Sunday Lifestyle

Changing the image of Zamboanga

- Rolly A. San Juan -
Over the years, Zamboanga City has been depicted as a scary city, definitely much worse than the reality. As always, Zamboangueños complain and envy neighboring cities that have overtaken La Bella Zamboanga in pace and progress.

It is in this light that the first media forum was launched last October 13, with Philippine STAR publisher Maximo V. Soliven and top hotelier and businessman Arthur M. Lopez as resource speakers. They were joined by Tourism regional director for Western Mindanao Ricardo A. San Juan and National Economic and Development Authority regional director Rafael G. Evangelista.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso L. Lobregat, the brain behind the forum, said the time to act is now, asking "must we do nothing but lament the stigma of an image that has befallen us?"

"This is unacceptable. All sectors of society must now awaken and do their share to craft a healthier, more wholesome and positive image for La Bella," Lobregat added.

Lobregat appealed to his friends in media to tone down on crime stories and for all stakeholders in the city to deliberate on how to improve access of the media to relevant and positive information through an institutionalized mechanism that would counter the bad news it gets daily.

"Zamboanga is our city. We live here and we will die here," he said, adding that while he adheres to the freedom of the press, with it too comes responsibilities.

For his part, Soliven asked the media people present to always uphold the truth in reporting stories. As the center of the region, Soliven said, Zamboanga City could not do away with negative stories that happen in Basilan and other parts of the Zamboanga peninsula.

"Just do you work, do your best, write the truth," Soliven advised the local media.

The same was echoed by internationally acclaimed hotelier Lopez, a Zamboangueño, who wants Zamboanga City to be known as the same place he knew from his youth – colorful, vibrant, rich, peaceful and beautiful. "You have the power to shape opinions and change perceptions. You can hold sway over your readers and listeners," Lopez said.

San Juan talked on the prospects of tourism in Zamboanga while Evangelista delved on the prospects of economic advancement.

At the conclusion of the forum, media, government and civic groups forged an agreement expressing their unwavering support to the move to re-image Zamboanga City and promote it as a viable destination for tourists and investors.

The signing of the commitment of support capped the first media forum sponsored by the city government in coordination with the Zamboanga Press Club headed by Larry Velasquez, the Tourism Press Corp of Zamboanga City under the leadership of Rolly A. San Juan, the City Government Press Corp under Liza A. Jocson and the REAWESMIN. Also present during the forum were Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Generoso Senga, PNP regional director Vidal Querol and Spain’s honorary consul in Zamboanga City Ditos Lobregat.











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