When sidewalk vendors rule

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I WAS invited by a new American friend, Brian Carter (not related to USA Pres. Jimmy Carter), to a coffee chat in a mall. He was telling me that two airline companies serving Bacolod (Silay) Airport are now just having their trips in Iloilo. He was complaining also that the fast crafts plying Bacolod-Iloilo (vice-versa) have not-so-clean-toilets. “It is not fun!”

Brian told me that he has visited some major cities in the Philippines (including Bacolod). “Philippines is beautiful. The people are very gracious and warm. I like your local food. I enjoyed grilled bantala-an of Antique, pili square of Silay, pork chicharon of Pampanga and dried mangoes of Cebu. Your women are ideal for housewives.”

He noticed that our markets are not very presentable. “In any place, the market should be the showcase of the government. We buy our food there. Markets should have clean rest rooms. You cannot brag your tourism program if your toilets are not well attended. Probably, your public officials have not tried using them.” It’s hard to rebut his statement.


He also noticed that sidewalk vendors in our streets are very powerful. “The sidewalk is for us. The road is for the vehicles. I have noticed that in most cities in your country, the vehicles and the people are already in the middle of the streets. Your sidewalks are loaded with items for sale. Some are even vending in the streets and some streets are even closed just to accommodate the vendors. There must be law and order somewhere.”

It hurts to hear that but what Brian is saying is reality. “Don’t you have ordinances implementing the law? Are your public officials aware that your Department of Tourism is inviting foreign tourists to your country? I am a tourist here. I am not amused with your sidewalk. Can you expect me to tell fellow Americans that there is fun in your country? Fun is not a childish notion. Fun is something you feel within.”

What Brian is saying should not be considered as an insult. It should be treated as his concern. A constant traveler like him had enough experience in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and in European countries. “It’s not the end of tourism yet, but you have to change your attitude. You have to be consistent. Implement your laws to the fullest. Tourists love to stay in a place where everything is in order.”

“The plaza is a venue where people converge for fresh air and sunshine. The market is for enjoyable shopping. The street is for the vehicles and the sidewalk is for the citizens who do not want to be hit by vehicles.”

My cup of coffee did not taste good that afternoon. Brian is an American and he is frank. He knew that I was hurt but he was just honest. I hope that what Brian is telling me will reach the ears of public officials, of private partners in tourism and of the task force responsible for tourism marketing and promotion.”

I looked at Brian straight to the eyes. “Okay … thanks for the lecture. Please, go with me to Silay tonight. Be my guest at the Christmas Village.” He could not be serious but he answered me with words loaded with aspirated ‘Ts’. “But, you have to buy me putotaktak, putolanson, putotikoy, and puto special. That could be fun!”

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 12, 2012.


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