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Category Archives: TOURISM

Dinagyang’s New York trip on despite visa problems

“Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.”
— Zig ZiglarBy Alex P. Vidal
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NEW YORK CITY
 — The participation of a tribe from Iloilo City’s Dinagyang Festival in the 120th Philippine Independence Day parade here on June 3 was nearly canceled after tribe members encountered visa problems in the US Embassy in Manila.
This was revealed by Joji Juele-Jalandoni, former president of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI), who called up this writer morning May 26 to convey the message that “everything is set and ready after the problem has been resolved.”
Jalandoni, from Victorias Milling Company in Negros Occidental, said if the problem was not fixed on time, only the nine-day “Iloilo City Trade Mission and Investment Forum” from June 1 to June 9 would be held without the Dinagyang tribe in the parade to be represented by 2018 grand champion, Tribu Panayanon, of the Iloilo City National High School.
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Jalandoni said another tribe from Guimaras’ Mangghan Festival, Hubon Manguguma, will represent the Philippines together with Tribu Panayanon in the biggest Filipino-American Independence Day parade in the East Coast that is expected to attract some 100,000 audience on Madison Avenue.
“They (Dinagyang and Manggahan contingent) will arrive on May 31 (US time),” confirmed Jalandoni, a registered nurse in New Jersey, who is responsible for bringing the two festivals from Iloilo City and Guimaras here.
Problems hounded Tribu Panayanon after only 11 members were given travel visa by the US Embassy, Jalandoni said.
“They have to recruit warriors from Tribu Salognon who already have the visa in order to complete the team, thus the problem was resolved,” she explained. “It’s not nice to see only 11 warriors dancing during the parade.”
Tribu Salognon is the 2016 grand champion and represented the country in the New York parade’s 118th edition.
The first-ever trade mission, to be led by Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III and Mrs. Gina Sarabia-Espinosa, will fly to New York via Hong Kong on May 29 (Philippine time) and will arrive in the US on board Cathay Pacific on May 29 (US time).

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The Espinosa couple, accompanied by Iloilo City Tourism Officer Junel Ann Divinagracia, Executive Assistant Enrique “Rex” Aguado and Local Economic Enterprise Office (LEEO) chief Ariel “Aye” Castaneda, fashion designers Jackie Penalosa and Bo Parcon, journalists Florence Hibionada (The Daily Guardian), Tara Yap (Manila Bulletin), and Herbert Vego (Panay News), West Visayas State University (WVSU) College of Mass Communications dean, Dr. Carmencita “Menchie” Robles, among others, will grace the opening of Ilonggo fashion and jewelry exhibit at the Philippine Center Gallery on 556 Fifth Avenue on June 1.
The Ilonggo trade missionaries are tasked to “introduce” Iloilo City to New York City, Washington DC and Fairfax, Virginia through roadshows showcasing the creations of Ilonggo jewellers, fashion designers and property developers.
Espinosa will host a UP Alumni event on June 2.
The annual parade, spearheaded by PIDCI, will blast off at 12 noon on June 3, followed by cultural presentations.
The city mayor and several representatives from the private sector will hold the Trade and Investment Forum at the Philippine Center.

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Famed NY-based Ilonggo entertainment producer Jhett Tolentino will spearhead the group in a Broadway tour at seven o’clock in the evening on June 5.
An investment forum at University of North America, Fairfax, Virginia will be held on June 6.
This will be followed by a Childhood Education Study in Washington D.C. in the morning and Investment Forum in the evening at the Philippine Embassy on June 7.
The Iloilo contingent will tour Washington D.C. on June 8.
The will cap their US visit with a Philippine Independence Day Ball in the evening at Hilton, East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 9.
Members of the Iloilo Trade Mission depart to the Philippines on June 10.

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I hope there will be no regrets

“When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough.”

–Maurice Maeterlinck

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — If Iloilo City in the Philippines is a human face, the condemned Iloilo Freedom Grandstand sitting on the area of the 600-square meter Sunburst Park, serves as the face’s mouth.

It has been one of Iloilo City’s most prominent landmarks facing the “eagle” building on J.M. Basa Street for more than 50 years now.

