Does Manila Really Need A Slogan?

When it comes to changing things for the better, dilettantes masquerading as activists and self-professed experts will often prioritize creating superficial hype because of their profound lack of understanding and insight into what the real problems are.

manila needs a sloganCase in point is Carlos Celdran and his brain-fart on Facebook where he proposes that “Manila needs a slogan.”

Yes folks, apparently Carlos was out of it “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” and “It’s More Fun In the Philippines” was pummeled mercilessly by the authentic critical thinkers of Get Real Philippines in over two dozen posts which you can find here.  Thing is, if you really are a tourism expert and have deep insight into how best to boost tourism in Manila, you’d put “slogan making” at the bottom of the list of things to do and even then, as Benigno suggested in Social Media Fiasco: It’s More Fun In The Philippines, “hire a barkada of 17-year-olds looking to make some summer holiday money. Their fees are likely to be more reasonable than that of old farts that write “35 years of experience in advertising” on their resume.”

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Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carlos doesn’t bat for a multi-million peso advertising campaign for Manila — who knows, maybe his friends the Ayalas can co-fund it.

But to be fair to the walking tour guide, he also did say that he was for cleaning up parts of Manila.

The key thought that threads together the posts of GRP writers, really is this “the value and importance of creating the right message or messaging campaign becomes crucial and evident only after you HAVE created the product, service, place or personality.”   Otherwise, it is, to borrow a term from the geek lexicon, “vaporware”.

In the case of tourism, it is essential that you have to have a place or places that people will want to go to.  And let me emphasize the words “WANT TO GO TO”.

Do we have such places in Manila?

Sure, we have a number of so-called “tourist destinations”, but would people want to go there if the find out that:

1. They’ll have to land at NAIA Terminal 1

2. There aren’t hotel rooms available.

3. Travelling within Manila will entail sitting in a car or van for an hour or two, taking them through routes with either poorly maintained buildings or filthy sidewalks with beggars or squatters areas or bridges overlooking the sewerage water of Pasig River.

4. There is hardly adequate security in most of these “tourist destinations” and tourists who are escorted by a tourist guide (accredited or otherwise) face getting hassled or worse by “street people”.

5. The level of all manner of pollution is simply astounding and sanitation is almost always questionable.

6. A moderate (and certainly) heavy downpour causes flooding all over Manila, making it IMPOSSIBLE to go to areas like Malate, Intramuros, parts of Binondo leading to Escolta and Ongpin, Quiapo, Paco, and other historical-cultural destinations.

This list can go on and on and on.

Then again, some people are quite comfortable being charlatans and aren’t averse to just hiding these things behind a slogan, a couple of zingy blocks of copy, and several photo-shopped pictures.

Ilda Pro said it rather well in her magnificent article, “Why We Don’t Need to Emphasize That It’s More Fun In The Philippines”

Just like what former Senator and DOT secretary said, “Tourism is a story, it’s not just “wow” or “fun”, we have to justify it. The product should sell itself. We don’t want to advertise tapos pagdating dito, wala. We have to improve the country”.

Mr Gordon is spot on. You don’t invite guests to your house without cleaning your house first. Unless you didn’t like that guest in the first place and your intention was to ensure they did not to come back after their visit, you wouldn’t likely bother to clean up. But if your idea is for your guest to like you and to make him come back and visit you again, you’d do everything to make your house more inviting and welcoming.

And perhaps Teddy Boy Locsin emphasizes this point even more.

Teddy Boy Locsin scolds Carlos Celdran

I’m not going to bother anymore with stating the solutions at length, because we should all know them by heart at this point — if you weren’t born yesterday.

1. Travel.  Get a better international airport up and running, add a seaport for luxury cruise ships, and tame Manila traffic.

