Wednesday, August 16, 2017


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
August 17, 2017 issue

Enhancements that beautify walls and lobbies of elegantly designed skyscrapers. Hotels, offices and houses that have character because of the kind of stone the interior designers used. Bathrooms that look so clean you want to sleep on them. Balustrades, stairs, monuments, hallways, grave markers, and, tiles that, literally, floor you, what else can you not make beautiful with marble?

Undisputed as marble capital of the Philippines, Romblon has carved a proud name for itself and it is easy to believe. A quick visit to the outskirts of the town reveals mountains sitting on a bed of marble lodes, running through its entire geographical vein.

And it is not just ordinary marble. High-grade Italian quality, a fact that even Michaelangelo, had he found out about it, could have sailed to our shores and built an atelier in the town. Perhaps, he could have also sculpted “Pieta” right here, or maybe, imported tons of boulders from the Philippines to Italy, con amore.

The whole island of Romblon is one giant rock, blessed by nature with infinite supply of marble that comes in shades of white, green, pink, red and black. The Mines and Geosciences office estimates that the province has about 150 million metric tons of marble. “At current rates of extraction, the supply may last for three more centuries,” according to the bureau.

Though the province is comprised of two other bigger islands, Tablas and Sibuyan, which are equally rich in gold and nickel, it is marble that has made it famous and gave its people livelihood for more than half a century.

But there’s more to Romblon than just marble. It is an emerging tourist destination about to debut on world stage. Her beauty is slowly unraveling, its charm, history and attractions are hot on people’s bucket list. We are pretty sure that after reading this, it will also be on your top picks and you’ll be heading to your nearest travel booking agent.

Day 1

Our trip to Romblon was made possible by the Philippines Department of Tourism to promote unchartered places in the country, beautiful and stunning, different yet inviting. Undiscovered yet comparable to the best in the world, destinations unique in their own persona. 

Regional focus on Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marindoque, Romblon and Palawan) was scheduled for August, spotlighting on Romblon this time. Cecille Aranton, DOT head for Mimaropa market and product development, laid the groundwork and made sure travel itinerary for invited media guests ran on clockwork precision.

Typhoon Gorio delayed our flight for a week but on our next Monday flight, the sun shone brightly - perfect, just as we wanted. 

I arrived at the domestic airport way ahead of the group, to avoid long queues and possible bedlam. To begin with, the mood at the terminal was festive (as if nothing was happening in the south). Seats were full and reeking with foreign and local tourists. By a little past noon, our airplane jetted off quietly. The 76-seater Cebu-Pacific ATR plane then glided over 18,000 feet, moved gently with the clouds and temptingly showed Manila’s beautiful skyline.

In a little over 20 minutes, we were cruising above Batangas, and a few minutes later, a big island with a large inland body of water beckoned. I whispered to myself: “That’s Mindoro and that’s Naujan Lake.” As I checked my map, gee, I was right. 

The aircraft then veered towards southeast, signalling that we were approaching Tablas, Romblon’s biggest island and where the province’s commercial airport is located. We arrived exactly after one hour, rated pleasant and comfortable. No air pockets, no bumps and smooth all the way.

After disembarking, we traversed an almost 20-kilometer well-paved road at the foot of Tablas’ mountain ridges. We snaked through a highway astride a quiet sea that rumbled Romblon the week prior. Halfway through, just as I was about to be lulled to sleep by the long van ride, I saw a sign on the road: “Mag-ingat sa mga nahuhulog na bato” (watch out for falling rocks). It made me lose my desire to take a nap.

As we were getting closer to San Agustin town, our jump off point to the capital, it dawned on me that most of Romblon’s towns, if not all, belonged to a category of places that has remained quaint, undisturbed and unbelievably quiet to the point of being bucolic.

One might call it too ‘provincial’, but, hey, here lies Romblon’s beautiful charm. Far from the maddening, rambunctious city crowd, an experience that money can’t readily buy. Serenity pervades all over.

After about 45 minutes, the very welcoming town hall people served us a hearty lunch of “Inihaw na Bangus”, “Adobo”, “Tinolang Manok” and Romblon’s pride, “Sarsa”, a local dish that is made of small shrimps caught in river streams, mixed with young coconut and chili. It is then wrapped in coconut leaves and steamed to delectable goodness.

And then we were finally off to the capital town. Romblon is a place I’ve known only in textbooks and newspapers. It lies at the foot of a lush mountain range that is so green you readily get refreshed. The immediate feeling that you get is “the people have been waiting for you”. I felt so much at home.

After a lightning visit to the town plaza, we made a courtesy call to a soft-spoken Governor, Eduardo Firmalo at the provincial capitol. The short visit became a long interview.

A doctor by profession, Firmalo’s paternal uncle was also Romblon’s provincial governor before and during the war (1938-1941). He is on the honor list of the Duterte government for his anti-drug and no-mining policies.
In 2011, Governor Firmalo signed a moratorium on metallic mining in the province and mobilized people to oppose large scale mining activities in the area.
“It is tourism that can help spur growth in Romblon, not destructive mining,” Firmalo says. 

The governor is focusing on building more infrastructure projects to improve accessibility and make commuting between the islands a pleasant experience for all.

Only Cebu-Pacific flies to Romblon (three times a week). Firmalo is hoping that the airline will increase it to four. He is also working to attract excess tourists from Boracay to visit the province for a change of atmosphere. 
About one million tourists visit Boracay a year. Firmalo hopes tourism real estate investors would turn their eyes on Romblon (just 30 minutes by boat ride) so tourists can escape the ‘party’ scene of Boracay and enjoy Romblon’s tranquility.

