Monday, November 25, 2013

The Filipino and the human spirit

“It is depressing to witness, and at times it seems that the only uplifting images and affirmations to arise from such scenes, which continually accrue in our historical memory, are those of the unconquerable Filipino spirit—images of full basketball games carried on in waist-deep water and of a man joyfully tearing through a street intersection on a jet ski, and the now ubiquitous slogan “The Filipino spirit is waterproof.” These are moving, and are a testament to the fact of our geography. But, they also turn what is gross government irresponsibility into a virtue, and pointedly underscore the ways in which suffering in the Philippines falls disproportionately, if not exclusively, on the impoverished.”

“The National Capital Region weathers its share of disaster, but as a resident of Dasmarinas Village, I wish to take the license to pose a polemic counterfactual. What would our national policy look like if Dasmarinas Village or Forbes Park were the areas destroyed on a yearly basis? Would we cheerfully send each other images of us playing full basketball games in the Forbes Park court in waist-deep water? Would we tell one another that the “Filipino spirit is waterproof” and fail to invigorate national disaster prevention policies? The Filipino spirit is indeed waterproof, but without the certainty of yearly destruction, disproportionate suffering, entrenched inequality, and government irresponsibility, it could also be far more.” [Nicole Del Rosario CuUnjieng, a PhD Student in Southeast Asian and International History at Yale University, Do not say that the “Filipino spirit is waterproof,” The Manila Times, 17th Nov 2013] I couldn't have said it better.

Rizal had posed such polemic challenges while he was studying in Madrid; CuUnjieng is doing it from New Haven. If I had a wish, if or when Ms. CuUnjieng is to come home, that she would continue challenging Juan de la Cruz. This blog will be five years old, and wherever I am in the world I would get on the internet to do my postings. My inspiration: my Eastern European friends. They’ve truly demonstrated the sense of purpose that I thought they had and why I’ve been holding their hands the last ten years, and counting. “There is no barrier that you will encounter that hasn’t been conquered before. The world wasn't invented yesterday.”

“The EU may still be fumbling but that doesn’t mean you have to be in the same boat.” Indeed, the last five years, the period of the economic slowdown especially in Europe, was their best ever in their less than 20-year history. And notwithstanding that enviable run, they’re poised to outdo themselves. They’ve grasped the coherence of the building blocks that will sustain their enterprise: To create globally competitive products by being committed toinvestment, technology and innovation, education and training and product and market development. [The aggregate output of goods and services is a nation’s GDP; still, it demands an infrastructure platform. Lagging in basic infrastructure and industrialization and competitiveness and coherence, what’s left for PHL – to be in its default/fire-fighting mode?]

Even my wife could not foresee how this group of young people could do business beyond their town of 80,000 when we first came ten years ago. And much earlier on, I myself couldn’t foresee how China could be the second if not the largest economy when I first came to Guangzhou and saw the factory and offices of my old MNC company’s partners to be. And the “fast train” from Hong Kong taught me that despite their aggressive nature, New Yorkers were civilized train passengers. But in the decade I covered the region, I witnessed how the human spirit could do the unimaginable. The glass office tower was a big step up for our Chinese employees, but the world-class factory that they ably operated – beating the company’s global productivity metrics – was simply amazing. And how proudly the Chinese general manager showed me the factory cafeteria; I had invited him to our Park Avenue (NY) cafeteria before and he promised: “I am taking personal responsibility and you will not be disappointed, we shall meet if not exceed your standards!”

The human spirit doesn’t need forever and a day to demonstrate its magic . . . As our neighbors showed the world how to be economic tigers . . . while we continued to embarrass ourselves . . . “Philippine corruption magnifies effects of typhoon,” Associated Press, 18th Nov 2013. "I'm not going to mince words," said Mel Fernandez, the editorial adviser for the Filipino Migrant News. "We would like every cent to reach those poor people there rather than getting waylaid." Corruption is a concern after any major natural disaster, as millions of dollars in cash and goods rush in from around the world. But those worries are especially acute in the Philippines, where graft has been a part of life for decades.”

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