With the inaugural opening of the Bangkóta pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (PDTI) expressed confidence that the six-month World’s Fair would serve as the country’s premiere concierge to showcase the very best of the Filipino culture, heritage, and technology to millions of global audiences.
In turn, it is expected to draw investors to the country and boost the confidence of the global business community to invest in the Philippines.
Last October 1, alongside Philippine Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates H.E. Hjayceelyn Quintana, PDTI Assistant Secretary Rosvi C. Gaetos—who also serves as the PH Expo 2020 Dubai Alternate Commissioner General—led the unveiling of the culturally and visually inspiring Bangkóta at the Sustainability District of the Expo.
In an interview with The Filipino Times, Quintana said: “The Philippines pavilion in the World Expo Dubai is a very special pavilion. This is the very first time that we have come up with a magnificent pavilion in scale and in the depth of its meaning and message. This is going to convey a story that has never been told before and we chose to showcase it in this Expo hosted by the UAE. That really shows a lot on how special we want our Expo participation to be.”
Gaetos, on the other hand, highlighted: “It is our pride and honor to welcome the world to the Bangkóta, the National Pavilion of the Philippines. Our participation in Expo 2020 Dubai is historic as it marks the biggest participation of the Philippines in any Expo to date, intersecting with our significant role to play in the making of a new world. Now that the Expo 2020 Dubai has opened its doors, we invite everyone to share our story – a story of cultural sustainability as a people – to the rest of the world.”
Expanding business opportunities
The ‘Bangkóta’ has two distinct areas that promote Filipino trade through direct customer-to-customer engagement.
It houses the ‘Go Lokal’ x Marahuyo Boutique which sells several unique items created by Filipino artists and/or are sold by Filipino entrepreneurs, and the Mangrove Café, which offers delicious dishes by award-winning Filipino chefs and culinary artists based in Dubai.
Bobbie Carella, Chairperson of the Philippine Business Council in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, stated that both of these areas, as well as the entirety of the ‘Bangkóta’ open doors for businesses to network and establish key relations with likeminded individuals who will participate in the global Expo.
“Expo 2020 Dubai, for the business community and our country, undoubtedly, is like a powerhouse networking event, one that is global and transnational, that offers enormous opportunities to establish new businesses or grow existing ones. It opens doors for partnerships, new ventures, new markets and connections. With the Expo, we can even benchmark our performance against our global neighbors,” said Carella.
Aurelio “Lito” German, CEO of Sandbox Middle East that supplies Filipino products such as Delimondo, said: “I think the benefits of Filipino businessmen coming here to the ‘Bangkóta’ are simply endless. The potential is unlimited, and it is absolutely amazing! So, first of all, how will we benefit? We actually have our products here available at the Mangrove café, and so that showcase one of the very best Philippine products and the wonderful Filipino flavors to the rest of the world.”
“On top of that, it actually introduces the Filipino culture, and what we have to offer. The Filipino people have so much love, so much passion, so much dedication, so much drive to offer the rest of the world,” added German.
Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to positively impact Philippines’ economy with jobs creation in travel, tourism, retail, events, hospitality, construction IT-BPM, and logistics.
Ahead of the Expo opening, PDTI reported last August that the country’s total trade (export and import) with the UAE crossed AED1.33 billion ($362 million) for the period of January to May 2021, with exports valued at AED411 million ($112 million) and imports at AED918 million ($250 million).
While the Expo is slated to create thousands of jobs for Filipinos back home, the event is also expected to initiate a vantage point for business-oriented Filipinos to set-up their own businesses in the UAE.
Filipinos constitute the third-largest expatriate community in the UAE, and they are part of the growing number of investors in the country. Earlier, the PDTI reported a sizable increase in the number of Filipino businesses in the country. As of June 2021, the number of Filipino businesses in Dubai has reached 792.
During the opening day, the ‘Bangkóta’ attracted nearly 5,400 individuals, and the number of visitors continues to grow since the inaugural opening of the Expo.
Philippine Consul General in Dubai, H.E. Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes said that the organizing committee of the Philippines pavilion has laid out a full calendar of events not just for the Filipino community but for visitors from all around the world.
“Over the next six months, marami tayong program na mga activities and projects for the Filipino community and of course for the rest of the visitors of the pavilion. Let us remind ourselves that the Philippines pavilion is not just for the Filipino people, it is also for the rest of the ethnicities and nationalities showing them who we are as a people and what we can contribute to a 21st century innovative world such as that of the UAE,” said Cortes.
He highlighted that the ‘Bangkóta’ will be the centerpoint of many engaging events in many areas including cuisine, franchise, business opportunities, textile, music, entertainment, food, and many more.
“These events will encapsulate who we are as a people – because what we would like our fellow Filipinos to experience is to find out and understand where we come from and what they can envision themselves to become. This is a way for them to strategize what they must do to keep abreast with the global community,” said Cortes.
Welcoming the world
Ambassador Quintana shared that the staging of the national pavilion at the Expo is a perfect opportunity for Filipinos to rediscover their roots, and serves as a compelling global platform to tell the Filipinos’ cultural sustainability.
“This is not a story that has been told before and we know that even Filipinos will be so amazed to hear this for the first time – and that’s what we want the world to see. We have a portion in the pavilion that says ‘Gift to the World’ that’s what we want to convey to the world. We are here to unite with the humanity and we are in full solidary in making this World Expo 2020 Dubai the safest and the most special. It’s been an honor to have this kind of pavilion in the world stage,” said Quintana.
Meanwhile, Consul General Cortes stressed that the story of the ‘Bangkóta’ makes sense of the Filipino diaspora. “We would also like to show the rest of the world who we are and how we are able to become brothers and sisters to everyone. Especially the story of Bangkóta- the coral reef, which is an allegory of the Filipino as they migrate from various parts of the Philippines to various parts of the world. And how he makes these their second home and become brothers and sisters as I had said to the rest of the other communities that they find themselves in,” said ConGen Cortes.
“So I do hope and encourage not just the Pinoys, not just my kababayans but the rest of the communities in the UAE – please visit the Philippines pavilion the ‘Bangkóta’ and of course the rest the pavilions here in Dubai Expo 2020,” Cortes added.