More than ever, the governor wants to improve health conditions of his fellow Romblomanons. As a doctor, he believes that a healthy and strong populace can build a better Romblon. In recent years, his team has initiated countless fitness programs for the youth aside from continuing its feeding programs and watching over the province’s senior citizen populace. 

What’s on the pipeline? Firmalo hopes that a modern hospital would soon rise on his native turf, plus construction of more boat terminals to ease congestion at the main dock, improvement of ferryboat service between Romblon and its neighboring islands to boost commerce and tourism.

Day 2

Ah, the simplicity of life in Romblon, the picturesque landscape at the bay. Viewed from a distance, the town looks like a Portuguese village, creating a Mondrian art feel. 

Oh, you may call it serendipity. Francisco “Paco” Sanz, the province’s first appointed governor after a long list of Spanish Governors, was born in Portugal, and speaking of things European, a stroll away from the dock is a line of small tratorrias and pizzerias. One can also enjoy German, Italian and Dutch lager here.

Inter-island boats of all sizes dock on the port round-the-clock. The structures in the town flaunt the colors of the rainbow. By sunset, the kaleidoscope adds a palette of drama to the panorama. Nature’s art direction by now becomes jawdropping. Get ready to be mesmerized.

Further up, a belfry and a cathedral (St. Joseph) still stand mighty proud near the town plaza. They’re one of about seven original structures of old Romblon still existing. Erected by the Spanish Recollects in 1726, they have survived Moro pirate raids, countless typhoons and World War II. 

The municipal town hall still carries its old architecture. A ‘cuartel’ (jail) underneath the building is a must-see. Infront of the edifice is a century-old Narra tree - so massive you can tell that it is a mute witness to the town’s colorful past. If only it could talk.

On top of a hill, fronting the bay is Romblon’s Fuerza San Andres, a fort built by early Spanish conquistadors in 1644 to warn townsfolks of an impending raid. During this period, bloody skirmishes between Filipino-reinforced Spanish army and marauders oftenly occurred.

Romblon chronicles indicate a Dutch invasion in the 1700s, and Moro raids were aplenty after the Spanish came. Living testaments to these fierce battles are old canons displayed in the renovated landmark. They now serve as relics of a bygone era. 

Today, the governments of Australia and other European countries, in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and National Museum, continue to contribute efforts to restore the historic place.

As we moved into the town’s innermost sanctum, more century-old houses greeted us. There was the former Governor’s residence, the old elementary school and a number of antique structures that had changed ownership through the years.

We then explored a marble quarrying concession and saw men unloading raw marble boulders straight from the mountain source. Adjacent to the site was a heavy equipment warehouse where giant slabs of marble stones are cut, further shaped and cleaned for export.

A Roro boat then took us to Sibuyan, one of Romblon’s three major islands. We landed in invigorating Magdiwang, a flourishing town, all green and refreshing to the senses. We enjoyed a bit of paradise in Sanctuary Garden Resort, Barangay Tampayan. 

Here, you can see myriad of birds chirping and delighting you as they perched on flower gardens and trees around its wooded villas. I actually saw Hummingbirds and yellow Oreole, and whispered, “Wow!” 

The resort, indeed, is a refuge. A river, a few steps away, runs through it so you can enjoy kayaking. The amenities are traveler-friendly and comfortable, the bathroom floors are, of course, made of what else? Marble.

Also in Magdiwang is Mt. Guiting-Guiting whom the folks describe as a “mystic” mountain because of its jagged rooftop. “It is our adventure bestseller, one of the more popular Philippine mountains and, obviously, favorite of mountaineers because of the degree of difficulty one has to encounter before he can reach the summit,” Magdiwang, municipal tourism officer Rommel Radan told us as he hosted our dinner during our first night at the Sanctuary Garden Resort. 

Known also as the crown jewel of Romblon, Mt. Guiting-Guiting has been declared a protected Natural Park by the government because of its diverse wildlife species.

Day 3

We woke up early in the morning and hailed a jeepney to take us to Romblon’s fabled Cresta Del Gallo. We passed through Marigondon, Taguilos, Cajidiocan, Alibagon, Azagra and Campalingo under the scorching hot sun. Well-paved roads greeted us but they would be intermittently cut short by ongoing construction in-between. 

As we plodded along the way, more road-widening work loomed in the horizon causing our vehicle to slow down. And when it did, dust would furiously swirl around it. We must have inhaled tons of them.

“Are we there yet?” I heard someone asked just as I about to ask, “how many more minutes?” We finally reached San Fernando town after four hours. Vice mayor and municipal tourism officer Arben Rosas met us at the pier. From here, we will take another one-hour boat ride to Cresta de Gallo. 

Meanwhile, the sun was getting hotter and hotter, and I murmured: “I hope this is worth the long trip.” Midway, I saw a school of flying fish and farther, a big splash spurted out of the sparkling turquoise blue waters. “What could it be?” I asked while removing my sunglasses to get a better view. 

Then I heard everyone scream: “Dolphins!” Yes, those dolphins escorted us until we reached Cresta del Gallo’s spectacular white sandbar. It certainly worth the trip and I didn’t mind getting my skin burned.

