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I’m back at my desk at the increasingly familiar Moodie Report Manila Bureau, ten floors up at the excellent Sofitel hotel.
I flew in from London via Hong Kong (using the again excellent Hong Kong Airlines, complete with onboard wi-fi which ensured no movies, no reading and no sleep) and into Manila.
The Philippines is an incredible country yet many international visitors never venture outside the capital city. That’s a pity because a magical experience beckons. The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands and is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. Its beauty is enrapturing. I arrived here early so I could visit my brother who lives in Bolinao, a beautiful and remote seaside area in Pangasinan, about a five hour drive from Manila.
It’s a different world from the teeming capital city. In Bolinao everything moves slowly but it’s all the better for it. If you want to discover the real Philipppines, here it is. And you won’t have many international tourists to disturb you.
It’s also near the famed 100 Islands National Park, a group of coral islands believed to be about two million years old. Only three have been developed for tourists: Governor Island, Quezon Island, and Children’s Island.
You could lose yourself here. I very nearly did but then, as always, duty beckoned. After two days of bliss it was back to Manila and straight into a hectic Asian schedule over the next two weeks.
There are some 95 million people living in the Philippines and (the world’s 12th most populous country) and an estimated 12.5 million Filipinos live abroad. Many of those are dubbed Overseas Foreign Workers, a key target market for Duty Free Philippines which tonight celebrates its 25th anniversary at a function that will be attended by the Secretary for Tourism, Ramon R Jimenez Jr.
It’s going to be a grand occasion, attended by hundreds of Duty Free Philippines management and employees. It’s also the launch platform for ‘Duty Free Philippines 25 Years – Aquino to Aquino’, a Coffee Table Book produced by The Moodie Report which traces the retailer’s history from humble, post-revolutionary beginnings in 1987.
At 200 pages, it’s a monster work, studded with historic images and full of deeply human stories of the men and women who built Duty Free Philippines. We’re very proud of it, as are the Coffee Table Book Committee at Duty Free Philippines who worked so hard to make it happen. Tonight will be a very special and emotional moment for all who have contributed not only to the book but to the past 25 years.
There will also be an extra special surprise. But I’m not giving it away here. Tune in to my next Blog.
That is, of course, if I survive to write it. For a few of the industry’s more well-known socialites have arrived in Manila for the celebrations. Sunil Tuli of APTRA (his official capacity here) and King Power Group (HK) is flying in today, to be joined by other travel retail figures Jonathan Holland, David Spillane, Barry Geogehan and John Sutcliffe. It promises to be a quiet night in old Manila…