In the name of development, it will soon disappear and relocated to Muelle Loney, adjacent to the waterfront area of Customs House Plaza, Sunburst Park’s old name.

Because of its intrinsic value, many Ilonggos have considered it as part of the metropolis’ tangible past.

Owing to its cultural and practical values and especially that it’s not an eyesore, some Ilonggos are sad that after the face of

“The Most Loyal and Noble City” or “La Muy Leal Y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo” has undergone a major surgery this year, its mouth, a reminder of the metropolis’ culture and complexity, will no longer be found under the nose.

In one of his “farewell” visits in various places in the Philippines, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by President Carlos Garcia, set foot at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on July 10, 1961 and delivered a nostalgic speech.

This event will forever be etched in the memory of the Ilonggos.

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We just hope that there will be no regrets after the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been demolished.

It can’t be denied that the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, renovated by the late Rep. Raul Gonzalez Sr. several years back, has brought character and certain charm to the neighborhood that Ilonggos had lived in ever since the late political maverick former Senator Rodolfo Ganzon gave it a sparkling name nearly 50 years ago.

Once it’s gone, there is no more chance to restore or save one of Iloilo City’s most memorable historic sites.

Once a major bureaucratic decision has been made with finality, no one can be certain what will be valued in the future.

Once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever like a member of the family who passed away.

The memory of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has taught us about the history that happened before we were born; it’s imposing image has promoted the respect for those who lived in different times and different political and social climates not only in the city and province of Iloilo but also in the entire region.

It has cultivated pride of our past and heritage making the Ilonggos unique in the world.

 

 

 

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Iloilo Freedom Grandstand perfect!

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” –Michelangelo

By Alex P. Vidal

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NEWARK, New Jersey — The present location of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on J.M. Basa Street in downtown Iloilo City in the Philippines is perfect.

Some Ilonggos find it difficult how to locate the Hoskyn’s Compound, the Iloilo Sports Complex, the Plaza Libertad, the Fort San Pedro, the Nelly’s Garden, the Jaro Belfry, the Rotary Ampitheater, Camp Martin Delgado, among other major destinations in the “City of Love”, but they know how fast to reach the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand.

It is the only public grandstand in the Philippines known for its easy access to the regional government offices, universities, parks, landmarks, churches, seaports and arrastre services, a shopping center, media institutions, a business center, a police camp, and the Filipino-Chinese community.

It is the only public grandstand in the Philippines where all types of vehicles and other modes of transportation, except airplane, can enter and park (the archaic Panay Railways used to operate in the back).

When Ilonggos seek redress of their grievances, they march to the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand.

There, they easily attract public and media attention.

The issues they bring before the bar of public opinion reverberate all over the metropolis and are easily circulated.

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When Ilonggos hold ungated mammoth cultural, political, sports and religious programs they easily attract national and international attention when they hold them at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand like the Dinagyang Festival, which recently commemorated its 50th year, miting de avance of political parties, and evangelical fellowship prayers of various religious denominations.

Red cross volunteers, social and health workers find the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand as the perfect venue to distribute truckloads of goods, medicines and other donations that need to be expedited for victims of typhoons, fire, and other natural calamities.

Because of its location, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been considered as the epitome of public service, the vanguard of freedom of expression, the sanctuary of the voiceless and oppressed, the mecca of tourism, the show window of the Ilonggos’ character and cultural heritage.

Bonifacio Drive is not a Bonifacio Drive without the Iloilo Museo and Iloilo Capitol, in the same manner that Calle Real is not a Calle Real without the Iloilo Ampitheater and the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand.

The J.M. Basa-Mapa-Aduana-Ortiz-Guanco rectangle would be arid and lifeless if not for the presence of the majestic Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, the pride of all Ilonggos.

 

 
 

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What has the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand done to deserve death?

“It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.”

–Branch Rickey

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — What have I done to deserve death? Did I humiliate the Ilonggos?

Did I commit a heinous crime against humanity?

Did I play host to scandalous and violent activities?

Did I pose a threat to national security?

Did I obstruct traffic and the pedestrians’ right of way?

Did I pillage the environment and natural resources?