Cresta de Gallo is a five-hectare kidney-shaped islet with a stretch of white sand beach. By low tide, the beautiful sandbar is a stunning sight, and some say, much better than those in Kalanggaman and Camiguin. Only one person lives here, the caretaker and his dogs.

On a 20-meter radius, the whole island is surrounded by the clearest body of water, teeming with wide variety of marine life. I was told that you camp for the night and sail back to Sibuyan the morning after.

Sibuyan is also full of underrated sites with rivers and a number of waterfalls that bring forth the clearest of water. I, for one, wouldn’t jump for a swim had Cantingas River was not so inviting and crystal-clear.

We went back to Romblon town tired but still managed to squeeze in some time to see the beauty of Bonbon and Nonok, two beautiful resorts with white sand beaches. If long trips bore you, these two can readily satisfy your craving for sun, sea and surf, and they are right within the town vicinity, a few steps away from the dock.

Day 4

On our last day, we headed back to Tablas for our flight back home. We needed to spend the night in the town for our noon flight the next day. Aglicay Resort prepared us a feast of the freshest, yummiest seafood welcome dinner. 

The place is a perfect hideaway for the sport-minded. It has tennis, two beach volleyball courts and a long stretch of white sand beach fronting the dining area. Though hay fever and sinus problems bothered me a lot, I was still able to enjoy its very idyllic setting.

Forward Mimaropa Region

Here’s an interview with DOT’s Aranton on their blueprint for Mimaropa in the next few years:

As head of market and product development of DOT Mimaropa region, what would you like to achieve over a short and long term period?

Aranton: The Mimaropa Region is composed of five island provinces of Southern Tagalog Region namely Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.  It is located at the heart of the archipelago and home of numerous marine sanctuaries, unspoiled white sand beaches, rich flora and fauna with unique products and lovely people making it as the Treasure Throve of the South. 

It is also home to several National Parks, World Heritage Sites, protected aqua marine areas, even wild safari parks that makes it unique and special compared to other regions in the country. With traffic-jam free, non-congested cities and bustling highways, one will only experience and find rugged roads, palm-fringed secluded white beaches, peace and serenity.

For a short-term period, DOT wishes to make all the provinces that comprise Mimaropa, “A Must See”, “Must Experience” and “Naturally, A Destination of Choice in the Country.”

Long term, we want to adopt the Tourism Vision: “To develop a highly competitive, environmentally sustainable and socially responsible tourism industry that promotes inclusive growth through employment generation and equitable distribution of income.“

What’s your priority in doing the tasks given to you?

We want to develop and market competitive tourist destinations and products. Continue to participate in sales missions, tourism fairs and road shows abroad and around the country where there is connectivity to the region such as the cities of Manila, Cebu and Iloilo.

Support and attend cruise conventions in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Korea and China to increase cruise calls in the city of Puerto Princesa, Coron and El Nido, Palawan and Romblon and Sibuyan Islands, Romblon.

We would like to organize domestic media and travel trade familiarization trips specifically in emerging destinations and support the conduct of Foreign Travel Trade and Media Invitational Programs of Tourism Promotions Board (TPB).

We would like to make strong representations 
with government line agencies to improve market 
access and connectivity. Strengthen the Convergence
Programs with Infrastructure Agencies for 
the development and upgrading of roads leading 
to tourist destinations, airports and seaports.

Call on domestic airline services to possibly look into the possibility of opening air routes to emerging destinations.
Improve tourism institutional governance and human resource capacities.

Continue to conduct training programs for the tourism industry workers to enhance skills and competencies.
Increase the number of DOT-accredited tourism establishments in the region.

Challenges you are facing and wish you have the support?

Sustain the accolade given to the Province of Palawan as World’s Best Island for several years now. We have to make the province consistently competitive with other destinations not only in the country but worldwide.

“When tourism progress, poverty retreats”, we are inspired more than challenged by this thought to develop and promote an environmentally and socially responsible tourism that delivers more widely distributed income and employment opportunities.

We are lucky to be in a Region where there is solidarity among the local chief executives to push Mimaropa as the “Next Big Thing in the Philippines.” The biggest challenge is a call for a collaboration of efforts, continued support and partnership with the government line agencies, local government units and the private sector (our tourism industry partners) for us to be able to achieve our Tourism Programs.”

Saving the best for last, we would like to thank the Governor Eduardo Firmalo, all the hospitable people of Romblon and the untiring Myrna Silverio, executive assistant from the office of the governor for making us all well-taken cared of throughout the trip. Till we meet again.

The third Mimaropa Festival will be held in Odiongan, Romblon on November 20 to 25, 2017 and will be hosted by the province of Romblon.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


By Roger Pe
Business Mirror
July 31, 2017 issue
In the olden days, just after sunset, we would usually wait for our ‘Lola Basyang’ on the porch. We would gather around her and listen to her stories with bated breath. Some of them made us gasp with disbelief. Some made us cringe because they were spine chilling. Some made us roll with laughter on the floor. Some made us cry we even had to share handkerchiefs to wipe off our tears. 
Our Lola’s storytelling sessions were much awaited. None of us missed them, even if some of us had fever. She was like a magnet because we would all gravitate to her when she was around.
It was probably because of the way she told each story, far more different than my aunt did. Her stories were peppered with picturesque words, laced with varying tones of excitement, drama and suspense. They made our imagination ran wild, and we all felt them in our bones.
I would say that we didn’t just sat there on the porch. Lola, the Storyteller, transported us into another realm. We were woven into the tales she unraveled. Sequence by sequence, plot by plot, and like a river gently flowing into the sea, we lost ourselves and moved with them. We became the characters ourselves, not just lambently listening.
Movies become blockbusters because of the way they tell their stories. Books turn into bestsellers because of the way they make us engaged, connected and delighted. Speakers didn’t drive us to sleep because they had that thing that made us glued to our seats and listen. They knew how to pull the emotional trigger that can capture an audience.
Can brands also become great storytellers like my Lola?

