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Archive for July, 2009

Weak Country, Strong People

Posted by conscientioussubversive on July 25, 2009

Malolos CongressWeak Country, Strong People

One of Marcos’ great lies was the one he told upon his inauguration in 1966:

“This country can be great again.”

It may seem strange to question this line, considering how innocuous it seems. When compared to Marcos’ other declarations, it compares favourably in terms of patriotism and oratory. Nevertheless, it is damaging because it ignores a simple truth:

While our people have always retained the capacity for greatness; our state, and thus the country it was built on, has always been weak.

Much has been written on our country’s fractious politics, and of how weak and unstable our current political system is. I need not repeat that here. What is more important is how these weaknesses are not limited to the immediately preceding events of 1987 and the Marcos regime that came before it. The fact is our state has been in constant flux from the constant struggle between our conservative political leaders and our politically liberal populace. This struggle, as eloquently framed by Manuel Quezon III, pits an elite that wished to preserve the status quo of wealth and power established during the colonial regime against a well-educated and worldly population keen to attain greater economic prosperity and political influence.

In other countries in Southeast Asia, the battle was won by the elites, who went on to consolidate their political power and to establish an economic order that tossed a few bones to the masses to ensure their acquiescence. Case in point: Malaysia and Singapore. In the former, the UMNO political elites formed an alliance with the economically dominant but politically powerless Chinese community to ensure that ‘business as usual’ (where the two factions supported one another in creating state-supported enterprises) continued while economic inequalities increased. For the latter, the frenetic pace of development in the island state has trickled slowly downwards to the lower classes. Paradoxically, the masses enjoy the highest metropolitan standard of living in the region and simultaneously remain bereft of any guaranteed pensions. Joseph Studwell, in his fascinating and easy-to-read book Asian Godfathers, provides a historical narrative that explains both cases from the perspective of the elite themselves.

In the Philippines, two factors prevented this from happening: the Second World War and the influence of American liberal political values. The first wrought untold destruction on the country, particular on the urban areas of the country and the vital infrastructure of transport, power, and industry. Manila, in particular, was absolutely devastated. It was reported that the city was the most destroyed city in the world after Warsaw was jointly levelled by the Germans and the Russians. This quote, seemingly apocryphal, actually came from General Dwight Eisenhower himself in 1946. Power stations, transmission lines, tranvias, trucks and automobiles, factories and shipping were all destroyed by the war. This essentially crippled the nascent export-oriented industrial sector at a time when a competitive advantage over other countries in the region could have helped the country progress. It also destroyed the both the physical and financial assets of the would-be industrial pioneers, as bombs and wartime inflation wiped out the fortunes of many businesses, not to mention the lives of entrepreneurs.

The second was the byproduct of the institutionalization of American education in the country. While the Americans limited the right to suffrage in the country and largely disenfranchised the masses, they also had to justify their right to remain as ‘stewards’ of the country. They did so by claiming to train and mold the country for eventual independence, and encouraged the emulation of American democratic institutions. Many Filipino schoolchildren of the era learned of American history and democracy, of Washington and Jefferson, and of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. These ideas did not remain idle in the minds of Filipinos, even as they were imperfectly implemented by the Commonwealth political elite. They would prove to be a powerful force in inspiring social reform and change, even if at times the government tried to suppress these ideas.

The two forces combined fragmented the economic and political elite, strengthening the power of rural politicians and hacenderos, while simultaneously preventing wholesale authoritarianism in the country until the arrival of Ferdinand Marcos. Unfortunately, what resulted was a stalemate which provided neither stability nor empowerment. Rent-seeking parasitic elites turned to the central government to act as guarantor of economic privileges and as a source of cheap capital, plundering the state and witholding true power from the central government. Moreover, the elites used the democratic system to allow for the rotation of leadership between the Nacionalista and Liberal parties, which preserved the existing power structure while allowing for a semblance of democracy to exist.