Thus would have been the valid laments of the condemned Iloilo Freedom Grandstand in Iloilo City in the Philippines if it could only speak and protest its imminent extermination.

Instead of being “rewarded” for bringing pride and honor to the Ilonggos since it was built some 60 years ago, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand faces demolition in the modern era when men are equipped with scientific knowledge and expertise to build and renovate.

Instead of being preserved and restored to its old glory for helping showcase and sustain the Ilonggos’ spirit, aesthetic and ingenuity in the global village, the grandstand will be blown to bits in the age of technology when innovation and state-of-the-art infrastructure are at fever-pitch.

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The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been known to be the Ilonggos’ version of Munich’s Allianz Arena, Rome’s The Colosseum, Milan’s San Siro, Barcelona’s Camp Nuo, Portland’s Providence Park, New Zealand’s Forsyth Barr, Poland’s Stadion Energa, Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, Boston’s Fenway Park, and Hungary’s Pancho Arena.

It is a source of their hope and pride, not shame and scandal.

Where is our gratitude?

But, wait a minute.

Proponents of the move to dismantle the grandstand and transfer it to Muelle Loney facing the Iloilo River, will argue that the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand will not be actually wiped off the face of the earth.

It will only be transferred to pave the way for expansion and improvement of the Sunburst Park, where the present Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on J.M. Basa Street stands.

From its present location where it faces the giant eagle in a building across the street, pedestrians, and passing vehicles to Muelle Loney, where it will face the river, the boats, and the fishes.

In simple explanation, it will be “demoted demographically.”

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The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a legitimate asset. Demolishing it doesn’t make sense.

Preserving it is one aspect of paying homage to our heritage with which we can interact and adapt.

The grandstand, which has survived the test of time, has specific historic context.

It should have been meticulously and exactly preserved.

Since it has become part of our character and identity over the years, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand must be lived in, interacted with and maintained by the public.

The outdoor structure, conceptualized after the Ilonggos’ right to elect their local officials commenced in 1950, has changed with us, thus recording a piece of each generation’s story from circa fifties to Internet Age.

Ilonggos are morally and patriotically obliged to respect this community resource and preserve it for future generations.

Owing to its colorful history, the preservation of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand can help strengthen the community’s future.

The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand’s imposing presence in a piece of property of the former Customs House Plaza, would have helped create vibrant, cultural downtowns that will further draw art, festival, tourism, and other activities which in turn draw investment, revenue, and economic growth for Iloilo City aside from solidifying a community’s past.

 
 

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Bizarre Dinagyang crime stories

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”

–Hunter S. Thompson

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey –– After witnessing the cold-blooded murder of a plainclothes cop from Arevalo district during the  1990 Dinagyang Festival final night in Iloilo City in the Philippines, I became convinced that there should be a gun ban when the Ilonggos celebrate the feast of Señor Santo Niño every year.

The cop (I can remember him only as “Ben”) was gunned down while answering the call of nature on the rear tire of an owner type jeep where I was sitting and parked on corner Valeria and Ledesma Streets in the City Proper, a stone throw away from our News Express editorial office.

“Ben” died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds fired by an unknown assailant at past seven o’clock in the evening.

I was holding my friend Emmanuel “Boyet” Carillo’s state-of-the-art camera (which was burned in a fire that gutted their house in Kalibo, Aklan weeks later), thus I was able to take some photos as “Ben” sprawled on the pavement bathing in his own blood.

The case has remained unsolved.

We also support the move of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) and the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to prohibit glass bottles and cans during the revelries.

Glass bottles and beer or soft drink cans can become deadly if used by drunken revelers as weapons.

Senior Inspector Shella Mae Sangrines, ICPO spokesperson, said in a recent press conference they did not want revelers to carry illegal weapons, drugs and other harmful contraband, thus they would inspect all backpacks.

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The police may also check belt bags aside from backpacks.

Drug dealers and gang members carrying deadly weapons and illegal substances will eschew backpacks now that the police have announced what type of bag to be strictly perused during the festivities.

Some thugs who use backpacks are not really members of drug syndicates, terror groups and street-level fraternities engaged in riot.

Some of them are small time robbers or pickpockets.