Good stories can transport customers to new worlds. Audiences can be so absorbed in a story that they can be brought to a place they have never been to. Read a really great book. Lose yourself in its pages. A good story has the power to take you anywhere. They can activate your narrative engines and turn you into a footloose.
Well-known US market research company Gilliam and Flaherty mentions the bottomline: “When it comes to building sales relationships with new clients, storytelling is invaluable for three key purposes: Delivering information, persuading customers and creating a personal connection. Buyers are looking for ‘cues’ and ‘signals’ that the seller is ‘trustworthy’. Stories are a credible form of communication capable of delivering such cues.”
“Storytelling can squash the skeptic in your customer. Selling through storytelling becomes easier. When told a story, listeners engage in a special form of processing that result in fewer counter arguments, it also adds.” 
But to be able to tell a good story, everything must begin with a great consumer market research, a task that some of today’s businesses rarely undertake, Philippine market research expert Germaine Reyes, co-founder and Managing Director of Synergy Market Research and Strategic Consultancy, says.
“Good storytelling is the ability to move consumers into action in a seamless manner. The brand generates trust with the consumer through the story it tells which in turn inspires him/her to take action. The story the brand provides mirrors or should mirror the realities of a consumer to enable engagement.  Depending on how moving the storytelling was done, consumers get inspired to take action without them knowing that the story actually helped them do that,” Reyes says. 
We interview Reyes about storytelling and how it impacts brand marketing:

Why is Storytelling important to the brand selling?
Reyes: As Seth Godin, a marketing guru and writer said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you sell, but the stories you tell.”   These days, brands can’t just ‘push’ information to consumer by ‘telling them’ about their brand, what their brand benefits are.  Given the digital age, consumers gained access to information on their own and can therefore validate whether the brand is telling them the truth or not.  Brands are now compelled to show authenticity for consumers to trust them. It is said that through stories, the storyteller can actually generate trust with his/her audience. Thus, through effective (and seamless) storytelling, consumers become more trusting, more open to the brand messaging.  
Is there a formula in telling a good story?
Reyes: Like your typical story, there are basic elements that have to be present. This will be further explained in our event called, “HuGOT it Right: Consumer Insighting for Innovative Brand Storytelling.”  
But what I particularly want to point out is that there is an element in a story that creates the connection with consumers.  And, there is a need to have a flow of the narrative that will effectively deliver the message, something that’s riveting in the story. The resolution needs to be satisfying, and the flow needs to make this understandable in order to create a lasting effect on consumers. These are what marketing practitioners need to harness and innately develop.
Let me make an analogy instead of naming certain people.  Filmmakers and the theater arts have mastered the art of storytelling.  Great public speakers have mastered this art as well.  This is the reason why in movies, we just find ourselves, ‘pulled into’ the story – we cry with the protagonist or get angry with the antagonist.  
We get scared in a horror film and these images linger in our minds even after watching the movie.  We get moved or inspired into action by public speakers who are great storytellers.  Something magical happens between the storyteller and the audience.  A story told very well can affect one long after watching the movie or play or listening to a speech.
Name some best practices being used by marketers in storytelling.
Reyes: Marketers that stay close with their consumers – ie., those who listen to their customers to understand their plight, aspirations, dreams and hopes, what they wonder about are those that will get ahead in their storytelling.  Reason is that they are the ones with real or authentic material to start on their storytelling journey. The storytelling skill would be their next hurdle. 
Next I realized is that design thinking is a great approach in uncovering innovative storytelling avenues for marketers to take advantage of. This is not yet best practice as we believe we’re the first to introduce this linkage between design thinking and brand storytelling.  
I have attended some talks and a bootcamp and I strongly believe that the possibilities for brand storytelling avenues are limitless through this approach.  What also excited me is that design thinking is ‘human-centered’, ie., the creative process is anchored on real consumer insights.  
Is storytelling on digital platform any different from traditional marketing?
Reyes: Storytelling should be platform-agnostic.  There should be a creative solution on the length of your story.  At the end of the day, the narrative should be compelling enough, regardless of where it is placed. Key is to choose the optimum platform – ie., where your consumers are listening or watching to target them at the right time and moment.
What types of storytelling are usually most successful in connecting with consumers?
Reyes: There is no particular theme or plot that is better than the other, but we will provide some ideas which are effective - in our seminar workshop this August 30-31. Nonetheless, for as long as the basic story elements are present, tied together by a well-thought out flow that is consistent with the brand personality, these are good elements to start with. Design thinking will facilitate this journey of arriving at innovative storytelling that connects with consumers.

