In his PhilSTAR article “Could there be a Pinoy BTS?” today, Boo Chanco longingly beholds the rise of boy band BTS to astounding heights of fame, in the process doing its country proud, contributing billions to its economy, and putting South Korea at the top tiers of the planet’s cultural map. To further punctuate his Korea envy, he recalls the words of his “mentor” Bernie Villegas who points out that “person for person, Filipinos are more creative than practically every Asian country, including South Korea.” Chanco and his mentor exhibit what is really an age-old Pinoy condition — the idea that natural endowment alone is an entitlement to success and prosperity.
To be fair, Chanco consults with another friend Lisa Guerrero Nakpil who is likely better-qualified to comment on the matter having been a manager of the Filipino band RiverMaya. She gives a starker prognosis of the Philippines’ ability to mimic the success of the South Korean K-Pop phenomenon…
“I have studied this for several decades ever since the Korean juggernaut first reared its head. BTS is just the FINAL/latest flowering of South Korea’s efforts.
“This is grounded on the following:
“1. Long term planning: cultivation of talent over a 10 to 15 year horizon. Talents are picked, trained from ages eight to 12 and kept in almost military boot camps.
“2. Support of government in creative industries – tax breaks, travel, training.
“3. Korean people’s own character of hard work and perfectionism.
“I’ve had to perform with a Korean boy band and they do not quit, they keep rehearsing and working.
“I’m not surprised. Not at all accidental.
Not accidental. Success — as in the sort of consistent repeatable success — of Korean K-Pop which goes beyond BTS to include other global phenomena such as Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame, BLACKPINK, etc. is never accidental. It is engineered on the back of long-term vision as Nakpil points out. That well of human talent Villegas sighs about is no different to the Philippines’ natural resources, its fertile soil and the minerals buried beneath it. These don’t just bubble up for the picking (or fall from the proverbial mango tree into people’s gaping mouths). Resources are mined, developed, and turned into products for which there is a global demand for such as the way rich countries (which, by the way also started as dirt poor as any other) do. The alternative is to export these raw, straight off the earth or that proverbial tree — as what Third World countries like the Philippines habitually do.
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So with that as context, on to the point.
Why is Bongbong Marcos like BTS? Simple — because, except for Point 2, the manner with which he got to where he is in the political scene today fits the criteria for success laid out by Nakpil in describing BTS’s and other K-Pop acts’ rise to prominence. It was a long-haul slog: more than 30 years in the making marked by modest successes along the way and he had the character to sustain this effort. Like what Nakpil cited, Marcos does not quit. Indeed, Point 2 notably excepted: Marcos did not have any backing other than that of the base of supporters he cobbled together practically person-by-person, town-by-town, province-by-province. He was, after all, the “son of the dictator” as his rivals gleefully — to the point of obsolescence — point out. Except for a handful of courageous souls, no media personality or celebrity would touch him with a ten-foot pole. Marcos’s success was all his and that of his base of loyal followers who were consistent in their commitment to his vision rain or shine.
Compare this to the floundering campaign of Opposition “leader” Leni Robredo. The ill-thought-out nature of her branding, the fragmented character of her base of supporters, and the desperate incoherence of her messaging reveal the failure of her political machine to turn her into an overnight success. Robredo’s campaign is to Marcos’s as gambling is to professional investing. Team Robredo (if one can even call them a “team”) sought a quick buck for a pwede-na-yan effort. Indeed, one could even say the Robredo campaign is a dishonest effort reminiscent of the Pinoy way of doing business — trying to scam people into buying a mediocre undifferentiated product.
Do Filipinos want to be as successful as South Korea? Or Japan? Or Germany? Note that all of these countries — at the top of their games globally today — were once bomb-cratered losers of devastating wars. There is no other way to recover from such devastation other than to clear rubble and rebuild brick-by-brick. Between Marcos and Robredo, which of the two is likely to lead the Philippines down the same path South Korea, Japan, and Germany took to get to where they are today? Which of the two is more likely to produce that “Pinoy BTS” that Chanco dreams of? The answer to that question is quite obvious.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.