The late former Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. was a hero of sorts to us in the industry.
He raised our country to unprecedented heights in the global arena, resulting in record increases in tourism revenues. Everybody knew him as a marketing guru, and this admirable qualification was probably the reason he was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III.
Upon taking over the post, he immediately displayed his wizardry by skillfully and effectively capturing the essence of the Philippines and the Filipino spirit in three simple letters: F-U-N. We all know that these three letters translated to millions of pesos in additional earnings from foreign individuals, groups, and new markets who never paid attention to our country before.
Sec. Mon’s (as he was fondly called) tourism campaign was so effective that it was second nature for us to talk about it with foreigners we came in contact with when we traveled abroad. Even the ordinary Filipino woke up to the realization that, indeed, it is more fun in our country.
The success that this tourism campaign achieved made it easy for us to do our jobs. This is why when Christine Anne Ibarreta, president of Hotel Sales and Marketing Association, organized a tribute last week for our “fallen hero,” it was no surprise that heads of tourism organizations from all over the country immediately joined to do their respective eulogies.
Hosting the virtual event, I decided to do mine first, as chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). As I recalled, I never really had enough one-on-ones with Sec. Mon as much as I would have wanted to, except for the perfunctory small talk we engaged in when we would see each other in tourism functions.
It was at the end of his term that I finally got to know him better. The trustees of PATA and I visited him in his office to personally say our goodbyes, to thank him, and to congratulate him for a job well done. We presented him a framed caricature of himself. Upon seeing it, he immediately proclaimed how much he loved the gift. He said he would treasure it forever because, according to him, he looked better in the caricature than in person. This was when I realized that, indeed, he was the marketing whiz that everybody branded him to be—marunong din siyang mambola.
Levity aside, this meeting displayed Sec. Mon’s engaging personality. He chatted with us for so long, showing no signs of being in a hurry. In fact, he was the one leading on, conversing with each one of us leisurely until we bade him goodbye. That was the last time I saw our industry’s hero.
Aileen Clemente, representing the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, remembered the former secretary as somebody who always came up with novel and unusual solutions for difficult situations that people usually are scared to tackle. Instead of the Department of Tourism funding festivals, the former Secretary entrusted these to the local government units, with the promise that he would bring in the tourists to put the money back to the local coffers.
The Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists, represented by Marget Villarica, reminisced the fun times they spent with Sec. Mon, talking about anything and everything which displayed the real commendable character of the man. Day Uyking of the Davao Travel Agencies Association called Sec. Mon a man of action and integrity, and thanked him for having aroused nationalism with his tourism slogan.
Carlo Suarez of the Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Association of Cebu lamented the loss of a great leader and hero. Pia Montano of the Davao Association of Tour Operators thanked Sec. Mon for the 7,641 reasons why “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” Eugene Yap of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines remembered how impressed he was when Sec. Mon first joined their general membership meeting, laying down his impressive plans for the industry.
Margie Munsayac of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association marveled at how our former secretary handled a crisis by sending “thank you” messages on social media worldwide, instead of capitalizing on the negative aspect of the crisis. She also remembered how generous he was when they presented him with a sponsorship plan for their first Virtus Award, which he immediately approved, even before the presentation ended.
Joel Pascual of the Philippine Association of Conventions, Exhibitions, Organizers, and Suppliers admired Sec. Mon for his great mind and expertise when they worked together for the highly successful Madrid Fusion. He was also impressed by the impact that our tourism slogan created worldwide every time he would meet with his foreign counterparts.
Maria Paz Alberto of the Philippine IATA Agents Travel Association thanked the former secretary for all the knowledge she received from him during business meetings, which felt like a post-graduate class in a university.
Jose Mari del Rosario of the Philippine Hotel Owners’ Association is saddened by the loss of one of the country’s “good men” and remembered how impressed he was when the former secretary faced a group of 30 MBA students from Columbia University in New York who flew in to understand the unique aspects of the country. The students engaged him in a long winding debate, yet Sec. Mon managed to display his brilliant mind, which awed the students. A beautiful quote from Sec. Mon: “Quality is the strategy, not the objective; hospitality is the weapon, not the goal.”
Ritchie Tuaño of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association referred to Sec. Mon as a man of integrity and vision. He appreciated his always being available for their general membership meetings. Pedro Young of Movement of Incentive Travel Executives recalled how impressed he was that particular time, when after a speech onstage, Sec. Mon came down and went straight to his table at the back of the hall just to say hello to him.
Last speaker was Zet-zette Papa of Skal International, who thanked Sec. Mon for the full support they received during the Asian Congress, summarizing her gratitude with prayers for the repose of his soul. In fact, all of us industry stakeholders will do the same for our “fallen hero.”
Fare thee well, Sec. Mon!
YOUR WEEKEND CHUCKLE
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