contributions in the success of the first-ever private-initiated Iloilo City Trade Mission and Investment Forum Ilonggo Fashion and Jewelry Show in the East Coast on June 4-10, 2018.
I didn’t have the exact list of all Iloilo delegation members, but I spotted Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava, who came with his family. Nava talked about the Iloilo City Ordinance on Noise Pollution in the EduCare for Early Childhood Education talk in Fairfax, Virginia.
His wife helped model for hablon cloths in the Virginia leg fashion show.
Alma May Tayo, chair of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Iloilo Chapter Exhibitors’ Committee, also actively joined the trade mission in New York, Virginia and Washington D.C. and the New York City Independence Day parade.
City Tourism Operations Officer Florence King Haro Erlano and Iloilo City Tourism and Development Office staff Sheena Julienne Galon did amazing reinforcement tasks during the parade and the trade mission and investment forum.
Executive Assistant Jojo Castro, “Iloilo City’s Bong Go”, was with City Engineer Bobby Divinagracia, Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation boss Ramon Cua Locsin, and Iloilo City National High School principal and Tribu Panayanon tribe manager, Dr. Blesilda V. Floro.
City Mayor’s Office staff Rosita Celiz did a factotum for Iloilo City First Lady Gina Sarabia-Espinosa and Secretariat Chief Florence Hibionada.
The rest of the team, led by Dr. Emily Noserale Hagad, president and project coordinator of Philcoman Research Institute, Inc. in the private sector, were Commercial Diplomat for Trade Relations of the City Rex Aguado, City Local Economic Enterprise Officer Jose Ariel Castañeda, City Planning Coordinator Jose Roni Peñalosa, Western Visayas State University College of Communication Dean, Dr. Carmencita “Menchie” Robles, University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) Vice Chancellor Mary Ann Gumban, Iloilo Business Park-Megaworld Sales Director Carla Margarita Perez, Eon Group of Companies founder and CEO Felicito Tiu, StackTreck Enterprises CEO Billy Shung Hei Yuen, and journalists Tara Yap (Manila Bulletin) and Herbert Vego (Panay News), who also did Herculean efforts to promote Iloilo City as an ideal and perfect hub for business, tourism, education and investment.