What are some of the things you should avoid in brand storytelling?
Reyes: Perhaps what I’ll say are more precautions that really avoidance. 
Brand storytelling that are just entertaining or have unique executions per se may get consumers’ attention and become viral. This may be good if the objective is to create awareness and consideration.  
A few good laughs may help develop positive feelings towards the brand, but should not steer their focus away from the purpose of the storytelling. Let’s not do a ‘pen-pineapple-pen’ campaign type if our objectives are different from what it can realistically attain.  If the storytelling is not aligned with your brand personality, this may create disconnect with consumersand may confuse them in the long-run. 
Aiming for storytelling that will become viral, per se, shouldn’t consume marketers.  This is stressful!  Instead, let’s learn from how Pixar or Disney does it. They create stories that are blockbuster hits!  

What are the things that you should prioritize telling?
Reyes: “Facts tell.  Stories sell.”  Tell authentic stories, not just facts.  And authenticity starts with and should be grounded in consumer truths. Marketers should do their homework and get to know their consumers, mirror this in the story they will create, marry this with their brand personality and develop that seamless storytelling, just like how Pixar and Disney do it. Otherwise, the story that they will tell may end up contrived and disengaging.
Join “HuGOT it Right.  Consumer Insighting for Innovative Brand Storytelling.” on August 30-31, at The Metropolitan Club, Makati City.  For inquiries, call +632-818-5890 (look for Jeanky) or email

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


by Roger Pe
July 6, 2017 issue
Business Mirror

Back in the early 90s, when Philippine advertising entered a new phase, and ads that were called “malinis” (produced with polish but not exactly compelling) were no longer potential award winners, ad agency people shelled out cash every payday. They made payments, handed out to Mrs. Salta, a businesswoman who peddled rare-to-find advertising creativity books.

Mrs. Salta became a fixture in the Philippine Madison Avenue firmament during that time. She made glossy, imported books affordable by offering “6-drops” or more, depending on one’s capacity to pay.

It was safe to say that most people who worked in an advertising agency knew Mrs. Salta. The security guards, receptionist, accountants, people in the creative department, including secretaries, the suits and, yes, even the industry chi-chi crowd knew of her.

She was completely the antithesis of the ambulant tocino ‘suki’ who visited Makati offices often. She dressed to the nines and did it with style. She had a bodyguard who always carried bags of them, and she had a shimmering white van parked somewhere near her place of business.

Creative department secretaries would suddenly sought her upon request of concept teams who were experiencing a drought of ideas. For those who had plenty of cash to spare and wanted tomes of them, she would gladly escort them to her splendid vehicle, to let them see her other stuff not available in any bookstore in the Philippines. 

Mrs. Salta became a buzzword so much so that she had a parody account in an advertising rant site, Café Creatives. Though people forgot her given name and remembered only her family name, she became more popular.

Her bestsellers were The Art Directors Annual (very thick, you could knock an unusually big rat out using it), The One Show (a copywriter’s dream), Epica (for those who wanted to poke their noses on what’s hot in Europe), and the Communication Arts series (they were the bomb and they made most Art Directors drool).

During the time of pagers, they were the creative‘gadgets’ to show off when advertising congresses opened. Though a little pricey, they were quickly gobbled up as soon as the security guard at the lobby hollered, “Mrs. Salta is in the building, show up or hide now!”

Mrs. Salta’s goods were in demand. Whether a few months delayed, or hot-off-the-press, they brought some kind of approval from industry colleagues. They made the guy next to your cubicle envy, a magnet to many, the cantankerous, introverts and other characters inhabiting the creative sanctuary. A copy on your table erased people’s initial impression of you, that you were not a run-of-the-mill hire and you had taste in your bones itching to surface. 

Some say, Mrs. Salta was advertising God’s gift to advertising. “When all you see were product freights and boring manufacturer’s copy lines, Mrs. Salta was an oasis in the middle of a creative desert. You call her and she brings in books, pronto. Her wares inspired many. Sadly, some creative people ended up with work sounding like ads (that Doc Martens ad was legendary) from the books she sold,” a former copywriter, now a top creative director says.

When the Internet got a little faster and and its derivative sites entered the scene, Mrs. Salta’s books faded into the night. They became remnants of the past and gathered dust on many shelves, along with the old trophies of the Ad Congress. She, too, gently exited out of the picture.

Inspirational books, annuals and youtube

Some of us have been in advertising long enough to see the many transformations that have happened in the industry. Though the digital divide may have rendered some people in the industry into dinosaurs, many have crossed over and felt like a digital native. 

Where innovation and change in the industry continue to alter our landscape, one thing remained constant. Agency oldtimers, even the millennial generation, were taught to value creativity and honor, disdain from copying one’s work, confuse the public and mislead the consumer. 

There would be interesting debates. Occasionally, one would stumble into them on social media. Some would invoke the often quoted line, “great men think alike”, “there is no originality in this age anymore”, “it’s just plain coincidence” and all those stuff.

Some believed in the spin that people have put into that, “copying is innovation.” In the book “Borrowing Brilliance” by David Kord Murry, the author revealed: “Brilliance is borrowed, and that in order to create, first, you have to copy.” 

Don’t raise your eyebrows.

Many famous men were accused of ripping other people’s work like Newton, Shakespeare, Helen Keller, J.K. Rowling, T.S. Eliott, Jane Godall, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Google guys, to name a few. According to Murry, their ideas were constructed from borrowed ideas. Newton admitted his guilt that to “see farther, he had to stand on the shoulders of giants and build on the ideas of others.” 

But creativity for brands is a valuable asset. Though philosophers have time and again, argued that “ideas give birth to other ideas”, one is tempted to ask: “Does that give license to one to copy someone else’s work?”

