World class Filipino service
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2018 - 12:00am

LAPU-LAPU CITY – Sometimes we wonder if we can provide the kind of product or service that can compete in an international environment. We see so many businesses run by Pinoys for the Pinoy market that thrive on the “pwede na” way of thinking. 

But, of course, we can give world class service if we set our minds to do that. I saw three such examples over the weekend when I took my balikbayan daughter and her family to Cebu. 

 As I wrote last Monday, the Mactan Cebu International Airport that is now privately managed is a good example of how to treat its users as valuable customers. And because they want to have a significant number of tourist arrivals, they are doing everything to live up to their claim of being a resort airport. 

Walking out of the passenger loading bridge to the terminal, customer service staff dressed in colorful fiesta attire welcome you. The terminal building has a cheery atmosphere, a dramatic difference from the glum ambience of the NAIA terminals. 

The Megawide people didn’t just invest money building the new terminal and then wait for passengers to use it, which is the attitude of government airport managers. They are actively seeking more airlines to fly direct to Cebu. The more flights, the more they earn in landing fees, passenger terminal fees, and from their share in earnings of airport concessionaires. 

They have also made arrangements with the relevant government agencies so that OFWs going to the Middle East do not have to go to Manila to get final clearances to fly. That’s how they convinced Middle Eastern airlines to make direct international flights to and from Cebu.

Indeed, our tourism promotion efforts should encourage visitors to bypass Manila and its chaos and go directly to Cebu. The nice beaches are in Cebu or an easy connecting flight from Cebu. The new terminal will save us a lot of embarrassment caused by NAIA that sullies our international image.

Feedback coming from foreign visitors already indicates Mactan Cebu International Airport is the only airport in this country managed according to world class standards. And they are now starting to fully rehabilitate Mactan’s Terminal 1.

I walked around the new Terminal 2 and I must say every Filipino who feels frustrated and embarrassed about NAIA should come and visit. It makes you feel proud that this terminal is simply amazing and proof that the Filipino can, if he wants to.

One innovation I noticed is the final security check on hand carried bags. They have a conveyor system that automatically feeds trays and when the x-ray image suggests a second look, it goes to a second conveyor belt so as not to break the flow of the rest. An inspector at the second conveyor belt can recall the x-ray image to make a final clearance determination. This process does not hold up the line.

Mactan Terminal 2 also showcases the best design talents not only of Cebuanos, but also of Filipinos as a whole. World famous and Cebu-based Dedon furniture makers, among others, contributed to the terminal’s outfitting.

The other locally owned establishment here that is managed according to world class standards is Plantation Bay. It is amazing to see a totally Filipino owned and managed resort exude such attention to the details of ensuring service excellence. 

Indeed, because most of the guests are foreigners, it is easy to think you are not even in the Philippines while you are swimming in the man-made lagoon. The Philippine flag flying over the reception area and the Filipino staff bring you to back to the reality that you are home. 

Plantation Bay had been successful for 20 or so years because of the personal management style of its principal owner, Manny Gonzalez.

I know he doesn’t like being compared to his former boss Bobby Ongpin, and Bobby likely feels the same way. But their attention to detail, insistence on doing things right with no compromise, and the large amount of personal time they invest in the business is their secret to success. 

In the course of last weekend, I kept on bumping into Manny on his Segway as he inspected the large resort, while I was doing my FitBit walk. I also saw him working with his staff on just the right recipe for a drink he calls Coca Colada... ice cream, Coke, and rum. 

My wife and daughter, who tried the massage in the resort’s Mogambo Springs and Spa, told me it was better than the one they had at EDSA Shagrila’s Chi. Both the ambience and the service were superior. 

Manny has been a world traveler for years, and so are his other partners. The experience they get from all their travels they bring back to Plantation Bay. 

No wonder acclaimed international travel magazines have given them very high marks. But what I marvel at is the consistency of the service throughout the years.

Helping Manny keep up quality is Efren Belarmino, who was recalled from a very brief retirement, to oversee things specially when Manny is abroad. But Efren is also often abroad leading selling missions.

Then there is Philippine Airlines. It just got its 4-star rating and is determined to be 5-star soon. Jimmy Bautista, PAL’s president, told me the other week that they are focused not just on acquiring new aircrafts, but also to constantly improve the quality of service their staff provides.

I think in terms of cabin service, they are already five-star. Even the ground crew, specially during check-in, give the kind of gracious and helpful service we often call Filipino hospitality. Jimmy admits their call center needs a lot of improvement, but they are getting there too.

World class Pinoy service is what our tourism industry should aim for. Kaya natin yan!

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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