Marcos short-circuited the system by changing the rules of the game. By co-opting the military, he centralized political power in Malacañang and forced both the rural elites and the godfathers of the economy to kowtow to him. At the same time, he was able to ensure the consistency of his policies by disrupting the cycle of elections. This prevented any opposition party from derailing his efforts to restructure both the economy and government. Unfortunately, Marcos did so largely for his own ends, distributing the spoils of wealth to his largely inept cronies and allies. (such as Benedicto, Disini, Menzi and the ever durable Lucio Tan) Continuity was maintained, but this only concentrated wealth further and failed to generate any sustainable economic gains.

The trapo restoration that accompanied the Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations only continued these trends, and aggravated the economic instability of the country by restoring the electoral process without weeding it of its excesses. The destruction of the two-party system ensured a weak presidency that prevented any concrete economic reforms, and contributed to the consistent bending to vested interests that has peaked under Arroyo.

The strong republic is a lie. There has never been a ‘strong and indivisible republic’. In fact, rent-seeking politicians and oligarchs, continue to fight over it precisely because it is the supreme arena, the prize itself. By capturing the state, they gain access to its wealth and legal protection, while also acquiring a strategic advantage over losing rivals in the zero-sum game of politics.

However, all is not lost. Our people are more educated and aware than ever. Even the middle class (which remained largely quiet after the EDSA 2 coup d’etat), has become restive over the incumbent administration’s excesses. Hope remains that a core group of educated leaders transcending class and ethnic divisions will continue to make an impact on society. Witness leaders like Jesse Robredo and Grace Padaca, Tony Meloto and Eddie Panlilio, Filipino labor union leaders, OFWs, activists, intellectuals, progressive entrepreneurs, environmentalists, students, tour guides, historians and technocrats all trying to make a positive impact on society beyond their personal sphere. I may not be able to name all of them, but their contributions continue to redefine the limits of democracy, activism and civic spirit. More importantly, no one needed to tell them what to do: not the government, nor the Church, nor the establishment. In the best traditions of democracy, they acted of their own free will. In time, their efforts will bear fruit, but that topic is for another entry.

Have faith, not in the state, but our people. When our people realize their potential, then shall we construct a state worthy of our name.

Posted in Philippine History, Philippine Politics | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

When Presidents Get Boob Jobs….

Posted by aparanoidandroid on July 7, 2009

When Presidents' Get Boob Jobs...

The non-scandal: Arroyo getting silicone implants. The scandal: the Palace, again, weaving a work of fiction, then taking it back. The exasperation: media outfits acting like the tabloids they are.

THE NON-SCANDAL:

I find nothing wrong with body enhancements; whether its getting your hair colored, or donning tattoos or piercings, going under the knife, or chopping off your arms and legs – as long as its a personal choice and serves to boost your morale or show your individuality. So if President Arroyo decided to get silicone implants two decades ago, I wouldn’t care less.  Case in Point: the Malacanang press staff, after several days of denying the fact, finally admitted that GMA did undergo surgery in the 80s, citing medical necessity.

THE SCANDALOUS:

Again, the Palace fooled all of us fools! How do they get away with the blatant lying/fabrication of stories and press releases, then taking it back without even blinking or apologizing?  The least they could have done is to appear apologetic, given their cunning ability to lie in front of the TV camera.

First, when the story erupted, the Arroyo gang announced that the hospital visit was because of a mandatory check-up before her week-long self-quarantine. Then, as speculations began to grow, they announced that the hospital visit was not because of H1N1 quarantine protocol, but because of a biopsy, even calling the breast implant suggestion “absurd”.  Finally, they admitted that it was not because of H1N1, nor because of a biopsy (the announcement of which came simultaneously the Cory Aquino’s hospitalization — what a pathetic attempt to bait for sympathy!), but because of removal of her silicone implants that they adamantly denied.  The Press Secretary, and the rest of the staff, should stop acting like handlers and publicists – they certainly are not! Another pathetic mishandling by the President’s group… and they wonder why they are constantly embroiled in scandal.

