I have really nothing against APEC. I am just not too well versed on what it can do for the majority of us. In my opinion (in case anyone wants to know), it should have been held in a more controlled environment like Subic or Clark where the necessary infrastructure could have been built in the years since we knew we would be the next host. The airport runways are in place, the sites are secure, traffic, roads, venues would have been easier to do given the lead time. And the citizens of Metro Manila would not have been so put upon. This is just a wish of one citizen and it is now moot and academic.
But let us move on and regard it as a tourist activity that will bring us some compensation for the P10 billion the government spent.
Meanwhile some tourist activities carry on despite the No Fly Zone, the restricted roads and the need to pass by the Kingdom of the WalangHiya, also known as our international airport.
One of them is the International Convention of Surgeons taking place in the days of APEC and the other is the Interport Women’s Golf Tournament going on as we speak.
The latter I am somewhat familiar with as a member of the Women’s Golf Association of the Philippines, the host. It has been a grueling year for the WGAP to play host. The Philippine Ladies Open Golf Tournament took place when Pope Francis was in the country in January. It made them think of ingenious methods to transport the international golfers back and forth from the airport and around Manila pre and après-tournament. There were the inevitable cases of frazzled nerves and nervous outbursts but they were put under control. There are not too many international players that come for that event, relatively speaking. And the Ladies’ Open was a great success despite the obstacle course.
But the Interport Women’s Golf Tournament is something else. It makes the rounds of Southeast Asia and like APEC this year is our turn to host as deemed years ago. And it is right in the middle of APEC too. The tournament dates are November 18 to 20. And of course the hosts need to be present at the airport between November 17 and 21 as they come and go. Smack into the No Fly Zone, the traffic restrictions and whatever else the airport throws their way. One must always be ready not only for the unexpected but for the abominable from there.
And there are more than 100 delegates. The tournament will have a total of 198 players including our local contingent. And they are coming in large numbers from each country. Malaysia has the biggest delegation – over 40 participants, Singapore has 28 and Thailand will have about 30 plus. Brunei will be here with all the other Asean women’s golf teams.
The tournament sites will be Tagaytay Highlands and Midlands as well as Splendido golf courses in Tagaytay, a very intelligent move on the part of the organizers. They will be far away from the madding APEC conditions and in a fairly controlled environment as the golf courses are minutes apart. The urge for shopping will be temporarily quenched by the good number of shopping malls in Tagaytay City. However, Metro Manila will be visited too after the tournament. Some teams are staying two more days for the sights, the shopping and the entertainment. Remember, most of these delegates come from orderly environments like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, for whom an unruly city can be an attraction within limits, naturally. And indeed, we are an attraction in that vein.
I must hand it to the organizers who decided not to be unfazed by the competitive events happening simultaneously. They just buckled down to work.
The first is to meet and greet at the airport and then as quickly and efficiently transport the players and their golf clubs to Tagaytay. This was complicated due to the APEC flight and airport restrictions. Flights were not normal. The Singaporeans had to disperse into eight different flights due to these restrictions which translates to at least eight welcome events. Others were flying out of their countries at midnight or dawn meaning abnormal arrival times. Hardly any complete team could come in one flight. So, you may guess the juggling that the reception committee of the tournament had to do to meet them on time, take them out quickly and bring them to their destination safely. There were misgivings of course which were not said aloud or referred to. More on that later.
Next loop to jump through was the meals to be served at the different golf clubs to the golfers. Halal was a fundamental condition and it is not an everyday event in restaurants among us. So, there were dialogues and demonstrations, meetings and rules laid down so that the food would be acceptable to all. Quite an undertaking by plain golfers even if also housewives for whom pork is an everyday dish on the menu. But then that was worked on and the correct food choice menu was put in place.
Accommodations were secured at the Taal Vista Lodge very near the golf clubs and the Tagaytay shopping malls with a beautiful view of Taal Lake and its volcano, unique in the world.
Just as the job was done and the hosts settled down to relax before the arrival of the foreign guests, just as they had made their own private arrangements to be at the beck and call of tournament needs for the days designated and just as a rehearsal for the opening and closing ceremonies were satisfactory, there came the fly in the ointment.
It was a series of emails and texts from concerned foreign golfers to the organizers requesting clarification of “the bullet problem we hear about at the Manila airport.” That was the puzzlement, the enigma, the riddle that so far they cannot answer. Could they say there is no such problem? Not really, because there is such a problem and it is huge and threatening to be huger. Could they say it has been addressed? Not really, all characters in the sinister shadows of the Kingdom of WalangHiya are still in place. Could they say it is a thing of the past? Not really as bullets are seemingly still appearing and spreading to other airports. In other words, it is still news with the Senate investigation, the cover-your-ass excuses that it elicited, and the pathetic victims that are the result. It cannot be denied. It is here.
Should these golfers have been told to encase their golf clubs and luggage in plastic and wrap their carry-ons in industrial-type tape like our citizens are doing?
There indeed lies the dilemma of anyone who hosts, manages, shepherds tourists into this country. The Kingdom of WalangHiya will sabotage your efforts.