Improving our race
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - December 22, 2015 - 9:00am

Last Monday morning, a tired Filipino-American who had travelled long haul on board the country’s flag carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), received the best wake-up call upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal-2. It turned out 23-year-old Gabby Grantham was the five-millionth foreign visitor to the Philippines.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. described welcoming the five-millionth foreign visitor as a very significant event. DOT is eyeing 5.2 million tourist arrivals before this year ends.

Originally launched “More Fun in the Philippines,” the program of DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez aims to double tourist arrivals by 10 million at the end of the term of President Aquino in June 2016.

Fortunately, our tourism program did not suffer a backlash from the alleged “tanim-bala” incidents that hogged media headlines in the past weeks. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has started the preliminary investigation of six airport personnel tagged in the alleged bullet-planting scheme at NAIA, victimizing some of our OFWs. Being investigated were several personnel from the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) and the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group (PNP-ASG) operatives assigned at NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3.

Bengzon led DOT officials in the red carpet welcome for Grantham. She was most surprised when her name was called out from among the disembarking passengers of PAL’s PR-103 San Francisco-Manila flight, which landed at 3:48 a.m. “I thought I was in trouble,” Grantham quipped in between giggles. Her fears were squelched only after she received a bouquet of flowers from DOT’s welcoming party.

Grantham was also awarded with a package tour, with hotel accommodation from the DOT for being the five-millionth visitor in the Philippines this year. She flew in to visit her grandparents in Cebu and explore Palawan as part of her two-week vacation.

She has a Filipino mother and an American father and has been living in New York. Actually, it was Grantham’s second time to visit the country. The first time was when she was only seven years old.  For all intents and purposes, she is really a “balikbayan.”

The Philippines, like many multi-racial countries, has produced a good mix of breed of people through inter-marriages. This has improved our race through generations.

Our very own newly crowned 2015 Miss Universe, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, is a fine product of such inter-marriages. The 26-year-old Miss Philippines-Universe is half-Filipino and half-German. Her Eurasian features stood out as the clear winner from among the 77 candidates in the just concluded Miss Universe beauty competition held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Though she rightfully got the Miss Universe crown, a bungling clown stole her glorious moment of personal triumph. An emcee by the name of Steve Harvey announced by mistake that Miss Colombia was the winner. It took Harvey several minutes later to correct his mistake and show the elimination card he was reading from, which clearly indicated Philippines as the “Miss Universe” while Miss Colombia was the “First Runner-Up.”

The late Bob Barker, a veteran emcee of Miss Universe contests, must be turning in his grave when Harvey committed this grave boo-boo. But our very own Filipina bet showed how “confidently beautiful with a heart” she is. She went out her way to console Miss Colombia before rejoicing her own vindication. That’s a true Filipina woman with substance.

She is coming back soon to the Philippines via PAL as her official carrier. While she would arrive from a smooth flight, hopefully she and her fellow passengers would not be roused by bumpy runway when her plane lands.

Big and small planes experience such bumpy landing due to huge potholes at the NAIA runway. So how exactly did the 658-meter extension of NAIA runway that was inaugurated last week fixed this problem of potholed runway?

The newly built P452 million worth of new taxiway extension was billed as something that would definitely decongest the taxiway at NAIA, particularly the intersection of the runways.

The increased length of the taxiway and the reported activation of the rapid-exit taxiway on the runway are expected to ease the congestion at NAIA runways that prolongs waiting time for takeoff and landing of aircraft. The extended runway is obviously not making a dent yet in improving air traffic.

Since the Christmas season started early this month, there have been so much traffic both on the ground and up in the air at NAIA. This is very visible for motorists driving along Coastal Road at nighttime. You can see the blinking lights of aircraft glowing in the dark clouds like big stars. They are on holding pattern and flying low waiting for their turns to land at NAIA.

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), coming home for the Christmas vacation, account for the bulk of travellers. Of course, the OFWs are not counted in the foreign tourism arrivals although they came from countries around the world.

It is not clear how the DOT does the counting of foreign tourist arrivals here. There are valid questions raised as to how the DOT counts foreign tourists, especially those coming to the country several times a year. For example, a Korean national who flies in and out every now and then to study, or do his business, or visit his family living in the Philippines?

Incidentally, South Korea is the biggest contributor to the “More Fun in the Philippines” tourism program in terms of foreign visitors’ arrival. Thus, it should be no wonder, communities of “little Korea” have sprouted all over the Philippines from Subic Bay in Olongapo City and right in our own neighborhood in B.F. Homes in Parañaque City.

I would not be surprised if someday a half-Filipina, half-Korean will represent the Philippines in yet another world beauty competition in the near future. As my late professor in history once taught us, we should strive to improve our race.

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