‘Could this be the Philippines’ breakthrough year?’
With as much excitement, we are asking the same question posed by Lonely Planet when they declared the Philippines as one of the best countries to visit in 2015.
And in order to cement its reputation as a formidable travel destination in Southeast Asia, the Philippine Department of Tourism launched Visit Philippines Year 2015 last year.
Encouraging nationwide participation, DOT aims to stamp passports of 10 million visitors to the Philippines as the country hosts major events such as the recently-concluded Papal Visit last January and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meetings and Leaders’ Summit in December.
Through the years, the Philippines has amassed awards from various magazines and websites: Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast’s Traveler readers declared Palawan as the #1 among the Top Islands of the World; The Huffington Post agreed and said that Palawan is indeed, the most beautiful island in the world.
Last year, the Philippines received the Destination of the Year award at the 25th Annual TTG Travel Awards 2014 held in Bangkok. Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr accepted the award before Asia’s tourism professionals. The Philippines was chosen as the region’s most outstanding destination in 2014 for distinguishing itself with its proactive steps and initiatives towards the development and promotion of the travel industry.
The TTG Travel Awards is now reputed as the most coveted and influential awards to be garnered in the region’s travel industry. The signature trophy, a statuette of Hermes (the god of travel and protector of travellers in ancient Greek mythology), is cast in solid pewter and plated in 24K gold. Weighing two kilograms, the Hermes trophy has since then been the icon of the annual awards.
“This award belongs to all Filipinos. It is the Filipino people that have ensured the acceptance of It’s More Fun in the Philippines as a true and accurate description of the participative and active role every Filipino plays in ensuring a successful and enjoyable visit to the Philippines. Again, the determination of the Filipino people, coupled with the support of our President, Benigno S. Aquino III, is our inspiration to build a brighter tourism future for the Philippines—an industry that is more profitable and more inclusive,” Secretary Jimenez said.
This April, the Philippines is also set to host Madrid Fusión, Spain’s famed culinary event.
Madrid Fusion has established itself as one of the leading international gastronomy gatherings held annually in Madrid and attended by elite chefs and experts in the culinary field to discuss trends, evolution of tastes, and new food habits. More than 400 leading chefs from all five continents have graced its stage and performed live culinary demonstrations and memorable presentations on revolutionary techniques.
Among these culinary experts included Grant Achatz, Gaston Acurio, Ferran Adria, Juan Mari Arzak, Alex Atala, Nobu Matsuhisa, Heston Blumenthal, Michel Brass, Paul Bocure, Quique Dacosta, Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, and Michel Troisgros. In addition to the culinary demonstrations, there have also been master workshops, contests, tastings, tributes, auctions, and exhibitors zone.
Madrid Fusion’s 2014 edition brought together 1,000 congress delegates, 120 exhibitors, 96 speakers, 750 journalists, and 8267 authorized guests becoming a national trending topic on Twitter and appearing in most print and online publications.
For the first time ever, this gathering of global foodies will be held outside Spain. The Manila edition will be one of the highlights of Visit the Philippines Year (VPY) 2015 to help establish the Philippines as a focal point of gastronomic interest worldwide.
Madrid Fusión-Manila will have two major components: (a) the Gastronomy Congress which will include cooking demonstrations and food tasting, and (b) the Trade Exhibition which will feature table accessories and culinary equipment.
“Madrid Fusión-Manila is a celebration of the 370 years of Spanish and Filipino fusion. The idea is that it is the most modern, most cutting edge, and avant garde cuisine brought from the regular traditional cooking to the 21st century – the new techniques, new ingredients to create different textures and different experience to food,” Maria Leonor Esteban, Administrator of Arum said.
“Madrid Fusión is the single, most important conference for culinary in the 21st century. It is where the world goes to see the future of food. We are very excited to welcome people who are interested in food from Asia, primarily from ASEAN, and from the rest of the world to visit the Philippines in 2015. The whole concept behind Madrid Fusion is to gather the best in culinary arts and get them to share their knowledge. We believe in the Philippines’ potential to further grow as a center of culinary excellence in Asia, and Madrid Fusion will help amplify that,” Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. said.
