A Very Important Pinoy Tour

Round table discussions were held recently to push for Philippine tourism in the Chinatown district in Los Angeles. Top photo shows the discussions being presided by Rajah Tours Philippines’ Alejandra Cruz Clemente (center, in black coat). With her in photo are (clockwise, starting to her left) tourism-based partners Megs Ilagan of Innovative Travel and Tours, former Tourism Director Manny Ilagan, Philippine Airlines executive Mitty Abellar Torres, Dr. Dante Banta, journalist Dan Niño, Cultural Officer Edelvina Valencia, Consul for Cultural Diplomacy Mariecris P. Chieng, Deputy Consul General Maria Alnee Gamble, and Asian Journal president Cora Oriel.

LOS ANGELES – In a bid to bolster tourism in the Philippines with emphasis in the untapped countrysides – the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board and its implementing partner Rajah Tours – are intensifying their campaign to attract Fil-Ams and other diverse groups in North America to visit the Philippines from July 21 to 30 this year.

Originally christened as Ambassadors, Consul Generals and Tourism Directors (ACGTD) Tour to visit the Motherland, this flagship project was launched in 2005 by the late Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario with the support of all foreign posts in the U.S. and Canada. There was an initial 350 participants. It gained traction with 500 adherents the following year.

In 2008, the program registered 605 visitors and fluctuated to 184 in 2017 due to the declaration of martial law in Marawi and Davao in these two featured destinations. It was scrapped in 2010 and 2016 due to national elections and 2020, 2021 and 2022 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lately, the group tour is billed as, “Very Important Pinoy Tour.”

Rajah Tours Chairman and CEO Alejandra Cruz Clemente who flew from the Philippines via New York to Los Angeles met with the media, community leaders, Philippine Airlines executives and three stalwarts from the Los Angeles Philippine Consulate at Chinatown to pitch for the joint government and private sector’s tourism project. Ms. Clemente lamented the lack of push, publicity or media coverage for this effort. She emphasized, “While we are recovering, we need help. Our tourism will get a boost 10-fold when the Bulacan International Airport will become operational.” She added, “It takes time but we’re getting there.”

The Philippine Consulate General of Los Angeles were represented by Deputy Consul General Maria Alnee A. Gamble, Consul for Cultural Diplomacy Marie Cris P. Chieng and Cultural Officer Edelmira Valencia.

Ms. Clemente, a native of Mangatarem, Pangasinan said, “We are developing new infrastructures and tourist destinations like Northern Mindanao particularly Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Bukidnon and Bacolod in the Western Visayas Region.”

“Our country has very rich culture. We want our compatriots living in North America to witness cultural immersion themselves and meet the indigenous tribes featuring the indigenous customs of Iligan and Maranao natives: weaving, culinary arts, cultural dances, and Maskara Festival of Negros Province. We are arranging cultural presentations during the tour. It would be full of adventure if the participants would like to go water rafting, zipline adventures agricultural tour, explore the Silay ruins and the powdery white sand beaches.”

Some of the participants pose after the meeting: (seated, from left) Loida Crisostomo, journalist Lydia Solis, Alejandra Clemente of Rajah Tours, Deputy Consul General Maria Alnee Gamble, Consul for Cultural Diplomacy Mariecris Chieng and Innovative Tours & Travels Megs Ilagan; (standing from left) PAL account manager Ricky Panis, PAL account manager Mitty A. Torres, journalist Dan Niño, San Gabriel Valley publisher Marc Pijuan, Cultural Officer Edelvina Valencia, FACLA president Trini Foliente, former Tourism Director Manny Ilagan, Asian Journal president Cora M. Oriel, Kalayaan Inc. president Erlinda Granada-Sabah and Philippine Post publisher & editor Val G. Abelgas.

The main objectives of this tour is to entice Filipino American to deepen their appreciation of their Motherland, its rich history, heritage and culture and experience the warm hospitality of the Filipino people; to attract Fil-Americans and foreign tourists to invest in the Philippines, promote the Philippines as a retirement haven for Fil-Ams and foreigners and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country in terms of foreign exchange earnings.

While dissecting the apparent lack of push, a reporter suggested to Tourism Secretary Christina G. Frasco to conduct a roadshow like what former Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon did when he journeyed to Los Angeles many years ago with entertainers – generating nostalgia.

Other issues cropped up regarding sanitation, cleanliness, rest rooms, cigarette butts strewn all over, among others.

Clemente also decried not implementing some seven to 10 congressional bills which she helped design that became law but marketing and promotion still lack funding. There was also a comment that the branding shift from Ambassador’s Tour to Very Important Pinoy Tour might have confused potential parties.

To assure the safety and security of the participants, all government apparatus including local and provincial authorities and the Philippine National Police will be tapped. An audience with the President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.  is yet to be confirmed.

Philippine flag carrier, Philippine Airlines will fly the participants from North America and on domestic flights across the Philippines. Interested parties may call Innovative Tours and Travels CEO Megs Ilagan for bookings in the U.S. at 714-595-9891.

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