The term Renaissance during the 14th century means creative explosion. Artists, during the earlier part of this wonderful period, were obligated to improve the original, give a rebirth of some sort to the stale status quo. Innovation, enhancements and collaboration efforts in which one idea was copied were the rule of the day. Copying was understood and expected.

But soon after, the free market economy began to develop and artists who valued their work began to break away from their patrons and sold their artwork independently. Michaelangelo and Da Vinci signed their masterpieces against copycats and frauds. Copying and plagiarism were now condemned.

Furthermore, Murry explained” “We are forced to conceal or disguise the source of our ideas for fear of social or legal retribution. No one wants to admit for fear of being labeled as plagiarist or idea thief.”

Today, whether one is an industry old-timer or barely new in advertising, one can see a virtual rip-off, tweaked, rehashed, recycled or derived from another idea within the universe that he or she moves - because of the Internet where one can do research fast, the task is a lot easier. 

In an industry that honors creativity and originality, you know the feeling of being uncomfortable, much more dismayed, at the sight of an ad with uncanny similarities to the one that you once encountered. 

Déjà vu

We recently had a spate of familiar ads and they created quite a buzz. Here are some of the most talked-about over the last twelve months:

Vodafone TV Commercial, 2014. Touching and emotional, this one, from Jung von Matt advertising agency Germany, manages to be moving without being mushy. A young girl crosses items off her grandfather’s bucket list and, through the magic of her gadget, takes him along to her many travel adventures. The bucket list “crossing out” scene is the highlight of the ad as it is repeated often as the commercial progresses. 

Smart TV Commercial, 2017: Except for the change of characters and setting, the story is virtually the same. The granddaughter now becomes a young man. The elderly man becomes an elderly woman. The opening shot (guy on top of a hill and “crossing out” scene in particular are very noticeable.

Digital Media UK, Corporate Brand Identity, 2014: Triangular in shape, color elements of the logo are in bright primary and secondary colors.

PLDT Logo, 2016: Almost the exact replica of the former.

McDonald's TV Commercial, 2007: This tv commercial produced in 2007 is echoed in a Jollibee tv spot a decade later. The ad uses a famous Eraserhead song ("Ang Huling El Bimbo) as soundtrack, and opens with a narrative of a man who remembers his childhood sweetheart. “Tuwing pupunta ako dito, naaalaala ko ang lahat,” he says with a lambent voice. He tells us how he met her and eating out together with their moms. The commercial ends with a sad note through passage of time to the present. The girl is now married and introduces him to her husband. A voice wafts in the air with “At kahit hindi kami naging sa huli, s’ya pa rin ang first love ko.”

JollibeeTV Commercial, 2017: The ad opens with a title “Inspired by a true story” and a hashtag (that it is a brand series). It then takes us to a wedding scene where a man starts to reminisce how he met the girl in a fastfood store. From his narrative, the audience is made to believe that the man and the girl will say “I do” in a few minutes. We are told that he vowed to make her laugh, always be there whenever she needed him, never change and make her the happiest girl. But the storytelling trick and punchline, “Kahit hindi naging tayo” break our hearts. The girl is marrying another man.

The DOT "Sights" tv commercial and a South African Tourism ad heve a central figure that caused a maelstrom nationwide, Asian adlandia, and even landed on the pages of Advertising Age and Adweek New York. The bone of contention was the use of a blind man throughout the material. The controversy is perhaps, tIn biggest in local advertising industry, eclipsing the scandal spawnd by "Nakatikim Ka Na Ba Ng Kinse Anyos?". In the ensuing events, DOT fired McCann WorldGroup Philippines, the ad agency, for the similarity.

Where’s the line between copying and coincidence in similar creative ideas? We interview advertising copywriter Dan Goldgeier, a provocative advertising and marketing columnist for based in Seattle, Washington and here’s what he said

Do you believe what some people say that nothing is original in this world anymore?

Goldgeier: “That's a pretty complicated question. I think people can take parts of other ideas and synthesize them into something original. But in advertising, as you know, of course, we work in familiar formulas: Story, layouts, headline formulas, visual techniques, etc, so it feels like there's little original happening.”

Goldgeier also granted us permission to reprint his article on the subject in full:

“Recently, some ad veterans were noticing, and lamenting, the similarities between this Nike ad (1995) and Kaiser Permanente ad that ran during the summer Olympics.

Yes, the two commercials have much in common. And the Kaiser ad is many degrees inferior to the Nike spot.

For those of you who weren’t in this business 20 years ago, it’s hard to overstate how admired, lauded, and inspirational the Nike “If You Let Me Play” ad was. Not just to its intended audience, but to the ad industry as a whole. It’s one of the ads that made me want to get into the business and attempt to do that caliber of work.

So for advertising people of a certain generation, alarm bells went off when watching the Kaiser spot. Was it a blatant rip-off, a heartfelt homage or mere coincidence?

I don’t claim to know how this happened. But I’ve been in advertising long enough to know that ad ideas often share attributes with work that’s been previously done.

I’m not interested in assigning blame here. I’m much more interested in the nuances of the decision-making process involved, because it’s a window into the current state of creativity in advertising and marketing.

Did somebody know about the similarities in the KP spot before it got filmed? By “somebody” I mean anyone, including the creative team, their Creative Directors, AE’s, agency management, producers, directors, and all the associated layers of client marketers.

There are only three basic scenarios to explain what happened:

1) Somebody knew there was a similarity and didn’t speak up.

