Presenting our ocean's diversity
A SPIRITED SOUL - Jeannie E. Javelosa (The Philippine Star) - August 26, 2012 - 12:00am

“Ah... Mango! Mango! Philippine mango,” said the Korean lady with a jubilant smile as she held up a pack of dried mangoes from the shelves. This was a scene repeated almost daily at the Philippine Pavilion at the South Korea Expo, where ECHOstore manned the souvenir shop for the past two months. As visitors continued to come to the Philippine Pavilion, the items they would inevitably purchase would be dried mangoes, mango juice and dalandan juice (cornicks were sold out during the first month!) while we continued to show and explain our pili nuts, polvoron and cocosap.

Our dried mangoes were aligned to the Filipino “brand experience,” and so, too, were our beautiful white beaches. But the whole Pavilion was about allowing the Koreans to experience what fun, life, color, vibrancy, rhythm and celebration was all about alongside our marine conservation efforts. Visitors were seated on the floor on woven rattan cushions, touching the different colored beach sands that were showcased, while sipping Philippine coffee. Around them was a sense-surround experience of multimedia images showing spectacular underwater marine life alongside fun-Filipinos cultural tourism come-ons.

Branding our country and projecting this to the international community is a long-drawn process, where each baby step counts: each product exported, packaged, sold and enjoyed; music heard; images projected… everything we are trying to say about the best in us. Nothing should be left to chance. All these matter. While much work needs to be done on the infrastructure of our country or on the reach of good governance all the way to the grassroots and LGUs, at least international marketing and promotional efforts are coming together more cohesively.

Earlier this year, I also spotted a photo of the CITEM’s Food Philippine booth at the Hong Kong Fair and noted how nice it looked. And can I mention how we (using my EON Stakeholder Relations Firm hat as part of our “branding the Philippines advocacy”) tried to help put cohesion to the Manila 2012 ADB Conference events and Philippine Pavilion exhibition at the SMX last May.

The Philippine Pavilion at the recently concluded Yeosu Expo in Korea is the most recent Philippine Pavilion I have seen. While other country pavilions had bigger budgets, spaces and great animations, I still say “bravo” for the small jewel that was our Pavilion. Working around the expo’s theme of “Living Ocean and Coast,” the Department of Tourism, alongside many partners created the multimedia Philippine Pavilion with the theme “Islands of Diversity, Seas of Connectivity.” 

In this Yeosu expo, everything was aligned: from conceptual messages (put together by our world-renowned marine biologist Dr. Edgardo Dizon Gomez) to tasteful design that made use of our coral motifs and natural materials (designed by the U26, a design team of young architects), simplicity of presentation, wonderful videos, a lambanog and tapuy table-cum-bar outside, and nicely-packaged Filipino products for sale at the souvenir store. Not that we were such a hard sell in Korea. In his opening statement during the Philippine National Day celebrations last July 22, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said that the 950,000 annual Korean tourist mark (the largest group of foreign nations that come to the country) has been reached. Philippine Ambassador to Korea Luis Cruz, said that exports to Korea has gone up 1,000 times more and now hitting just under close to $ 1 million. Korean cuisine, telenovela series and K-Pop artists have also been embraced by the Filipinos — so familiarity to each other’s culture has deepened even more.

“The center of the world’s marine biodiversity” is a truly unique claim to fame for a country, and we can keep shouting this out. Our seas are known as the “Amazon of the seas” that thrive with an abundance of species so much so that they form the apex of the Coral Triangle. This has been acknowledged around the world as the most diverse part of the oceans, with more than 500 species of corals and 1,000 species of reef fish. The Philippines is the “center of the center” of biodiversity of shore fishes in the world, and a global priority for conservation.

Aside from the interior designs, a spectacular underwater video created specifically for this project, with film donated by a group of Filipino diving enthusiasts is the main showcase. Bok, the giant clam mascot, shared his “Bok dance” amidst the live band and percussions (Gruppo Tribale played three times daily) that made all the visitors feel the “fun and life” of our people and place. The Philippine National Day event (supported by PAGCOR, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines) packed the Expo Hall (I almost didn’t get in) and irritated Koreans had to be turned away due to lack of space. It was also great to see a highly entertaining performance that brought modern dance and cultural dances (Ballet Philippines, the University of Cebu dancers and Sinulog dancers from Cebu and Bohol) alongside pop music presentations (Kyla, Gian Magdangal and Down to Mars).

I noted the reuse of the theme song Our Time is Now as the opening number. The lyrics were written by Jim Paredes for the ADB Manila 2012 Conference held here last May. What this tells me is that various government agencies are actually beginning to work together and collaborate and using what is relevant for government-led projects. Government and private sector can and must work together if the continuous process of presenting our country to the world would result in a much better image. This would bring in more tourists, investments and better treatment of our Filipinos abroad.

Sharing the lyrics of the song:

“We are shining

Three stars and the sun

In this place where it really is more fun.

We are happening,

And raring for the run.

We have found our true place in the sun.

Hey people of the world,

We know our time has come,

Our time is now.

Our time is now.”

 

(The Philippine Pavilion in Yeosu Korea Expo won the People Choice Award under category of Best Exhibit/Small Pavilion. Congratulations to DOT and U26 designers! )

BALLET PHILIPPINES BEST EXHIBIT BOK PAVILION PHILIPPINE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL DAY PHILIPPINE PAVILION
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