With the Philippines being a country rich in breath-taking natural landscapes, seascapes, and “urbanscapes,” and consequently flocked to by various travellers from all across the globe, it is not unthinkable that the tourism business has a large contribution to the nation’s economic growth. But regardless of the Philippines’ picturesque views, it is not fully equipped to attract tourists on its own. This country’s tourism, like many others, is fueled by its advertising and marketing.
Tourism has always been linked to exoticization, one of the different facets of post-colonial theory. Exoticization can be loosely defined as the process by which a cultural practice is made stimulating and exciting in its difference from the colonizer’s normal perspective; it highlights the dichotomy between normal and exotic. In Salazar (n.d.), he says that, “tourist exoticization oscillates between (1) a desire to make the ‘less civilized’ Other more like the tourist self and (2) a yearning to preserve an uncontaminated version of indigeniety—an expectation of unshakeable cultural integrity and purity.”
On a similar angle, Edward Said’s work Orientalism (1979) brought into focus how colonization was an easily accepted idea because of the process of cultural simplification—erasing the nuances and details of a culture’s or a nation’s daily life and simplifying them into a whole and indistinguishable Other.
In advertising, it is too easy to simplify a concept (or, in this case, a country) for the purpose of selling it to consumers. In the multimedia tourism campaign of BBDO Guerrero, commissioned by the Department of Tourism, with the tagline “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” applied wittily to various scenarios and sights in the country. Only some examples are “My humps. More fun in the Philippines” (referring to the Bohol Chocolate Hills), “Getting upstairs. More fun in the Philippines” (the Banawe Rice Terraces), “Popping the question. More fun in the Philippines” (in which a man proposes by writing out the words Will You Marry Me on the sails of colorful vintas), and “Casual Fridays. More fun in the Philippines” (which is a photograph of a Caucasian male posing with Filipinos in indigenous festival attire).
Aside from those, highly featured as well are T’boli cloth weavers and Igorot tour guides among other Filipino ethno-linguistic groups in their respective garb.
What is interesting about the campaign is its glorification of the Filipino aspect of “fun” and the numerous illustrations of the enjoyable aspects of being a Filipino. The campaign aiming to advertise an entire country (and, consequently, various cultures that exist within the country)—true to its advertising form—purposefully left out the struggles that the average Filipino has to deal with on a day-to-day basis, such as poverty, hunger, pollution, crime, and violence. The Filipino has been oversimplified into a happy, problem-less being and deletes his/her three-dimensional characteristics—a mere source of joy and “fun” and not a person. More than that, the ad campaign’s focus on members of ethno-linguistic groups in their traditional attire as a “selling point” may or may not be problematic in terms of the aforementioned exoticization.
“It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” in spite of being a campaign that was commissioned by the government itself, was still guilty of posing problems with regard to a solid representation of the Filipino. Then again, when it comes to advertising and tourism, I suppose a government must do what it must to “sell” its country for the sake of economic growth.
However, despite all this, the campaign gained global popularity with the witty and original style with which it was executed—even spawning hundreds of thousands of internet memes in support of or in reaction to the existing images.
REFERENCES: Ryan, M. (2012). An introduction to criticism: literature, film, culture. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.
Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.
Salazar, N. (n.d.). Tourism imaginaries: Anthropological approaches.