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Category Archives: TOURISM

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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Mr. Poverty meets Miss Universe

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” 

— Frederick Douglass

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — It is only the third time in history that the Philippines is hosting the Miss Universe.
The country also hosted the world’s most prestigious pageant in 1974 and 1994. As a host country in today’s modern age, we can showcase to the global village our culture, history, tourism, people, way of life, economic pulse through the power of high-tech media.
Unknown to many people around the world, the Philippines has been “hosting” Mr. Poverty since time immemorial.
In playing host to gigantic international events, the question that has been always badgering the Filipinos is: “Are we a rich country pretending to be poor, or a poor country pretending to be rich?”
Official government statistics showed that more than 26 million Filipinos remain poor with almost half, or a little more than 12 million, living in extreme poverty and lacking the means to feed themselves.
The Filipino poor have families of six or more members, with greater numbers of younger and older dependents, statistics showed.

EDUCATION

In the majority of poor families, the head of household has only an elementary education or below. These families have few or no assets and minimal access to electricity, water sources and toilet facilities. They also have limited access to health and education services, according to Gil Dy-Liacco, Development Assistance Specialist in USAID/Philippines’ Office of Program Resources Management.
About 26.3 percent of Filipinos were found to be living below the poverty line, a measure of the minimum income required to meet basic food and nonfood needs in the first three months in 2015, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
This translates to about 26.48 million Filipinos, based on the Philippine population in 2015 of 100.7 million.

INCIDENCE

The PSA said national poverty incidence stood at 27.9 percent of the population in 2012. It was at 28.6 percent, practically unchanged from the 2006 figure three years before, of 28.8 percent in 2009.
The 2015 survey also found that 12.1 percent of the population–roughly 12.18 million Filipinos–are living in subsistence or extreme poverty, meaning their earnings are not enough for them to eat three square meals a day.
This, too, the reports added, indicates marginal declines from the three previous years the survey had been taken. In 2006, 14.2 percent of Filipinos lived in extreme poverty; in 2009, the number stood at 13.3 percent, and at 13.4 percent in 2012.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in NEWS!!!NEWS!!!NEWS!!!, TOURISM

 

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Miss Universe and sex tourism

“I think the pageant system is about empowering women. I think that aspect of it is great, but when you take parents who are forcing their children to do anything, I don’t think it’s healthy.”
–Olivia Culpo

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW JERSEY — When the Philippines first hosted the Miss Universe in 1974, the pageant not only showcased the country’s “warm” hospitality and “greatness” before an international audience, it also deodorized the human rights violation-tainted Marcos administration which placed the country under Martial Law on September 21, 1972.
Most of all, it reportedly promoted sex tourism, or so it seemed.
In fact, that year’s winner, Ms. Amparo Muñoz of Spain, who became an actress, was implicated in a sex scandal.
It’s not the kind of sex scandal though that has bedeviled some politicians and showbiz stars today like the Hayden Kho sex video or the alleged Senator Leila De Lima-driver taped tryst.
It’s the slapping incident involving Muñoz and a prominent socialite accused of pimping the Spanish beauty.

MOVIE

When Muñoz slapped the alleged pimp of big time Manila businessmen, the episode was not part of the Hayop sa Ganda movie that also starred 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz.
“It was a real skirmish that shocked the entertainment world,” the late Joe Quirino once remarked in Seeing Stars with Joe Quirino.
Since it was a Martial Law, the press could not report in complete details what really had transpired.
Muñoz was reportedly declared as persona non grata as a result of that tumult and left the Philippines in a huff. She died in Malaga, Spain on February 27, 2011 at age 56 due to Parkinson’s disease.
Although nobody came forward to confirm that other Miss Universe contestants had also been pimped at that time, the reported slapping brouhaha underscored fears that sex tourism could have reportedly penetrated the prestigious international beauty contest.

CIRCULAR

Meanwhile, one thing good about the Philippines’ hosting of the 2017 Miss Universe, is the Malacanang memorandum circular dated December 28, 2016 which ordered that no public funds shall be expended for the international event which will unfold on January 30, 2017.
“The DOT (Department of Tourism) may call upon any such department…. for assistance as the circumstances and exigencies may require, read the circular signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
“Officials concerned shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to ensure that there will be no disruption of work and services in their respective offices by reason thereof,” the circular says.
“Except for such reasonable resources required in providing support for the hosting of the Pageant, no public funds shall be expended for the hosting of the 2016 Miss Universe Pageant,” it adds.
When the Philippines hosted the pageant for only the second time in 1994, the organizers suffered a shortfall and the Ramos administration reportedly covered some of the expenses in the $5.3 million-event.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2017 in TOURISM

 

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Fiesta in America

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Posted by on August 20, 2016 in CULTURE AND HERITAGE, TOURISM

 

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Hypocrites casting a stone at city tourism chief

“The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.” William Hazlitt

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — If they think they don’t live in glass houses, detractors of Iloilo City tourism officer Junel Divinagracia should not telegraph their punches and hide in anonymity.
These detractors wanted to raise some “sensitive concerns” now that the city council is set to confirm her appointment after being appointed to the position by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog on October 19.
She replaced Ben Jimena, who has retired but is still part of Mabilog’s cabinet as consultant.
Some city councilors, who hate to be accused as field reporters of Boy Abunda and Inday Badiday, have alerted Divinagracia, who was in Manila for APEC Leaders’ Meeting from Nov. 16 to 19.
The city councilors are also aware that they are not saints, thus they can’t just easily jump the gun on Divinagracia without due process.