It’s a TV spot running during the Olympics. There’s a lot at stake for all involved. “Let’s hope no one really notices” is a quiet thought in the minds of many ad professionals when they’re pursuing an idea that could backfire.

Someone could’ve also noticed similarities a little further down the timeline — after concepts were approved, budgets were determined, and the production hairball began rolling down the mountain. Is it better to remain silent than be the voice that derails a major project? You try putting on the brakes with millions of dollars involved. It’s not easy.

2) Somebody knew there was a similarity and did, in vain, speak up.
“You know, that idea kind of reminds me of…” I’ve heard that a bunch. I’ve said it sometimes, too. That kind of reservation can fall on deaf ears. Perhaps a less forceful team member who voiced objections was slapped down and told to shut up. Don’t underestimate the collective power of a bunch of people in a conference room to justify bad decisions or pretend the elephant in the room doesn’t really exist.

And don’t underestimate the power of a C-level client executive to say, “You know, I’d love to do a spot like this one,” as he or she sends YouTube links out to underlings and the agency. For client-side marketers, their careers go merrily on even when encouraging or approving derivative advertising.

Faced with a similar situation, many people in our business, according to Goldgeier, would state out loud that they don’t care if a proposed ad resembled an older one. Think of how it easily it could be justified: A change in target audience, or product category, could be enough differentiation in their eyes. It’s no wonder our industry’s code of ethics would fit on a Post-it note.

3) Nobody knew there was a similarity.

Were the entire team of agency and client folks working on the KP ad simply unaware of the Nike spot? It might sound far-fetched, but yes, it’s possible.

I’ve taught aspiring copywriters who knew next to nothing about the ad industry and its history. Hell, they didn’t even watch “Mad Men.” And don’t assume that junior creatives have ever perused the dusty copies of CA and One Show annuals that line the bookshelves in the remote corners of agencies.

Plus, our digital world has left old-school advertising uncataloged. While YouTube is a good repository of many old commercials, there’s no organization to it.  And good luck trying to find hi-res images of old print ads the ad world used to celebrate.

Many people currently working in advertising and marketing simply don’t bother to learn about anything that was produced even a few years ago. If they do learn, the old work isn’t considered so sacrosanct that it couldn’t be copied in some regard.

And there are, of course, degrees of rip-off: A copy line, unique visual, commercial plot, app idea, or just a style, film technique, or strategy. Some people merely look at ads from today and no matter how small the detail, it reminds them of some ad long forgotten by much of the world. This doesn’t just happen in advertising. All art forms have this type of conflict. Just ask Chuck Berry.

We’re also in an era in which many new marketing firms have popped up — content marketing firms, consultancies, digital and social media companies, etc. — whose leaders regularly disdain the very idea of “advertising” and declare that it’s dead. For them, even a vaunted Nike ad isn’t a sacred cow.

So what happens now with this particular Kaiser Permanente spot? A whole lot of nothing, that’s what. Other than the kangaroo court of judgy advertising insiders, there is no real punishment for ripping off someone else’s advertising unless there’s a legitimate copyright issue. And those are rare.

Unfortunately, there will never be a consensus as to what’s a rip-off or what’s fair game for appropriation. Crying foul will only generate crocodile tears. So we’ll continue to see new work that feels familiar or derivative, even if it means producing a commercialhat recalls a great Nike spot. Because some people just get away with it, when they just do it.”

Saturday, July 1, 2017


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
July 1, 2017 issue

Coffee, tea or … chances are, you’ll choose the first.
You probably know the reason. Centuries of Spanish colonization introduced us to ‘tsokolate eh’ and ‘tsokolate ah’. Decades of American rule made us love coffee, espresso, decaf, americano, instant and other ways of preparing it. We relegated tea as medicine and for its other curative powers. Some even have a condescending thing about it. So it never prospered.
But did you know that two billion people around the world drink tea every morning? Here are more facts and they are startling: 
3 billion tons of leaves of tea are produced around the world for global consumption. The US imports 519 million pounds of tea every year and 1.42 million pounds of tea are consumed by Americans every single day. Turkey leads the world in tea consumption per person, (7 pounds of tea every year) roughly about 1,400 tea servings. 
Tea is also largely known as an anti-oxidant, elixir for healthy skin, slimming and can help fight colon cancer. 

According to global tea export index as of 2016, China is by far, the world’s largest consumer of tea, at 1.6 billion pounds a year. 
Kenya remains the global export leader with a 25% share of exports (mainly black tea). China is second with 18% (mainly green tea). Sri Lanka is in third place at 17%, with India at 13% and Vietnam at 7%. Argentina rounds out the top 5 with 4%. Indonesia continues to slide at 3% as tea growers in the country are switching to other cash crops, primarily palm oil.

For thousand years, Chinese people have consumed tea and drinking the beverage has become synonymous to its culture. As written in history books, drinking tea began during the time of Han Dynasty emperors in 2nd century BC. 
Recent findings conclude that tea originated in southwest China and an early credible record of tea drinking dates back to the 3rd century AD. 
Tea was then introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century. It then became popular in Great Britain in the 17th century. The British then introduced tea production, as well as tea consumption to India, in order to arrest China’s domination of the world’s tea market.