THE EXASPERATING:

I must admit,  I am surprised that the media has been divided in this issue, with some outfits acting more professional than others.  There are of course those who continuously blur the line between straightforward journalism and melodramatic rumor mongering. For instance, the pseudo-news website of ABS-CBN is consistent in its penchant for tabloid-ish headlines with the news title – Palace won’t confirm, deny if Arroyo had breast implants – which could have been more appropriate for Yes! Magazine articles. GMA News even managed to take the high road by constraining itself, and for once did not dramatize the said issue. Dramatization is nothing new for ABS-CBN, and reached disgusting new heights when they aired the interview of Hayden Kho’s mom. (More discussions to come on media and politics in the Philippines…)

What do you, my fellow androids, think?

Posted in Current Events, Media, Philippine Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

E-Activism?

Posted by jcolfato on July 6, 2009

E-Activism?by: Conspiracy Theorists

The youth of the new millennium have been accused of apathy and indifference – a misinterpretation of the collective internal struggle for self-definition and exploration. Each generation can lay claim to their own legacies of activism and political participation, like perhaps the flower power of the 70s which saw the rise of support for equality and human rights, or the post-war reconstruction efforts of the prior generation. We had always listened intently to older people, to stories of how they managed to oust a dictator or how they faced armed men and military tanks without fear or hesitation. Perhaps there is a part of us, collectively, that is jealous of their legacies, compelling us to ask what this generation’s is.

The democratic space has expanded massively into the web, blurring the lines of traditional political science concepts of states, territory and citizenship. It is frustrating indeed how, for instance, people appear unconcerned about social and political issues. But it is important to note that activism is not for general consumption – it is an acquired taste that cannot be force-fed to people. Perhaps there are no figures to back it up, but it can be confidently hypothesized that since time immemorial, the numberof people who can be called ‘activists’ has rarely deviated from a generally static percentage. The term ‘activism’ is of course a fluid one – does joining a rally give you the right to call yourself an activist? How much should a citizen do for him/her to be one? For the national democrats who formed the human barricades during the 80s UP protests, activism may mean standing unfazed in front of a gun. For Dr. Jose Rizal, activism is using the might of the pen to fight for colonial reforms. For us, activism is Facebook.

The series of noise barrage in DLSU last June 09, although arguably successful, never exceeded one or two hundred participants. However, if one observed the developments in Facebook, Multiply, and individual blogs, the number of students who expressed support for the cause considerably exceeded, by more than ten-fold perhaps, the number of those who were physically present. In fact, who is to say that rallies are more effective tools of articulation than the internet? Maybe a protest action can garner their 30-second slot in the news, but ultimately, the internet information campaign is more grassroots and wide-reaching.

Perhaps this is the age of a new form of activism. There are numerous problems still, like how to translate this movement, if in fact it can be considered one, into meaningful actions, solutions and policies. This process of translation and conversion is, however, not a dilemma exclusive to this kind of activism. It took more than a decade of aboveground protests and underground organizing to finally put an end to an oppressive Marcos regime. The endeavor of political change is not achieved through activism alone – as there is still the challenge of effectively transmitting the collective sentiment to institutions/agents who can trigger solutions.  But in cases of campaigning for issues like reproductive health or sustainable development, the internet can help solve the problem of information assymetry and dissemination.  Activism is a democratic measure for stakeholders to articulate and participate; the folly of democratic activism is that outcomes are still ultimately dependent on the acceptance or refusal of the government to listen to this collective sentiment.  [Which is why governments should be afraid of their people, for when the former refuse to listen, the latter would have to other recourse but to overthrow it 😉 ]

Posted in Philippine Politics, Political Science, Pop Culture | 3 Comments »

Debating the Reproductive Health Bill

Posted by conscientioussubversive on July 5, 2009

By: The Conscientious Subversive

The Reproductive Health Bill, or HB 5043, is the first comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill that has ever been considered by the Philippine Congress. It mandates the provision of social services to pregnant mothers, the allocation of government resources to fund maternity clinics, population managment measures, and other health-related projects. However, a powerful lobby headed by the Catholic Church in the Philippines is actively lobbying against the bill, and has in many cases misrepresented the text of the bill. I present a sample below as a case in point, and follow with my rebuttal:

Postscript to the reproductive health bill


My Rebuttal to Mr. Pagunuran

After reading this incredible blog entry, I could not resist refuting the fallacious, callous, chauvinist and utterly illogical arguments of the author. Whoever you are, Mr. Pagunuran, you definitely did not think your arguments thoroughly before you wrote about this.

