Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Beyond the Hills, Into the Heart: Bohol Launches New Tourism Campaign

The island province of Bohol reinvigorates its tourism promotion with a campaign that is said to “go deep into the roots emotionally.” Its local government recently launched a tourism campaign with the slogan “Bohol: Heart the Islands, Truly Philippines.”
The slogan points out that the island is at the center of the Philippines, being in the Central Visayas Region and Visayas being at the center of the country. It is also usually projected as a truly Filipino destination with its rustic charm and hospitality. The slogan though is reminiscent of Marinduque’s appellation of being the “Heart of the Philippines,” owing to the fact that the island province is heart-shaped and also the geodetic center of the country. The slogan also is reminiscent of Malaysia’s “Truly Asia.”
Bohol is primarily known for its Chocolate Hills, which has become an iconic touristic symbol of the Philippines. It is also famous as the home of the cute and diminutive primate tarsier, which has become a tourism mascot. With the new tourism campaign, Bohol wants to tell the world that there are far more attractions then these.
“As a nation, Philippine tourism is in search of its own identity because our local culture is a complex mix of many different cultures,” says Bohol’s governor Edgardo M. Chatto. “But unknown to most Filipinos, Bohol is as authentically Filipino as it can get. The province has not only preserved the traditions brought by our colonizers, but has also promoted the much older traditions and beliefs that are authentically Filipino.”
Bohol wants to promote its cultural and ecological wonders. Chief among these are the centuries-old churches, some becoming the country’s national treasures. Famous is the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, which is the oldest and best preserved Jesuit church in the country. Also popular is the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Dauis. Going around Bohol, one finds beautiful old churches in many towns.

“Bohol and its people have a certain respect and appreciation for heritage and tradition,” Chatto said. “This is why we have come up with this campaign to highlight the captivating charm that Bohol exudes and the heartwarming hospitality offered by Boholanos themselves.”
Complementing the heritage of the island is its history. Bohol is known for its famous blood compact. Recently, Cebu governor Gwen Garcia said when the first foreign visitors came to Cebu they killed them. “But we mended our ways,” she quipped, and added that Cebuanos warmly welcome their tourists and guests. On the other hand, Bohol is known for its act of friendship. When Bohol chieftain Datu Sikatuna and Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi met they made a blood compact and alliance. This was done on March 16, 1565, near the modern town of Loay. A monument now stands in Bool in the capital Tagbilaran City called Sandugo Blood Compact Site to commemorate the event. Also, yearly, Boholanos commemorate this with a festival, the Sandugo Festival, held every July, which also attracts visitors.
On the other side of the coin, a Boholano is said to lead the longest revolt in the Philippine history. Francisco Dagohoy made the caves in the town of Danao his headquarters in his fight against the Spanish colonizers. Today, these caves serve as tourist attractions.
Bohol is also known for its natural beauty. The island of Panglao has white-sand beaches, most popular of which is Alona Beach, where resorts cluster. In Loboc, a cruise affords one to marvel at the still unspoiled Loboc River. The town also has an old church and is famous for its children’s choir. Divers say the reefs around the province are one of the best in the country. Chatto particularly mentions that province has biggest mangrove plantation in Asia and the Danajon Bank, the only double barrier reef in the country.
The provincial government of Bohol partnered with the province’s tourism stakeholders led by the Provincial Tourism Council and the private group Philippine Bohol Arts Foundation Institute (PBAFI), which aims to promote Bohol through the province’s arts, culture and heritage, for the new tourism campaign.
Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez shows support for the campaign, which is line with the Department’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign launched earlier in the year. Jimenez said that one doesn’t “have to be from Bohol to love Bohol,” and the province is “one of the Philippines’ most prized tourist destinations.”

