A new hope for the nation

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco -

For several decades, generations of kids enjoyed tours of the Nayong Pilipino, which featured replicas of landmarks found in the various provinces of the Philippines. I remember going there on field trip in fifth grade. We went on a Saturday morning aboard our yellow school bus and had fun touring the Vigan house, the Igorot huts and going around the mini Mayon Volcano.

Given today’s technology, however, those attractions that fascinated us back then would probably make the present generation of kids restless and maybe even die of boredom. In those days, the most exciting feature of Nayong Pilipino was the red glow of light on Mayon’s crater that becomes visible at night. Since the Nayong Pilipino had become outmoded and failed to compete with other more recent attractions for children, it had already closed shop for good.

But the good news is that the Nayong Pilipino will be opening in three to four years along with a huge entertainment complex that will rival that of Macau and maybe even Las Vegas (Vegas continues to expand, however).

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has decided to name this new entertainment center Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City Manila. A project of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and spearheaded by the agency’s chairman and CEO Efraim Genuino and president and COO Rafael Butch Francisco, it will rise on reclaimed land in Parañaque, near the Coastal Mall.

The reclaimed area in that part of the metropolis is actually 100 hectares. Around 20 hectares of the property — to be operated by the Nayong Pilipino Foundation — will be used as the new site where the little Mayon Volcano, plus other replicas of Philippine landmarks, will rise. The bigger attraction, however, will sit on 40 hectares to be run by Pagcor. As envisioned by Genuino and Francisco, this will be a huge entertainment center that will become the country’s top tourists’ destination.

In spite of the fact that this is a Pagcor project, Butch Francisco (yes, he is my namesake) would like to point out that only less than five percent of the complex would be devoted to casinos. A responsible and loving father to a teenage boy (his junior) and a respected resident of Pasay City, Francisco wants this center to attract children and so expect wholesome — but grand — entertainment once this project becomes operational.

The following will be the main attractions of the Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment Center Manila:

An Oceanarium — According to Francisco, this will be five times bigger than the one that currently attracts lovers of sea creatures at the back of the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park.

Theme parks — One will be similar to the Universal Studios in Los Angeles, but it will be set up in cooperation with Warner Brothers. Francisco is already coordinating with the bosses of this major Hollywood studio regarding this theme park.

Museums — There will be two museums, inspired mostly by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Both will focus on the Asian arts, however, but with more stress on Philippine culture, of course. “We promise that a huge chunk of this complex will basically be educational,” says Francisco. 

Kidzania — This is actually a kiddie theme park that originated in Mexico, but had also been set up in other parts of the globe. Indonesia already has one and the Philippines will be the next in Asia to have a Kidzania.

In line with Francisco’s desire to make the entertainment center educational, the Kidzania will allow children to don costumes of their choice. If their dream is to be a doctor someday, the Kidzania will provide them with a mock doctor’s uniform and they will be put in a play hospital where they can pretend to be doctors and will be exposed to what we normally see in those medical institutions — but minus the germs that we usually bring home with us when we visit real hospitals.

Now, if the kid would want to be a cop, he can put on a policeman’s uniform and he will be stationed in a play street to direct traffic. I don’t know how they can integrate this into child’s play, but my suggestion is also for them to educate the children on the ills of accepting kotong, the complications of having many wives and the health benefits of having a trimmer waistline. Finally, we will have a new generation of law enforcers the public can actually trust. This is going to be my challenge to the Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment Center Manila.

The thrill and fun of role-playing for the children, however, doesn’t end there. They will also be given compensation — play money or coupons that they can use to buy refreshments after “a hard day’s work.”

A huge Ferris wheel — It’s like the one in London where each hanging booth can accommodate the whole family.

Hotels — If we are attracting tourists, we need to house them and so new hotels will be built within the complex. 

A large stadium — This is going to be so big that it will have a seating capacity that could take in 40,000 people. The stadium can be used for either sports competitions or concerts. The best part is that it has a roof that can open or close — depending on the weather. Concert organizers don’t have to worry anymore about their events getting rained out. The downside: There will be fewer eggs for the Sta. Clara nuns, who in turn distribute these food donations among the hungry.

Theaters — There will be several and each one will have a huge stage that can fit the whole cast of Miss Saigon — plus the helicopter. Francisco swears that the production staff can drive automobiles in and out of the stage if the script calls for it. I guess this is going to be welcome news for the people of Repertory Philippines. Now, they can have a home.

The best part about these theaters is that we will finally have a venue for our local entertainers. Filipino talents will be showcased and the tourists will come to watch them. They don’t have to leave the Philippines to seek employment abroad and be away from their families.

Yes, employment will be generated by the Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City Manila not only for singers and dancers, but also for other skilled workers. Francisco estimates that some 200,000 job opportunities will be created by the project.

Will they be able to accomplish this project? Yes, there are already three major investors that have come in. Francisco is also very hands-on with the project. In fact, prior to our conversation he just came from the site for inspection. Under his and Genuino’s leadership, they have turned Pagcor into the second biggest earner for the national government after the Finance Department. Income from Pagcor is used for the government socio-civic and development projects.

I have yet to meet Genuino, but Butch Francisco strikes me as an intelligent, sensible and yet kind-hearted person. I’m honored that he is my namesake and I concede to the fact that he is the better Butch Francisco.









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