THE Miss Universe pageant to be held in Manila on January 20, 2017, will be a great opportunity for the Philippines to draw more visitors to the country. The Department of Tourism has announced plans to bring the beauties from around the world to various parts of the country, including Cebu, Iloilo, Legazpi, Davao, and Palawan.
The pageant itself will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City at the southern end of Roxas Boulevard, but a special effort is underway to also prepare Intramuros, Manila, at the northern end of the boulevard.
The Mall of Asia and the many new hotels, casinos, and business enterprises in the south are the new part of Metro Manila where expansion is fast taking place on land reclaimed from Manila Bay. Intramuros, on the other hand, is part of the historic city of Manila, where the original Tagalog and Kapampangan tribes used to come and trade with merchants from China, India, and nearby Indonesia and Malaya. Here at the mouth of the Pasig river, the Spanish colonizers built their Walled City in the 16th century.
The DOT is now reviving Intramuros as a historical and cultural center. The Maestranza Park beside Fort Santiago along the Pasig river will become a venue for concerts and other cultural shows. The streets and sidewalks are being improved so it will be easy for tourists to move around. Intramuros once had eight churches during the Spanish colonial period but most of them were destroyed by earthquakes and the bombing in World War II. Only the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church have survived.
The massive walls, with their seven bastions and eight gates, are what sets Intramuros apart as a tourist destination. We have so many islands with the natural beauty of our beaches, lakes, and rivers, but we also have historic Intramuros.
In the ongoing efforts for Intramuros, the city officials of Manila have also decided to renovate the neighboring centuries-old district of Binondo, which has become Manila’s Chinatown, older than the Chinatowns of San Francisco and New York.
At the coming Miss Universe pageant, our Pia Alonso Wurtzbach will have a prominent role as the reigning Miss Universe who will turn over her crown to the new queen. It will be a confluence of beauty and all that is best in the Philippines – our people, our islands, and our history – that we will proudly show the world this coming January.