Jimenez revealed that Bohol has close links with his family.
“The province was spoken of in great affection in our home,” he said.
He also revealed that his father was secretary to Carlos Garcia, the eighth President of the Philippines and a Boholano, and he spent part of his youth in Bohol.
Jimenez pointed out that in Bohol “they donft lock their doors,” attesting to its unspoiled and innocent nature.
With this new campaign, the local government is stepping up in developing infrastructures to accommodate tourists. Prominent among these is the building of a new airport to be located in Panglao. 
The province has received more than 500,000 visitors in 2011, and is optimistic that it will achieve its target of 1.5 million visitors. With many attractions to offer, few doubt this. However, many are apprehensive that Bohol may lose its rustic charm, tranquil nature and innocence, which have beguiled many visitors. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Piece of History with Gastronomy: Casa Roces Offers Malacañan Tours and Good Food

In Manila, one of the popular places to visit is the Presidential Museum and Library in the Malacañan Palace, which affords one a glimpse of Philippine political history. To enter though, one must fill out a reservation form and wait for seven working days before being able to visit the museum. Foreign visitors must include a photocopy of his or her passport’s main page.
            Casa Roces, which sits just across the historic seat of authority and government of the country, offers a Malacañan tour package, which includes a tour of the museum, a souvenir to commemorate the tour and an introduction to Filipino cuisine through breakfast and merienda sets special only for the package. Additionally, the ancestral house transformed into a finest-dining restaurant offers convenience. One has to book for a tour, and Casa Roces will arrange for the permit. So far, it is only Casa Roces that is granted this special privilege, beating other hotels and restaurants in Manila.
            Aside from the tour, one can look out for Casa Roces’s offerings, a mixture of Spanish, American and Filipino dishes which is said to “recall the milieu and flavors of the colonial and Commonwealth era.” 

Three sets of breakfast — if the tour is in the morning — or merienda — if in the afternoon — are available to choose from.
For breakfast, there is a set called Ode to Quezon, a tribute to the first Filipino president who lived in Malacañan Palace. Highlighting a Western-style breakfast, the set has bacon crisps, sautéed sausages, Spanish omelet, pancakes or toast, garden salad, and a medley of fresh fruits.
            Those who prefer Filipino breakfast can choose P-Noy’s Power Brunch, named after the current president, who is said to be a regular patron of the restaurant. It includes beef tapa, crispy danggit, Filipino omelet, garlic rice or pandesal, grilled eggplant salad and sliced local fruits.. 

  Those with a hefty appetite can pick the Maharlika Platter, a mixture of Filipino and Western flavors and ingredients, which include Tuguegarao longganisa, corned beef hash, vegetable omelet, plain rice or toast, breakfast salad and assorted fruits.
            Afternoon visitors will get the merienda sets: the Escolta Siesta, Ilustrado Comfort and Ilocandia Flair.

Escolta Siesta is named after the historic commercial district beside the Pasig River. The set includes kaldereta turnover, pancit palabok, tuna sandwich, potato crisps and revel bar. On the other hand Ilustrado Comfort is said to recall the Western fare of Filipino intellectuals in Spain during the colonial period. One gets a tuna turnover, spaghetti Bolognese, chicken salad sandwich, sour cream and onion potato chips and chocolate brownies.
            As the name suggests, Ilocandia Flair culls from the best of northern Philippines. It includes spicy longganisa, empanadita from Ilocos Sur, pancit bam-i, ham and egg sandwich, kamote chips and butterscotch bars.

All sets come with a choice of coffee or tea.
            Casa Roces is itself an interesting destination with a piece of history. It is Commonwealth-era house of the Roceses, a prominent family which includes newspaper publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces, National Artist for Literature Alejandro Roces, and artist and critic Alfredo Roces. Present owners Peachy Prieto and her daughter Bianca Prieto-Santos decided to renovate the house and open it to the public as a restaurant. They approached the Cravings Group of Restaurants for the food and kitchen operations. The restaurant features food enjoyed by the Roces family as well as heirloom recipes. The ground floor houses the restaurant and Kape Chino, while the second floor has the art gallery and function rooms or private dining rooms named after publications that the Roceses had managed —  The Manila Times, Liwayway, The Tribune, and Daily Mirror.  

Casa Roces is fast becoming a dining destination in the city with bestselling dishes such as Crispy Lengua Caesar Salad, greens with cubed ox tongue fried to a crisp and mixed in like croutons, and chorizos en balsamico, fried Spanish sausages drizzled with balsamic syrup.

Call Casa Roces at 735-5896 or 488-1929 or e-mail at Casa Roces is at 1153 J.P. Laurel corner Aguado St., San Miguel, Manila, near Malacañan Palace Gate 4. Visit Web site or their Facebook page (