Y'all know that I'd rather concoct an opinion than dredge up a fact, and many of my opinions are developed on experiential data, not statistical. Or sometimes not even experiential, but more the distillation that follows a broad scanning of so many facets of Philippine life that it is impossible to recite them all. I'd mentally grasp the entire vision and start writing down the first facet and by the time I got to number 3, I'd forget 29 through 68.
Well, imperfection is the spice of life.
Better to just wing it.
Here is my latest vision, sparked mainly by manuelbuencamino's admonishment that the Philippines is really not much different than the United States. Both have their corruptions and thieves and deceits.
I agree, with the exception that in America there is a stronger value placed on aspiration, so ingenuity and productivity rise. In the Philippines, obedience rules. And favor, of course. These values tend to stifle the free thinking that generates problem-solving ingenuity.
But I did step back and look at the Philippines differently. Kind of adjusted the old pinoyoscope a bit. And rather than see oligarchs leading politicians around by the nose (like they do in the U.S., only they call them lobbyists), I saw Philippines business as deep and broad comprised of private enterprise from the giants like Petron to the sari sari store right over there, and a bazillion eateries and salons and bakeries and hardware stores in between. Instead of poverty, I saw buildings rising all over my island, hollow blocks and steel trusses. Buildings costing from P200,000 to P15,000,000. Money is flowing here.
Naval is a bustling, orderly, congested, growing municipality. Three bank branches. No Jollibee. If you could get good beef into this remote place and cook in an efficient, sanitary way, you could make a killing here with hamburgers and quick chicken before the Big Bee moves in. Like, there are OPPORTUNITIES here. I'm confident they will be nabbed, probably most by a foreigner funding his wife's enterprise. Those WITH MONEY NOW have an advantage. We're on the cusp of a boom.
Then I read about the rise of the Philippines as the call center leader of the world, observe the scale of the casino project being built in Manila, and smile at the marketing ingenuity and organization of the tourism effort (they have a plan and it makes superb sense). Banks are expanding, retail franchises like Jollibee and Chooks are booming. The stock market is roaring. The nation has a reputation in agribusiness for coconut products and fruits, and is gaining one in coffee and whoknowswhat. It is one of the top tuna canning nations in the world.
The investment rating is on the way up, just a step short of investment grade. Rice is moving inexorably by design from an import to an export commodity; the harvest in Biliran is underway now, and it is fantastically rich, with every terraced hillside planted, well-watered, and tended with care. The relationship with other Asian nations is strong, a function of Mr. Aquino's active schedule of visits to open channels of dialogue, an accomplishment the critics fail to see. Defense is independent and does not bow to the U.S. The two nations respect what the other can bring to the table as an offset to China's aggressive bullyism.
It feels good to stand independent.
Mr. Aquino's anti-corruption agenda reaches far and wide, jailing generals, ex-presidents and governors. He is trying to remove the major roadblock of a politically inspired Chief Justice, and that is messy. But the message throughout the Philippines is clear. Corruption is a value we need to get rid of. Transparency has assumed dramatic new meaning with the failing of the Chief Justice to provide it in his SALN. Senators are scurrying to make sure theirs add up. It will be important next election.
The online communities have blossomed the past few years. Facebook, twitter, texts and blogs. And in the conversations flying about one can see new values emerging. A recognized need to be less insecure about criticism. A need to be more diligent about government officials who stray from the public interest. "Big Brother" has flipped, and the citizens are keeping an eye on the government.
The press is varied and free. Newspapers, in particular, offer superb commentary covering every possible perspective, conservative, liberal, pro-Aquino, anti-Aquino, up, down, here, there.
This is a country that is alive, thinking, talking, working.
It's government is even working the way it is supposed to. The disputes that people worry so much about, like Executive branch vs Judiciary, are nothing more than democratic health checks and balances that generate a little friction. Friction comes from moving rather than staying the same.
The coup is dead as standard overthrow policy. Candidates are starting to posture for 2013 and 2016 elections. There are legal ways to "throw the bum out", if that is your choice. It is called voting. If candidates are already in public service, they must be sure to SHOW the public they are doing good at that service. This is a vibrant democracy that is starting to motivate achievement, and be motivated by accomplishment.
- The biggest anchor around the Philippine's neck is the Catholic Church, which adheres to 15th century values when the planet is melting and Filipino babies are eating slop. Because the nation, as economically robust as it is, cannot generate enough wealth fast enough to care for all those kids. Or school them and open their minds to the opportunities that are "out there". Rather, the church assures that babies will become men who climb coconut trees for a lifetime. The RH Bill is important, not simply because it takes care of women, but because it says to the Catholic Church "enough". We MUST move on, even if you choose to be left behind.
- The second biggest anchor is the education system which sees rote authoritarianism as the correct method of teaching in a global arena that requires ingenuity to compete, and it sees more hollow block schools and mediocre teachers as the solution to its ever-laggard results. The Department of Education stuffs kids 45 per classroom on average. Such a waste of brainpower, innocent brainpower, brainpower that depends on adults, trusts adults, to thrive. There is a signal that the DOE is considering internet education formats, which suggests hope is on the horizon. A faint, faint glimmer.
- The third biggest anchor is parental ignorance that insists on seeing kids as resources to be employed rather than youthful opportunities to be nourished and nurtured. There aren't enough books in kids' homes. Hopefully, the social-media dialogue will reach parents in the barrios through word of mouth and the ubiquitous two television stations. If it does, this will generate values that do not condemn success by others, but prize it and praise it.
But my overall impression, just a sense of things, is that the Philippines is about to move into a place it has never been before. Independent and confident in what it can achieve, proud with real substance to that pride, not just cheers for a singer or boxer or beauty contestant.
That is the vision that struck me: Confidence rising, insecurity fading.
The Philippines rising.
Thanks, MB. It is uplifting to see things differently.