2. Pollution and sanitation. Reduce the number of tricycles and jeeps, go for an electric bus system or tranvia as it was once called. Ban day time traffic in certain areas on certain days in a week. Redevelop Pasig River as an alternate transport route, take back the banks of the Pasig River within Manila’s jurisdiction.  Redevelop all the areas along the PNR Rail Stations and railways.  Strictly enforce sanitation ordinances, use closed garbage trucks and make scavenging (materials recovery) or junk shops within Manila illegal.  Strictly implement against dumping untreated waste-water and other pollutants in storm drains, causeways, and esteros — make waste water treatment for homes and small buildings mandatory.

3. Flooding. Support the construction of a spillway — the Pasig river and other natural drainage has long been hardly adequate to mitigate flooding in Manila.

4. Security. Increase the number of tourist police. Install a centralized electronic surveillance system in key areas of Manila.

5. Hotels and other accommodations.  Encourage the investment in the development and redevelopment of key areas in Manila, especially for the construction of hotels and other accommodations for tourists.  Create a section of Manila just for tourists — in this respect, a reclaimed area on Manila Bay may be the thing or the shutting down and redevelopment of the Manila City Jail complex maybe a direction worth looking into.

Certainly, I don’t have all the solutions. But just these five may be good enough for start.

21 Replies to “Does Manila Really Need A Slogan?”

  1. As an American who has chosen the PH as my new home, allow me to share my thoughts as they relate to Manila. I am from California, just south of Los Angeles. I spent a year researching where in the PH I would choose to live. I decided on Mactan as a first-landing, to get my bearings, and 8 months later moved to Bohol.

    Notice Manila does not show up on my radar. Between the ineffective handling of buses and traffic, smog, crime and the airport rated as one of the worst IN THE WORLD by visitors.. the last thing I wanted to visit after flying across the globe was a larger version of the worst parts of Los Angeles. For that I could have traveled just an hour from my home to be accosted by beggars, surrounded by trash, urban blight and smog.

    I’m not trying to be mean-spirited here. I’m just sharing with you the honest though process we foreigners go through when choosing a place to visit in the PH. The suggestions you gave are spot-on and if, IF the powers that be in Manila were to take them to heart then maybe.. just maybe people would choose to go there.

    But not if there are insufficient accommodations or expectations of feeling secure. Manila needs to take a look around realize they are competing with places like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore for foreign visitors. I’d spend 2 months in Bangkok before agreeing to spend 2 days in Manila. That’s just the honest truth.

    Until Manila gets their act together.. I’m just fine here on Bohol and when I feel the desire to wander around I’ll visit Cebu, Iloilo, Boracay, Dumaguete and any other place that does not resemble the current state of Manila.

    1. Henry, thanks for sharing and posting a comment.

      I’ve got tons of relatives who come home from th US now and then. They also try to avoid staying in Manila if they can.

      There’s a whole list of things that have to be done to Manila way before you start making a real tourism campaign for it.

  2. Slogans: needed when you have nothing else to show. In my brief experience in the ad industry, I saw fancy words being used to try and sell crappy products.

  3. Manila is ready made/decayed for poverty tourism, or ‘poorism’

    Manila – whores, drugs ,pavements – cracks everywhere

    Manila – everything, and everyone for sale.

    Manila – an old whore, needing Polyfilla

    There was a young girl called priscilla
    Who worked the streets of manila
    Although only thirteen
    With fifty men she’d been
    A minor with a major vagina

  4. “Certainly, I don’t have all the solutions. But just these four may be good enough for start.”

    Just a (possible) minor correction. I think you may have meant five, considering you listed five suggestions. 🙂

  5. The fun starts at the airport when you are quoted p550 for a p185 metred taxi fare. Be warned though the metre guy will also bullshit you and take you on a tour that pushes the metre up to p600 telling you the bus terminal you want doesn’t exist anymore. If you are lucky you won’t be robbed along the roadside and the taxi will be pulled over by corrupt traffic police who will let your driver go if you help him and pay the p2500 fine on the spot. When you get to the hotel the famous filipino hospitality and friendliness will put all that out of your mind as the receptionist treats you like you should be deported immediately for actually making her do what she is paid to do. I have travelled the world. Dan Brown has been polite!

