Filipinos need to get off the loser path and onto the road to real progress

How did the Philippines get to where it is now? It is a wretched society, unable to defend itself from foreign and natural threats, paralysed by its own enormous population, and staring at a future hobbled by a lack of the infrastructure to get it down the right road. Yet the country, over much of its history, was never lacking in resources and opportunity to prosper.

Why then did the Philippines fail?

The Philippines is a victim of a free market designed to work for mature, investment-savvy, forward-looking societies. A free globalised market is a virtual gold mine for those who could see vast opportunity to lay the foundation for a sustained harvest of productivity –and wealth — over the long-term. But to the untrained and, worse, infantile mind, a free market is a consumerist bonanza.

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It’s like giving a 15-year-old a thousand dollars and setting her loose in a mall for a few hours. She’ll come back with a lot of nice clothes and trinkets, perhaps would have caught a movie or two, and will have lunched and snacked on burgers, fries, popcorn, and sodas with friends. Give the same amount to an adult and she would more likely have spent that money on overdue home and car repairs, a new washing machine perhaps, and maybe put the rest aside for a rainy day.

The teenager would look great — real hip with her new clothes, up-to-date with fan buzz on the latest flick, and come across as a standout winner with her friends for the fabulous splurge. The adult household manager, on the other hand, will have emerged with improved productivity courtesy of her new washing machine and possibly avoided more costly repairs on her home and car thanks to her shrewd investment in pre-emptive repairs and maintenance measures.

Step back from that parable and consider which of the two archetypes the Philippines as a society mirrors. At the surface, the country is a “more fun” tourist destination with a bounty of beaches and natural oases of biodiversity to gawk at. Metro Manila, its premiere metropolis, glistens with skyscrapers by day, bright lights both indoors and outdoors at night, and a vibrant shopping and entertainment experience twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

But beneath all that glitz and glamour is a rotting underbelly precariously creaking under the weight of half a century of institutionalised criminal neglect. The essentials have been left to suffer Filipinos’ renowned pwede-na-yan and bahala na philosophy of nation-building. The now decrepit essentials — public transport, law enforcement, national security, and education among others — are coming back to bite with a vengeance.

Whatever “pride” in the veneer of free hipness and “fun” of the Philippines simply cracks as the essential substance underneath these crumbles. Motorists and commuters alike are driven to insanity by the horrendous traffic paralysis that is today’s normal in Manila. Residents live in fear of both criminals and their own police. Filipinos go red-faced with embarrassment whenever asked about how they might go about making good on their claims over the Spratly Islands. The vote has become a joke thanks to the sorts of politicians in the running for critical top government positions who reflect the intelligence and character of the electorate.

That is what happens to a society that harbours a profoundly flawed notion of what it means to be a rich society. Rather than build wealth from the ground up, the Philippines focused much of its efforts on First World appearances and pretense. The results of that wholesale national folly are on display today. What constitutes a “strategy” to develop and continue to “grow” the economy comes across as a sad desperate eleventh-hour cram. Desperate gasping at rapidly-vanishing employment opportunities abroad, ill-thought-out vehicle reduction schemes, military deals with former colonial masters, and education delegated to for-profit private enterprise, and costly “credit rating” engineering now comprise the bedrock of the Philippines’ development roadmap.

Whilst these may be pitched to both Filipinos and foreign investors as “evidence” of the soundness of the country as a place to park excess capital, the way elements of this development approach contradict cherished national beliefs and principles seem to fly over people’s heads. Together, these development approaches act like a slow poison. “Filipino ingenuity” haemorrhages to foreign economies and pulls the rug from underneath family values. Ideas to artificially curtail expenditure on private vehicles rubs the free market the wrong way, obsessive dependency on old imperial masters contradicts much-celebrated national “independence”, and creeping intellectual bankruptcy begins to put the wisdom of “people power” in doubt.

Perhaps it’s time Filipinos begin to rethink what they really want to be when they grow up. Do we want to continue acting like that 15-year-old set loose in a mall with a bit of money? Or do we want to start taking responsibility for the land on which we aspire to build a modern and just society.

It’s really all up to us.

22 Replies to “Filipinos need to get off the loser path and onto the road to real progress”

  1. What free market, There is very little of a free market in the Philippines. A almost closed market to protect the inefficient noncompetitive local oligarch run conglomerates.

    The Japanese can get away with a closed market because they make useful things people want. Open up like HK or Singapore.

  2. Education… Schools whose sole purpose is to ‘educate’… Qualified Teachers/Professors who inspire and whose focus is to prepare his students for life and career… an Education Department led by career officials whose positions are guaranteed for ‘tenure’ depending solely on ‘competence’… a civic-spirited Business Sector that is aware of the need and is prepared to open their purses to edify a new crop of professionals… a more altruistic and uplifting media and entertainment industry… and..lastly, a President who acknowledges the inadequacy of the present ridiculous and pathetic Educational system and who refrains from appointing his ‘flunkies’ to take charge of such an important component of civilized society.

