Why Filipinos should complain about inconveniences caused by #APEC2015


Horror traffic gridlock stories juxtaposed with VIP lanes through which APEC bigwigs zip by smoothly have been flooding social media timelines over the last couple of days. Accompanying the images, memes, and footage depicting this horror are ordinary Filipinos’ complaints. And they are pouring in by the bucket loads. The key argument used by people who defend the road closures, flight cancellations and other disruptions implemented to make way for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit hosted by the Philippines this year is that it is a sacrifice that every Filipinos should see as worthwhile for the greater good of the country.

Sacrifice. That word again. As if labelling an inconvenience a “sacrifice” suddenly makes the deliberate foisting of that inconvenience on hapless citizens a “worthwhile” endeavour.

apec_traffic_2015The trouble with this thinking is that it is reflective of the deeper lack of respect that characterises Filipino culture. At the core of this lack of respect is the assumption that other people’s times are less important than yours or that of your immediate circle of friends’ and families’. Assuming that putting millions of people’s lives on hold for an entire week is a small matter given the bigger scheme of things that the APEC summit presumably embodies was a big one made by the government of Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III in both;

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(1) deciding to hold the event in Manila itself; and,

(2) implementing a haphazard disruption of essential transport services in this vast megalopolis, specifically road availability and civil aviation services.

The question the government of BS Aquino should have asked is this: Is five days of Metro Manila time worth “sacrificing”?

The idea that ‘sacrificing’ a ‘few’ days of the time of the Philippines’ premiere metropolis is justifiable traces its roots to these three cherished cultural artefacts:

Filipino time

Many of us who’ve been a bit better bred than the average schmoe were raised to uphold the belief that being late for a meeting is a show of disrespect for the people you kept waiting. But Filipinos in general see no problem with being an hour late for an appointment. Indeed, being late for appointments is pretty much a given in the Philippines. One can therefore conclude that Filipinos do not respect other people’s time.

And this is the cultural trait underpinning the baffling manner with which the Philippine government arbitrarily decided to block roads and cancel hundreds of flights in and out of Manila. People’s times did not matter. That lack of respect is deeply-baked into the character of the Filipino.

Filipino hospitality

Filipinos will bend way way backwards to accomodate guests and fete them lavishly. That fiesta ethic is exactly what is going on this week. Ordinary Filipinos were made to “sacrifice” their roads so that their foreign guests need not suffer Manila’s normal messed up traffic. Air services were summarily suspended so that President Barack Obama’s Air Force One and its V-22 Osprey escorts can land safely and securely.

Why all this “sacrifice”? Because Filipinos did not really have the facilities to accomodate guests as part of normal operations. We did not have the extra capacity to accomodate guests without disrupting our normal way of life. So we disrupted that already-stretched way of life even further to be “hospitable”.

In reality, the Philipines actually does have that extra guesthouse for times like these that could be made available without kicking the actual residents off their proverbial bedrooms and onto banigs in the sala. The last APEC hosted by the Philippines in 1996 was held in Subic Bay at the former US naval facility there.

Pakitang taoism

Filipinos need to put up a good show — even if that means selling their kalabaw to fund it. Even if the show is but a thin shell of the true less-shiny reality that forms the bulk of our national substance, that show needs to go on. Perhaps this is the reason why skin whitening lotion sells like hotcakes in the Philippines and why Filipino celebrities all look like Korean models. We simply lose the plot building that showcase veneer and fail to understand that, at the end of the day, substance matters.

* * *

In short, if road closures, flight cancellations, and excessively special treatment for visiting delegates are required to host international events, the truth about the Philippines becomes all the more evident: that Filipinos really cannot afford events like these. The infrastructure to ensure the comfort and safety of important guests is simply not there as part of ordinary capacity.

Those of us who are afforded the luxury to pontificate about how five days of disruption in the country’s premiere metropolis is a “worthwhile sacrifice”, perhaps need to get a bit more perspective and understand why such an astounding assumption comes so easily. The reason is because being late for an appointment also comes easy to the average Filipino. We simply lack respect for other people’s times. That respect should begin even with small matters — which is why in truly great countries, meetings always start on time, trains and buses arrive and depart within minutes of their prescribed timetable, and changes to normal operations are planned way in advance and the affected people kept informed about these. It is because respect is a deeply-ingrained ethic in these societies that is totally absent in Philippine society.

[NB: The photo featured in this article is widely-distributed over social media.]

21 Replies to “Why Filipinos should complain about inconveniences caused by #APEC2015”

  1. “Sacrifice” my ass.

    This mess caused by the government is a result of poor planning & implementation of infrastructure projects. Other APEC members never had this kind of problem when they hosted the meetings.

    As for respect, no it isn’t entirely absent in Filipino society. It’s just that the modern generation decided to bury it 6 feet below the ground for sake of “modernity”, (or at least, their distorted view of it) because they associate that concept with conservatism, or being “old school”/”baduy”/”makaluma”.

  2. I can’t say that I have a basis for judging this ‘APEC (Epic) Zarsuela’ because it’s just started. But it seems like this has been planned on ”a wing and a prayer”. Whoever is in-charge of what now looks like an unfolding nightmare must know something we don’t. All we can do now is cross our fingers and pray that nothing untoward happens to any of the delegates and their entourage. In light of ‘l’affaire Parisienne’, last Friday, however.. the disastrous handling of ‘Mamasapano’ early this year.. the INC demonstration mess.. and the unpredictable rains.. the odds for a smooth and trouble-free ‘summit’ are quite long. How I wish these guys know what they have in their hands once out of the ‘men’s room’. An old friend, in dicey situations like this was wont to say.. “Let us to see.” Yeah..but I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

  3. PNoy must be talking about the weather often with the world leaders. Because the weather it seems is the only thing that’s good in Manila as APEC happens.

  4. When we have to change an opinion about any one, we charge heavily to his account the inconvenience he thereby causes us.

  5. Mr Bronson: It’s so kind of you to offer your bedroom for me to stay for a week here in the Phil. Are you sure it’s ok? Where will you be sleeping?
    Mang Juan: Don’t worry about me – I’ll be fine sleeping on the couch.
    Mr. Bronson: How about your wife and kids? You do have another room right?
    Mang Juan: They’re fine too – they’re now sleeping at the pigpen outside.
    Mr. Bronson: What the.. Please bring them back inside here! It’s even raining hard now. I will just go and check in at the hotel. How can I sleep soundly tonight with the thought of your family outside in the cold like that? I’m quiet disappointed with you. I WOULD NEVER TREAT MY FAMILY LIKE THAT!

  6. I don’t mind sacrifices if it was indeed really needed. But with the case of APEC in Metro Manila: It really wasn’t freakin’ needed. Aren’t their other places in this country that they could’ve showcased? I don’t know about the delegates but I really can’t imagine their faces as they cruise through the main thoroughfares of Metro Manila seeing the inconvenience the government had caused. If it were me, I’d have second thoughts investing on this goddamned hellhole. I’d have rather let them see places that have possibilities for development, not Metro Manila which is already overdeveloped and overcrowded. For example, why not Clark, Pampanga? It has its own airport with room for expansion. It is also near SCITEX so travel to other parts of Luzon would not be much of a problem. It just needs more investors and developers then this place will have a potential to be an international gateway!

    And speaking of investment, rather than using the 10 billion pesos allocated to mask the stench of metro manila just for the sake of ‘pakitang tao’, I think it would’ve been of better use elsewhere. Just imagine… What if another place was chosen and the money was used to develop infrastructure so that the place can accommodate the APEC delegates, as said previously for example, somewhere like Clark, Pampanga? Wouldn’t it be more attractive for investors to see new infrastructure in a city with room for development rather seeing than what they have now? Inclusive growth anyone? Just sayin’

  7. This wouldn’t be a problem had we built a more efficient transport system such as railways like in Japan, Hong Kong, or Singapore….. -_-

    Oh wait a minute, could it be that our “beloved” president want to show the APEC delegates that heavy traffic is indeed a sign of a progressive economy? :p

  8. Aquino the idiot is the one to blame…he held the APEC summit in a rotting City Like Manila. This idiot simply has no brain to think…sacrifice?…did he ever sacrifice for us?

  9. Dick Gordon had the right idea, when it came to APEC. At this point, I wonder if the Yellow supporters are even remotely capable of empathy, since they believe that it is a for a better good. I don’t think they knew that the NO PAY holiday negatively affects workers who are paid by the day.

    And as a counter for the stupid cliche of “Kayo na lang maging Presidente”. Eh, ginusto niyang tumakbo eh. Kasama sa trabaho ang batikos.

    If Gordon Ramsey wasn’t strict on his chefs, then the quality of his restaurants will drop. Criticisms and complaints are necessary for improvement, so people should complain especially if their livelihood is at stake.

  10. APEC in Manila = pinoy pride.

    – show them world-renowned filipino jeepney.
    – world-class barong designed by world-class designer
    – world-class Manila airport
    – world-class MoA
    – world-class security (with new motorcycles)

  11. Let’s see…for the same situation, let’s replace Noynoy with Marcos. You know what will change? The comments in this website. All of a sudden, the blame shifts to the people and those who criticize the president. Come on now. Isn’t that the truth?

      1. @ilda…it pains and it hurts to know na meron tayong mga kababayan ganito ang pag-iisip…tsk tsk tsk…but am laughing all the way to the bank with this one..this is by far the brightest yellow..um what do you call them nitwits?

    1. hahacienda, you just have to continue to post dumb ass comments, don’t you?

      Did your parents ever ask you to run away from home?

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