Macau and Me

It took me long to write about my trip to Macau.  Let us just say that I am still in shock of what I have seen there.  This state of denial might last longer so what better way to recover but to spill the beans, right here, right now.  Let the catharsis begin.

Macau is a special province of China, bestowed with autonomy in governance not seen in the mainland but almost similar with what Hong Kong enjoys.  Macau was the first and last European colony in China.  Portugal handed over Macau to the People’s Republic of China in 1999, with an understanding that Macau’s autonomy will be in full force for the next 50 years.

Macau has a total land area of 28.2 square kilometers, it is essentially urban; an area of land reclaimed from the sea measuring 5.2 sq km and known as Cotai now connects the islands of Coloane and Taipa; the island area is connected to the mainland peninsula by three bridges.  Population is at 559,846 as of July 2009, unemployment rate of 3%, $0 external debt, and in 2008, it posted the highest GDP growth rate in the world at 15%.  Macau is generally a service economy with 97.1% of its GDP comes from the services sector- hotels, restaurants, tourism, and gambling.

And gambling!  Macau has a long history of gambling operations.  In fact, it has been always said that it was the Macanese who first operated the gambling dens in the Philippines during 1970s.  In year 2001, the Macau government opened up its gaming industry to foreign operators or licensees that also ended up the monopoly long enjoyed by the gambling tycoon Stanley Ho.  By year 2006, gaming revenue in Macau surpassed that of Las Vegas.  At the same year, 75% of total government revenue can be attributed to gaming-related business.  If that was not fast track development, then what is it?  Knowing all these will knock your socks off.  Seeing all those things that happened and still happening in Macau, will get you into great depression.

airport 165airport 189airport 221airport 196airport 223airport 226airport 237airport 228




How come Macau successfully transformed itself so fast, so right?  How come our own version of Cotai Strip, the PAGCOR City, or Theme Park Manila or the Bagong Nayong Pilipino or its much-recent reincarnation, the Bagong Nayong Pilipino Manila Bay Integrated City is taking so much time to come into fruition?  If urban legend is to be believed, the idea to develop an integrated resort-casino along the Manila Bay was first brought up way back in the 1990s.  

Here’s the rub:  by end of 2009, one of Singapore’s two integrated resort-casinos will start operating.  By 2010, both Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa  would become the most favored tourist destination in Asia.  Believe it or not, the Singapore government only opened to the idea of hosting a casino-resort development some few years ago.  In December 2004, it called for a request-for-concept and accepted 19 bids from industry players.  Only two concepts were approved for implementation.    

From a strategic perspective, Singapore’s opening will totally wipe out any first-in-the-industry advantage that Philippine casinos has so much enjoyed but has also taken for granted.  A few years from now, Vietnam and Taiwan would be joining the ranks of Macau and Singapore in gaming-tourism development.  Where will the Philippines be?


Parenting the Parents

My birthday trip to the Hongkong Peninsula and Macau Islands was my first vacation abroad with my two mothers: my real nanay, Ara and my guardian-surrogate mom in Manila since 1996, Achie (Ara’s older sister).  The vacation was my gift of sorts to myself (for hitting 30), to my mother (she turned 60 last June), and to Achie (for taking care of me especially during my pimply college years).


It was also my first travel in style, so to speak, as I always prefer no frills travel over the touristy ones.  But on this trip I half-heartedly decided to get a package tour considering that the travel was not solely for me, and that  getting around without a defined agenda would most likely become a problem with the senior citizens that I am with.

How did I survive?  Pretty well, and big thanks to Rocel of Swire Travel and to Joseph for the referral.  We had a nice hotel with a big bathroom, three beds, pipe in classical music, free breakfast, courteous hotel staff and in a good location at that.  We had a reliable transport service and a perfect itinerary for our day tours.


The success of any package tour begins with choosing the right travel agency.  Honestly, I was a little apprehensive at first because I find Rocel difficult to deal with sometimes, but I pushed through with it confident that Joseph will not fail me.

So for four days and three nights last week, I and my two moms took a role reversal exercise, I as the nurturing parent and they, well, as the hard-headed-spoiled-kids-trying-to-be-adults.  What can be funnily worse than that?


I have to be ahead of them when they feel like taking a stroll, but I have to look back every so often so I won’t lose them.  I have to be behind them when we are in crowded places, for the same reason.  I have to wait for them while they take their own sweet time looking at things that interest them, while they won’t even bother to stop and wait for me when I ogle at things that catch my attention.  They can be really makulit and would insist on the right direction even when it was I who holds the map and it was I who spent some five minutes to study it–diligently! 

I also took the role of the official photographer, their official photographer!  Everywhere we go, I asked them to stop so I can take good pictures of the nicest backgrounds.  But they won’t volunteer to get a photo of me leaving me by my hapless self to take my own pictures.  My real mom would not even dare touch, out of fear, either my digital camera or my iPhone as if these gadgets can cause leprosy! 

Here’s a photo that she took when I finally convinced her to use my iPhone as I was getting a little frustrated already because my digicam ran out of battery.  Darn!


This is not at all to ridicule my parents whom I so love dearly, but only to get my message across, that sometime in the near future, we could turn out to be just like our parents.  Such is the circle of life, so it would be better if we stretch our patience longer and take time to understand our beloved mommies.  To keep me sane, I would imagine how hard it must have been for my mom to raise three naughty boys back then.  Talk about poetic justice.

All in all, that was a real exhilarating and unforgettable experience.  I was so glad that we did it, and did it great.  Now we are planning another tour, Malaysia-Singapore perhaps, and this time, more family members are wanting to come with us.  That would be an altogether different story.  Abangan!