By Rey Andres
The tsunami spawned by a magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan made its way to Hawaii early Friday at the same day as the Honolulu Festival, an annual event awaited by hundreds of tourists who flock to the God-enchanted for island and sun. No one was injured by the onslaught but damage to properties could run in the millions.
The Philippine delegation composed of tourism officials who were in the Island for the festival to market the countryâ€™s tourism attractions were up to the challenge in spite of the gnawing apprehensions of the situation.
For 17 years the Honolulu Festival had always been a wonderful three-day extravaganza and vacation destination for participants who always looked forward to it with anticipation. Over the weekend of March 11 through 13, Hawaiiâ€™s rich tropical ambiance exploded in a colorful myriad of activities that demonstrated the depth of the arts and cultures of participating countries like Japan, Australia, Tahiti, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines which saw the occasion as an opportunity to present itself to the world as a haven for tourists that boasts of facilities and amenities comparable to what other destinations had to offer.
Mother Nature cooperated and although occasional sirens warned of unusual wave activities along the shoreline, still thousands enjoyed the rich and vibrant cultural dispays from Asia, Pacific and Hawaiian that culminated with a spectacular parade in Waikiki to cap the three days of fun.
The Philippine Department of Tourism has always considered participation in the annual Honolulu Festival as a good marketing opportunity to chronicle the beautiful tourist destinations in the Philippines and seized the occasion to launch the 6th Annual Ambassador Tour slated in July, the Pinoy Homecoming Program and present regional products from the Philippinesâ€™ Regions I, II, III, the Cordillera Administrative Region and Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.
Philippine Tourism Undersecretary Victoria Jasmin, DOT-Los Angeles Director Annie Cuevas-Lim and Consul General Leoncio Cardenas, Jr. of the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu were joined by Directors Martin Valera of Region 1, Blessida Diwa of Region 2, Ronaldo Tiotuico of Region 3, Purification Molintas of CAR, and Secretary Jose Mari Ponce of Cagayan Economic Zone Authority who flew in from the Philippines in uncovering the beauty of the Philippines.
The Philippine booth was inspired by the Northern Regionâ€™s crafts and culture and was decorated with â€œgaddangâ€ cloths woven from homegrown cotton, and dyed in bright natural colors. Virginia Doligas, an authentic weaver from the Philippines had to be flown in to demonstrate the actual weaving process. Decorations consisted of fossilized flowers made out of dried and processed leaves of guava, narra, and acacia.
Philippine music filled the air courtesy of â€œBanda Kawayanâ€ (Bamboo Band) with their rendition nostalgic musical pieces evoking images from the Philippines. The group led by Musical Director Rafael Velasco is composed of second generation Filipino Americans whose members played marimba, angling, kalagong and tongatong made entirely of the versatile bamboo.
The group is well-known in the Fil-Am community in promoting Philippine culture in Hawaii according to Toy Arre, president of the Filipino Community Center.
Classical singer Camille Lopez Molina also rendered numbers to delight the crowd
The Philippines is one of the favorite tourist destinations in Asia because â€œthe Filipinos are well known for their hospitality, the people converse in English and the presence of beautiful tourist spots and beaches.â€
In spite of the global economic slump, tourists still visit the Philippines with the South Koreans topping the list because of its proximity and other incentives that lure them to the country.
Some of the attractions that make the Japanese, Americans, Taiwanese, Australians, Germans, British, Chinese, Russians and Vietnamese come include its rich cultural heritage, fresh sea foods, beaches, golf ranges, water sports and others.
Launching of 6th Ambassador Tour and Pinoy Homecoming Program
The briefing on 6th Ambassadorâ€™s Tour after its successful launching in Los Angeles, California as well as the Pinoy Homecoming were held at Philippine Consulate Hall on March 11, 2011.
Around 100 Fil-American top leaders, businessmen, professionals and media practitioners in Hawaii attended the launching of the Ambassor Tour set on July 17-23 in Manila which will be highlighted by an audience with President Benigno Aquino III.
The 2011 Tour, according to Director Annie Cuevas- Lim will give the businessman and investors â€œthe opportunities for a round-table meetings with Philippine trade and tourism officials for an up-close evaluation of trade, investment and tourism projects in the Philippines.â€
Ms. Cuevas also pitched in for the Pinoy Homecoming Program which introduces the Philippines as a venue for reunions, missions, conferences and homecoming activities.
Fresh from their Honolulu experience, the DOT-Los Angeles Team of Director Annie Cuevas-Lim and Deputy Director Manny Ilagan motored to National City in San Diego last March 17 to make their pitch for the 6th Ambassador Tour before the Filipino American community.
The July tour as one observer put it would be more significant especially for the second generation Filipino Americans whose awareness of their native county could be enhanced by the experience they will amass in participating. (With contributions from DOT-LA Deputy Director Manny Ilagan)