Pilipinas, Pop culture, Social Media

#itsmorefuninthephilippines

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Despite my initial misgivings about this new thrust by the Department of Tourism, I figured the solution deserved an opportunity to prove itself. It didn’t hurt that my own institution did, in fact, forge ahead with its own solution which – let’s be honest – wasn’t exactly a shoo-in for the popularity award. In my case at least, you could say that empathy played a major role in the acceptability of the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”

So I’m not writing here about the merits of the slogan. Not being an ad-man myself, I imagine the best I can do is speak like an informed lay-man which necessarily implies the possibility that I may be flat-out wrong in my assessment of the thing.

I’m not gonna mince words. There were a lot of times before the elections of 2010 that I wished others would give automation the same courtesy. At the very least, people shouldn’t indiscriminately parrot the opinions of others, especially if they don’t have complete and meaningful information about the topic they’re trashing. As someone once said, a little knowledge can do a lot of damage.

Instead, I’m feeling the need to speak to the reaction that the slogan generated. More specifically, the reactions that I saw zinging around my corner of the twitterverse.

Let’s have at it.

The first thing I’d like to call out is the reaction to negative reactions.

Chill out, people. Sheesh.

Just because someone disagrees doesn’t make them a downer – a negatron, someone tweeted. Doesn’t make them an enemy either, or a de-stabilizer. Very few people on twitter are actually anti-PHL, but nearly all are opinionated. This is a good thing. Individual opinions and even intransigence are very important bulwarks against the hive mentality; argument and disagreement are the whetstones that sharpen our own reasoning, ultimately contributing to a more rational position on things. Our unity should be gauged by the sameness of our ultimate goals, not by the variances in our chosen paths toward those goals.

So, when someone says they prefer an old slogan, the best thing to do is to try to convince them that the new slogan is better. Either that, or leave them alone. Otherwise, you’re just being a bully counting on the decibels you can raise and the size of your coterie of agree-ers.

Second, I take issue with the undue emphasis being placed on “trending.” With all apologies to the intrepid Tonyo Cruz, my beef with “trending” began when I first started seeing tweets about wanting to get #SentiSabado to trend. That was, for me, the moment that the authentic outpouring of nostalgia and good vibes that #SentiSabado was jumped the shark. I’ve always been uncomfortable with grassroots movements that try too hard, and from where I sit, that seems to be the direction this new DOT slogan is heading for.

Don’t get me wrong. Trending – when it is isn’t an outcome that was actively worked for – is a fair enough measure of the impact a particular topic has on the popular consciousness. For instance, I doubt that Belibiers actually set out to get #beiber to trend. They were simply tweeting about something that meant a lot to them, and there just happened to be scads of them.

When the initial wave of “meh” passed for the new DOT slogan, people started crowing about how they wanted to get the slogan to trend. This effectively diminished the authenticity of the trend, in my opinion. It’s kinda like crying, you see? When you’re crying over something that’s really upset you, your body is racked with sobbing and the tears just don’t wanna stop coming. But in the middle of all of that emotion, once you decide that you want to keep on crying, it gets progressively harder to do just that. In the end, despite your fervent wish not to stop weeping, your eyes go bone dry.

IN the case of the DOT slogan, if you constantly tweet the hashtag for the purpose of getting it to trend, then you start losing the feel for it and your efforts will eventually become nothing more than a manifestation of unhealthy desire for attention. Once the rest of the twitterverse clues in to that, well, there goes the effectiveness of the slogan.

Keep tweeting the hashtag if you must. My only wish is that we keep on doing it for the right reason. If we infect enough people with our enthusiasm, then the trend will happen and when it does, it will be more sustainable for being that much more organic.

Oh and, maybe we should rethink the strategy of tweet-mentioning all the celebrities we can think of just so we can sic the hashtag on them. Pretty please.

The third thing I’d like to point out was, coincidentally, also the first thing I thought when I first heard #itsmorefuninthePhilippines: how can it be fun when the fun is hard to find and harder to get to?

To be perfectly fair, there are a lot instances where access to the fun places have improved. A good friend has even rhapsodized about one particular case: the awesome transformation of the Boracay airport. And yet I wonder about how the other fun destinations haven’t been as lucky. Now assuming that – having shown much determination – you do get to the fun destination, what exactly is waiting for you there? Take Intramuros for example.

Quite possibly the easiest of all tourist destinations to get to, Intramuros nevertheless remains a less than stellar place to actually have fun. With the exception of a couple of fairly maintained pockets of history and manicured beauty, the rest of the Walled City retains very little of the Old World that should have been its main draw. The battlements are poorly maintained, littered with rubbish and dog poop; historical buildings rub elbows with slums and dingy offices; the huge park in front of the Manila Cathedral is dominated by a fountain that desperately needs a wash. And there are pitifully few trees. Shouldn’t Intramuros be made funner? Or failing that, can’t a little more effort be invested towards reclaiming the historical aura of the place?

That, in fact, was my biggest beef about how the WOW Philippines campaign treated Intramuros. It turned the whole place into a bazaar instead of bringing to the fore, Intramuros’ rich heritage. Heck, there was even a tour guide who couldn’t stop talking about how Filipinos were trampled and enslaved and abused by colonial overlords. Mostly true, I suppose, but Intramuros is hardly Dachau and there are many beautiful and interesting things that can be pointed out about the Walled City without having to indulge in our morbid fascination with being victims once.

Methinks this should be the next phase of the campaign to market the Philippines as a fun destination: make it easy to get to the fun, and make sure that tourists find it easy to have fun once they get there. Oh, and, let’s show a greater sense of history, ok? It is NOT at all cool to obscure centuries old walls with makeshift kiosks selling cheap and generic tiki shit.

All told, as nitpicky as this post may sound – and regardless of how the whole idea of just emphasizing “fun” doesn’t quite agree with me – I have to say that this slogan deserves a chance to work, regardless if its been used before by other countries. And for all our sakes, and I say this as a repentant snark myself – let’s keep the snark to a minimum

Go tweet that.

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james jimenez

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