First: “Women issues are the exclusive domain of women, or so I thought?” – Whoever said that women’s issues were the concern solely of women? Are women’s issues so trivial that the rest of society can afford to ignore them? Is having 8 children solely the mother’s problem to solve? Are the women who die from complications of multiple childbirth deserving of their fate? The answer is NO. You and I, and the rest of society are not isolated from the consequences of reproduction, and unplanned reproduction at that! Every child born unplanned and poor is a reminder of the failure of our society to provide for the welfare of every individual! If that child grows up to be a drug addict, or a criminal, does that not harm society? Does it not now become OUR concern?

Second: “Truly, this carries some kind of racist bias against those otherwise unhealthy, uneducated, and unproductive in our realpolitik.” – Since when has preventing people from becoming unhealthy, uneducated and unproductive been racist? In any case, racist is the wrong term. The right term is discriminatory, but I digress. Preventing people from becoming indigent does not discriminate against those who already are indigent. On the contrary: since there are less people who depend on the state for resources, the money saved increases and now can be spent on those who are poor. In simple math: more money+less people to spend it on = better services.

Third: “What about China with approximately two billion in population that has managed equitably well without compromising its position as the next economic superpower?” – China only has half that number of people. Also, China’s government has declared its own One Child policy as a success… with caveats. I quote: “Because China has worked hard over the last 30 years, we have 400 million fewer people,” said Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. “Compared with the world’s other developing countries with large populations, we have realised this transformation half a century ahead of time.” While the details of implementation are different from the RH bill in Congress, it is clear that the overall result was positive for China. In addition, have we forgotten that our country has limited resources for health and education? As it is, even our education secretary has admitted that the growth of school-age children outstrips any projections the government has for education. If our government admits that budget increases are outstripped by population growth, then shouldn’t we try to control our population so that we can ensure that every Filipino child can be provided a public education?

Fourth: “Have we as much as forget that OFW remittances of our fellow Filipinos buoys up an otherwise fledging economy? The next generation of overseas workers to fill the great demand of manpower from the global market has to be born now — beyond the two-child limit.” – This argument boils my blood. Do you think that OFWs want to leave their families to work abroad? Do you think they would do otherwise if there were less competition and more opportunities at home? The answer is a resounding Yes. I am the child of an OFW, and I am now working abroad as well because, quite simply, if I were to compete in the job market the compensation I would receive will not even cover my daily expenses. Is it easy? Hell no. I live away from a country I love. I miss my family, I miss my friends, and the stress of knowing that your rights as an individual are curtailed because you are an alien takes its toll every day. The very reason why the OFW programme was deployed in the first place in the 1970’s was that there were too many Filipinos entering the job market and too few opportunities for them. While its true that our government could have done a better job creating jobs, you can’t deny the fact that having too many people exacerbates the problem. 31% of our population, or 31 million people in our country are under the age of 14. That is the entire population of Canada today, living in a country that has only one-fourth the GDP. 92 million people with $300,000 million, vs. 33 million people with $1,178,205 million. (World Back) Do the math: how can we increase living standards when our economy’s growth is outstripped by the growth of the population? Living standards inevitably decrease. The result? Our people are forced to work abroad, often as chattel, just to support their families? And you, Mr. Pagunuran, have the gall to say we should have more children to add to those already slaving abroad? Shame on you!

Fifth: “The proponent himself has more than two of his own, doesn’t he?” – So what if he has more than 2 kids? He can support them, can’t he? The point of the bill is to give incentives to those who have 2 kids, or less. If they have more, then they get no incentives. After all, the point of the bill is to help those who cannot support themselves and the vulnerable. In fact, I give kudos to Rep. Lagman because he can support a bill that defends interests other than his own. 