Four Spanish Star Chefs have confirmed their participation in the Manila edition, namely, Andoni Aduriz, Mario Sandoval, Paco Torreblanca and Jose Luis Gonzalez.
Aduriz is chef and owner of the restaurant Mugaritz (2 Michelin stars) in the Basque countryside near San Sebastian and as a disciple of Ferrán Adriá (from Catalan, Spain and considered one of the best chefs in the world), has famously bridged the gap between cook and chemist with his adventurous cuisine that is at the same time playful and yet deeply rooted in his respect for nature’s bounty. He is known for his local, hyper-seasonal, and progressive dishes and for being one of the ground-breakers of Modernist Cuisine. Mugaritz has consistently been among the top 10 restaurants in the world (theworlds50best.com) since 2006.
Sandoval is the talented chef the restaurant Coque (1 Michelin star), in Humanes just outside Madrid. The restaurant was opened by his grandfather and is now run by Mario and his three brothers (Rafael – sommelier, Jose Ramón – grill chef, and Juan Diego – maître d’). Mario took over the reins of Coque after studying with mentors Arzak, Subijana, and Ferrán Adría, and has succeeded in bringing prestige, innovation, and creativity to the traditional cuisine and products of Madrid.
Torreblanca is a master pastry chef from Alicante known to be the “agitator” behind patisserie in haute cuisine. One of his fascinations is designing chocolates by blending cocoa with spices and ingredients from all over the world. His use of extra virgin olive oil to replace cocoa butter has created chocolates of amazing smoothness. In Spain, he is famous for his delicate artistic creations and for having made the spectacular wedding cake for the Prince of Asturias, the present King.
Gonzalez, who hails from Santander, Spain, was once part of El Bulli, Arzak, Mugaritz, Noma, and El Celler de Can Roca – which are top Michelin-star dining spots in the world. After a stint as chef de cuisine at Sofitel and Shangri-La in the Philippines, Gonzalez put up Vask at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, designed to reflect the flavors and cooking techniques Gonzalez learned while working in some of the world’s best restaurants, as well as from his travels.
More Fun in 2015
The year-long campaign promises a lot of fun to every tourist visiting the country this year.
International acts are also set to rock the country: from One Direction (March 21 to 22) to Justin Timberlake (date still to be announced); or Bastille (Jan. 5) to the tour of Beauty and the Beast, among others.
For art lovers, there’s Photoworld Asia 2015 (Jan. 29 to Feb. 3), Philippine International Furniture Show 2015 (March 13 to 16), Fringe Manila Arts Festival (February), Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival in Puerto Galera (March 6 to 8), and Philippine International Jazz and Arts Festival (February). There’s also the annual Aliwan Festival in Manila, which will bring together all the country’s fiestas in one venue, the 70th year of the Philippine-American Friendship Day (July 4), and the Andrea O. Veneracion International Choral Festival (July).
For the sports enthusiasts, there’s the 9th Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival (April 23-25) in Aklan, Lanuza Surfing Festival in Surigao del Sur (November), the 6th International Martial Arts and Games (August), the 8th International Martial Arts Competition (date to be announced), and major triathlon events in Cebu, Albay, and Bohol.
New York Times Travel Show
At the New York Times Travel Show over the weekend, local DOT officials led by Zeny Pallugna and Joey Chanco joined Consul General Mario L. de Leon, Jr., Ms. Eleanor de Leon and Consul Felipe Carino in welcoming booth guests.
The show promoted the country’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign along with Visit Philippines Year 2015.
This year, DOT is also spearheading the 10th year of the Ambassadors, Consuls General and Tourism Directors (ACGTD) Tour. Slated for July 6 to 10, the ACGTD is a packaged tour meant to promote the various tourism destinations in the country.
With more than 500 exhibitor booths and 20,000 attendees, the travel show also boasted hundreds of seminars led by industry professionals and travel experts. Topics ranged from solo travelling to culinary tourism to improving one’s travel photography skills and trends in global travel.
Indeed, the recent “historic” blizzard of 2015 that was forecast to hit New York and New Jersey hard has everyone wishing for warmer climate, imagining and dreaming more tropical destinations to visit. With the strong dollar and dropping airfares, now is the best time to book that dream vacation.
(NYNJ January 30, 2015 LifeEASTyle Magazine pg.2)