After Resorts World attack, DOT holds New York party, and it was okay
The joint, as the old saw would say, was rockin’.
One day after 36 people choked and died in the thick smoke which enveloped the Resorts World hotel and casino in Manila, the Department of Tourism (DOT) was hosting a cocktail reception at the Philippine consulate in New York City.
It came complete with an ear-splitting band which belted out a decent version of Thunder Always Happens When it’s Raining. You could not hear yourself, much less chat with the person standing next to you.
It may seem incongruous and insensitive, but it really isn’t.
The DOT promotion in the US cities of Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and the Canadian city of Toronto was planned months ahead.
That the reception took place the day after the Resorts World attack is unfortunate and a rotten piece of timing, but “we cannot do anything about that,” Hernan Narvadez of the North American Division of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, told Rappler in an interview at the reception when asked about the optics of having a party the day after the incident.
“This is not just something that happens to us,” he said, pointing to the suicide bombing in Manchester where 22 people died after a concert by American singer Ariana Grande, and terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Germany. London just got hit again by knife-wielding terrorists.
“It’s hard if we do not have anything to promote, but we do,” he said, citing the decision by many travel publications to name Palawan as the world’s best island and the gorgeous beaches that are sprinkled through the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.
About 200 people attended the reception in the consulate’s Kalayaan Hall where capiz chandeliers left over from the era of Imelda Marcos hung overhead.
Streamers touting Philippines Airlines (PAL) were on display at one end of the room, Cebu and its beaches were at the opposite end, and the attractions of Vigan in the Ilocos was also thrown in.
PAL even distributed flight schedules for the summer on its international and domestic routes to the travel agents there.
The mood was festive, food plentiful, and the drinks were led off by Tanduay Rum mixed in with fruit juice.
For Filipino-Americans attending the reception in New York, what happened at Resorts World did not make them hesitate about visiting the Philippines or promoting trips to the country.
Lakhi Siap, who works in community relations for Ascene Chicago, a full service public relations media marketing firm focused on the Asian American community, visits often.
“I am one who goes back to the Philippines regularly. All these things happening in the Philippines are something to be aware of but (it) doesn't deter me from coming back,” he said.
“I live in Chicago, a city that has reports of shootings on a daily basis and there are certain parts of the city I don't travel to, similarly just like the Philippines. Just because all these things are happening in the Philippines doesn't deter me from going or being in fear that something may happen,” he explained.
Narvadez said the people in the five cities they toured were also “very supportive.”
He strongly believes that one cannot give into the paralyzing terror inflicted by the attacker in Resort World or the wholesale bombings and beheadings carried out by groups like the Abu Sayyaf.
“We cannot lose to them (that way),” he said. “We still need to do” these promotions.
The most powerful incentive for Siap is of course family. Siap’s father is Filipino-Chinese and his mother is Indian. His parents were born and grew up in Cebu, where he likewise first saw the light of day.
“I go back for family,” he said.
“And I also go back regularly with friends who are both Filipino and non-Filipino to show them the beauty of the country, the hospitality and the opportunity of creating businesses to help uplift the country, create jobs, reverse the brain drain and advance the country.” – Rappler.com
Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He covered the 9/11 attacks in New York and the innumerable coups in the Corazon Aquino era. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He is known for his extensive knowledge of agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon and his views have been quoted in news reports.