POSTSCRIPT / May 19, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Make Abu kidnappings thrilling tourist packages

PUNY PITCH: Days ago, a gaggle of beautiful people were at Malacañang to witness the signing by President Gloria Arroyo of a law that, it was claimed, will unlock the treasure chest of Philippine tourism.

I have seen similar puny efforts before to pump life, by legislative fiat, into the tired tourism industry and mine its potentials as the single biggest dollar earner in a rich country mired in poverty.

With that law in place, is there a glorious era coming up for Philippine tourism? Let’s flash our best smile, make the sign of the cross and hope for the best.

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FUNDS & FOCUS: Those who have been visiting neighboring capitals — which decades ago were just kampongs but are now bursting with tourists and marks of progress — almost weep when they see the rusty tin roofs held down by stones and old tires of squatter shanties as the plane circles for the landing in Manila.

Pardon my being sidetracked by the aerial view, but a similar lack of focus also characterizes how government manages tourism development.

If we attack the problem in stages, it will fester on while the political clock ticks to the 2010 deadline. But if we opt for quick fixes, we get derailed debating priorities and the classic chicken-or-egg dilemma.

Do we build first the hotels and tour spots before luring in the visitors or do we bring them in kaagad as we lay down the infrastructure? Do we open the skies to every airline vowing to bring in tourists or do we say teka muna while we protect our flag carriers? In our scramble for revenues, do we pack tourists into our beaches and resorts or do we impose a capacity limit? Who plans and spends for promotions, the government or the private industry?

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KIDNAP PACKAGE: This is out in the left field, perhaps born out of desperation, but has anybody thought of converting the thriving kidnapping-for-ransom in the Muslim areas into a tourism business?

In this crazy world, there are moneyed individuals willing to spend for a little excitement. If a thrill-seeker wants to experience something different, let’s arrange a kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf and a hot pursuit by soldiers.

The circumstances of the abduction and rescue, the location and ordeal, type of kidnappers, and such details will depend on the price. A romantic fling with a dashing Abu could be arranged.

An ambitious journalist, a closet writer, a bored diplomat or a missionary can buy a kidnap package to gather a wealth of materials for a book or two. When the package runs out, the kidnappers abandon the tourist by the road — to be rescued.

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ULTIMATE CRUISE: Look what an imaginative group did to the piracy that has breathed life to the heretofore dull Somalian coast.

Targeting people with money willing to try anything verboten, the To the Point News has offered what it calls “the ultimate adventure cruise” in the pirate-infested seas off Somalia!

(Check this humor file at

I cannot run the bristling photos of the weapons prepared for expected battles with pirates, but this is (slightly edited) how the To the Point Newsdescribes the special cruise:

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ARM YOURSELF: We board our luxury cruise ship in Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea, and disembark in Mombassa, Kenya, seven adrenaline-charged days later. The object is to sail up and down the Somali coast waiting to get hijacked.

The rates start at $5,200 per person (double occupancy, inside room) and $6,900 (veranda complete with bench rest).

You may bring your own arsenal. But if you don’t have your own weapons, you can rent them from our onboard Master Gunsmith. Enjoy reloading parties every afternoon with skeet and marksmanship competitions every night.

But the best fun of all, of course, is Pirate Target Practice.

Rent a full auto M-16 for only $25/day with ammo attractively priced at $16 per 100 rounds of 5.56 armor-piercing bullets.

On a budget? Rent a full-auto scope-mounted AK-47 for only $9/day with 7.62 ball ammo at $12 per 100 rounds.

Hello! Nothing gets a pirate’s attention like a Barrett M-107 .50-cal sniper rifle; only $59/day with 25 rounds of armor-piercing ammo affordably priced at only $29.95.

Need a spotter? Our professional crew can double as spotters for only $30/hour (spotting scope included, but gratuities are not.)

Want to make a real impact? Rent an RPG for only $175/day with three fragmentation rounds thrown in!

That’s not all! Twin mounted miniguns are available for rental at only $450 per 30 seconds of sustained fire!

Also included: Free night vision equipment — and every night, coffee, pastries and snacks on the main deck from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Our deluxe package comes complete with gourmet meals. All rooms offer a mini-bar.

We guarantee that you will experience at least two hijacking attempts by pirates or you’ll receive an instant $1,000 refund upon arrival in Mombassa.

How can we make that guarantee? We operate at 5 knots just beyond 12 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, thus in international waters where pirates have no rights whatever. In fact, we make three passes through the most treacherous waters to ensure maximum visibility by pirates’ “mother ships.”

We repeat this for five days, making three passes along the entire Somali Coast. At night, the boat is fully lit and bottle rockets are shot every five minutes with loud disco music directionally beamed shoreside to attract maximum attention.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 19, 2009)

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