Batad, Coron, Taal, and more on 'Islands Insider' on Nat Geo
On May 21, media and selected guests were invited to an exclusive 2-episode preview of the latest addition to National Geographic Channel’s June lineup, “Islands Insider.” Produced by The Extra Mile Productions with the full cooperation and endorsement of the Department of Tourism, “Islands Insider” is an ambitious alternative take on the traditional travel show, mixing breathtaking footage with firsthand historical context and a clear conservation message.
As part of this administration’s wholehearted support for local tourism, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez was on hand for the event.
First pitched nearly two years ago, “Islands Insider” intrigued the National Geographic Channel’s powers-that-be with its proposed conservationist, man-on-the street approach to travel. Shortly after getting Nat Geo’s approval, the producers were able to secure the Department of Tourism’s cooperation and endorsement.
Eighteen months of hard work later, the program consists of six episodes, covering the attractions, people and cultures to be found in Batad, Taal, Coron, Siquijor, Mt. Pulag/Kabayan, and Anilao.
“The show is a message to all of us on a personal level that, as travelers, let us not be strangers in our own country,” said “Islands Insider” host Ginggay Hontiveros. “There is so much to see and explore. We need to sometimes step outside our comfort zone, embrace other cultures, embrace other people we meet along the way and, with open hearts and minds, experience all that the Philippines is. The show is also a message to the world that the Philippines has so much to offer; its places and stories are unrivaled and unmatched. It is a clear signal that we are proud of this country and proud to be Filipino.”
Director Gabby Malvar shared that he had been inspired to do the project under the most unlikely of circumstances: a chance encounter with an American tourist on a trek in New Zealand (of all places). It was there, on Sir Edmund Hillary’s beloved 42-kilometer Routeburn track, that Malvar’s new friend regaled him with stories of having seen and experienced the most wonderful things in Batad, located in the Philippines’ Cordilleras. “This was in the middle of New Zealand, surrounded by “Lord of the Rings” scenery, and he kept talking about Batad! If that isn’t an endorsement of what this country has to offer, I don’t know what is! (laughs)”
Batad and Coron
Two episodes were screened, the first of which, the pilot, was an in-depth look at the aforementioned Batad. This proved to be the perfect introduction to the crew’s “on the ground” approach: Rather than having Hontiveros’ personality dominate the proceedings with wacky antics or stories of her childhood, the script (penned by Malvar and Palanca awardee Froilan Medina) allowed the featured Ifugao to speak for themselves and their culture.
As the episode progressed, Hontiveros’ deliberately understated narration heightened the spiritual aspect of the Ifugao as they took the viewer through aspects of their religious beliefs and everyday lives, covering everything from maintenance and harvest of their world-famous rice terraces to courting rituals and traditional entertainment.
The second episode took us to Coron, an area the program informed us is equivalent to roughly 10 times the Galapagos Islands in terms of sheer biodiversity. Compared to the misty rice terraces of the previous episode, Coron’s sun-drenched vistas are a revelation, taking full advantage of the high definition format. Lovingly shot by Gawad Urian nominee Takeyuki Onishi, the blues and greens of normally-inaccessible areas of one of the country’s best dive sites seemed to burst off the big screen. Whereas the previous episode spoke of the conservation of a people’s cultural identity, this one spoke of the important role we all play in preserving the environment.
When the house lights came on, enthusiastic, approving, applause provided more-than-validating music to the ears of everyone involved in the creation of the program. As the producers and sponsors congratulated each other, Jimenez’s opening remarks seemed to best sum up the evening: “This being a part of National Geographic means that the beautiful sights of your country are part of the world, not just part of the Philippines, and the days will come that we will have to share it with the rest of the world. The message for tonight is: we want you to see it first, we want you to protect it, before they all come rushing in.”
As a re-energized DOT dedicates its efforts to reintroduce the Philippines to the global stage, we couldn’t ask for a better playbill than “Islands Insider” to show it’s more fun in the Philippines. –KG, GMA News
“Islands Insider” is tentatively scheduled to be screened on the National Geographic Channel on the third week of June. Check local listings for schedules.
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