Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday's Interview: Weng in the Philippines

I caught Weng yesterday in a period of bright sunshine between downpours of rain (in a literal and metaphorical sense). We had some time to catch up on Skype, alternating between voice call and chat, finally resorting to email. Nothing to do with the connection in Manila, it was the Chiswick end that failed.

When asked what Weng has been doing she replied 'work work work'. What on? The Civil Society Organization Working Group on Climate Change and Development (CSO WG on CC and DEVT for short). Its all about 'engaging government climate negotiators in adopting cso positions such as deeper cuts and committments of A1 countries' at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December of this year.

We chatted a bit about the state of ecotourism in the Philippines. Weng said that whereas before, heritage was the focus of tourism campaigns, now it is ecotourism. Althouth there is widespread recognition of the value of developing ecotourism, some regions grasp the ethics and philosophy behind it better than others. Palawan for example has a very strict protection policy as they have one of the few primary forests left. Thier Mayor is a very active conservationist. The Philippines remains a centre for offshore biodiversity , diving, nature and adventure.

The conversation broke up so we moved to chat. I asked Weng what everyone is talking about at the moment in the Newspapers. It's "the President's recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) and her visit to the US. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has very low rating and credibility because of rampant corruption and human rights abuses by her administration". Weng says that people call her the longest "burning" president. Politics in the Philippines is a hot topic. Filipinos complain regularly but they are tired of unrest and would like a permanent leader. They just feel like there isn't a better option at the moment.

Weng spoke earlier about the Spanish churches so I asked her to explain more about this heritage. She said, "they've been here for 350 years (16th to 20th century). Their legacies are 1) catholic religion 2) catholic churches 3) catholic schools 4) catholic politicians. The Filipinos have deeply imbeded colonial mentality specially for things american now. They loooove american, well except for the leftists", says Weng.

Weng told me about the third largest mall in asia and Jollibee, their own homegrown fastfood chain which is more popular than Macdonalds. They claim their food is more suited to filipino taste but Weng can't tell the difference. Fastfood still dominates in the Philippines as number one food type amongst locals.

Weng's last holiday was to the beach for her son's birthday. Where does a local go on holiday in the Philippines?, south of Manila.

Some tips from Weng for travellers to the Philippines:

What is the next big event – festival, party, national holiday?
"Not till Christmas time. This summer (April-May) was the primary "fiesta" season wherein towns and villages celebrate their patron saint's anniversary or something. People would have different versions of cultural festivities. Example is St. John the Baptist feast day- towns who celebrate this would have its residents pouring water on the people in the streets. Sometimes, angry motorists get into fights with them".

If you took a holiday in the Philippines next month, where would you go and what would you do?
"I would like to visit Baguio, 5 hours north of Manila, our summer capital. It's a mountain city formerly the American's R&R place. There's lots of cafes, art galleries, the botanical garden, and the weather is cooler than Manila's".

Unfortunately we couldn't chat on Skype all day, as much fun as I was having. So it was time to wrap up.

Dot Pinkney: Ok Weng, well I better let you enjoy your evening in peace. It was great to speak to you and hopefully we can do this again soon!
Weng: ok dot, nice hearing from you and sally
Weng: thanks!

Next week I will be speaking to Silvia in Colombia. If you have any questions you would like me to ask, email me at

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