Lots of populist huffing and puffing going on again after Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao was allegedly refused membership in the Ã¼ber prestigious Manila Polo Club (MPC), which reportedly counts only people who are “the country’s A-listers belonging to the influential and affluent level of the Philippine status quo” as worthy to join its ranks. According to Inquirer.net “sports writer” Recah Trinidad, Pacquiao is a â€œnational treasureâ€ and quoted “Golf godfather” Louie Reyes’s personal indictment of the MPC:
Rod Feliciano and I are pissed. Manila Golf Club and Manila Polo Club rejected the membership of Manny Pacquiao. Damned elitists. Manny earned his fortune without stealing from the Filipino and brought pride and glory for Pinoys. How many members of the club can claim the same? How idiotic. They deserve to be censured.
I’m not sure exactly on what basis the MPC Board should be “censured” as, last I heard, the MPC is a private club and therefore well within its rights to determine (1) who will and will not be admitted into its circles, (2) the criteria for making such decisions, and (3) whether or not anyone outside of the Club are privy to those criteria to begin with.
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As a matter of fact, the MPC is not the only instance of arbitrary exclusion criteria applied by a private enterprise to the greater public. Look around and behold the thousands of fortified cul-de-sac residential subdivisions. In a society that pretends to be one where “equality” rules, the presence of limited-acces enclaves has long been the proverbial elephant in the room, something I highlighted in an article I wrote way back in the early days…
Consider this: Makati and its cousins, Ortigas, Alabang, and Greenhills are world-class reality suspensions. If only we could put all of them in an island and make like another Singapore with the rest of the country treated as its bread, fruit, and cheap labour basket. It is a closer reality than one thinks.
Entering one of the satellite residential enclaves of these capitals of commerce is just about as challenging as securing a visa to visit America. The security outposts of any of these “villages” are the equivalent of consulates and embassies where every visitor is looked on with a presumed intent to make trouble. “Visitor’s visas” are granted in the form of passes that are obtained in exchange for a temporary surrender of one’s driver’s license (which you have a legal right to decline). “Multiple entry visas” are extended for a fee of up to Php1,000 for a year’s access privilege (of course on the condition that you are endorsed – call it “petitioned” – by a resident). Even the neighbourhood parish church reserves prime weekend wedding and baptism slots for residents.
These enclaves are served by their own guest workers that are subject to rigorous security control procedures – body and luggage searches – the works. They levy their own taxes in the form of association dues on their residents; money far better spent than the taxes we pay the national government. Public service is first-class: a security force better-equipped, trained, and disciplined than our police force, grade-A asset management, first-world environmental policy (within the perimeter at least), and community-spirited (among themselves) residents who support and are compliant with the rules and regulations of the association.
Indeed, living in these “villages” is great. It affords the well-heeled a special place to withdraw from the Third World reality that is the rest of the Philippines into an antiseptic world governed using sensible, well-thought-out by-laws and populated by beautiful tennis-court-tanned people. Money is a fair enough passport to such orderly social coherence, as Pacquiao himself had recently proven having recently purchased for himself a cozy Php388 million mansion in tony Forbes Park in Makati City, home to the even tonier MPC the Champ aspires to be a part of.
Unfortunately, money can get you only so far in the free market. Prestige, pedigree, and (even harder) breeding is what gets you into the circles that really matter. For Pacquiao, that sort of social capital is stuff beyond the reach of his fat bank account.
Tough luck, champ.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.