How it all began

In 2737 AD, legendary Chinese Emperor Shennong ordered his subjects to boil water before drinking it to help contain an epidemic. He was said to be drinking a bowl of boiled water one day when leaves from a nearby tree got blown into his water, changing its color. 
He took a sip of the brew and was delighted by its flavor and restorative effects. He subsequently tested medical properties of various herbs, some of them poisonous, and found the tea to have worked quite well.
A similar Chinese legend goes that Emperor Shennong and other gods of agriculture would chew the leaves, stems, and roots of various plants to discover medicinal herbs. If they consumed a poisonous plant, they would chew leaves of tea to counteract the poison.

Anxi, China’s Tea Capital

Though I have been to China (only by a stopover in Guangzhou airport), I have never seen the real beauty of the mainland. Fast forward after ten years, I finally set foot on one of its most beautiful cities, where I was to meet my brother whom I have never seen in my entire life. 
It was serendipity that brought me to Anxi, a small city in Fujian province, famous for its world class Tieguanyin tea. A nephew’s colleague in the civil government is also one of the city’s most recognized Tea Masters, Chen Liang Gu, who himself cultivates a vast tea plantation and exports high-grade tea to the world.

Anxi’s fame stretches throughout China, as well as around the world. Because of its high altitude geography, incredibly rich soil, moderate sub-tropical climate and plentiful rainfall, it is perfect for growing the best tea in China. 
“Long before India and Sri Lanka started growing tea, the Emperors of China were already enjoying it for centuries,” Chen told me through an interpreter. 
I came to know Chen when my nephew brought me to his tea saloon where he showed us how to prepare and serve tea, reminiscent of the emperor days. The drinking ceremony lasted cup after cup after cup, a cordial ritual with plenty of smiles, stories and handshakes after. 
Before calling it a day, Chen told us to get ready the following day with our thick coats as we will climb the hills of Yunzhongshan Mountain Reserve, a long 90 kilometer-drive from the city proper.
This was supposed to be China’s famous tea plantation attraction. If we have the Ifugao Rice Terraces circled by rice paddies, the mountains in this area are all covered with hectares upon hectares of refreshing tea shrubs and trees, with farmers tending to their lush gardens.
The breathtaking trip took us to rural China. We passed through magnificent mountain tunnels I lost track counting them. As we snaked through several vertigo-causing highland skyways, we arrived in Gan De, the gateway to Anxi’s jaw-dropping tea plantation. 
We had lunch in a roadside café that served us native chicken prepared like “Adobo” (swimming in tea oil when served to us), and a dish similar to our “Tinola”.
We trekked up a mountain full of tea trees, a knee and lung-busting challenge. The view was simply gorgeous and exhilarating. The experience was punctuated by weird sounds coming from the other side of the mountain. I was told that they were tigers growling.
On our way home way past sunset, we made a stopover in a mountain café. We had a feast of boiled duck (with meat falling off its bones), stewed mutton, pungent steamed rice and lots more cups of tea.

The best thing about Anxi is that it is a small county, population density is low, and it has lots of mountains covered with green forests, which means you will be able to find peace and quiet to accompany your hot cup of tea. 
Many tourists come to Anxi to learn the history of tea, visit its tea factories and its tea gardens are open to the public. The city has the world’s largest teapot, a sculpture located at the plaza overlooking many tea-drinking shops. It is here where the most famous tea-trading hall is located, called China Tea Capital, located on Hebin North Road. 
Within this complex, you will find countless shops, booths, and independent vendors with bags full of dried tea leaves for those who want to take a part of Chinese tea culture home. The prices here are lower than elsewhere in China since you will be purchasing straight from suppliers. 
Tea gardens are also popular stops where you may enjoy a beautiful setting surrounded by natural scenery and lovely music, all while tasting top selections of tea from each garden’s specific menu. Some are family-owned, others are owned by private clubs and tea plantations. 
Tea harvested between mid-September and mid-May in Anxi are the tastiest. The most popular type is called Tieguanyin, with references the “Iron Goddess of Mercy,” grown and produced in Anxi since the 18th century, and today, ranks among the most expensive teas in the word. 
Tieguanyin is a variation of oolong tea with a fresh and smooth taste. Oolong tea is characterized by its unique production process: Leaves are picked, dried under hot sun, and oxidized until they curl up, sometimes followed with a light roasting period. They have a wide array of flavors, but always come with rich aromas and complex essences. 

Other types of tea (including more than 12 types of Oolongs) you will find as you explore Anxi County are Ruan Zhi, Ben Shan Green Dragon, Huangdan, Benshan, Maoxie, Daye Wulong, and Meizhan, and Golden Cassia (also known as Golden Osmanthus). Elsewhere in Fujian Province, you will find production of jasmine tea.  
The traditional Chinese way of preparation is to put a small amount of leaves in your cup, hot water, and then cover to steep for a few minutes. Soon the leaves will release their aromas and sink to the bottom when it is ready to drink. Just add more hot water to your cup to the same leaves when you want more to drink. This method allows more efficient use of each dose of leaves. 
How to get to Anxi  
Arriving to Anxi County is quite convenient. Fujian Province is in southern China and quite close to Hong Kong. The main cities you will arrive to before going to Anxi are most likely Xiamen and Quanzhou.
If coming from Xiamen, you can take a bus from Songbai Long Distance Bus Station where you can get a 1–2 hour ride north to Anxi. There is no direct train between the two destinations.  
If coming from Quanzhou, you can take a train from Quanzhou East Railway station to Anxi. You can also take a bus from Central Bus Station, taking 1 hour. From Quanzhou and Xiamen, there are also trains to Anxi.