Bernardo M. Villegas
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Experience Learning At New Heights

          I am glad I accepted an invitation to talk about the future of the Philippine tourism industry to a recent Tourism Congress for Southern Luzon organized by the Tourism Congress of the Philippines at the Enchanted Kingdom, the first and only world-class theme park in the Philippines that can hold a candle to the Disney Lands found in other countries.  Established in 1995 by the very entrepreneurial couple Mario and Cynthia Mamon, this theme park in Sta. Rosa, Laguna is strategically located to cater to the 65 million domestic tourists that have been made possible by the consumer-led growth of the last six years.  I saw with my own eyes what domestic tourists, especially the families of the Overseas Filipino Workers, can enjoy without having to travel to Orlando, Florida or Hong Kong to enjoy such rides as the space shuttle, jungle log jam, Rio Grande Rapid, Anchors Away or Wheel of Fortune.  The amusement park has the traditional roller coasters, splash rides, Ferris wheel, Kiddie rides and other entertainments that can be enjoyed by entire families.

         After my talk, I was invited by the Mamons to experience the most exciting AGILA, a magical flight that takes the passenger to the leading tourism attractions of the country such as the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, the underground river of Puerto Princesa, the White River Rapids of Cagayan de Oro, Mt. Apo of Davao, Batanes island, the Baguio rice terraces, and a host of other destinations all over the country.  Literally in one sitting, I could verify the opinion I have been expressing that the Philippine Archipelago with its more than 7,000 islands has many more enticing tourism destinations than some our ASEAN neighbors that are able to attract two to three times more foreign visitors just because they have done a better job in constructing world class airports, tollways, railroads and other infrastructures that make their beaches, temples and other tourist attractions more accessible. 

         This year, Enchanted Kingdom launched its most ambitious offering in 21 years—AGILA:  The Experience—the only flying theatre in the Philippines.  As described in one of the brochures:  “AGILA is not just another exciting ride.  It is also an exhilarating multi-sensory adventure that takes learning to new heights.  The traveler feels that he is being taken by an Eagle to discover the power of nature’s elements in the magically themed and iconic structure that houses a soaring theatre.  AGILA, the Philippine magnificent national bird, takes off to bring the viewer to witness the country’s most beautiful places.  AGILA is indeed a whole new way to explore and learn more about the very best sites all over the Philippines.”  Both foreign and domestic tourists will be motivated to actually travel to the many destinations that he will experience vicariously through the flying theatre.  I know of no better appetizer to entice the tourists to actually visit the places that they experience through AGILA.

         AGILA can be referred to as “immersive art.”  It is housed in an iconic 9-story structure.  The experience starts at the grand lobby with its massive mural of nature and an archaic talking map that ushers the visitor through the magical Hall of Elements.  He will be greeted by Eldar in his enchanted forest and will be introduced to the learning experience alongside Agila, the Eagle.  The visitor will be immersed in majestic cinematography splashed across the enormous 544 square meter screen of the largest single flying theatre in the world.  As he soars over the spectacular destinations, he will be uplifted by the enthralling musical score of a 40-piece philharmonic orchestra.  I can personally attest that AGILA is an unforgettable experience of a lifetime.

         AGILA has more than a subliminal message about sustainable development.   It has an obvious mission of fostering environmental awareness.  It strives to make the visitor understand the fragility of the environment and the importance of its protection.  It encourages him or her to take part in protecting the purity of the Earth—the soil on which we stand, the water that nourishes our being and the air that we breathe so as to maintain the beauty of nature, as well as the diversity it holds.  The Mamon couple must be congratulated for adding another experience to the Enchanted Kingdom that has been visited by hundreds of thousands of Filipino and foreign visitors for over two decades.   Every one of the more than 60 million domestic tourists must enjoy this unique and uplifting experience called the AGILA.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.