    The foregoing considerations might best be complemented by the establishment of ‘Reading Centers’ in all Barangays for the benefit of adults who want to enrich and broaden their minds. These centers may be regarded as rudimentary libraries which at this point could be too much to ask for. As well, printers and publishers of text books, novels and trade journals, might supply only material which passes through scrutiny of the ‘Educational Department’.

    This ‘shopping list’ will of course be laughed at and ridiculed… even as it might be the most logical, most practicable and the least expensive way to uplift our masses.. and yes.. over a period of at least one generation. It is hoped, though, that it would, at least, reach some responsible and thoughtful soul in government.

    1. Nice idea. One of the reasons the provinces are stagnant is the complete lack of education there. People literally know NOTHING. They have no idea how to improve their own lives and don’t really seem that interested in learning. OTOH if there were some self-education centres such as you suggest, at least those 1% of intelligent ones might have a shot.

      Of course, if it turned out to be too successful, you’d be shut down by officialdom quicker than you could say “EDSA revolution”.

    2. Indeed. Key here is to remove any excuse for the Filipino to remain illiterate, ignorant and uneducated. Public libraries and these ‘reading centres’ are essential education infrastructure in most societies that ensure that some onus on becoming sufficiently informed and literate is on the individual no matter what his or her circumstance may be.

  3. Key to Philippine modernization is to focus in the development of our own automotive/transport industry.

    As it is we are stuck with the jeepney since WW2, a testament to the filipino idiocy rather than ingenuity.

    We are also stuck with the outrigger banca (bankang may katig). It is a shame that we supply the world with the best maritime personnel but our own country (which is mostly water) still uses wooden outrigger boats. We have the resources to modernize our own water/sea/ocean transportation.

    We also rely on aircrafts which are made by EU or US, while we have the resources to start on our own. Hey, it doesn’t have to be the best for now, but we have to start somewhere.

    For now, we need a leader who can keep the filipinos in line as this is one of our most important resource. I agree with Zaxx’s article about iron fisted leadership. I say, let the people who cannot follow basic rules and laws, suffer the consequences. Just a few heads rolling ought to keep filipinos disciplined. There is no other way as the filipino mind is now set to violate any law and ordinance which he finds “inconvenient”, because he can get away with it any which way.

    Only by utilizing efficiently (through self discipline and good leadership), one of our most valuable resource, the filipino, can we make it to be a “modern” society.

    1. @ joeld..

      I have a feeling that the over-grown and ‘dolled-up’; the super-sized Pump-boat (or ‘outrigger canoe’ really); and, the ‘little, cramped and uncomfortable tricycle’ will be around for a long, long time. Going by our experience with the jeepney which has been around since the first converted GI jeep rolled out in 1945, there is no reason to think otherwise. For this stagnation and seeming lack of imagination, we could thank a selfish ‘entrepreneur-class’, a lazy and complacent ‘professional-class’, and a host of resilient and forever patient and voiceless mass of the ‘laboring-class’. It is not for lack of imagination and ‘venture capital’ funds that we still have these ‘dinosaurs’, (although with that idea of a ‘road train’ to alleviate the traffic mess, I’m not too sure). It is not for ‘laziness’ either. Those brain cells are busy at plotting for ways to ‘game’ and ‘scam’ the system, (or the lack of it), and at scheming to take advantage of the less informed masses. The reason for this malaise, I would think, is a mindset of “puede na” or, “maski papaano nakakaraus din naman”… as if we as a people do not deserve better. It is a prescription for failure and a guarantee for perpetual mediocrity.

      It is time to get serious.. to fix the rudderless ship that’s lost at sea, and to chart a new course for her. With this election cycle, we are at a tipping point. We could either wake up and decide that we, indeed, deserve better; or, we could proceed as usual, sink further, and become a satellite and vassal state of a more serious neighbor. It could know.

  4. Globalized Economy is for Industrialized countries; who have the ability to manufacture latest consumer goods. Countries like the Philippines, manufactures only goods like: pre package foods, clothings, and other labor intensive goods. These goods cost only a few US dollars, in the present exchange rates.

    While the Philippines is flooded with: cars, computers/electronic goods, various hardware, etc…they cost thousands/hundreds of U.S. dollars. They all come from industrialized countries.

    We have only a few industries. Our main export are the OFWs, working as laborers and other menial jobs.

    Unless, we elect good leaders, who have good visions for our country…leaders who can deliver. Leaders who are not thieves and crooks. We can never get out of the quicksand, we are in, as a basket case country.

