'First rate' and 'Philippines' can go together
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno (The Philippine Star) - August 20, 2012 - 12:00am

When I was around 10, I had a Korean best friend named Jae Whang Ryu. Jae and I were inseparable. We’d usually spend the whole day together, lounging around on the branch of one of the big trees in the village or just biking around, discussing anything under the sun  from the end of the world to World War III, death, the impending nuclear holocaust, girls, sports, anything.   More often than not, we agreed on a lot of things. But there was one thing we always debated on: which country was better, Korea or the Philippines?

Jae, of course, always claimed that Korea was better. Naturally, I claimed that the Philippines was better. Of course, back then, I didn’t know any better. At that time, I hadn’t really traveled anywhere. There was no Internet. So I just thought the Philippines was the best. It was the only country I’d ever been in. 

Jae, on the other hand, was telling me how great Korea was, with its big manufacturing companies and all. He showed me an ashtray of his dad’s with the word “Samsung” on it, and he told me what a big company Samsung was. I said, “Samsung? What kind of a stupid corporate name is that? That company will never amount to anything.” 

Then he would tell me how great they were in sports and I would counter, “Hey, Jaworski and the RP team beat Shin Dong Pa and the Korean basketball team, and Rolando Navarrete beat the living daylights out of your boxer, Choi Chung-Il! What have you got to say to that?”

Eventually, Jae and his family left the country and I never heard from him again … up until recently when we hooked up on LinkedIn. But as I reconnected with him, I realized just how ridiculous it sounds that I had the audacity to even compare the Philippines with Korea. Of course, back then, maybe that wasn’t such a crazy notion. Korea wasn’t that far ahead of us during the early ’80s. But today, the notion of even mentioning the two countries in the same breath is preposterous. And we Filipinos know just how far we’ve fallen behind Korea, which is now considered one of the super economies in the world. Korea has hosted the Olympics, the World Cup, and currently, the World Expo. We, on the other hand, can barely host the Southeast Asian Games. I read somewhere that if Samsung was a country, it would be among the top 35 economies in the world. Imagine that.

Now, having said that, I am not one to whine about what could have been, what would have been, and what should have been. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Not a big fan of that. The past is the past, and we can’t do anything about our bad decisions, particularly our political decisions. It is what it is. What we have right now is the present and the future, and that’s what we should really focus on.

The good news is, our present is not so bad, and our future looks really promising. Both Bloomberg and Reuters reported that Philippines is one of the best “breakout” countries to invest in, especially for the long term. “The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are so yesterday,” said Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma. “Rapid growth can’t be sustained and it’s time to look to the next decade’s big growers for big returns.” Reuters’ Fred Katayama reaffirmed this and said that Turkey, Indonesia and the Philippines are the next big bet.

And there’s a reason to believe this prospect. For one thing, our political situation is relatively stable. You don’t see a lot of political rallies going on. You don’t hear a lot of anti-government sentiment. Instead, everyone seems to be rallying behind the no-nonsense, “clean governance” style of P-Noy. And now, more than ever before, everywhere you go and everywhere you look, you hear about a world-class, first-rate Pinoy making waves, breaking barriers, and achieving the unthinkable: Lea Salonga, Manny Pacquiao, Arnel Pineda, Charice Pempengco  all Pinoys, all first-rate, all world-class.

And if you sometimes feel distraught about Metro Manila and all its imperfections, don’t fret. You have to realize that the Philippines is not Metro Manila. The Philippines has far more to offer than just the national capital region. For example, we have the best beach island in the world. In case you haven’t heard, Travel+Leisure magazine named Boracay the Top Beach Destination. The island, known for its powdery-white sand and clear waters, topped the magazine’s 2012 World’s Best Awards with a rating of 93.10, beating the popular Indonesian destination Bali Island, which ranked second with 90.41. The magazine’s annual World’s Best Awards rates hotels, islands, destination spas, golf resorts and rental-car agencies based on an online survey among its readers. This is clear proof that not everything in the Philippines is an eyesore. Travel + Leisure features director, Nilou Motamed, announced the winners of the 2012 World’s Best Awards survey on the Today daily American morning television show that airs on NBC.   

An even more important distinction than Boracay being rated No. 1 is that Discovery Shores Boracay resort  that beautiful development  was voted No. 1 Hotel Spa in Asia. It was also ranked fifth in the top 100 hotels in the world (from 55th last year) and second top resort in Asia (from eighth last year). The posh resort also bagged the best hotel spa in Asia award. 

It’s worth noting that Discovery Shores is owned and managed by a local company, Discovery Leisure Company, Inc. It just goes to show that a Filipino-managed and Filipino-manned company can be world-class. I know this from personal experience as I had a chance to try out Discovery Shores recently and I must say, the service and amenities are nothing short of world-class. My wife, Teemy, who has traveled all around the world, said to me, “I’ve been in all kinds of hotels and resorts all over the globe. I have never ever experienced this kind of first-rate service. It’s unparalleled. The staff knows exactly what you want, and when you want it. They are always ready to help and yet, are not intrusive. It’s amazing. They are trained so well.”

Discovery Shores has been consistently in the T+L World’s Best Awards list of Top Resorts in Asia for three years now, each year ranking higher in the readers’ survey.  “This is an affirmation of our unwavering commitment to giving our guests unmatched service standards complemented by our dedicated staff and our world-class facilities,“ said Jose C Parreño, J, chief operating officer of The Discovery Leisure Company Inc. and concurrent general manager of Discovery Shores Boracay.  

Discovery Shores and Discovery Leisure Company, Inc. are perfect examples that the words “world-class” and “Philippines” can go together. These words used to be mutually opposed to each other. Not anymore.

Okay, sure, Korea still beats the Philippines economically. No contest there. But judging from the number of Koreans who are coming over here and making the Philippines their home (don’t believe me? Go to P. Burgos), you can bet that there’s something more special in the Philippines that even Koreans won’t deny.  

The Philippines is well on its way to becoming world-class. And the sooner you believe that, the sooner it will benefit all of us.

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For inquiries and reservations on Discovery Shores, call 720-8888, (36) 288-4500, visit www.discoveryshoresboracay.com or www.slh.com/discoveryshores.

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Thanks for all your letters, folks! You may email me at rodnepo@yahoo.com.

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