  6. Quick answer, yes, ’cause everything/everywhere/everyone needs a slogan.

    For tourists: “Manila: are you sure you’re supposed to go here?”

    For people who think their lives will improve by moving to the Metro: “Manila: are you sure you want to live here?”

  7. Philippine’s situation is going to be the same stage for the next 100 years. This country is going no way compares to our neighboring countries. Me and my family are immigrating to Australia very soon. We are tired off of everything in this country.

  8. I kind of feel like Manila has the tools to be a world class city. We see it small doses like Resorts World, Global City, and Eastwood. Can they compare to the huge mega cities of Asia? That’s very debatable and most will probably say no but it does give us a small glimpse.

    But that’s how it is in Manila. A highly fragmented city that has small areas of modernity and quality surrounded by large chunks of the undesirables. It’s really funny how in Global City you cross C5 and it feels like you are in a portal to another world.

    Point is that these Areas I mentioned shows Manila has the tools. Of course it helps if the area is privately owned 🙂

  9. My ex/gf.. a Cebuana, born and raised, flies to the US twice a year. She always strives to leave from the Cebu/Mactan airport. Not just because it’s close to Cebu but mostly to avoid either departing or arriving at the Manila Airport. She is pure Filipina and she hates that airport with a passion. Once, during a 9 hour layover she simply refused to drift off in there for fear of what would happen to her in the terminal. My guess is that the Manila government simply cannot connect the dots between city infrastructure improvement and tourism dollars. Thinking that all they need is a lively, fun slogan is akin to an ugly woman posting a heavily Photoshopped picture of herself from ten years ago no a dating site. When the time comes that a tourist gets off the plane.. he’ll be just as sorely disappointed and angry that he fell for it.

  10. I don’t agree with Celdran’s actions before such as the Padre Damaso stunt and the SM protest.

    But I have to make an exception this time – with the little information I have on his tweet that “Manila needs a slogan”. I think people in that city need to find a common rallying point to put it back to its “glory” and place in history. Mayor Atienza, in fact, had “Buhayin natin ang Maynila”. It could be something like that.

    Having a slogan, as some companies do, puts focus on the efforts of most people in that city. It does not mean that all the qualities are already there; it can be a work in progress.

    1. “Buhayin natin ang Maynila” is actually good, but I think it’s more of Mayor Lito Atienza’s campaign slogan rather than a slogan for the city.

      I remember it was plastered all over the city and Manila was spelled out as MayniLA — with the capitalized LA being the initials of the mayor.

      I wonder how much all those signs costed the city?

      Moreover, what did he do about flooding, which is the more serious problem?

  11. I had been complaining about the PHL airport since the late 70s till the 90s seems nobody care until now. Looks like we just came back from the time warp, aware with global changes. We had been through with hardships, the last of martial law, no one were allowed to leave the country unless we use the back door or without Marcos long arm. Not too many Filipino had the opportunity to travel or see other country,s airport and so we are proud and settle with NAIA although it smell of urine and no toilet paper, we don’t know the difference. We feel we the people and the poor PHL was invisible to the eyes of public servants and officials. All they do is enriched themselves, they don’t care if the country looks like the gate of hell because they go to other countries and enjoy the luxury they offer, like red carpet and private door to casinos in Las Vegas. It is up for us citizen to do something and not all complain and blame. We had been like this for the last 50 years showing to our young generation how incompetent we are. We should be the example of what is honor and dignity.

  12. Fools stay in Manila, soon as the plane lands take the first bus south and get away from the rip off city, prices drop, there’s affordable hotels and the traffic isn’t so bad.

  13. I got one!!!

    LET’s get ’em out! On the dirty boulevard.
    yes, just get ’em out, on that dirty boulevard.

    from ‘NEW YORK CITY’, L.R.,1988

    catchy, huh?

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