Daisy Hadmoko, the founder/editor of Travel Indonesia magazine, now defunct but a pioneer in tourism in its day, and former longtime editor of Garuda Inflight Magazine, passed away peacefully in Jakarta on Monday at the age of 90.
Born in Myanmar and educated in India, she is an Indonesian through and through, dedicating her life and services to her adopted country, particularly in the tourism industry when it was in its infancy.
More than an award-winning journalist, for me personally and for many others who knew her, Ibu Daisy was a beloved mentor, guru, sister or auntie. She is not survived by any offspring, so it was good to know that her brother Htun Aung George and sister-in-law Sofie were on her bedside when she passed away.
Daisy single-handedly launched Travel Indonesia in 1979, years before the government realized the economic potential of tourism in creating jobs and bringing in valuable foreign exchange. Flag carrier Garuda Indonesia also hired her as its public relations consultant and appointed her publisher of its inflight magazine from 1981 to 1992.
Compared to its neighbors, Indonesia was a laggard when it comes to promoting tourism. The government only set up a directorate general of tourism in 1983 and turned it into a stand-alone full ministry 10 years later. Daisy’s magazine helped kick-start the campaign to put Indonesia on the global tourism map.
Daisy remained in charge of the magazine as publisher and editor until it folded in 2001, and through her writings, she pressed the message of the importance of tourism, not only for economic reasons, but also simply because a country as large as Indonesia has so much to offer.
Her immense contribution to Indonesia’s tourism was given the due official recognition in 2011 when the Culture and Tourism Ministry conferred on her the Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the peak of her career, Daisy was a crowd-drawer, with everyone wanting to hear her stories of the marvels of Indonesia’s tourism and of how the country should be doing more, a lot more.
“Whenever Daisy Hadmoko was in a room full of people, there were always people who would come up to her for a chat. They’d tell her that she may not recall them, but they knew her,” according to an account in “A Traveler’s Tale” (mags.tempo.co)
I, too, was drawn by her aura, always wanting to stay close whenever we met at events or parties relating to travel and tourism. She was always comforting, and I loved every minute we spent together. She was a charismatic mentor and one of the most insightful persons I have ever known.
I met Ibu Daisy the first time in 1989 when she was running Travel Indonesia magazine. Her office was on the third floor of Hotel Borobudur Intercontinental, the same as the airline company I worked for at the time. We hit it off, partly because of our Myanmar connection. A daughter of a diplomat, I was born in Yangon, or Rangoon as the city was called in those days.
Daisy’s journalism career began in 1949 as a correspondent for The Nation Daily in Maymyo, a town in the hilly Mandalay region, before she moved to the publication’s head office in Rangoon. In 1953 she married Hadmoko Soehoed, a diplomat at the Indonesian Embassy in Myanmar, and later in the same year the couple moved to Indonesia.
In Jakarta and an Indonesian citizen, Daisy picked up her journalism career in 1957, joining the Indonesian Observer, the first English-language daily newspaper in the country (now defunct). She rose to become its managing editor and had her own columns called “Personally Speaking” and “Travel Notes”.
In 1979, she founded Travel Indonesia magazine and formally launched her own personal campaign to promote Indonesian tourism.
She wrote several books, including Indonesia Travelogue and Tourist Resorts in Indonesia, The Nusa Dua Concept. In 1990, she wrote Indonesia Tourism: Gearing up for the Nineties, ahead of the Visit Indonesia Year 1991 and the Visit ASEAN Year 1992.
“Indonesia is pulling all the stops to develop tourism and boost it to higher position as a foreign exchange earner for the country,” she wrote in the book in anticipation of the boom in the country’s tourism industry.
Daisy was a media coordinator for the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Jakarta in 1986, in Bandung in 1991, in Surabaya in 1996 and in Yogyakarta in 2002 and international media coordinator for the annual Tourism Indonesian Mart & Expo (TIME) from 1994 to 2002.
Prior to the Lifetime Achievement, Daisy received other awards, including the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Journalism Award in 1988 and the Adikarya National Tourism Award in Indonesia. In 1992, she earned the ASEAN Tourism Association Special Award for her outstanding contribution to the ASEAN travel and tourism industry. In 2016, she was inducted to ASEAN Travel and Tourism Hall of Fame by Travel Impact newswire in recognition of many veterans who helped grow and shape ASEAN tourism in the last 50 years.
In her semi-retirement, she would travel overseas two or three times a year to visit relatives in Myanmar, Thailand, Australia and the United States. An avid reader, she would spend long hours reading good books or following news in the papers or on television.
Ibu Daisy enjoyed hosting Sunday lunches at her house with friends. These would be one of the few moments when she’d reveal her Burmese side, cooking mohinga (fish noodle soup) or chicken khow suey (curried noodle soup). Occasionally, we would eat out for Indian or Italian cuisine. I count myself among the few lucky friends invited to enjoy quality time over good food with Ibu Daisy.
In her last years, Ibu Daisy struggled fighting off a kidney ailment, undergoing dialysis twice a week. But this never stopped her in keeping up her spirit whenever among friends, until the very end.
Au Revoir Ibu Daisy, Que Vaya Con Dios, your positive and generous spirit will be greatly missed by all of us.
The writer is a public relations consultant and lecturer.