MS. VERNIE VELARDE-MORALES
DIRECTOR, Philippine Department of Tourism – Chicago Office
Government Service at its Finest!
By Yoly T. Tubalinal
Ms. Vernie Velarde-Morales is the Philippine Department of Tourism’s (PDOT) Director for the Central Region of North America (USA and Canada). Her office in Chicago covers 19 states of the U.S.A. and 2 provinces of Canada. She is a Philippine Career Executive Service Officer (CESO)/Director IV.
I have yet to meet someone in government office who will come half as close to the devotion, effort, focus, experience and expertise of Vernie Morales. This lady has made the promotion of Philippine Tourism her number one passion, it seems, and has even won her entire family into her world of genuine and unparalleled commitment to public service. The way I see it, shortage of staff at the Philippine Department of Tourism Office in Chicago has gone on way too long because there have always been a faithful and efficient staff who were willing to go above and beyond their call of duty, and her family, Bob, Monica Mae and Mica Joy to save the day, whether just to help out in preparing presentation materials for the exhibit or to transport tourism stuff to and from a place when Mom’s plan runs into a snag. But there was never a word of complaint from the patient and hardworking Director, just a smile of fulfillment and thanksgiving at the end of the day.
Just the same, I thought to myself, imagine how these people could do a whole lot more for the good of Philippine Tourism if they had the right budget to pursue their programs and work more efficiently?
Ms. Morales’ initiative, focus and determination in promoting travel to the Philippines provides a lot of our kababayan in this region with a direct view of how love of work, dedication to service, and pride of country, can be manifested by a Philippine public servant simply, consistently, and persistently through the years.
Ms. Morales and her team provides the community and the travel industry with colorful, visual, musical, verbal, and written reasons for Philippine tourism to became more alive and real around us, and have us interested in traveling to our country of birth, or of our roots.
Not a few among us may easily remember Ms. Morales over the years serving as Guest Speaker or Presentor, speaking about the Philippines’ “anchor destinations”, festivals and special events, tourism statistics and investments in the regions, and tourism campaigns to various audiences, or gracing our week-ends and week-ends of community events. We may have been unmindful then that during the weekdays and on other week-ends, she and her team also have their hands full servicing requests and inquiries of the industry and of consumers; preparing for travel shows, events and presentations; networking with trade and associations; promoting and marketing travel packages to the Philippines to the mainstream travel industry; preparing news and feature releases for print media; or guesting in radio programs and television shows to speak about the Philippines as a travel destination.
Viewing positive images of the Philippines and thoughts of visiting home country became more desirable, as Ms. Morales with her team proudly promoted such Philippine tourism campaigns as: “Rediscovery Philippines”, “Meetings Make Manila”, “Tourism Volunteer 12” (V-12), “WOW Philippines”, “(Tara Na)… Byahe Tayo”, “The Philippines…More than the Usual”, the “Great Flight Promo Give-away”, “The Philippines: Explore. Experience. Return.” (PEER), and the “Philippines Specialist Program”.
Another highlight is her office’s supply of news releases and features on positive information about travel to home country, festivals and special events, major and emerging destinations and tour packages for their niche market campaigns on “Dive Philippines”, “Adventure Philippines”, Golf, Sports, Health and Wellness Tourism, Medical Tourism, Culinary Tourism, and more recently, on Weddings and Milestones, and on “Birdwatching in the Philippines”.
Likewise, the Philippines has figured prominently during the PDOT’s participation in such major US Midwest Region consumer shows as the NBC5 Travel Expo, the Our World – Underwater Show, the Adventures in Travel Expo, the Chicago Tribune – Travel and Adventure Show. It also has established presence in select travel trade shows of major mainstream associations.
Among the testaments to Vernie’s efforts in promoting pride of country, heritage, and culture include her initiated cooperation with the project director and design team of the John G. Shedd Aquarium’s “Wild Reef”, a $64M, 15,000 sq.ft. building expansion, permanent exhibit that replicates the vibrant reef system of the Philippines’ Apo Island in Negros Oriental; and her office partnership with the Fil-Am community through the Philippine Reef Gala Committee’s initiative in supporting the Shedd Aquarium’s “Wild Reef” through a Gala Night fundraiser for the exhibit, Apo Island, and for positioning the Philippines’ as a top international diving destination.
Vernie’s ability to draw Fil-Am travel trade and community support was also witnessed when she approached a core of 7 persons to form a volunteer team at planning stage and with 77 event volunteers signed up for gala night, the launch of the WOW Philippines campaign in Chicago was acknowledged by the delegation that went to the 4-city launch in North America as the most professionally managed and the best attended city launch ; as was PDOT Chicago’s work with the community in making the US Midwest Region volunteers count and performance a forerunner in the Philippine Tourism Volunteer (V-12) Program, which mobilized overseas Filipinos to sign-up as volunteers in promoting travel to the Philippines, notwithstanding the higher density of Filipino Americans in the US western and eastern regions.
In more recent years, the loyal and growing participants and supporters of the Ambassadors, Consuls General and Tourism Directors (ACGTD) Tour, the WOW Philippines Tours, and other special tour packages which she helped develop, package and coordinate for the Fil-Am community; and, her office’s usually quick and ready servicing of daily and continuing inquiries and requests for servicing from its “constituents”. Media support of Philippine Tourism within the PDOT Chicago’s area of coverage has also clearly steadily grown.
“She works 24/7”, “she needs to rest”, and “we have met no one like her in government” are frequent comments one hears of Vernie’s commitment to her work which she considers her “mission”. And she is one to balk at receiving accolades. Despite this, among the recognitions, citations and awards that Ms. Morales has received for her work with the community have come from: Pinoy Monthly (Top 12 “Movers and Shakers”); the Bicol Tourism, Trade and Investment Mission; the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Texas; the Filipino American Association of North Texas; the Fil Am Council of Presidents – Kalayaan (in 2007 & in 2008); the Via Times – Chicago Philippines Reports’ 2010 Hall of Fame (Outstanding Community/Public Service – International). In 2003, the J. G. Shedd Aquarium’s Chief Operating Officer also publicly acknowledged Ms. Morales’ contribution to the “Wild Reef” exhibit.
Academic Background, Work Experience and Family
Prior to her posting in Chicago, Ms. Morales served as the Philippine Department of Tourism’s (PDOT) Director for Administrative Services, responsible for Personnel Management, Human Resources Development, General Services Administration, and Information Technology. She also chaired and co-chaired various department and inter-agency committees, including one on her Gender and Development advocacy. Before PDOT, Vernie served in the PDOT’s government corporate marketing arm, the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation.
Prior to joining the government, Ms. Morales worked in the banking and finance industry as a personnel management, human resources development (HRD), and an organizational development (OD) professional. Her first employment after college graduation was with the academe, as a project researcher in the UP system.
Vernie finished her academic studies in M.S. Social-Industrial Psychology from the De La Salle University in Manila, and her Liberal Arts degree, double major in Psychology and English, from the College of the Holy Spirit with a GPA of 1.43. She was an active student leader who held top positions in several school organizations from high school through college, where she was editor-in-chief of “ACTION” the College of the Holy Spirit’s literary magazine.
Vernie has undertaken several marketing, project management, executive leadership and organizational development programs in the Philippines, Australia, Canada and the United States. She is a two-time study grantee of the government of Australia.
Vernie and her husband Bob are members of Couples for Christ (CFC) and American Mensa (Chicago Area Mensa). They too are parent members of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children (IAGC).
Vernie and Bob have 2 daughters, Monica Mae (16) and Mica Joy (11).