Stella Maria L. de Guia
Remember the song of Mary Hopkin? “Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance forever and a day. We’d live the life we choose. We’d fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way.”With the approaching World Tourism Day on Sept. 27 with the theme: “Building Peace! Fostering Knowledge!”, it will be a happy occasion to remember and have a little information on the good old days of tourism. We were one big happy tourism family, whether we belonged to the Ministry of Tourism or the Philippine Tourism Authority. We were all under the brilliant leadership of our boss Bienvenido “Ben” Andaya.
If Gene de Guia started the private sector tourism promotions in the 50s, manong Ben started tourism for the government sector with the inauguration of his field office at the former Pines Hotel in the 70s. Manang Precy Cariño Andaya was our First Lady. May 11, 1973 was the founding day of tourism. And so, with the birth of their daughter on the same date, he and manang Precy named her Rochel Mae and we called her “Kuku”. Then Benjo, his junior came after. We were then known as the gals and guys of tourism, more aptly “Andaya’s angels.” The 70s and 80s were the golden days of tourism. This was the era when you could see a lot of American and European tourists in back pack and foreign and local travel agents, Japanese Reunion for Peace invitees and Chinese tourists from Hongkong and Taiwan.
In 1975, the tourism complex was built which encompassed the Tourism Field Office at the center, the Baguio Mountain Provinces Museum and the Sunshine Park at the left and the Minister’s cottage at the right. Very few know that Sunshine Park was named after Sunshine Joe and is patterned after a shield as a tribute to our Cordillera brothers. Simultaneous with the building of the complex was the building of the Baguio Convention Center and the Melvin Jones grandstand carrying the Ifugao hut design. The monumental builders were MOT Minister Jose Aspiras and PTA General Manager Bernardo Vergara.
We were cramped in that little office of Ben Andaya at Governor Pack Road (now Baguio Chamber of Commerce) in between the museum and the Minister’s cottage, while our PTA colleagues were at the old office at Burnham Park (now CEPMO). The busiest months were summer (Holy Week and summer break) and the Christmas Holidays (last week of November to Christmas).
This year was when most of the activities of tourism were happening. With the infrastructure buildings came big international promotions like the Karpov-Korchnoi International Chess Tournament, the reunion for peace and balikbayan programs, travel agents’ familiarization tours, visits of dignitaries, Prince and Kings, and movie stars. Some of the visits required a lot of protocol in reception, guiding and handling (like walking two steps behind).
For the local scene: the first trailblazing team to Mt. Pulag was done in 1975 and the first organized climb to Mt. Pulag was in 1978, the first Cañao Festival, the Muslim-Christian cultural exchange program for the youth, on-the-spot photo contests, media familiarization tours, folkfest singing contest (Country music) and shows at the Sunshine Park, selection of model employees of hotels and most outstanding hotels and May flower parades and the first tour guiding seminar.
The 1980s brought the Pope’s visit, clean and green programs, the regionalization of the field office to Region 1 and CAR after the Edsa revolution, the participation in the 1st Philippine Travel Mart and the renaming of the Philippine Convention Bureau to the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation. There was also a leadership change of the three offices in Baguio namely: The Department of Tourism, the PTA and the Baguio Convention Center which was then under the PCVC. It was also the decade when the 1st PTA Travel Tax Office was established in Baguio and the celebration of the 1st Baguio Arts Festival at the Baguio Convention center.
The 1990s was the year of the earthquake and the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. It was also the year when Camp John Hay was turned over to the PTA in preparation for its privatization.
During all these years, the tourism family enjoyed camaraderie with the private and public sector and within themselves. Because we worked closely at the Baguio airport, we were also good friends with the Philippine Airlines staff.
Indeed, those were the days my friend. The tourism family is now scattered all over the globe, but we still stay in touch and hold mini reunions every now and then. The love, care and happy memories still remain. After all it was during those younger days that we fell in love and had our families. We might have changed in looks but we have grown in wisdom. We need to look back and remember every once in a while, because life is short and unexpected events happen. Happy memories keep us grounded.
Stella Maria L. de Guia