SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: In our own image

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/10 January) – Comments on the Department of Tourism’s latest marketing slogan for the Philippines have turned mostly satirical. Imaginative and cruel at the same time, the comments unravel a mode of thinking which is rather unique. Maybe to a certain degree, the same attitude can also be found in the citizens of other countries. But unless someone shows me proof to the contrary, I’d say no one beats the Filipinos when it comes to spoofing ideas, songs and other products of mental or intellectual work.

DOT’s “It’s more fun in the Philippines” – which, aside from being too long for a promotion slogan, had been used by Switzerland 50 years ago – is the latest victim of this peculiar culture of being ironic to the point of viciousness. A teacher told me somebody posted the slogan on Facebook apparently as substitute headline of a news item on the killing of Christopher Guarin, a publisher of a community paper in General Santos City. Offhand, I’d say that that FB user did it to highlight the unabated killings of journalists in the country. Yet, despite the good intentions, I do believe it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth and is way off the mark.

Nonetheless, the fuzz in the media about the slogan – especially about the word “fun” – can be taken positively. If the tourism officials carefully read between the lines, they would realize that the remarks and criticisms were not mainly about the slogan itself. Filipinos who shared their two cents worth of feedback were simply saying that the government needs to fix many things first before hosting a coming-out party, although some may have exaggerated things a bit in their eagerness to join the raucous jeers on the web.

And if there are things the government needs to fix, one of these is the recklessness on the part of the guardians of our security. The President’s order to all telecommunication firms to cut their services in parts of Metro Manila to prevent a supposed terror attack during the annual procession in honor of the Black Nazarene was the latest of these poorly conceived actions. Officials alleged they had identified the persons behind the “threat” – which the faithful defied anyway. Yet after the procession, where not a single firecracker exploded, there was no update about the reported terror plot. Like the devotees, the authorities who announced the “plot” complete with the names of suspects quietly returned to their normal lives.

Now, how would Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo explain that they had the identities of the terrorists but couldn’t associate them to any group? Again, as I had pointed out in an article months ago, this is perhaps the only place in the world where terror plots are being announced before they are neutralized. If we have officials who love to churn out incredible terror plot stories – maybe for publicity points or, Heavens forbid, for sinister motives – we shouldn’t be surprised if tourist arrivals in the country show no signs of improvement. Government officials shouldn’t complain if foreign embassies issue negative travel advisories against the Philippines. Their reactions reflect the image we cast of ourselves.

Admittedly, the way the government handles security issues is just one of the obstacles to a robust tourism industry. We also need to improve the sea and land transport systems (including measures to discipline abusive taxi drivers, particularly in Manila and Cebu City) and airport facilities. However, just like you and me, tourists are primarily concerned if they can have a safe vacation here. If they have no worries about security, the fun will follow. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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