The Philippines, runaway winner at Bureau International des Expositions International Expo

In another historic first for the country, the Philippines won two (2) Gold Awards for its pavilion at the recently concluded Expo 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea – an unprecedented achievement in the history of the Expo awards – besting ten other country participants in the Small Pavilion Category (Category C). This marks the first time that the Philippines won the Gold Award in an international expo, and also the first time in the entire history of the international expo that a country has won two Gold Awards.

Bureau International des Expositions International Expo
Philippine Pavillion at the Bureau International des Expositions International Expo

Adjudged by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the Philippine pavilion was awarded Gold Award winners for Creative Display and Theme Development criteria from 11 participating countries, besting the likes of Vietnam, Brunei, Mexico, Tunisia, Egypt, and Lithuania. Lithuania and Mexico brought home the silver and bronze, respectively, for the Creative Display criteria, while Tunisia and Vietnam brought home the silver and bronze, respectively, for the Theme Development criteria. Pavilions were divided into four categories according to their type and size of exhibition space: Category A with 4 modules and above, Category B with 2 or 3 modules, Category C with 1 module or less and Category D for joint pavilions.

The illustrious and discerning BIE evaluated every aspect of participation such as innovation in design and display of exhibits, rich and understandable messages, flow of circulation within pavilions to ensure a comfortable visit, the best environmental solutions presented, and most importantly the education of the public and promotion of the expo’s values. The panel of judges was composed of prominent figures and experts from world expositions, architecture, and museum designs.

The Philippine Organizing Committee (POC) Commissioner General Domingo Ramon C. Enerio III (Tourism Assistant Secretary) and POC Secretary General Gwendolyn Batoon received the Gold Awards for the Philippines. The POC, spearheaded by the Department of Tourism (DOT) through the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), is composed of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

The Philippine participation in the expo was made possible by the following pavilion partners: Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), GMA Network, Inc., TV5, Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines, SM Supermalls, computer graphic specialist ImColor, Biemann Produktion Haus, Inc., Network of Underwater Digital Imagers, Inc., and the community of divers who have contributed in putting together an “aquarium of diving experiences” for the exhibits.

This expo was my very first assignment from President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III when I started as Tourism Secretary in 2011. That is why we at the DOT and TPB are very proud and happy to bring honor and recognition to our country through the excellent showing of our Philippine pavilion in Yeosu, South Korea. This is a victory not only for the country’s travel industry, but also for the Filipino people, and we express profound gratitude to all our partners in both the public and private sectors, beamed Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.

The three-month exposition that started last 12 May 2012 was able to draw a total of 8,203,956 visitors from across the globe, according to the International Media Center of the Expo 2012 organizers. With an overall theme of The Living Ocean and Coast and subthemes of Preservation and Sustainable Development of the Ocean and Coast, New Resources Technology, and Creative Marine Activities, the expo aimed to shed light on humankind’s knowledge of the ocean and pave the way for reaffirming global effort to resolve issues concerning oceans and coasts.

Showcasing the country’s rich biodiversity and FUN spirit, the Philippine pavilion captured the hearts of some 800,000 visitors from across the globe. The Philippine design team, composed of Stephanie Sy, Deo Alam, and Jonathan Kim Jimenez from Utwentysix (U26) Design Studio, took to heart this year’s expo theme as seen in the recycled materials used to build the pavilion that showed the connection between and among the seas and the coastal communities. The theme statement of the Philippines, “Island of Diversity – Seas of Connectivity” was authored by Professor Edgardo Gomez, world-renowned marine biologist and professor emeritus and founding director of the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI).

Located within the International Pavilion section, the largest physical area in the expo site, the pavilion featured corals as the foci of the entire design. Indigenous materials were also showcased, with the ubiquitous abaca taking prominence. The sand was sourced from the country’s famous beaches, from the powdery white sand of Boracay to the pink sand of Sta. Cruz Island in Zamboanga, the brown sand of San Lorenzo in Guimaras, and the exotic black sand of Sto. Domingo in Albay. The idea was to portray the Philippines as a destination where fun and sustainable tourism coexist and form part of the indivisible whole.

Taking note of this year’s theme, Secretary Jimenez underscored the importance of ecological sustainability as part of the economy’s overarching goal of development and job creation. The country’s wealth of marine and coastal resources creates tourism opportunities, generates livelihood, and provides income for many communities.

“The Philippines is blessed to be at the heart of the Coral Triangle or The Amazon of the Seas. The country’s rich biodiversity is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Koreans can attest to this, as they remain to be our strongest single market. Some of them have even made the Philippines their second home,” Tourism Secretary Jimenez enthused.

The Philippines also staged a cultural program, headlined by dancers from Ballet Philippines and the University of Cebu Dance Company, Pinoy-pop group Down to Mars, singers Gian Magdangal and Kyla, and host Sam Oh. The DOT tapped the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in producing the show that highlighted the country’s brand of FUN.

Korea remains as one of the Philippines’ key source markets and the biggest generator of visitors, chalking up 22.15% of the total visitor volume for the first semester of 2012. In 2011, the Philippines welcomed 925,000 Korean tourists or nearly a quarter of the tourist arrivals for the year, reflecting a 24.9% growth.

With this historic and unprecedented achievement, the DOT looks forward to sustaining its efforts in building a sustainable sense of excitement and eliciting renewed enthusiasm for the country’s tourism industry.

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