With its urban blight notwithstanding, Metro Manila remains an intriguing and exciting tropical metropolis for many foreign tourists. As a proof of its growing popularity, it welcomed more than 40 international cruise ship port calls last year which brought in 109,736 passengers.
Moreover, the megacity was featured in a 48-hour travelogue by London’s The Independent, and was named as among the world’s 10 Fastest-Emerging Global Cities by The World Post.
Global celebrities from Tinseltown and the sporting world have been smitten by the eclectic allure of the metropolis, while international chefs have been tickled by the uniqueness of the Filipino cuisine.
Local destination, global brand
Cognizant of these tourism gains, local governments and private stakeholders in the National Capital Region recently gathered for the Metro Manila Tourism Forum (MMTF) in Parañaque City to take hold of these positive developments.
Themed “City Tourism: Rebuilding a Local Destination to a Global Brand,” the confab was participated in by local government executives, tourism council officers, and industry frontliners.
Parañaque Mayor Erwin Olivares, who hosted the two-day event, added that the forum consisted of plenaries keynoted by key government and private stakeholders, thought leaders, as well as foreign experts who provided valuable insights in taking urban tourism to the global stage.
He said that the event showcased Parañaque’s world-class business and leisure districts in the reclaimed portion of the Manila Bay, as well as its rich cultural heritage it has managed to preserve in the heart of the old town center. The city is home to the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which is known as the Redemptorist or Baclaran, and the Spanish-era Saint Andrew’s Cathedral. It is also home to faith-based summer traditions such as the Sunduan and Bati.
Also taking the spotlight were the government’s gains in rehabilitating Pasig River as a waterway transportation and a special interest spot for tourism, the road infrastructure projects which aim to improve traffic in the metro, and private sector efforts that have gained worldwide attention, most notably the annual Philippine International Pyromusical Competition.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat whose keynote address was read in the event, noted the brand-new ideas, food choices, lifestyle, infrastructure, business ventures in the metro at a rate never seen before.
“The colorful history of Metro Manila continues to charm our foreign guests to take a day or two around this urban jungle of a megalopolis. Part of its quaint appeal is the mix of old and new,” the tourism chief said.
She pointed out the newly-launched Ikot MNL – a collaboration with the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC), and the Intramuros Redevelopment program as among the exciting recent developments, which both aim to draw more foreign and local tourists to Metro Manila’s rich and diverse attractions and cultural experiences.
Ikot MNL is a collection of tours designed for both local and international tourists to rediscover the historical gems in Pasay, Manila, Makati and Caloocan using the LRT 1 as the mode of transportation.
Meanwhile, the redevelopment program aims to further spruce up the Walled City to make it a world-class heritage zone, being one of Manila’s must-see attractions.
Aside from the Intramuros, the other top spots identified by the DOT are Rizal Park, The National Museum, SM Mall of Asia, Bonifacio Global City, Makati Business District, Binondo Chinatown, Greenhills Shopping Center, Roxas Boulevard Baywalk, and the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.
In addition, there are pockets of attractions in the fringes of the metropolis which offer variety of culinary, cultural, recreational and retail experiences. Puyat pointed out that the megacity is also well on its way in being an international center of meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) with some 3,400 rooms under prestigious hotel brands opening soon in Bonifacio Global City, Newport City, Entertainment City and Makati.
“The National Capital Region continues to be promoted as a multi-faceted destination and urban renewal projects are key to staying in the game especially as low-cost carriers have expanded access and provided direct flights to other local destinations,” she concluded.
Words by BERNARD SUPETRAN
Photos by Macjanry Imperio
Additional photos courtesy of Bernard Supetran