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Travel advisories

In the recently concluded United Nations World Tourism Organization conference held in our country, its secretary-general, Taleb Rifai called out the US and other European countries for allowing their foreign ministries to dictate the issuances of travel advisories and bans, something that wreaks havoc on the tourism economies of many nations, particularly the developing ones.

Rifai called the attention of these big countries to their commitment to the UNWTO’s resolution on issuing time-bound and location-specific travel advisories, instead of generalized travel advisories.

An example is what usually happens to the Philippines, whose tourism growth is impeded by frequent advisories.  When the Marawi incident started last May 23, many developed countries urged their citizens not to travel to all of Mindanao, instead of a location-specific advisory for the Lanao provinces.

The same thing happened in Central Visayas recently, when a small contingent of the Abu Sayyaf sailed on small boats to Bohol, where they were instantly neutralized by our internal security forces.

Notice how these politicians and their bureaucracies issue quick generalized travel advisories against countries like the Philippines, but have they issued the same for France or the United Kingdom, which have been plagued by terrorist incidents of late?

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Such advisories are not good for the Philippines’ efforts to increase the number of tourists enjoying the fabled sun, sand and sea wonders of our islands as well as the hospitality of our people. 

We have noticed a slight decline in Taiwanese visitors to our country in the month of June principally on account of the travel advisories following the Marawi incident.

But for one, our government cannot and must not “bow down” to terrorists, who in fact want to disturb the world peace and order situation through the sheer propaganda value of singular terrorist attacks.

We just have to bear with the travails of an increasingly dangerous world, and undauntedly intensify our efforts to promote our country for its natural beauty and other attractions.

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On a lighter note, a staffer of ours recently made a short list of quaint, if funny, English names of several establishments here in Taiwan.

Examples:  “Just Sleep Hotel;”  “Beauty Hotel;” and a “Kindness Hotel.”  If you don’t want to just sleep in a beauty or a kindness hotel, how about staying in the “Charming Hotel?”

Or if you are in a romantic mood, try the “Love” Hotel.

There is a new restaurant which I tried recently, which has a very generic name: “Cook Beef” Restaurant, which serves roast beef on top of rice, with veggies on the side, all in a hot iron plate atop a small bucket where a heating element keeps the food hot.  People line up for a taste of it.

And of course, one of my favorites, albeit quite pricey, is the “Really Good Seafood Restaurant,” which needs no further explanation.  It’s really good, particularly the way they cook lobsters and prawns, and the best XO sauce ever.

To top it all, there is this restaurant which is called “You Must Spend Money to Earn Money.”  Yep…that’s the name of the restaurant.

And if that isn’t quaint enough, you can try the “No Name Restaurant.”  The owner just gave up trying to translate his idea of how best to describe his gustatory offerings, and just said “No Name.”

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On a more edifying note, we recently had an audience with Dharma Master Cheng Yen of the Tzu Chi Foundation, and we thanked her for all the good works that they have done in the Philippines, particularly the continuing role they play in the rehabilitation of the shattered lives of the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda.”

She most graciously accepted our gratitude, at the same time saying that they learned a lot from their experiences in helping Tacloban and other areas ravaged by “Yolanda,” and they put these lessons to good use among the earthquake victims in Bhutan.  She then invited us to visit the Foundation’s 1,000 bed charity hospital in New Taipei City.

It was a marvel to behold.  Not only does it serve some 800 patients a day; it also provides out-patient care for some 4,000 needy people each day.   

We were accompanied by the uber-solicitous Larry Lee, our designated “handler” for Meco, and James Huang, a successful Taiwanese investor who lived in the Philippines for 10 years and thereafter decided to devote his life to serving his fellowmen through the foundation.

The hospital’s operations are fully computerized.  It was built out of donations from Taiwanese citizens all over the world and was not built to earn money.  Tzu Chi operates seven other such charity hospitals in other parts of Taiwan.

Quite remarkable is their 2,000 ton water-recycling facility, where all the rain water (and in “green” Taiwan, rainfall is quite regular, even at the height of summer) flows into a basement aquifer, pumped to the top of the building to be re-used for sanitation and fire-fighting purposes.

The uniquely designed hospital has six meditation gardens in various floors, where patients and even their families could pray and meditate amidst lush rooftop gardens.

Ninety-five percent of their medical staff can converse in English, among them Filipino-Chinese physicians.  Last May, a Filipino patient was sponsored by the foundation headquarters in the Philippines for a very delicate reconstructive operation.  She was given a new jaw as her face was totally disfigured by a tumor.

A team of doctors, three Filipinos among them, performed a 16-hour operation and took a bone from the ankle to replace the jaw which was gnawed by the tumor.

And all for charity, from a foundation dedicated to serving every fellow human being, regardless of race or creed, and preaches love and peace for all of mankind.

Incidentally, one of their consulting architects, who designed some of their facilities in Iran and the Middle East is a Filipino too—architect Jun Palafox, who frequents Taiwan and the Tzu Chi Foundation.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Travel advisories , United Nations World Tourism Organization , UNWTO , secretary-general Taleb Rifai , US , European countries , tourism economies
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