Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Pilipinas Kay Ganda" -- not just about 'wrong grammar

 Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim was quoted as opining that the reason for the controversy kicked up by DOT’s new P200 million promotion line, “Pilipinas Kay Ganda,” is that it’s “ungrammatical.” If Secretary Lim can only view it from the grammar perspective, then our Tourism promotion is in trouble.

An axiom in advertising is that if a promo line will sell, who cares about grammar? But the problem with “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” is that it’s unintelligible to the foreign market, our target, because the foreigners don’t know what that phrase means. Kay Ganda, which was obviously inspired by ABS-CBN’s “Umagang Kay Ganda,” was meant to replace the eight-year old promo campaign, “WOW Philippines,” created by then Tourism Secretary Dick Gordon, but the new line can only work with domestic tourists or our balikbayans. This is because, chances are, the P200 million DOT promo budget would already be finished, but the hordes out there whom we want to lure to our shores still couldn’t figure out what “Kay Ganda” means.

Remember that our campaign promo will be competing stiffly in the international media networks such as CNN, News Asia and BBC with dozens of other countries’ promotions. If the foreign listener doesn’t get ours at first blow, he or she won’t get it at all.

Campaigns of competitors

Contrast this with the old but still fantastic “Amazing Thailand,” or the newer “Incredible India” or "Malaysia Truly Asia" promo lines that one savors and remembers. The best argument against “Kay Ganda,” however, is that, to borrow from wrong grammar, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? DOT successfully pushed tourism arrivals here over the past years in large part due to the “WOW Philippines,” and just because it belonged to the GMA era doesn’t mean it can’t work anymore. I believe that the full potential of this ad campaign hasn’t been explored yet, and there could be new variations of “WOW” projecting the rich wonders of our provinces.

As Gordon explained it some years ago over our dzRH program, it could mean “Wealth of Wonders,” or “Walk our Walls” in Intramuros, or “Watch our Whales” in Donsol, or "Wild over Water" for shooting the rapids in Cagayan de Oro or Pagsangjan. In Siargao surf-lovers could go “Wild Over Waves” and in Subic they could be "Wacko over Wildlife." I would add that since we’re internationally known for our musical talents such as Charisse, Arnel Pineda and Lea Salonga, music fests could be thrown in as tourist events, so that WOW could mean “World of Warblers.” Or we could capitalize on Tourisim's new Poster Boy Manny Pacquiao in promoting slug-fests here, in the tag, "Warriors of Worth." Gordon admitted in that program that with the beauty of the Filipina renowned all over the world, it’s easy to push “Wacko Over Women” but of course he wouldn’t, lest it be misinterpreted by feminists. Agreed.

Are they spending CDF funds?

Every time our boxing champ Manny Pacquiao stages a fight in the US, dozens of members of Congress as well as a couple of local officials fly there to watch it. In last Sunday’s fight Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson was briefly seen in the ring behind Pacman as he knelt to pray before the fight. The trips of these public officials have stirred a lot of controversy every time and the major bone of contention is the huge expenses they incur, even though the House of Representatives periodically issues statements that these officials are paying their way. People don’t buy that disclaimer, as they believe that the House members spend from their CDF funds.

History being made

In the dzRH interview Cecile Alvarez and I had with Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez last Sunday (8-8:45 pm.) right after the Pacquiao-Margarito world welterweight fight, Golez gave a different perspective on this issue. He said that his son, Paranaque Councilor Rico Golez, justified his trip to the US for that fight, along with a couple of local officials, by saying that history was being played out as the Pinoy champ fought his way to his eighth title, and the officials who travelled to Texas did not want to miss out on history. Rep. Golez, a boxing aficionado and champion boxer since his student days at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, who stressed that he had never joined his House colleagues for any of the Pacquiao fights abroad, said that after listening to Rico, he felt the latter made sense. Maybe next time Pacquiao fights, said Golez, he’ll be beside the ring too, cheering lustily.

Thrilla in Manila in 1975

Golez recalled how he paid P1,000 in 1975, a princely sum then that was nearly half of his salary, to witness the fight in Manila between two all-time boxing greats, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, billed as the “Thrilla in Manila." To this day, he stressed that that fight is regarded as a classic event in world boxing, and in fact he still meets people who feel awed that he was able to witness it personally.

I told Golez that I can understand the craving for not wanting to miss out on history. I recalled how Cecile and I joined the Philippine group flying to the Vatican, led by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (as part of the secondary group of media, Church ecclesiastics and others) to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April 2005. I paid a princely sum for the plane fare, but I did not hesitate, as I was fully aware that I was witnessing an event involving perhaps the best-loved Pontiff in history, and which comes probably only once in 200 years. To this day, whenever I recall the sights and sounds of JPII’s funeral in Rome, my listeners are still awe-struck.

But I stressed to Golez that the issue of government officials travelling to Las Vegas or Texas for a Pacquiao fight will remain always controversial. How do you readers feel about this issue? Email this blog at polbits@yahoo.com and let our public officials know.

Young but needy musicians

My niece, Maja Olivares-Co, daughter of my late advertising executive brother Rudy Olivares and noted interior designer Sonia Santiago Olivares, has a most laudable advocacy: “to find new creative ways to keep the joy of Filipino music alive.” She and her friends in the “Young Musicians’ Development Organization” (YMDO) seek to achieve this in the Philippine Youth Symphonic Band (PYSB), composed of talented and young but needy musicians who are helped in their music studies and whose activities the YMDO promotes.

One “creative” way is for the PYSB to hold the "Laro! Child's Play at the CCP," a concert at the CCP Main Theater next Saturday, Nov. 27, at 6 pm., during which the PYSB will be recording live CDs that will reintroduce to the audience the country’s rich heritage of folksongs. How? By “resetting,” much like old heirloom gems are reset, says Maja, familiar and well-loved children’s “play songs” and folk ditties, such as “Sarung Banggi,” “Leron Leron Sinta” “Bahay Kubo” and "Tong Pakitong-kitong” into reggae, jazz, latin, pop and rock arrangements. Hopefully, says Maja, in their new setting, these best-loved songs of yesteryears “will reclaim their place in our children’s memory.” Joining the PYSB at next Saturday’s concert will be such music and entertainment celebrities as Sylvia la Torre, Sarah Geronimo, Andrew Fernando and Charlie Green.

Let's bring our families down memory lane again in the "Laro!" Concert this Nov. 27, and help keep our native ditties alive and thriving. Tickets for this most interesting and laudable concert sell as follows: orchestra center, P2,500; orchestra right and left, P1,500; parterre boxes, P2,500; upper boxes, P800; lower boxes P1,500; balcony 1 center, right and Left, P600, and balcony II, P400. For more information, call 0927-3910-762, or email Maja Olivares-Co at majaco_ymdo@ssoa.ph.

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