By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Philippine Tourism attache Susan del Mundo, wearing a rich red Mountain Province handwoven dress, softly told members of the press here why she chose to work in New York rather than be assigned on a higher post in Manila. “It is vibrant here.”
The Tourism attache’s huge responsibility are two-pronged: promoting the best of the Philippine islands in North America and mainstreaming the best of Philippine art and culture in American society, through food and fashion. Del Mundo carries these tasks with a team of three staffers, who she said, work even on the weekends.
On April 26, 2018, she stylized the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center with the ambiance of a Philippine beach to welcome 16 members of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York (FAPCNY) on our first ever meet-and-greet event. “We will be doing this every month to strengthen our media partnership,” she told us.
“The Filipino Place by the Sea” was a classy theme created by Del Mundo which awed all of us. And the sumptuous spread of Filipino food by Chef Aris Tuazon of Ugly Kitchen and Chef Romy Dorotan of Purple Yam perfected our encounter. I thought that we had been so warmly welcomed and made special, a trait that is so Filipino way back home.
Del Mundo, who took the North America post recently, has seen Philippine tourism getting more traction with the attractive branding of “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” New York is enjoying posters of scenic Philippine places on its subway and Times Square.
The visibility is getting clearer, says Del Mundo, whose work with the Tourism department has spanned for 30 years. The momentum, clearly too, is facilitated by Filipinos in New York through the social media.
Government records posted an increase of 21.6% increase in tourist arrivals in February 2017, compared to 2016 arrivals. The Philippines was cited by Forbes.com as a tourism hot spots in Asia for 2018 alongside Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Korea.
Del Mundo however laments on vandalism as an affront to the efforts to promote the Philippines through tourism, which is a ‘growth driver for the country.’ On one subway train here, the word ‘fun’ was crossed out and replaced with ‘fascist’, a bold statement against the extra-judicial killings that has happened in the course of Pres. Duterte’s drug war.
During an extensive open forum, GMA photojournalist Cesar Loverita asked why the Tourism department seemed to have only done recently an aggressive drive at Philippine promotions. Del Mundo cited budgetary constraints and the different styles of the Tourism secretaries whom she had worked with which have not gained so much grounding in the past. She emphasized the engagement of the local press as vital in their promotions, especially in New York, which is an international tourist hub.
For the month of May, the Tourism attache is packed with high-level activities. On May 9-12, the Explore Islands Philippines takes place at the Grand Central. Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and COO of the Tourism Promotions Board Cesar Montano will grace the tourism-investment exposition.
The Philippine Tapestry Show happens on May 16 in Philadelphia while the launch of Gran Fondo NY Philippines Media Launch is for May 18-20. The Filipino Restaurant Week takes place on May 14-26. The popular “Bring Home a Friend” campaign is extended until October 31, 2018.
Members of the press raised issues for the Tourism department such as a partnership with hospitals with international facilities which could provide immediate and efficient services to international tourists and the loss of local incomes due to the operations closure of Boracay for six months.
Ace reporter Don Tagala of ABSCBN tried to probe deeper into the necessity of closing Boracay for a clean-up, while government has failed to seriously do the same in Manila Bay. Del Mundo replied that it is but fitting to preserve Boracay and all tourist destinations as well.
Del Mundo said that the Tourism department will look into partnerships with medical facilities and insurance companies to improve services for guests, as brought up by Myrna Gutierrez, publisher of The FilAm Who’s Who magazine.
The three-hour deep and upbeat event was capped by the raffling off of a round-trip PAL New York-Manila- New York ticket which went to FAPCNY past president Ricky Rillera.