An evening with Raffy Alunan

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By Luci Lizares

Monday, March 17, 2014

SINCE Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella took office, he has been approaching different groups to help him with advices, suggestions and ideas on how he can best improve Bacolod whether in governance, aesthetics, trade, tourism and all the multiple tasks needed to run a highly urbanized city.

He invited a small group of 13 members of the community engaged in various affiliations and avocations to help him boost the tourism efforts of the city. Unofficially, the group is called BTAG or Bacolod Tourism Action Group.

Not designed according to the guidelines of a Tourism Council or Board, the small group is more of a consultative body who express their observations and impressions of the present state of Bacolod if indeed it is tourist- friendly.


Before embarking on big plans of creating more events, the group decided to deal with the basics and list all that needs to be done, improved, or enhanced, such as the much-needed signposts, traffic lights, restrooms; and the perennial mendicants, ambulant vendors, traffic, illegal settlers, waste management, and noise pollution— in short, identifying all the eyesores.

The goal is to convert these nuances and liabilities into assets—from negative to positive.

We had to dissect and scrutinize if there were ordinances that exist to address the problems and the implementing agencies to enforce them.

Timetables were set to see the progress of the course of action.

There was a lot of brainstorming too what the city has to offer to tourists, their spending capacities, and what enticing tools are presented and promoted by the competitions or the substitutes.

BTAG had to classify which of our attractions appealed to the five senses— seeing, tasting, smelling, hearing and feeling— to make Bacolod unique, attractive and pleasurable.

Almost two months since the inception of BTAG, meetings have now stretched to almost the whole day and discussions do digress with hilarious anecdotes in connection with the nuances. We always have to be redirected to the agenda by our able facilitator, Rene Hinojales.

With Raffy Alunan, former secretary of the Department of Tourism (DoT) and once secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), in town, Mayor Newks grabbed a golden opportunity for Raffy to share his experience and expertise over dinner at Aboy’s.

Being classmates in La Salle Bacolod, Raffy, an authentic son of Bacolod, willingly accommodated.

To give a short summary of the past and present involvements of Raffy, Rafael Moreno Alunan III, holds a double degree in Business Administration and History-Political Science from the De La Salle University and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and MBA from Ateneo De Manila University.

He serves as the president of the First Philippine Infrastructure Development Corp. and serves as the president of Kilosbayan. He served in the cabinets of former president Fidel Ramos and former president Corazon Aquino as secretary of the DILG and and secretary of DoT, respectively. He was also a division commander of the Philippine Army Reserve Division from 2001-2006.

Currently, he serves as a non-executive director of Manila North Tollways Corporation. He has been an independent director of Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines, Inc. since 2007. He is a director of Sun Life of Canada (Philippines) Inc., Sun Life Financial Plans, Inc., Sun Life Balanced Fund, Inc. and the Management Association of the Philippines.

Raffy, wearing his Pepsi jacket, generously shared tips on how to transform a place into a destination. Listening to him, we were glad that all the items we have considered and acknowledged in our meetings were in sync with the very dynamics of a tourist-friendly city.

Raffy made it imperative that we should inject the history of our country and our community not only to our visitors but also to our children and even ourselves. We have embraced the influence and mores of the colonizing countries that we have forgotten and, in fact, lost our roots, which is so rich in legacy.

Raffy says that we were a very respected nation before the Spanish colonization but over time and more conquerors, we have lost all our intrinsic identities.

While he is an effectual speaker, Raffy is likewise a good listener and was curious to hear from us. The evening was a great exchange of ideas.

As we were saying our goodbyes, Raffy mentioned that as the plans are to reclaim the sidewalks, he added not to forget to plant trees. Raffy is a walker. Whether traveling here or around the globe, he loves to feel the pulse of the people and the place by walking. I am a walker, too, and indeed, there is more to see when you walk. And I noticed likewise that our streets are almost devoid of trees. Trees not only give shade but they contribute much to the aesthetic of the environment.

While there is much to be done, everything always starts from a thought and transform that thought into a reality. Honestly, I believe that Negros Occidental— Bacolod City in particular— which is so blessed with beautiful land and most especially, gracious people, will cease to exist as merely a spoke, but will evolve into a hub that we are destined to be!*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 17, 2014.


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