Sixth: “Studies have already validated that reproductive health care as practiced in the more developed societies already negative impacted upon the home, family life, career, social milieu, culture, and society as a whole.” – I dare you, Mr. Pagunuran, to produce independent, academically sound studies presenting this. I am a social scientist, and I have yet to read any study linking these social ills to contraceptives. The social ills of unplanned pregnancies on the other hand, are well documented and numerous. Besides, the reason why social dysfunction has increased in Western societies is directly related to a decline in the quality of parenting and communication between spouses, not contraception! If having less time per child as a result of unplanned pregnancies decreases the quality of parentage, does that not also constitute a social ill?

Seventh: “To give people the freedom to decide, if, when and how often to have a satisfying and safe sex life, as claimed, tears at the very moral fabric of our social existence.” – Don’t you think that marital rape, unplanned pregnancies, and maternal deaths due to childbirth tear at the moral fabric of our society more seriously than the right to have knowledge about sex? If we truly are mature individuals, no matter what our religion, having freedom will not immediately direct us to moral debauchery. A responsible individual will exercise freedom responsibly. For those who don’t, then they would commit debaucheries whether or not they had knowledge of sex. At the very least, teaching everybody about reproductive health can help prevent disasters that are preventable. 

Eighth: “Pregnancies – whether or not wanted, planned, or timed – are pregnancies. Any act or means to be sought to prevent it should be called as what? It would not be abortion, would it?” – So you say that there is no difference in the quality of life between someone who has a child when she is married, financially prepared and in love and someone who is raped and left for dead, and pregnant? This is what you imply if you say that all pregnancies are similar, and desirable. Think about it. As for the definition of abortion: “abortion is a medical operation in which a developing baby is removed from a woman’s body so it is not born alive” – Macmillan English Dictionary, 2002. As for the definition of contraception: “methods for preventing a woman from becoming pregnant, or the use of such methods.” Prevention of pregnancy is clearly distinct from removing a baby from the womb of a mother is it not? By allowing contraception, you also prevent unnecessary abortions. Is that not preferable?

Ninth: “Whoever invented these labels without any scientific basis ought to be a murderer?” – Whoever confused abortion and contraception is what then? I think that forcing people to commit abortion out of a lack of choice is more of a murderer than someone who clearly defines the distinction between abortion and contraception.

Tenth: “Such a would-be law that prohibits and in fact penalizes any healthcare service provider who refuses to perform medically safe reproductive health care services in the absence of spousal consent or authorization is revolting.” – So, a healthcare provider who is giving contraceptives to a wife who is raped by her husband is revolting? We live in the 21st century, where a wife is no longer the chattel of her husband, and has the right to decide on matters of reproduction. Preventing her from doing so is a violation of her basic human rights.

If we look at the arguments of Mr. Pagunuran, we can see the ideas of a man who rejects the idea of equality between men and women, has a poor understanding of economics and human development, and prioritizes a warped ideal of piety in place of the welfare of our entire country. For goodness sakes, reject these perverse ideals, and support what the reproductive health bill truly stands for: equity, a better standard of life for all, and the rationality of a planned population programme.


Link to the RH Bill full text


A quick summary:

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND POPULATION DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 2008

OBJECTIVE/S:

  • To uphold and promote respect for life, informed choice, birth spacing and responsible parenthood in conformity with internationally recognized human rights standards.
  • To guarantee universal access to medically-safe, legal and quality reproductive health care services and relevant information even as it prioritizes the needs of women and children.