One afternoon during the 1998 Dinagyang Festival, I “saved” a 17-year-old out-of-school teenager from being lynched by an angry mob near the Ledesma Street gate of Mary Mart Mall in Iloilo City.

“Randy” was being punched and kicked by male and female attackers while tightly embracing his backpack.

I intervened and was able to stop the carnage. When I checked the victim’s backpack, it contained several Nokia and Philips  analog cellular phones.

He was a “snatcher” cornered by some of his victims.

I negotiated with the maulers and helped them recover their cellular phones right away. I escorted the “snatcher” away from harm after he promised to go straight.

Since I was into sports, I encouraged him to train as amateur boxer in the YMCA gym. After a series of bouts in our weekly boxing tournament at the Iloilo City Freedom Grandstand, I introduced him to the late then City Administrator Angelo “Bebot” Geremias and brought him to Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu thereafter where he won a bronze medal in the inter-city youth slugfest.

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Drunkenness should also be regulated if not avoided during the Dinagyang revelry.

In the 1994 Dinagyang, the grandson of a prominent Filipino-Chinese tycoon hogged headlines when he was “drugged and molested” by two gay hairdressers who befriended him at the Freedom Grandstand, the main judging area for ati dance competitions.

“Anthony”, who once worked with former Sen. Joselito “Lito” Lapid as stuntman in an action film shot in Cebu, alleged that he passed out and wasn’t able to go home after a drinking session with the two hairdressers while waiting for announcement of winners Sunday evening.

He woke up the following morning in the sidewalk of J.M. Basa Street without a shirt. His other personal belongings went missing. He confessed to police he suffered a “swollen penis” and was treated in the hospital.

When one of the hairdressers was stabbed dead by an unknown suspect in Brgy. Tanza-Baybay in the City Proper weeks later, “Anthony” disappeared in Iloilo City.

“Anthony’s” cousin, “Jaguar”, who owns a resort in Boracay in Caticlan, Aklan, got mad when police coaxed him to cooperate and pinpoint his cousin’s whereabouts.

I accompanied the cop who went to the cousin’s office, a lending firm, in downtown, City Proper. The cop managed to enter and talk to “Jaguar” briefly before being rebuked.

I was left outside “Jaguar’s” office after being denied entry by “Jaguar’s” secretary.

“Anthony” hasn’t been seen again.

 

 

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Our first Miss Universe’s ‘Sword of Damocles’

“It’s almost not safe to be an artist, the way everybody is randomly picking people to feud with.”

— Busta Rhymes

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — How many Filipino beauties have won the Miss Universe title in the past? Are they still alive? How are they doing now?
Because the Philippines is currently hosting the 2017 Miss Universe, people in other parts of the world might be asking some of these questions in random when they meet a Filipino in their countries.
If they happen to be in the Philippines as tourists or members of the pageant entourage, they must have already started asking some of these questions.
If Americans, for instance, will ask me all the three questions, I will answer them this: 1. Three, so far. They are Gloria Diaz (1969), Margarita Moran (1973), and Pia Wurtzbach (2016); 2. Yes, they are all still alive–and shining; 3. They are all doing fine; Miss Diaz is still active as movie and TV actress; Miss Moran, who is now Mrs. Moran-Floirendo, is a peace advocate and ballet executive; and Miss Wurtzbach will crown the 65th edition winner on January 30, 2017 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

RESOLUTION

Of course I won’t tell them that Miss Diaz, 65, had been declared as persona non grata through a resolution by the Vice Mayors’ League of the Philippines-Cebu six years ago.
I will tell my readers.
The organization has failed to rescind the resolution it passed on September 1, 2010 supposed to be in deference to the country’s hosting of the world famous pageant, which is ongoing, this year.
Apparently she wasn’t accorded the benefit of the doubt or the privilege of “immunity from humiliation” due an international celebrity and former beauty queen who gave honors to the country.
Or they must have overlooked the gaffe.
Isn’t it weird that the first Miss Universe crownholder in the host country has a pending enmity with a group of elected public officials in her own country; and no effort has been made to cross out the ruckus so that Miss Diaz would be shielded from embarrassment?

