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[OPINION] The country’s new tourism slogan: It’s not love at first sight for many

By ERIC CABAHUG Published Jun 28, 2023 7:45 pm Updated Jun 28, 2023 8:49 pm

Many people love the Philippines—Pinoys because it’s our home; foreigners because the country is such a lovely, beautiful, wonderful travel destination. But not many are loving the new tourism slogan.

“Love the Philippines” has been drawing flak since the Department of Tourism unveiled it on Tuesday, June 27. A common refrain is that it sounds like a command. “It’s like telling people: ‘Pick me! Choose me! Love me!’” someone points out. It’s not too inviting and may even be off-putting. Another chorus centers around its meh-ness: “Walang dating,” “Not so exciting,” “Blah.” And another branch of criticism calls it out for being so basic. “Parang Grade 3 ang gumawa,” referring to both the slogan and the accompanying visuals that get many people referencing Canva and AI in the conversation.

If there’s any love that the new slogan is capturing, it’s people’s love for the previous slogans: “Wow Philippines!” and “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” A quick refresher: the former was launched in 2002, the latter 10 years later. Both easily got the thumbs up from Pinoys all over the world and also won international awards during their lifetimes. Both also lent themselves well to adaptations to highlight various values and virtues. "Wow" has stood for Wealth of Wonders, Warm Over Winter, Wild Over Wildlife, and Watch Our Whales, among others, while "It’s More Fun" was even more versatile and made sense with practically anything you put before it, including satire.

Whether “Love The Philippines” will earn the same success in these terms remains to be seen. Ditto if it helps the DOT achieve its target of increasing international and local travel from this year’s projected 4.8 million international visitors and 8.1 million domestic trips to 11.5 million and 137.5 million, respectively, by 2028—the end of the current administration. 

The country's new tourism slogan "Love the Philippines"

What’s clear is, based on early feedback alone, the new slogan with its accompanying logo is not meeting the objectives for the branding campaign explicitly spelled out in the DOT’s terms of reference for the project: “to introduce a Filipino brand that is unique, attractive, and creative” that sparks “a sense of pride in our Filipino identity and rich cultural heritage through a country brand.”

Unique? Nope. At least one other country has the exact same slogan: “Love Barbados.” Attractive and creative? If either of these simply means the presence of colors and a collection of graphic renditions of some Philippine icons, then it’s technically a yes. But for anyone who measures attractiveness and creativity in terms of conceptual design and how well elements are put together to create an arresting and, in the age of social media, thumb-stopping visual, it’s a nope. Remember the banig design of “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”? That’s what an attractive and creative presentation of the country’s diversity truly looks like. The new design is only more graphic and more specific but not necessarily more creative and, with its kids foam play mat style and layout, is arguably more attractive for toddlers. 

What’s interesting about the graphics is the absence of a number of Philippine icons. There are 28 panels and several of them feature non-descript designs, one that looks like an Angry Bird, and one with windmills, but where are the jeepney, the tarsier, the carabao, the Rizal monument, the Chocolate Hills, the Higantes of Antipolo, the waterfalls? This is a big head-scratcher, at the very least, and nothing short of criminal if we take things to the extreme side of seriousness, which country branding actually is. 

Sense of pride? The early criticisms are telling us otherwise. DOT and fans might counter that these are knee-jerk reactions without the benefit of the supporting rollout campaign, but they would be missing the point. Slogans are meant to work on their own. If they need videos or explanations of what they mean or stand for exactly, they’re failures. 

The launch video also does not feature all the elements missing in the logo, but it does make “Love The Philippines” more acceptable as it presents the full context. It actually borrows the “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” format of highlighting a specific “attraction” and then following it right away with the slogan. For example, a spotlight on food carries the line “Love the Flavors. Love the Philippines,” one on the people has “Love the Smiles. Love the Philippines,” and so on. 

The line does make more sense on video and, with full moving sights and wall of sounds, the command to love feels a bit less of a command. But the clip still fails to address the other issues. It’s your usual breathless montage of breathtaking sights. Superbly photographed, for sure, and it’s an impressive, even intoxicating or dizzying visual feast, but it ultimately comes across as workmanlike. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and we don’t see in any YouTube video from a top international travel vlogger. 

There’s nothing new except the slogan: no fresh insights, no fresh takes on travel and the Philippines, no wit. Crucially, for a campaign built squarely on the concept of love, there is little heart. 

This brings us to the issue of syntax. Adding a comma to the slogan would’ve made a huge difference. “Love, The Philippines” does not sound like a command, plea, or imperative at all, but a sweet, warm sign-off. It’s emotional and captures more of the Filipinos’ soft, gentle character but it’s also creative, clever, and catchy at the same time. That’s a double win.

Another option: lose the the. “Love Philippines” is less awkward and rolls more smoothly in the mouth. Sure, it’s exactly like “Love Barbados” but if we’re going to be unoriginal anyway, we might as well do it right. Not only does it take away the icky layer of a direct command, but it also comes off as a cousin of sorts to “Wow Philippines.” There’s still one win there.

But it does bring us to the question: Why change in the first place? Statistics-wise, “It’s More Fun in The Philippines” was working just fine—it was catchy and sticky, it was very versatile, and it increased tourism. Why fix what was not broken, especially with a “fix” that’s rather problematic?

This constant rebranding is telling. Less about the success or failure of our tourism efforts but more of the nation’s lack of a singular identity as a people and as a country. Will “Love the Philippines” finally be our counterpart to the enduring classics of neighbors “Malaysia, Truly Asia” and “Amazing Thailand”? I’m not holding my breath on it.