KEY PROVISIONS:

  • Mandates the Population Commission, to be an attached agency of the Department of Health, to be the central planning, coordinating, implementing and monitoring body for effective implementation of this Act.
  • Provides for the creation of an enabling environment for women and couples to make an informed choice regarding the family planning method that is best suited to their needs and personal convictions.
  • Provides for a maternal death review in LGUs, national and local government hospitals and other public health units to decrease the incidence of maternal deaths.
  • Ensures the availability of hospital-based family planning methods such as tubal ligation, vasectomy and intrauterine device insertion in all national and local government hospitals, except in specialty hospitals.
  • Considers hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products and supplies under the category of essential medicines and supplies to form part of the National Drug Formulary and to be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and local hospitals and other government health units.
  • Provides for a Mobile Health Care Service in every Congressional District to deliver health care goods and services.
  • Provides Mandatory Age-appropriate Reproductive Health Education starting from Grade 5 to Fourth Year High School to develop the youth into responsible adults.
  • Mandates the inclusion of the topics on breastfeeding and infant nutrition as essential part of the information given by the City or Municipal Office of the Family Planning to all applicants for marriage license.
  • Mandates no less than 10% increase in the honoraria of community-based volunteer workers, such as the barangay health workers, upon successful completion of training on the delivery of reproductive health care services.
  • Penalizes the violator of this Act from one month to six months imprisonment or a fine ranging from ten thousand to fifty thousand pesos or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the Court.


Posted in Current Events, Philippine Politics, Political Science, Religion, Social Science | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

On Nationalism

Posted by conscientioussubversive on July 5, 2009

UN Seat

UN Seat

By: The Conscientious Subversive

The twentieth century has not been a happy one for nationalism. Twice in this century, destructive convulsions have rocked the world in the name of nationalism, unleashing evils beyond our imaginations. If we count the lesser wars and genocides that have occurred since then, it is easy to dismiss nationalism as a spent and discredited force.

While the old, bigoted and violent type of nationalism is one that has no place in today’s multicultural and multiethnic societies, I do believe that a positive, tolerant and benign nationalism based on pride in one’s culture and how sharing it can enrich others worldviews as well as our own.

I had a brief but meaningful encounter that helped convince me that Filipinos still have something to be proud of in these dark and chaotic times.

Our conversation began as we were commuting back home after our evening graduate class. We were debating about how countries use embassies to display power and wealth, and I pointed out the Singapore embassy in Fort Bonifacio as an example. A low-density, green establishment in the middle of the priciest real estate in the city. He told me that Singapore has always been an investor in real estate, planning its chanceries in strategic areas long before their real estate appreciates. I marveled at the foresight and the pragmatism of their leaders and told him: “You don’t know how lucky you are, to have a government composed of people of vision, of drive, and of passion, and who fulfill their promises.”  My country on the other hand, I said, is full of leaders who had potential and squandered it. Then, there were leaders who were on the threshold of greatness, only to have fate take away their chance to take up the mantle of leadership.

I mentioned as prime example Ferdinand Marcos, a man who at first shared the vision of Lee Kuan Yew in creating a new society based on discipline and order. While the vision may have initially brought some good to the country, his personal weakness and poor taste in subordinates led to an increasingly personality-driven regime, where everyone in power exploited their positions to the detriment of the country. Unfortunately, after he was exiled, most Filipinos took the wrong lessons from his dictatorship: that order was something to be feared, and that democracy had to be implemented at all costs, even including the sacrifice of institutional stability. I even discussed how every generation in our colonial history had its birthright stolen from it before it came to fruition; how the intellectuals of the late 19th century blossomed with ideals on self-government and a just society, only to have their dreams stolen first by Spanish reactionary forces, and then by a rapacious American colonial government. I mentioned how the budding political leadership of the 30’s to the 40’s had its youth cut short first by the Second World War, and then by the Huk rebellion and the counter-insurgency campaign after. The 60’s brought a new generation of men and women of vision, who were either co-opted, exiled, or killed by the now-twisted Marcos regime. And now there is our generation, disillusioned, forced to work abroad for a decent living, but for the first time in our history free of external forces to seek out our own destiny and to determine the future of our country.

