Five things the Philippines needs to develop to become a great nation

The following are the five key pillars that form the foundation of what could make Filipinos’ aspirations to build not just a better Philippines but a great Philippines a reality. No amount of nebulous campaign slogans and promises delivered in flowery speeches will replace the need for solid foundations for development and progress. Here is where it really is at…

(1) Strong military

Filipinos need to build a military they could be proud of.

Filipinos need to build a military they could be proud of.

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Nothing makes a citizen well up with pride for her country and government more than the sight of a military parade showcasing awesome personnel force and weaponry — more so when this awesome capability is on show in times of crisis.

The humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of super-typhoon Haiyan hitting central Philippines in November 2013 and the ongoing military face-off with China provide a stage on which the Philippines and her government could have exhibited its secure embrace. Instead, that role was and is being filled by foreign powers. Nothing beat the big supply- and equipment-laden C-class transport planes and dozens of navy ships and their crews of well-trained military personnel being sent by the United States and Great Britain when it came to tangible hope for relief for the typhoon victims. At the same time, that show of force reassured observers that the US and her allies have more than adequate ability to deploy and mobilise forces in the region for other purposes.

For now, the Philippines can only rely on diplomacy and a re-invigorating of its frayed military relationship with its former colonial master to secure its interests. But it seems the need for greater self-sufficiency in its ability to defend its sovereign territories is become more relevant. More importantly, there is much that self-sufficiency when it comes to national security can contribute to building real national pride in a society that for so long has been beaten down by its own victim mentality.

(2) Economic independence

Much of the ordinary Filipino’s prospects for prosperity lies outside of the Philippines’ shores. The Philippines depends on a foreign market for much of its products and to employ its enormous but largely underemployed workforce.

The Philippines needs to come across to the world as more than just a nation of pretty faces.

The Philippines needs to come across to the world as more than just a nation of pretty faces.

Despite the Philippines being host to abundant natural resources, and now, an enormous supply of people, the society as a whole lacks a collective ability to apply this enormous number of people to the task of turning these resources into any sort of valuable economic output of consequence. Instead, natural resources are harvested raw and sold raw — mineral ore, logs, overseas foreign workers. Overseas, these then get turned into iPhones, karaoke machines, those shirts with the Philippine islands embroidered onto their left breasts, Honda Civics, Havaianas, and Starbucks tumblers after which they are shipped back to the Philippines to be purchased using OFW cash.

Indeed, there is no world-class Filipino product or global brand that owes its existence to any semblance of a truly homegrown industrial prowess or technological innovation.

The Philippines needs to develop a strong tradition of scientific achievement and technical acumen. This comes hand-in-hand with the embrace of disciplines and habits that form the foundation of these capabilities — vision, imagination, foresight, consistency, persistence, and conviction. None of these currently characterise the archetypical Filipino. But that does not mean it cannot be developed. Efforts surrounding the providing of the proper input, application of the right stimuli, and the inculcation of the appropriate attitudes through the society’s key institutions need to be stepped up.

(3) Strong government

Philippine government personnel need to exude an air of unimpeachable competence.

Philippine government personnel need to exude an air of unimpeachable competence.

Like the success stories in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia, the Philippine Government needs to take a strong leadership role in building a strong Philippines. Rather than palm off important development initiatives (like building sufficient infrastructure, investing in education, and encouraging cultural expression) to the private sector, the government should be at the forefront of these initiatives which form the backbone of sustainable development.

Unfortunately, the Philippine government is seen more as a hindrance to development than a guiding beacon. It is currently suffering from a crisis of credibility, crushed under the weight of unimaginably vast corruption scandals and appalling ineptitude in responding to the challenge of addressing these and many other problems. The Philippine government’s lack of ability to present itself as a well of public resource, moral authority, and coherent guidance is what is turning Philippine society into an insecure, distrustful, and anarchic morass of failure and hopelessness.

In such an environment, no amount of “freedom” and “democracy” will cure the deep malaise of mediocrity and banal criminality. The Philippine government needs to be cleaned up, streamlined, and built into a lean governance machine — no easy task in a regime where every initiative is questioned by a chamber of hundreds of popularly-elected “representatives” and where only the ability to read and write qualifies people for election to the highest office in the land.

(4) Just society

Philippine society is inherently unjust. The best that the land and economy has to offer is reaped by a small handful of feudal clans, crime routinely pays handsomely, and rules and laws are archaic, convoluted, and largely irrelevant.

Where the sun don't shine: All porky roads should lead to prison. Full stop.

Where the sun don’t shine: All porky roads should lead to prison. Full stop.

The Philippines has become renowned for its chaos, inefficiency, and opaqueness. Because of a blanket lack of a sense of justice that permeates daily life, Filipinos routinely fail to coalesce into orderly systems, apply modern thinking in the interests of operating optimally, and withhold critical information in order to secure vested interests, protect the status quo, and further outdated and often counter-productive traditions.

The challenge at hand needs to be defined and framed in a way that neatly explains a lot of paradoxes about Philippine society, among which is the famous paradox of our high Church services attendance back dropped against the virtually institutionalised corruption and passive-aggressive “immorality” that prevails. Only when we face stark and long-festered realities about the underbelly of the national psyche will the real solutions that need to be implemented emerge.

(5) Better Filipinos

Ultimately, the Philippines is made up of Filipinos. Unfortunately, there is much about the Filipino that needs to be changed and improved. Foremost amongst the qualities that Filipinos need to develop is a desire to win, and win big.

Do Filipinos prefer to chase the ball or be the one throwing it?

Do Filipinos prefer to chase the ball or be the one throwing it?

Do we chase the win or merely follow the “winners”? It takes guts, vision, and imagination to do the earlier while it takes no more than a subscription to a tabloid or celebrity magazine to do the latter. We go for the easier way to feel like a winner. But then feeling like one and being one are two vastly different things. Take the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. It is a Filipino karaoke favourite. That’s because it is the easiest of songs to sing and you have got to be a real toad not to get that song right. The popularity of that song in the Pinoy karaoke circuit lies in its appeal as a safe bet. But in its title lies the biggest irony about us that most likely simply flies over the vacuous minds of the Filipino.

Filipinos need to want to win badly. Where that motivation — to win big and not just merely survive — will come from is likely to be one of the biggest puzzles that Filipinos need to solve. If Filipinos choose to content themselves with just muddling along in mediocrity, well, that’s exactly what they will get. It is the easier path.

31 Replies to “Five things the Philippines needs to develop to become a great nation”

  1. Concerning military, it seems like the top brass is satisfied in outdated and unsustainable guerrilla-style warfare using trash weaponry when comes a time “big bad China” invades the islands instead of a modern and well equipped navy and air force. Because just like the jeepneys, they did so during WWII why cahange now?

    Oh, while pocketing money along the way. Shouldn’t forget that.

  2. I have never seen a country that is Feudal Oligarchy, and is industrialized.

    Our leaders have low intellectual calibers.Some did not even have university degrees. Most are mediocre students, during their college days…

    The brains of the country have left already to work for foreign countries…they are welcomed there with open arms. Their country did not give them good opportunities…

    1. Yeah, it’s really sad. I’ve seen a lot of Filipinos who wanted to bring home what they learned overseas only to see the society take a huge shit on them.
      There’s really no place for us here.

    2. This truth is really awful. It is sad that internationally, Filipinos are praised for being good-working and smart, honest and loyal. While who’s left to serve in this country are the lazy and dumb, fraudulent and selfish.

  3. Yes, well maybe…BUT it ain’t gonna happen.

    Keep dreaming, the people that run the country have seen to it that the country, in order to defend itself, must rely on a Super-power and since China hates Filipino’s(OR DO THEY REALLY? OR is it the other way around? IDK)…any guess’s who that Super-power might be(IS)?

    1. Time is relative; according to Enstein’s Theory of Relativity. Someone should build a Time Machine; to send these Idiot Politicians to the 15th Century… do not send them to the future…they don’t belong there…

  4. I never thought My Way was an easy song. I always thought it was one of the hardest songs to sing since you needed a great voice and conviction to really give the song some feeling.

  5. Regarding the military, I was doing some reading and found this:

    It is evident that this country is able to manufacture military equipments. Funny how the years they were developed are mostly during Makoy’s and FVR’s time. Now mostly abandoned.

    I believe that developing the nation’s ability to manufacture military equipments can lead to it’s ability to manufacture other essential equipments for civilian use. Take for example, that we were able to produce a military aircraft. With this developed in the military, it will then be rolled over for commercial use, evolving technologically along the way. Then at least we can truly say, we are proud that.

    But then again, I might just be over simplifying things. Fund it, develop it, use it, excel in it…..then we won’t have to be overly dependent on foreign manufactured equipments.

    1. Maybe what the Philippines needs is (aside from agriculture) an economy that’s based on manufacturing. As Kaplan’s “Asia’s Cauldron” (2014) puts it:

      “Whereas the Asian tiger economies have strong manufacturing bases, and are consequently built on export, in the Philippines exports account for only 25 percent of economic activity as opposed to the standard Asian model of 75 percent. And that 25 percent consists of low-value electronic components, bananas, and coconuts mainly.

    2. You are right MH.

      The Philippines needs manufacturing if ever we dream of actually creating jobs and eradicating unemployment and consequently bringing poverty down to acceptable. Or if we ever dream of calling our OFWs back. Manufacturing is right since almost every school/univeristy have engineering and technical courses. We are cut out to manufacture.

      We cannot rely on multinational companies such as Intel, Panasonic, Levi’s, Toyota, Honda, etc, as some of them already moved out of the country. It is not impossible that the ones we have remaining will also leave. We need to do this things on our own. As I have sited on my comment in other article here in GRP, we have the raw materials, such as iron ore, bauxite, copper, etc. Why we need to import finished products from other countries is beyond me. We have the right people, we have engineers, technicians, etc, who are willing and able. Why we need to send them out of the country as OFWs is also beyond me.

      In my over simplified mind, the opportunity for the Philippines to be a great nation is just staring at us between the eyes. With billions (tens or maybe hundreds) of pesos just being squandered…why the government cannot invest some of it on manufacturing is way, way beyond me.

    3. Agree with you sir. For a country that’s “rich” in natural resources, we should really excel in manufacturing. Gaining excellence in that will not only boost our economy but really our pride. And oh, i was also thinking that being dependent to weapons or technologies from other manufacturers has a really big disadvantage. The manufacturer knows all the tricks and weaknesses of their products. It will never be a weapon against them. Or to their “friends”.

  6. Just want to add to ‘Better Filipinos’, Integrity, a quality which we lack in every sense. as a nation and as individuals.

  7. nations – like individuals – have changed their course for the better: South Africa, Burma, Poland and other former eastern European communist countries; and in the past, Nineveh.

    Repentance and sackcloth and ashes don’t come easily, but for change to occur, they must happen.
    Then there is a fortunate country like Costa Rica which did away with its military way back in 1949, I think, and gets along well with everyone, and has a high standard of literacy: it may not be a very wealthy nation, but it certainly seems a lot more egalitarian – and just – nation than the Philippines has ever been.

    1. Costa Rica is not a fair comparison. It has no real strategic/economic value. No one (except the Costa Ricans) would really care, if it disappeared off the map tomorrow.

  8. Way to go benign0. Great article. This should be read by Filipinos and reflect on it. How I wish that the Philippines will become a great nation someday.

  9. Patriotism, above all, is what we need. Sacrifice, and hard work. It will have to start with each one of us, from childhood years, in early education. In the family, and in local communities, where good values are shared, and cherish all things that are fruits of hard work and cooperation. Without these, we can never have a strong and just society. Selfie, and instant gratification will not do. Mendicant mentality rather than self reliance and self determination is destructive and will not result to sustainability. We need to nurture these from childhood years, and onwards. These are the ways for a strong nation, and will produce strong and caring leaders.

    1. The country already has enough misguided patriotism to go around. Everything else you’ve said is totally on the mark.

    2. When a “fully” filipino badged car is only a fraction of toyota in the same class with acceptable quality and reliability, then that can be a source of your patriotism. Same goes with other consumer products.

      We can talk about the patriotism you are speaking of, but really it is hard when everybody from the top down to the smallest citizen is corrupt, and we do not even have a single thing to show to the world that, yes, we, as a people did that and we are truly proud of that, a real contribution to the human kind.

  10. When the government refuses to spend and invest on its people just to look good on paper, then you can be sure how selfish these people in power are.

    The people in the palace by the river are now beating their chest about the near balanced budget in the first trimester of 2014. That is according to them a budget deficit of 3.3 billion out of the budget of 2.3 trillion.

    Which explains why they haven’t barely gone into rebuilding the typhoon stricken areas. Also explains why unemployment / underemployment barely improved. And which also explains the lack of infra projects.

    Selfish bastards!!

  11. I believe that a credible military is a source of pride for its citizens.

    A country’s military power directly affects a country’s influence in regional affairs, deterring would be trespassers from going into places they shouldn’t be in.

    If our seas were better guarded, we wouldn’t be worried about the Spratlys right now.


    Those military projects will not take off because if they do, our politicians will not have imported arms deals that they can rip off and feast upon. I really pity the men and women who worked on those projects, the most famous name being Capt. Panfilo Villaruel, who was murdered to assure his silence.

  12. I wonder where love for country comes in as a necessity for a nation?

    As far as language goes most of you don’t give a damn about it so at least love for country..

    nationalism? too broad.

    1. @ carmichael

      I think you have it the other way around. You are telling me to love my country. What is there to love about the Philippines now? It’s like saying you are proud of your country….. proud about what?

      What I am saying is, we should achieve something as a country first before you go on about love of country and nationalism, etc.

      1. How can we achieve something as a country when we don’t love it first? It’s just like having a goal with no purpose. Whatever would motivate the people to do all that for this sad excuse of a nation country?

        It’s not the same as fanatical love but the kind that has help other great nations help themselves to do something for this country. Otherwise, this is all just self-serving methods that only works for those who works and would not help this country because they only care of themselves.

  13. A great nation will not rise from a government pipol. A great nation cannot evolved from a pipol dependent on the government it instigated.
    A great nation cannot develop if its pipol depend on its government to clean up even their backyard garbage.
    In short, a great Philippines can be developed only by the Filipinos…every Filipino must struggle, acquire the right attitude, be willing to sacrifice, and really love the Philippines. ….be willing to stay in the Philippines for a meager salary, do and nurture his inventions even if the govt would not finance it, Filipinos who would buy Filipino products and give feed backs to improve it, etc….As Rizal said, the challenge is in the Philippines not in Spain. Wanna face the challenge?..come to the Philippines and hold your ground no matter what!

    1. As per your argument, we have no need for the government. We should stop paying our taxes and use the funds instead for our own gains, consequently the nation’s gain?

      It is easy for you to say such things as to come home and work in the Philippines, buy local products, invest locally. But reality is, a wise person will not put his hard-earned money just to lose it. This country just does not make it any more worthwhile for risk-takers to place their money here. Even the common pipol you are talking about would rather buy chinese made products than local ones. Bottom line here is, the government should make an environment for it’s people to work, invest, and buy local goods, the way you are imagining it. Then and only then can this country get up on it’s own two feet. And for that, we need to put good people into the government. Not the likes of what we have now, who are only in it for themselves, their family and friends.

  14. An excellent analytical article with positive doable suggestions. The Nation needs to start implementing changes to get more positive progress and uplift the standard of living for it’s Citizens.

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