Saturday, August 13, 2011

Travel+Leisure - Where in the world is Manila? (Part 2)

Before I could post this blog, the Philippines tourism secretary Roberto Lim had resigned. While some may say it's out of political pressure, I say, good riddance.

Travel+Leisure Magazine and website takes us to a closer look on the 10 World's Best Cities (current rank on the left hand side and ranking in 2010 in parenthesis):

[Photo of Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand]

1. Bangkok, Thailand (1) - score 90.49
2. Florence, Italy (3) - score 89.92
3. Rome, Italy (5) - score 88.45
4. New York City, New York, USA (10) - score 88.4
5. Istanbul, Turkey (-) - score 88.18
6. Cape Town, South Africa (-) - score 88.06
7. Siem Reap, Cambodia (-) - score 87.90
8. Sydney, Australia (6) - score 87.84
9. Barcelona, Spain (9) - score 87.83
10. Paris, France (-) - score 87.73

The (-) meant that the property was not among the top ranked in this category last year.

Ironically, Siem Reap in Cambodia did not even rank anywhere in this category and still made it to number 7 place to visit in the world!

Manila, Philippines has its own character, its own feature and its own adventure (and not for the faint hearted). As the song goes - "Manila, Manila....I keep coming back to Manila..."! Only in Manila can you experience the ultra uber mixed culture where SM (Shoemart) is found in gazillion places all over the city, where the pedestrian lanes are good for only one person to walk on, where the pedicabs and jeepneys make a mockery of the streets by loading and unloading passengers on the major thoroughfares, where you get a fantastic roller coaster ride in the dilapidated rugged streets of Metro Manila (usually after the rains, every nook and cranny has a pothole), where you get strangled in the streets because of some Maynilad Waterwork excavating the streets and God knows who decided to patch it together after the excavation that took forever to finish and decided to just throw some rocks into the diggings, where buses just fall from the sky, where you see the crotches of some hunky guy thrown in your face in the major highways of the street, where the traffic enforcers run after number coded cars rather than those not obeying traffic rules and regulations, where traffic enforcers are busy texting on the street corner even when the metropolis is clogged, where the streets of the metropolis have literally turned into an extension of Manila Bay or Laguna de Bay after a torrential rain, where pedestrians play tag with oncoming cars in areas where they shouldn't be crossing (and by golly it's the fault of the driver if you run over an idiot who attempts to cross the street that has warning that you're not allowed to cross here), where when you drive a vehicle in Manila you shouldn't only be looking at the rear view mirror or the left side or right side of your car but at the sky because some loony decides to jump from the overhead pedestrian passage and lands on your car and you're accosted by the cop who files "homicide due to reckless imprudence" charges against you, where snatching of mobile phones is an every second criminal act, where people who get caught smoking in public places have the temerity to go to the supreme court to file charges against the government because they have the right to pollute the air, where squatters have more rights than the owners of the land they squat in...and I could go on and on, but that's the adventure you can experience in Manila for the next 5 days alone! When you land in the Philippines, most of the foreign carriers will have to dock at the NAIA 1. An outdated, outmoded scrappy airport that will not even meet an international airport's standards! Where the bags that come out of the conveyer belts carry boxes and boxes of Balikbayan boxes as if the Filipino that owned it had packed his whole house and included a coffin inside those huge boxes!

Seriously, let's face it. Manila has deteriorated because of very bad urban planning. It is accentuated by the fact that local government officials keep the dumpy squatters in their places because they serve as the voting majority during the upcoming elections. No political will at all. And Sec. Roberto Lim was facing a blank wall when he assumed the post. Since he had no balls to tackle this mess and no ideas at all on how to coordinate and plan how to make the Philippines, let alone Manila become one of the best cities as tourist destination in the world, his exit will not be missed. Neither will be the guy who will need to fill in the shoes and the void in our tourism industry.

But all is not lost. The Philippines IS a beautiful country to visit. Truth be told, in the same Travel+Leisure 2011 Best Islands in the World is Boracay that ranks at number 4! Our only pride left is not to taint the ranking of this beautiful destination by not making it a gambling capital or by building more hotels than what it already carries.

So here's the official list on the Best Islands for 2011:

1. Santorini, Greece (6)
2. Bali, Indonesia (4)
3. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (-)
4. Boracay, Philippines (-)
5. Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia (-)
6. Sicily, Italy (7)
7. Big Island, Hawaii (10)
8. Kauai, Hawaii (2)
9. Maui, Hawaii (8)
10. Galapagos (1)

Boracay Island had a star beside it's name. Meaning its the World's Best Debut entry for the year. Three cheers for Boracay!!!

[Photo of Shangrila Boracay, Philippines]

As a seasoned traveler, I've been to most of the cities and islands mentioned and Boracay truly deserves to be in the list, hands down.

Without a doubt, the work of the next tourism secretary is cut out for him. And it may be a tough job, but simply focusing on how to land Manila as one of the best cities in the world will be sufficient to generate income for tourism to the Philippines.

Investing in tourism may be one of the toughest jobs but when done well, should become self-sufficient enough to generate jobs for Filipinos in the land of Juan de la Cruz.

So that next time when we're traveling abroad and people ask us, "so where are you from?", we can hold our head up high and proudly say, Manila, Philippines!

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