A billboard for Negros Oriental tourism showing a western man and a Filipina watching dolphins was taken down after being dubbed “offensive”.
The billboard in Pasig City, Metro Manila, measured 30 by 50 feet and captures what appears to be a romantic moment, with a couple lying on the prow of a boat surrounded by dolphins.
Criticism of the image, which was promoting marine nature watching tours in Bais City, was largely due to it being “sexually suggestive, inappropriate and putting out the wrong message”.
In response, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo ordered the billboard be taken down.
Today (Tuesday, August 13), Provincial Tourism Officer Myla Mae Bromo Abellana confirmed that Gov. Degamo had given the order for its removal.
She added that following the order given yesterday, the billboard had already been removed from its location at URC Flour Plant along C-5 Bagong Ilog.
Ms Abellana also said that the billboard actually featured a real married couple, who own a kite-surf school in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental.
The billboard, which was put up on August 7, is one of three that the Provincial Tourism Office had approved to be used as marketing tools, she said.
Together, the three billboards cost 1.5 million pesos for two months, which the provincial government had already paid for, she added.
Billboard not first to backfire
The “offensive” billboard is not the first time a tourism ad campaign has backfired in the Philippines.
In 2017, high praise for what appeared to be a charming and engaging promotional video soon gave way to accusations of plagiarism.
Within hours of a commercial called Sights being released under the new tourism slogan of ‘Experience the Philippines’, keen-eyed netizens pointed out the undeniable similarity to an advert produced by South Africa’s tourism authorities in 2015.
The short film followed a retired Japanese man called Mr Uchimura enjoying the sights of the Philippines, such as the Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, the Paoay Sand Dunes and the colonial quarter of Vigan.
At the end of the video it is revealed that that Mr Uchimura is blind. He then says: “Here, you don’t have to see the sun to discover radiance; you don’t have to see colours to experience vibrance; you don’t have to see smiles to know you are safe; you don’t have to see to feel you are home.”
As with the Negros billboard, a spokesman for the Department of Tourism defended the video by stressing that Mr Uchimura was a real person.
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