SENSITIVE

Other public officials (both in the executive and legislative branches) are also being bedeviled by the so-called “sensitive” private matters like Divinagracia, but they weren’t placed under hot seats because they are males.
By zeroing in on Divinagracia, the shades of bitterness, bias, prejudice and double standard are very much evident on the motives of these hypocrites.
Is it possible that the snakes are just around the corridors of power sibilating?
Let us remind them of Matthew 7:3 that says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
And also John 8:7 that says, “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.'”

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BY giving the municipal mayors liberty to select their own bet for Iloilo vice governor, Gov. Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. was short in saying that “I am caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
As an astute politician, Defensor will never take side, at least not yet, while everyone in the poker table is still in the guessing game.
Vice gubernatorial aspirants Neil “Junjun” Tupas Jr. and Christine Garin, both with political parties affiliated with the Liberal Party (LP), are hoping like anxious suitors to get King Arthur’s blessing.
The governor has vowed earlier to campaign only for the party’s official candidate.

AFFILIATE

Garin, mayor of Guimbal, Iloilo, is with the National Unity Party (NUP), an LP affiliate.
She is the sister of Iloilo first district Rep. Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr. and the sister-in-law of Health Secretary Janette L. Garin, Richard’s wife.
Her family has questioned Tupas’ certificate of nomination and acceptance (Cona) as “official” LP bet for vice governor.
Defensor has long reconciled with the two powerful political clans in the province, and they have been working together under the umbrella of President Aquino’s ruling party.
Political observers think Defensor has already in mind who to pick when push comes to shove, but is only keeping the aces in his sleeves.
Who will the fountain bless?
The answer to that question is another question: Which clan is the lesser evil?

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in POLITICS, TOURISM

 

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Mystery of burnt Lopez Pink Mansion deepens

“No object is mysterious. The mystery is your eye.” Elizabeth Bowen

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Before entering the White House owned by former Iloilo second district Rep. Albertito Lopez in the Lopez compound in La Paz district, Iloilo City in the Philippines, a visitor will be greeted on the right side by the unique and imposing Pink Mansion owned by his brother, Emmanuele (not Emmanuel as reported in the papers) “Nikki” Lopez.
On the left side is the ABS-CBN Iloilo station. Adjacent to the Pink Mansion is another landmark, the Boat House, owned by ABS-CBN Corporation founder Eugenio H. Lopez Sr.
On the right inside the compound is the bungalow owned by the late Fernando “Junji” Lopez Jr., eldest son of the late former Vice President Fernando “Toto Nanding” Hofileña Lopez, Sr.
On the left inside the compound is the mansion of another Lopez daughter, the late Mita.
When Rep. Lopez was active in politics in the early 90’s, we frequented the gated compound.
For a while, the compound was open to invited guests, mostly political, social, and business personalities.

INTERVIEWS

We conducted our interviews with Rep. Lopez and his wife, then Guimaras Governor Emily Relucio, inside the White House.
It was also in the White House where we last saw the late former vice president, who died in 1993.
During important gatherings of the Lopez family where selected members of the press were also invited, we saw there the other members of the fabled clan.
Every now and then thereafter in the mid-90’s, we frequented the compound on invitation of Nonoy Junji (that’s how Fernando Lopez Jr. wanted us to call him) to dine with him and discuss social and political issues. He also invited us in his manokan (chicken) house in Villa, Arevalo.
Of all the living Lopez children then, only Nikki was aloof to members of media. He was very private, quite and avoidant.
But Nikki was also among the most controversial.
In the family-owned University of Iloilo, students were cautioned not to look at him once he entered the campus on board his pink car.

WOMAN

A story circulated that he once allegedly slapped a woman who stared at him in a shopping mall.
The woman happened to be allegedly a top city hall lawyer. He didn’t know her, but she knew him. Nobody came forward to confirm the incident.
The woman lawyer neither confirmed nor denied the alleged incident.
There were reports it was Nonoy Junji, not Nikki, who was allegedly involved in the fracas.
Nikki, whose favorite color is pink, a universal color of love and sweet sensuality, according to feng shui, probably detested being stared at in public.
The Pink Mansion, burned 95 percent according to the arson investigators from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Iloilo City with initial estimated damage at P10 million at around past 10 o’clock in the evening on Oct. 25, was as mysterious as its owner.
Nikki escaped unscathed, according to reports. He was seen in the vicinity as firefighters were trying to put out the fire.
Nobody from the media, social, political and business community has claimed publicly to have been invited by Nikki or any authorized person to visit the place in the past.
Nikki, who never married, is a known lover of cats. He reportedly owns several cats and takes care of them like family members.
Were some of those cats killed during the one-hour fire?

ANTIQUES

The mansion reportedly contained jewelries, antiques, and art works described by Capitol bigwig and former journalist Nereo Lujan as “priceless” and “irreplaceable.”
Lujan wrote in his Facebook account: “The damage to the house was pegged at P10 million, considering that there were antiques, art works, jewelries, expensive clothing and high-end appliances inside.
“That amount may just be a pittance for Nikki, considering his inheritance, his monthly dividends from the Lopez Group of Companies and that he is not as extravagant as Junjie.
“What is deplorable and regrettable is the loss of the extremely rare antiques and art pieces inside because those were priceless and irreplaceable.”
Some visitors from other parts of the country who happened to pass by described the two-story Pink Mansion as “mysterious” because it was surrounded by concrete walls and wooden gate that were also painted with pink color.
As of this writing, arson probers could not confirm what caused the fire.  Nikki has refused to speak to the media.
Because of the fire, the mansion has once again rekindled public interest and curiosity. The mystery deepens as investigators piece together the cause of fire that reportedly started in the ceiling.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in CULTURE AND HERITAGE, TOURISM

 

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