  5. Totally agree with you, It is a sad sad way of life. Every pinoy knows that our country is poor, is militarily weak, undisciplined, corrupt, and globally irrelevant (hmmm maybe not because some clowns actually take news of Filipinos winning in talent search abroad as sources of national pride tsk tsk). But the thing is, they are too apathetic, too stupid and ignorant to do anything about it. Education ( the right one) is the obvious solution to putting our country back on its heels. When you have an educated masses you have educated voters, responsible citizens and whatnot. Although I really think that we should seek help from the United States, we should allow them to set up a base in our land, it is one way to ensure that we have people patrolling our seas (that we ourselves cannot defend) using state of the art patrol boats. Look at Japan and South Korea, China and North K cannot just “make galaw-galaw” to them because of strong US presence. we should also strengthen our ties with Japan and South Korea (the best way to unite a people is to give them a common enemy right?) because our neighbors here in the south east are economic partners of the chinese dragon and thus cannot be trusted, they would rather trade with the chinks than help us in an issue that has nothing to offer them, a strong military is a good source of national pride I think. I just don’t like the idea that we are depending too much on the US and getting much of our military hardware from them. piz yo 😛

    1. You do realize despite the political tussles going on among them, both JP and SK rely on China for most of their economic foundation, mostly on the production side right? Even PH is under China’s economic mercy. Instead on relying on others, first thing is to better our iwn military capabilities. Have an established in-house military tech industry. Have modern shipyards that can construct the latest naval vessels. Have a modernized air base with fighters and bombers from this era. The money is there, but it’s being used to fund stupid projects and parties that make them feel like they’re in the roaring 20’s.

  6. the last 4 words stand out: “MODERN AND JUST”.
    The Philippines is one of the most unequal and therefore unjust societies on the planet today, and no amount of modern malls talent quests for new voices and bands will change that.
    Just ask yourself this: what presidentiable has for his/her platform a universal medicare scheme to cover everyone? or a universal education system where classrooms are in adequate supply and high-speed internet is available to all in this digital commons of ours?
    A just society is an inclusive society where no one is left behind because everyone – every single one of us – counts. But we pride ourselves on being an ‘exclusive’ society, so we tend to uninclude people into our circle, and that’s what keeps us unjust, as much as we pretend to be ever so modern and with it.

  7. They say jeepney is a result of Filipino ingenuity and is part of the Filipino culture. Dang! Why can’t it be the INGENUITY and not the jeepney that’s part of the Filipino culture? That’ll be the start of getting out of the loser path.

  8. How did the Philippines get to where it is now? EDSA 86.

    How do we get onto the road to real progress? Get Marcos back in power and he’ll turn our country into another Singapore. If that doesn’t work, hey, Filipinos are themselves to blame for being losers…not Marcos.

    That’s GRP in a nutshell.

  9. Benigno, have you heard about the theory Biologists call r/K Selection Theory? It might offer some additional inputs – Food for thoughts..
    It is not easy to find decent information on it, when applying the theory on humans, as it is regarded politically incorrect. If you are willing to leave the world of cultural marxism behind, you may find some interesting information regarding the topic of your article. On youtube you’ll find some guys discussing it and if you want the source then you’ll have to dig through several bookstores.

    1. Become like the German Nazis, who were trying to produce a “Master Race”…the “Aryan Race”. Every race has its own deficiency…this is the truth…

      DNAs or Genes or Genomes can be synthesized now…but , the research is for good of humanity, like the healing of diseases…

      Researchers are not trying to produce SuperHumans or Weird Animals or Beings…

      1. @ Toro, is that right ? for the good of humanity? GUFFAW !!!!

        What would you call ‘DOLLY’ the Sheep/clone then,eh? Those are some laughable assertions you have there Sonny.

        1. @Grande Dame:

          They are trying to find immunity genes/genomes for mankind. Pathogens that are pandemic, like HIV…the virus came from wild monkey. It was transferred to humans , thru butchering them, and eating them. They are called: “bush meat”…meats that come from wild animals. The animal is immuned of the virus, but we humans are not. The virus can mutate , also.

          So, thru this research, we may find the cure for HIV, or at least, immunity..

    1. I don’t mean to be cheeky or brash, but people don’t change.. not really. Circumstances do change and people simply adapt.

  10. The questions put forth in this article should have been asked decades ago. The FAIL-ippines FAILED when it FAILED to reject the monetary
    enslavement imposed on it by the IMF ! This is why the FAILIPPINES FAILED, it is the very essence of the failure itself. The National budget is still paying off a debt the Ferdinand Marcos wanted to reject, and was ousted from office for trying to do so. His nemesis was then murdered and dumped on a tarmac to make it appear as if Marcos had done the deed when in fact, NO……he had to blame himself for he could have stayed in power if he had gone along with the game plan imposed by the IMF, but FM (to his credit), refused to do so…..

    The rest is history, and the shelling out of whatever % of the National budget to a debt that was imposed illegally is a waste of the people’s money.

    When asked when the FAILIPPINES actually FAILED, most Filipino’s could not pinpoint the exact moment, as it was just done for them above.

    1. Argentina had gone bankrupt, some years go; because of the impositions of the IMF, and its creditors. People cannot withdraw their money in the banks.

      Argentina is rich in resources, because of its Pampas.

      There were riots everywhere. People were banging kettles, frying fans, etc…the Police bashed a few heads.

      It is a worst case scenario, if the Philippines will have th same bankruptcy as Argentina. If the OFW remittances will go down and stop…down we go…

  11. I think I’ve mentioned it before.

    If the Filipino wanted progress, he must have an appetite, not for survival, but for victory.

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