Saturday, February 25, 2012

Philippines After 26 Years: Still Camping in the Desert

It was not too long ago when I contributed an article - Standard & Poor's Downgrade: U.S. Going the Wrong Way - to Blogcritics, a seemingly American Conservative group.  It solicited a response from one American who turned out to have ties to the Philippines, by way of his Filipino wife.  I decided to share it now after reading a few articles that tackled several issues that continue to frustrate Filipinos, 26 years after a peaceful revolution that earned us our freedom. Here is what he wrote:

Hello, Cordi -

Great article, and sure to be panned by the BC conservatives since you lay the blame where it belongs.

But I wanted to mention an observation - I'll be moving to Quezon City in a few months (my oldest son is teaching college and my youngest son is in fourth-year high school, both in Q.C.) for the reasons I listed in this article. It is as I've heard a few Pinoy say, America's a great place to make money, but it's better to grow old in the Philippines.

But back to the observation - when I visited my wife's family there while we were in the middle of the Great Recession here stateside, I traveled from Taguig (which is a modern and beautiful place even by western standards - Google "Serendra") to Baguio to La Union and back to Q.C., and I saw nary a sign of the Great Recession that the U.S. and Europe were going through. I figured this was because of the Pinoy attitude: if you don't have a job, don't sit around waiting for one but go out and make one - start a business, even if it's selling taho in the iskinita. I think that's why most Pinoy stateside are either professionals or businesspeople, or are trying to start businesses of their own.

But that's the difference between America and the Philippines - America has a reliable way to collect taxes, whereas the Philippines doesn't, and so they have to rely greatly on import duties and fees to help finance their government (which is why electronics is so much more expensive there). America, OTOH, reliably and automatically collects taxes, and so can afford the wealth of social programs we have here (not to mention our hideously-expensive military (I'm retired Navy)). If the Philippines had a better system of collecting income and business taxes, they'd be able to afford so much more and provide an actual social safety net.

But I suspect that will not happen in my lifetime...and even though I'm a dyed-in-the-wool bleeding-heart liberal, I sometimes wonder if it's better that it doesn't. Why? Because without the social safety net, the Pinoys are forced to strive harder - witness the bookstores where the fiction books take up less than a quarter of the space, but nearly half consists of professional certification and qualification manuals!

And because they've had to strive harder, they've excelled in much of the world, as is evinced by the fact that one-third of ALL crewmembers on the world's merchant marine ships are Pinoy. It helps that most Pinoy are intelligent - indeed, can America produce an example of a polymath like Jose Rizal who, by the age of 32 when he was martyred, had become a practicing eye surgeon, had published two books of national importance, had traveled the world, and knew twenty-two languages? Perhaps Benjamin Franklin comes close, but that's about it.

Don't get me wrong - I'm no Filipinophile, for there's many problems there that we would not abide here stateside (again, see the article I referenced above). But there's a lot of lessons we could learn from the Philippines. Problem is, America's got this attitude that if the idea didn't come from America, then it must not be a good idea. That attitude is IMO America's greatest shortcoming - the unwillingness of Americans to learn from other nations or cultures...which is probably the same obstacle faced by every nation in history that has stood unchallenged.

Sorry for the rambling comment - it's just that I'm glad to see someone lay the blame where it belongs, and that the same someone can understand and appreciate the observations I've made over the years.

My reply:

Hi Glenn,

I agree with you on your observations about the Philippines. We lost our way a long time ago and have been so far out that we decided to camp. Haha!


  1. So horrifying truths revealed. am sharing this with the world. Camping In UK

  2. Camping Philippines is one of the best time spending with your family. I do love to try this thing very soon.