Friday, 31 October 2008

Missing Tagbilaran


It’s but normal that when you are somewhere else, you miss nothing but home.

I (together with 3 others) was facilitating a workshop for DISOP Philippines yesterday in Tacloban City and I was appalled by the striking contrast between private service providers (e.g. hotels, transport companies, etc.) in Tacloban and Tagbilaran. We arrived in Tacloban via Ormoc on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon. We were billeted at the conference resort, VicMar Beach Resort at Baybay, San Jose, Tacloban City and the moment we arrived at the venue, we went to the restaurant right away to order food as we were hungry.

The alfresco restaurant was located facing the beach, a stone throw across the reception desk. Three service ladies were watching TV when we got in. We sat down and they never minded us as if not a single soul arrived, though how noisy we were. It was only when I called them to ask if we could order food that they stopped their recreation time. (tsk, tsk, tsk).

While waiting for the food, I went to reception desk to ask for transport arrangements. I told them we need to be picked up by the van-for-hire at 530 pm the following day as I wanted to make sure we will be in Ormoc a night before our trip back to Cebu. They said it was already arranged, and we will pay P2000 directly to the driver. I also asked how much we will pay for our stay, and they said its P1000 per room per night, excluding food. It rained hard outside so I asked for an umbrella to go back to the restaurant, they said, they did not have one. (Tsk, tsk, tsk).

I was soaked in rain while eating pancit bihon and bread. I must be very hungry because I did not mind and the pancit tasted very good. After eating, I went again to the reception to ask when was buffet dinner scheduled for the night. They said at 9 pm, as the participants were still on field.

We worked from 5 to 9. At 9, I called the organizer if they have already eaten and he told me that all of them had, and that the service crew was already cleaning the tables. (Tsk, tsk, tsk). We were left with no choice but to brave the rain and go to nearest restaurant (around 12 minute-ride from the resort).

Tacloban City Convention Center, the one where we went was a gymnasium of some sort with resto bars in the ground floor area. When we arrived there, we surveyed the place and looked for a resto where we could possibly be served fast and found one with only a single table occupied. The place was nice and cozy so we liked it right away. We ordered for food but almost all that we liked in the menu were out of stock that we ended up eating what the service crew suggested (Tsk, tsk, tsk).

The training went well. The sessions were well appreciated. After saying a few goodbyes, we hurried to our rooms to pack. An associate settled our bills and we were told we had to pay P5200, because the rate was P1300 per person per night and that what the front desk told us was not right. Though the price was unbelievable, we paid. The manager told us that the cost of the room per night is P1000, and that the package rate of P1300 included P600 for the room and P700 for the 3 meals and 2 snacks. I objected, asking why we had to pay for the room at P1200 (as two of us were sharing a room) when its rate was only P1000. My associate was also objecting because what we ate did not deserve the P700. The manager only told us that the rate was 5 years old and nobody complained except us. Lousy excuse. (Tsk, tsk, tsk).

I passed by the front desk to ask for the phone number of Vanvans so that we can be picked up earlier. They said they do not have the number as the one arranging the transport was already off duty. I ended up looking for the number myself. (Tsk, tsk, tsk.). I called up Vanvans, they said they could not pick us up earlier but at 530. We were at the lobby at 5. The van did not arrive at 530. I called up Vanvans again. They said it will be around at 6. At 6, the van did not arrive. And they said it will arrive at 630. It was already too much. We cancelled the reservation. The organizer drove us to the bus terminal where we were able to get a van. We arrived in Ormoc safe and sound, but I was so disappointed.

At least in Tagbilaran, service restaurants charge you a good rate for your money’s value. At least in Bohol Tropics, there are available umbrellas when the rain is tough. At least Lugod Rent a Car, Varescon Taxi, or NF, honour your travel arrangements even when made through phone. At least conference package rates are reasonable when compared to the kind of service you get. At least hotel staff are helpful to get you the phone numbers that you need. At least waiters greet you with a smile when you enter a restaurant and not glue their eyes on the screen. At least most, if not all of the menu items are available for ordering. At least you get good and not misleading information when you ask people. Though the service may not be perfect, but at least, it came to a point that professionalism is part of the game.

Over the years, Tagbilaran service establishments have improved greatly. It should, if it wants to be a competitive tourism destination. I just hope that with development, some essential values remain the same – the willingness to help, the service with a smile, the walking the extra mile.

It’s the people that make a place, and not the other way around.