My own travel advisory
- Boo Chanco () - November 11, 2002 - 12:00am
I decided to take advantage of the thin volume of traffic during the All Saints Day weekend to take my visiting sister-in-law around Manila. She had not been to the heart of old Manila since she migrated to Los Angeles over 30 years ago. Even if I live here, I haven’t been to Chinatown lately, either. The only times I go to Intramuros is to attend weddings and receptions. The weather was good, so I thought it might be fun.

And it was. The drive through Chinatown, Escolta and on to Echague brought back memories of our growing up years. My teenage daughter must have been near throwing up at all the nostalgia being exchanged. My father-in-law used to have an office off Dasmarinas, and both my wife and sister-in-law used to go there daily from school at St. Theresa’s in San Marcelino.

We pointed out the SM store that occupies a prime lot between Echague and Carriedo as the grand daddy of them all. I was looking for the Kim Chong Tin hopia store on Echague, but missed it. That was a real favorite of mine, when a bag of hopia was just 50 centavos and you bought it hot, straight from the oven. It was a regular stopover point for me when I was commuting between our house in Paco and UP Diliman.

Echague traffic was busy as usual, even in the absence of the Paco, Sta Ana and Pandacan buses. The sidewalk vendors occupied half the street in front of the Quinta market, maybe because it was a holiday and Chairman Fernando decided to be a little lenient. The handicraft vendors under the Quezon bridge didn’t seem busy, maybe a sign of the times. The old Magnolia building was still there and evoked memories of the soda fountain that was very popular in those days.

We drove on to Fort Santiago and here now starts my travel advisory for all tourists, domestic or international. Avoid Fort Santiago. Avoid Intramuros. We were met by a bunch of rough looking teenagers who didn’t want us to park in the regular parking area. They were insisting that we park in a suspicious looking vacant lot near the Fort. We wanted to walk around Fort Santiago but decided to stay in the car instead and drive on.

Intramuros was not that great either. This time, young children were all over us as we paused near San Agustin Church. Apparently, it is the same situation as in the Fort. Extreme poverty has driven these people to eke a living from whatever way they can from anyone who may seem to have an extra buck. Nothing wrong with that from a social equity point of view. But the sheer number and determination to get something from you will likely scare visitors.

Sayang
. Those are about the only real tourist spots in Manila and they have been rendered a little problematic for the casual visitor. Intramuros has the potential of the French Quarter in New Orleans but until they make it friendlier to visitors, it will be just sayang. There was absolutely no police presence in either Fort Santiago or Intramuros.

So different from places like Cairo where Muslim militants once targeted tourists. Today, the police are highly visible, on foot patrol or on camels. The Egyptians learned their lessons well and have successfully conveyed to the world the message that they take their tourism industry seriously. Today, you cannot even stroll along Roxas Boulevard or the back of the Quirino Grandstand without being hustled.

I thought Dick Gordon promised us the presence of Tourism policemen in tourist areas? The Intramuros Administration, the Philippine Tourism Authority and the Department of Tourism should pool their resources and hire a well-trained and well-paid Tourist Police Force. Don’t depend on the PNP. They have bigger problems.

That is how to spend money wisely on the basics of rebuilding the local tourism industry block by block. It is useless for our tourism officials to throw away money on their foreign junkets until they have fixed the situation on the ground. Make Intramuros and Fort Santiago hassle-free, for starters.

The City of Manila should work with the Department of Social Welfare and the Housing agencies of government to deal with the Intramuros squatters. I realize we cannot solve this country’s poverty problem overnight. But we should be able to at least clean up a few areas in the city, if only to present a more hospitable, if not agreeable face for tourism sake.

We can protest the travel advisories of the Western governments until we are blue in the face. But the State department spokesman was right when he said that they have a responsibility to advise their citizens about potential danger to their personal securities when they travel abroad. In fact, I will add my own travel advisory: avoid Intramuros, avoid Fort Santiago, avoid the usual tourist areas until our tourism officials start taking their jobs seriously by going back to basics first.
Pocket developments
I imagine Tong Padilla, Jay Lopez and Jun Palafox are mighty proud for having started a trend in local real estate development with the successful implementation of the Rockwell concept. After Rockwell came Eastwood and soon, the Gokongweis are developing their property at the corner of EDSA and Pioneer into a kind of Rockwell too.

Mandaluyong Mayor Ben Hur Abalos told us at the EDSA Plaza Tuesday Club this week that he is looking forward to the groundbreaking for the project. In fact, he said, he will support it by building a wide riverside road on that bank of the Pasig River. There is such a riverside road on the Makati side of the river but factories on the Mandaluyong side have extended their boundaries all the way to the riverbank. That is a violation of the rule on easements, the Mayor said and he intends to implement the rule.

The Gokongwei property is just slightly bigger than the 15-hectare Rockwell development. The hypermart and the apartelle that presently occupies it have not taken off. It is expected that converting it into Mandaluyong’s version of Rockwell should improve the contribution of the property to the JG Summit bottom line.

It does seem to me that the area is ripe for redevelopment. And inner city pocket sized developments like Rockwell, should do much better than larger and more ambitious developments like Fort Bonifacio in our kind of market. The one good thing with Mandaluyong is that the young Mayor Abalos is carrying out the vision of his father, now Comelec Chairman Ben. The Abalos father and son are demonstrating the good side of a political dynasty.
Stress Test
Here’s Dr. Ernie E.

Morris had just had coronary artery bypass surgery a month ago and now is at the doctor’s office for his final follow up visit. Of course Morris wants to know when he can start having sex again.

The doctor explains to Morris that he would be able to resume his sex life as soon as he could climb two flights of stairs without becoming winded.

Morris listens attentively and then says, "What if I look for women who live on the ground floor?"

(Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@bayantel.com.ph)

AFTER ROCKWELL ALL SAINTS DAY AVOID FORT SANTIAGO ECHAGUE FORT FORT SANTIAGO INTRAMUROS MANDALUYONG ROCKWELL TOURISM
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