Travel advisories


Ma. Isabel Ongpin

WE are in the time of travel advisories. These are words of caution, if not prohibition, put out by countries regarding travel by their citizens to other countries for the danger and lawlessness that may meet them. Travel advisories are official notices, not just suggestions but demands for compliance. Behind them is the unsaid message that if not followed and the worst befalls the traveler/citizen of said country, there will be a very reluctant and detrimental duty by the warning country that will have to be undertaken to extricate the citizen concerned from the mess he has walked into.

Travel advisories are usually put out by First World countries for their citizens against travel to Third World countries that have elements ready to pounce on them, for anything ranging from robbery to kidnapping to rape and other anti-social practices that go against the rule, custom and tradition of their own countries and in the places where they occur. Really?

In this world of instant news and quick communication, would it not be reasonable to think that would-be travelers who look and move into the world outside their countries would have some idea of where they are going and what conditions they would likely meet? The idea of a country hick or total ignoramus does not fit into the traveler image of today. That of the daring, extreme-seeking adventurer does.

So, what is the travel advisory for and is it effective? The United States has not only had a travel advisory for, but literally has forbidden its citizens from traveling to, Cuba (until recently), North Korea, Chechnya and other places in Central Asia and Africa, and even Latin America—countries that it regards as being in the hands of tyrants, terrorists, drug cartels or ideologies that it opposes or detests. Yet US citizens are, if not in huge numbers at least enough to be in the high plural, to be found roaming around these forbidden places. In our southern regions, with their notoriety for kidnap-for-ransom gangs or violent extremists, foreigners are still found sailing, settling in, sightseeing and whatever else interests them to do, unmindful of the reality that they are quite well-informed about. They usually are world travelers, have sophisticated gadgets that put them in touch with the news and give them the background and conditions of the places where they are traveling to.

There is really nothing wrong with travel advisories per se, though they can be annoying to the citizens of the countries which the travel advisories caution their citizens against visiting. Like being holier than thou.

Yet when you think about it, the countries alluded to in these advisories should really be giving out their own travel advisories because of the somewhat perilous and even lawless conditions in these travel advisory-issuing countries. Should not our own Department of Foreign Affairs (following the example of these countries) give out travel advisories to Filipino citizens about going to malls, airports and schools in the US, Australia, Canada and the UK? We have seen enough scenes of carnage through terrorism, unhinged persons and even angry and raucous sports fans that are frightful enough to be warned about. Except for the UK, European countries do not seem to be in the habit of issuing travel advisories. Has the French government put out some regarding travel to Africa and the Middle East for its citizens despite their being subjected to the mayhem that the US, Canada, Australia and the UK constantly warn their citizens and the world about?

The truth is the whole world is a more dangerous place in these times. All of us should be alert, aware, and on guard. Terrorism targets bystanders, civilians, ordinary folk to make a point with their governments. Criminals and radical ideologues are all about ready to victimize the innocent and ordinary people. Travel advisories should be given by travelers to themselves with all the information abundantly available. Discretion, prudence, pragmatism should be their carry-on abilities for travel in today’s world. Official travel advisories should be made redundant for being condescending to the countries being warned against and to the citizens they are directed at. They may very well turn out like the boy who cried “wolf.”

Meanwhile, the Nazarene Procession of Quiapo this week, against which travel advisory cautions for foreigners were issued, went on with no really untoward incidents except for accidents that resulted in injury to the frenzied (not bystanders, sightseers, or observers). In Boracay, the revelry goes on with the conspicuous absence of Americans compared to Russians, Britons, Chinese (so I was told by someone back from joining the revelries there). Is there a US travel advisory for Boracay or have better beaches been discovered by Americans? The latter is the more realistic explanation.

My travel advisory: Fend for yourself.


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1 Comment

  1. mabait ako talaga on

    The U.S. Government has constitutional obligations to protect its citizen and one thing that the government will not do is to negotiate with terrorists. This itself, is the reason why travel advisories exists even in countries such as the Philippines where U.S Embassy and Consulates (another consulate in Cebu) who normally issue off limits areas or restricted areas where no American Citizens can travel such as in Mindanao and Sulu. U.S. Government employees that have access to sensitive information that wishes to visit Philippines today, either as a tourists or balikbayans must first fill out forms to be sent to U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and wait for their approval. It will be sent electronically and the normal turn around time is about a week. The bottom line is this–Travel Advisories will remain as another arm of U.S. State Department.