Starweek Magazine

It's more fun in Yeosu!

- Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - You may as well be in a dive suit.

As you enter the Philippine pavilion, sounds of relaxing music greet you while videos of underwater images of various destinations and facets of our culture and society are shown on the cinema wall.

To your right you see a wall of coral spores or coral-looking abaca figures that integrate hi-tech screens with QRCs (Quick Read Codes) which are so in fashion in Korea, being the high-tech capital that it is. 

And to your left is a screen featuring the critters and exotic creatures of our seas, which is the major reason for the flock of Korean divers to our shores.

There are three “pods” that show different images of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and a separate pod dedicated to conservation and biodiversity. 

Lively music, vibrant marine life, and delicious food prove that, indeed, it’s more fun in the Philippines.

Each pod is surrounded by a thick bed of different colored sand – brown sand from San Lorenzo, Guimaras; white sand from Boracay; black sand from Sto. Domingo, Albay and pink sand from Sta. Cruz Island, Zamboanga.

Young and old visitors sit by the pods and touch the sand, imagining they are already by the beach. Some sit on banig cushions to allow themselves to dream that they have been transported to our shores.

Yes, the pavilion is small but it is the fun pavilion, where even children can touch and find treasures in the sand, have a drink of mango juice or a taste of tropical fruit cocktail served in small sampler cups and interact with the Kor-Pi frontliners in a trivia game for raffle prizes that range from candies to a roundtrip ticket to the Philippines. 

The adults prefer the coffee, some with a taste of coconut sugar, some just drink it black. Yes, even the adults are entitled to win a pin “I Love the Philippines” after a sip of coffee.

The Yeosu World Expo opened May 12 to record numbers even if the south seaside port city is about 3 hours by high-speed train from Seoul or a three-hour bus ride from Busan (see related story in sidebar). 

Ambassador Luis Cruz is flanked by ECHOstore directors Reena Francisco and the author. Photos by Reena Francisco

Everyday, young and old alike troop to the Philippine pavilion, which luckily is centrally located, right by the huge halls of the USA, Australia and Indonesia. Malaysia, our neighbor, has shows every day while Australia has a food bar serving steak sandwiches and kangaroo burgers.

Our very own DJ Elmer Dado and Gruppo Tribale entertain visitors daily with their lively upbeat music, inviting viewers to dance and have fun.

The Philippines chose to remain small but active. Everyday we let the visitors sample our drinks, our dried fruits and even cornick or what they call “oksusu” in Korean. 

We entertain visitors with our now famous DOT slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” with videos of our fun people engaged in all kinds of activities, practically inviting the viewer not to waste time and to already hop on a plane to Manila or Palawan or Cebu. And it’s really easy to do so – Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific serve many routes to and from Incheon and Busan.

The author, DOT-TPB Asec. Ramon Enerio, PAL’s Mr. Starsky, Ambassador Cruz, and tourism attache Maricon Ebron.

The other surprises are the Koreans who have lived in the Philippines and who identify so much with everything in the pavilion – from the dried mangoes to the jeepney models that decorate the souvenir shop. 

They introduce the mangoes to their friends and tell stories of what they have experienced in the country, like riding the jeepney and going to the beach.

It’s nice to see Koreans teaching other Koreans about our country. I am certain these Koreans know for sure and can vouch that “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”

How best to sell Philippine-made products than through sampling – we let them try it to believe it.

The Philippine pavilion souvenir shop conducts sampling of coffee and also provides taste tests of dried fruits and other delicacies.

ECHOstore sustainable lifestyle was tapped by the Tourism Promotions Board to put together a selection of food products ranging from cornick to dried fruits, fruit cocktail and, of course, the most popular of them all – coffee.

Visitors sample and buy Philippine products at the souvenir shop, whose design is inspired by a fisherman’s basket.

Coffee is available in small gift box sizes to bigger sample boxes of the famous civet coffee, which had already been featured in a popular YouTube link by a prominent journalist right after his visit on the first week of the expo. The same journalist featured barako coffee as “manly” coffee and this feature has also gone viral.

Everyday, hundreds of Koreans get to taste our coffee, sometimes flavored with coconut sugar or a sugar alternative like Sweet and Fit, which is from the stevia plant.

Civet coffee has been drawing crowds. Many Koreans now look for Philippine civet coffee and the Yeosu expo is the best place to let Koreans try this remarkable and special brew.

The YEOSU World Expo 2012 runs until Aug. 12, 2012. The author is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle. Follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or facebook: Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at [email protected]

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