My friend remarked that it was no surprise that many of those who leave choose not to return. With such a dismal past and an uncertain future, there was precious little to anchor my generation to go home to a seemingly hopeless situation. Yet, he said something that surprised me: he had met many Filipinos who, like me, want to learn the ways of the developed world, who wanted to develop themselves so that they could one day return and share the knowledge and institutional memory of the countries we had lived in, in turn transforming our society. Very idealistic, he said; but also very brave. He didn’t dismiss my idealism, but praised its fragile hope and its optimistic courage. After being dismissed by so many for so long, to finally be praised by someone who was supposed to be a foreigner was very alien indeed.

He spoke to me of what Singapore considers its ‘greatest generation’, the people who led Singapore from independence to what it is today. Much has been leveled against the senior members of the People’s Action Party by critics: that it is too inflexible, that it is undemocratic. However, that generation of leaders built a stable and strong framework for the growth and prosperity of a nation, and in doing so allowed a new generation of people to fulfill ambitions grander than their own. In describing that to me, I could see how truly proud he was: not the pride of arrogance, but the pride of love and of gratitude for his country.

It was then I realized: it may just well be that my generation will be our own ‘Greatest Generation’. Just as the young Turks transformed Turkey from a decrepit empire to a modern republic, how the Meiji scholars elevated Japan to the ranks of Great Powers, and how the determined and educated Singaporean post-independence leaders were able to transform an island state into a successful nation, so can our generation finally achieve what we knew we were capable of all along: becoming a modern, progressive nation.

Now, let me say that this is no pie-in-the-sky dream. I know there are many of my generation who already have given up hope, and simply desire a better life and material belongings for themselves. While this is not ideal, I do not condemn them for seeking to improve their lives. In fact, seeking to better their own well-being may just help the Philippines in the long run.

How would that happen? Well, its actually quite simple: in order to become successful abroad, one has to do 2 things: either acquire a good education and to enter the workforce as a professional, or to be the best one is at their existing profession in order to become competitive enough to work abroad. Once a Filipino has earned a job abroad, he or she must then acquire the skills and institutional know-how to perform well at his/her job, which means constant self-improvement. Now, when some of these people go home, they have become used to the way of life and standard of living abroad, and will not tolerate a lifestyle they feel is below their means and unworthy of all they have worked for. Therefore, they will start businesses, build better homes, and bring fresh ideas to a country in dire need of them. Even the homes that OFW build in the provinces reflect needs and wants that didn’t exist less than 30 years ago, and they reflect that more Filipinos want more comforts and a better life than our existing leaders are able (or willing) to give. Because they work to improve themselves, their money and their ideas will trickle to others, and inspire others to emulate them and seek greener pastures, where they will do the same.

When this part of society reaches critical mass, then political leaders will have no choice but to shape up. Since the best people in our society will not tolerate shabby living conditions, the government will slowly have to improve their governance (never mind corruption) just to justify their existence. While this change will take a generation or two, the fact is that once the change has started, it will be difficult to stop, and with more idealistic Filipinos willing to guide the process along, it may just be possible that the change will arrive sooner than we think?

Pipe dream? Maybe. But what do we have to lose?

And finally, a happy story to bookend this already long essay. When I spoke of the Philippines’ past, I told him of how there were people who just might have been Lee Kuan Yews, nipped in the bud. One such man was Jose Rizal, a man gifted with intelligence, worldliness, insight, and love for his country. I told him of Rizal’s gift of languages, and of the painful ironies in his novels. I explained Rizal’s foresight and of how he foresaw America’s greatness, and the coming dissolution of the Spanish regime. I told him of Rizal’s dream of a Filipino society both just and prosperous, democratic and tolerant. Finally, I told him of how Rizal was a world citizen, making friendships and absorbing the cultures of the lands he visited long before the idea even became popular. He was surprised to know that such a man existed, and was intrigued enough to ask me to show him one of his books. It gives me no small pride that someone in the 20th century still finds a man from a small country, and from the 19th century at that, fascinating.

Can one still be proud to be Filipino and not live in the Philippines? The answer is a definite yes.

Posted in Nationalism, Philippine History, Political Science, Singapore, World History | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »