These people are smart because they treat the promotion of their heritage sites as an investment. Tourism is something that their economy needs. I’ve seen some of their ads before and they impressed me. We can learn a thing or two from this predominantly Chinese state.
Their tourism website tells its visitor’s:
“Over history Macao has been an important gateway through which western civilization entered China; for hundreds of years this piece of land has nurtured a symbiosis of cultural exchange, shaping the unique identity of Macao… its value lies not only in the completeness of the architectural and urban infrastructures, but also in the fact that these have retained their original function and spirit to the present day. As an integral part of the city’s life, the conservation of “The Historic Centre of Macao” is crucial to the local community, while on a broader context, it represents a part of Chinese and world history, which, due to its historic and cultural signiﬁcance must be preserved”.
We don’t do it as much here. Why? because some of us still continue to cling to our biases rather than appreciating the gifts we’ve received from the past. We are not taught that Filipino history is cumulative experiences and memories of what had occurred. We are products of this wonderful evolution.
Most of us thinks, for example, that promoting our hispano heritage is siding with the wrong side. That somehow we are betraying the legacy of our ancestors. I often hear tour guides tell people how churches, bridges, roads and towers were build by forced labor – making it sound like we were some kind of beasts that jumped out from the caves and started serving the white man. Not being taken into consideration is the culture that drove them to become planners, builders, architects, developers, artisans and designers. When I speak of this “culture” I mean to refer to the wonderful combination of both local and global influences.
Some of the buildings constructed from 16th to the 19th century are among the greatest structures ever built in the world but because they are remnants of the Kastila, some feels that it must be of little value. These buildings and houses are left to rot if not destroyed with regularity. Allowing this had proven costly – we have lost a lot in the past decades and will continue to do so not unless we change.
Macao does not have as much colonial buildings as we do here. Not even close to what we have but what they have is vision and appreciation. By taking care of their old Portuguese era buildings, roads and bridges – they had attracted many Portuguese speakers interested in the imperial past. Tourism pamphlets, and ads have Portuguese instructions. They have a great campaign ad [that includes the video above] and they also keep everybody there, foreigners most especially, comfortable and safe. Their tourism campaign is a product of careful planning and strategizing. I call it practical thinking. They succeeded because they do away with misguided nationalism and fake patriotism.
A very popular tourist spot in Macao is “the grand façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s” – they held on to what remained of the ancient church. Our country has so much to offer, if only we can get the right people on the job. The Macaonese efforts in conserving the facade of that church is their way of showing that they have pride in these things — And this is just what is left of the old church, a facade, while we here have hundreds of centuries old churches much grander, historic, older, architecturally significant structures but we refuse to take care of them.
I remember when I visited the church of Good Shepperd in Singapore. There were volunteers that tours visitors around the church. When I told them that we have churches built in the mid and late 1500’s they were shocked! I bragged a little when I told them that the funding of their beautiful church, which was currently being restored when I visited, was partly financed and supproted by the Archdiocese of Manila – they were all left speechless. But to many people, this is not “us”, not Filipino history, this was the “kastila” history in the Philippines. Now, this has to change.