COMMENT

Miss Diaz’s nightmare with the vice mayors league started when she made a “constructive” comment after Miss Universe 2010 fourth runner-up Venus Raj belted the controversial and now famous “major major” pidgin during the Q and A.
Miss Diaz suggested that Raj and other Filipino contestants perhaps would have strong chances if they utilized the services of an interpreter instead of answering in English.
“Because when you think about a Cebuana can hardly speak English, and, of course, Tagalog. Maybe she should answer in Bisaya,” she told ABS-CBN.
Many Cebuanos took umbrage at her statement and accused the beauty queen-turn-actress of insulting their English proficiency. Cebu politicians joined the outrage and demanded from her an apology.

SORRY

Miss Diaz, who stood her ground and refused to say sorry, shot back: “Let me clarify it once and for all. People should have the right to say or to answer (questions) in whatever language they want to say it in. If they’re Cebuanos, they can say it in Cebuano.”
She added: “I did not say that they did not speak English. If you’re Ilocano, say it in Ilocano. But if you’re Ilocano who speaks good English, say it in English. If you’re Cebuano who can speak Spanish, if you’re comfortable with Spanish, say it in Spanish. That’s what I said and that’s what I meant.”
When visiting dignitaries, fans and spectators start to think and talk about the Miss Universe winners in the host country, Miss Diaz’s name definitely will always occupy the presidential table.
They will talk about how good she has become as a soap opera actress, her awards and honors reaped in her stint in the entertainment and showbiz industry, her love life, her children and family, her health, and, your guess is as good as mine, her involvement in controversies–if there are some.

 

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No terrorist will commit a hara-kiri in Dinagyang

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

— George Bernard Shaw

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — I grew up in Iloilo City in the Philippines and witnessed how Dinagyang Festival started as a ramshackle religious and cultural activity until it blossomed into a behemoth international attraction.
Since the actual street dancing Dinagyang festivities romped off in the 70’s, the real problem was peace and order–drunken revelries, ill-behaved drug addicts and gangs composed of skinny but tattooed teenagers.
No invasion of the third kind. No rebellion. No earth-shaking tumult.
There were incidents of mugging, snatching, vandalism, acts of lasciviousness, street rumble, stabbing, among other street-level crimes. The police handled the situation and nipped the troublemakers in the bud.
It’s the proliferation of illegal drugs, especially shabu, and the sales of liquor in the streets that should be regulated if not stopped during the week-long festival in the month of January.
Not the “jamming” of cellular phone signals.

JEOPARDIZE

When communication lines are shut down during important events, we jeopardize the comfort and safety of visiting tourists and the residents who update their relatives abroad on what’s going on in their locality.
Drug addicts and drunken dolts don’t use high-tech communication gadgets to create trouble. Police deployed in performance areas can manually overpower any amok in the crowd.
No real terrorists from other regions–or even outside the country– will commit a hara-kiri or kamikaze attack by sneaking inside the well-guarded Iloilo City, surrounded by treacherous rivers, just to sabotage the Dinagyang.
If they intend to extort, bringing an explosive device in Iloilo City is like holding a microphone in public and announcing that they would pee at Plazoleta Gay.
If they intend to send a political message, they will not only be barking at the wrong tree, they will be in the wrong place of the planet. Malacanang and Imperial Manila are several islands and regions away.
Good that the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) is reportedly not keen on recommending the jamming of mobile signals in the metropolis during the two-day Dinagyang highlights on January 21-22, 2017.

NECESSARY

Signal jamming or shutting down cellular phone signals is necessary and effective in events where the visiting VIPs in the country are considered as “security risks.”
Especially when the occasion attracts a large number of crowd like the recent Black Nazarene procession, which drew 1.5 million devotees in the streets.
Like when Pope Francis visited the Philippines on January 15-19, 2015. And when state leaders gathered for the APEC Meeting.
Or even during the 2017 Miss Universe coronation night where foreign dignitaries and high government and military officials would be in attendance.
Mobile phone signals may also be jammed if there are special police operations like the raids conducted in the shabu-infested National Bilibid Prison.
The purpose is to prevent terrorists and criminals from sabotaging the events or operations by knocking out their communication.

 
 

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