Joy Roa has an excruciatingly well-mannered and deliberate voice, the one you want to break the most delicate of news or negotiate with the most unstable of people. He has a face you would trust to deliver the most dear and sensitive of messages. Oh, but this man is a jock.
While other men content themselves with run-of-the-mill sportscars and motorbikes, Joy Roa flies airplanes at 3,000 feet above sea level. His posse are his cameramen and crew. And his fans are fellow adventurers who follow his moves on the television.
You have given the Philippines pride by emerging as an international travel and adventure personality through your show Asian Air Safari. How did the show begin, and why was it conceptualized?
To keep the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association E-group alive, I would post a small story of what I did and where I flew over the weekend. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and requested me to include photos. I never took photos and when I did, everyone said “wow” except one. This friend said that if I took him along, he would take videos. I did, but when I saw the outcome, I was disappointed. He said that if I buy good cameras, it will be better. After buying the camera, I was still not happy. He said if I bought a nice editing machine, it would help. Seven cameras and two editing machines after, we are still working hard on making a better production.
It also came when the aviation industry was having a very difficult time. I did not feel I could be a good government official so I figured that if I showed what good aviation can do to the country, the potentials of the industry, and how well it is developed and utilized in other countries, then it will be my way of contributing to the community.
You seem to be quite a multi-tasking traveler. Not only are you an accomplished pilot, you are also the organizer of Asia’s biggest sport flying event usually held around Valentine’s Day— the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival. What led you to this life of travel?
As a young curious and mischievous boy, my parents would take us along in most of their travels. They showed us how to appreciate and respect other religions, cultures, traditions, and lifestyles. When in the country, my dad would take me hunting and fishing. It allowed me to see even the small towns and countryside of the Philippines. As a young pilot I could not afford to pay for my fuel. I offered to fly friends if they shared the expenses to enable me to build up time. It took me to a lot of places and encouraged me to see more. I had a charter and a small airline business at one point and did all the flights to places I have never been to before every time I had the chance. I bought airplanes and their parts overseas for clients, ferried and delivered them. That too allowed me to see the world and meet the most interesting living characters from all over. I guess everything just seem to fall into place.
The Philippines’ tourism department appears intent on improving the competitiveness of the local tourism industry. Its latest campaign, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” is highly popular. What are your views about the campaign?
It is a good slogan and I have been having fun in the Philippines even when no one was traveling around the islands. Flying is definitely more fun in the Philippines because there is no quicker way to see the country.
What do you think are the current challenges that Philippine tourism must hurdle to maximize its potential?
Lack of infrastructure. People cannot go anywhere because there is no infrastructure like good airports, seaports, roads, and hotels. Corruption; people are discouraged to start good (transport) businesses because almost everyone from the city government to the national government needs to have a cut on the earnings without working. No one likes to import good airplanes, good sea vessels because of high taxation or personal taxation of customs people. Peace and order. We will need to clear the country’s name to enable tourism to progress. Lastly it’s the attitude of wanting to get rich quick without working hard and the lack of self sacrifice. Unless this is changed we will be in a vicious cycle of the first three problems. The government crooks and a few bandits have destroyed a beautiful country with hospitable and friendly people.
In your personal travels of the Philippines, what is your most favorite place, and why?
No real favorite. Our requirements for enjoyment, satisfaction, and rest changes as we age and the charm of the places changes with development as well. Boracay in the late 1970s, Western Palawan in the early 1980s, Sagada and the Mountain Province in the late 1980s, Pamalican/Amanpulo in the 1990s, Eastern side of Bicol, Islands and Atolls between Zamboanga and Jolo, and really just looking new places to love. However, there are places that I go back to often because of food and friends. Zamboanga for their Bagoong, Roxas for their crabs, Dumaguete for their danggit, La Union for their Longaniza, Legaspi for their Bicol express and numerous others.
We found out that your ultimate dream is [to have] “a flying carpet.” If you had this flying carpet, where do you want it to take you?
The flying carpet does not need to be refueled so it will take me to all the places I want to see in this planet. Every small town in the river, in the mountains, in the jungles, in the desert and snow-covered areas, and in the fields and cities.