A cure for travel blues

Hakim Hayat

When was the last time you boarded an aircraft to travel for the holidays?

Most of us in Brunei can probably say it has been over a year since travel restrictions have been in place to protect citizens and residents from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world faces an unprecedented global health, social and economic emergency tourism are among the most affected sectors with airplanes grounded, hotels closed and travel
restrictions globally.

Despite the travel restrictions, numerous countries, especially where tourism and culture play integral parts in economic activity, have come up with creative and innovative ways to allow people from across the world to experience their country in the comfort of their own home.

The pandemic did not prevent the Philippines from celebrating Flores de Mayo held virtually on May 29 via the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) official Youtube channel.

The DFA called the event an innovative approach to promoting Philippine culture and a way to bring Philippine culture and celebrations closer to Filipinos’ hearts despite the limitations of the pandemic.

El Nido, Palawan in the Philippines
Participants with their Fiesta Filipinas kits

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who made a special appearance on the show, said the virtual event was a good initiative considering that COVID-19 was still the main scourge of world health problems. Flores de Mayo, she continued, is an opportunity for the Philippines to show off the diversity and beauty of its culture.

“I think it’s a wonderful initiative to find a way to celebrate even though we’re facing a certain circumstance that we have now. It’s about really allowing our culture to be seen, our craftsmanship… everything that we’re proud to showcase about our beautiful country, it is able to find a spotlight within Flores de Mayo,” said Gray.

Flores de Mayo means May flowers in Spanish and is celebrated every May.

Close to 300 live participants and thousands of viewers from around the world came together to celebrate a virtual Flores de Mayo from their homes.

The online festival was a multi-sensory experience showcasing Filipino creative talent as the episode paraded beautiful gowns crafted by Filipino designers used during Santacruzan, celebrated on the last day of Flores de Mayo. A favourite of many was the unique auditory experience, bringing the sounds of Flores de Mayo to participants.

The virtual participants, dubbed as ‘bisitas’, also had a taste of classic Filipino delicacies such as langka, cashew tarts, banana chips and polvoron as part of the Fiesta Filipinas kits obtained from the nearest Philippine embassy and consulate general in their area.

Completing the multi-sensory experience was a handicraft session that brought out the creativity of the participants.

Guest expert Gerry Rosales of Paperblooms and host Paolo Abrera gave a step-by-step guide into making gumamela (hibiscus) paper flowers ubiquitous in Flores De Mayo celebrations.

As a matter of fact, tourists can visit the festival while enjoying the beauty of Filipino culture.

However, the virtual tour slightly cured the longing for the atmosphere of the festival. Through the video, viewers were invited on a tour of Manila, where individuals from various backgrounds came together.

They also visited the Aristocrat Restaurant which serves a variety of local specialties.

In addition, there was also a showcase from talented Filipino fashion designers, including Johnny Abad, Dave Ocampo and Edwin Uy.

The Fiesta Filipinas project is a unique venture that brings Philippine festivals to the world via a virtual multi-sensory format.

The online project, organised by the DFA in partnership with the Philippine Department of Tourism and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, will hold its finale on June 26 and feature the Lami-Lamihan Festival of Basilan in Mindanao.