Sunday, March 1, 2015

“Our inability to get our act together”

“EDSA People Power was not a revolution. It was a revelation of the Filipino’s better self, buried by our toxic dependence on foreign powers, our bahala-na and ningas-cogon mentality, as well as our inability to get our act together.” [Another EDSA (?), Fr. Rolando V. De la Rosa, OP, Manila Bulletin, 21st Feb 2015]

Is our “better self” still buried precisely because of our inability to get our act together? Or why despite EDSA People Power, we’re back to square one? For example, “Bayanko is a separate movement completely independent of the National Transformation Council.” [For people power to succeed, Carmen N. Pedrosa, FROM A DISTANCE, The Philippine Star, 22nd Feb 2015]

If my memory isn't failing me, I thought I first read about the National Transformation Council in the same column? But then again, didn't we first read that GK and Couples for Christ were partners? Is getting our act together a real challenge for Pinoys? Because it is the gut issue that wittingly or unwittingly we keep glossing over that at the end of the day we're neither here nor there? For instance, Party-list over traditional political parties or charity giving (e.g., GK, CSR, CCT, etc.) over economic development . . . and yet we still can't feed half of our people? And we're still at it with federalism over Imperial Manila and parliamentary over the presidential form of government?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome, so says Einstein? And should we wonder why we have a toxic dependence on foreign powers or why we can’t even feed half of our people . . . when we have yet to learn to stand on our own two feet? Of course individually we’re proud! Why not given our “kanya-kanya” instincts? The common good be damned!

The evidence: “METROBANK RESEARCH PREDICTS FURTHER 6-7% RISE IN 2015,” Mayvelin U. Caraballo, The Manila Times, 22nd Feb 2015. “Remittances by overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will rise a further 6 to 7 percent this year and provide a major growth engine for the local economy against global headwinds, the research arm of Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. said.”

“A steady inflow of such remittances is seen coming from the United States, where economic growth is expected to gain pace and make up for the slowdown in other developed economies which also employ Filipino workers, Metrobank Research said in its latest report.”

How else must a bank think? More precisely, how do we wean ourselves from OFW remittances? Indeed “there are times that try men's soul”?

“Strong govt-private sector ties in PH supply chain urged,” Rosalie C. Periabras, The Manila Times, 22nd Feb 2015. “The government and the private sector must now address the problems hounding the Philippine supply chain industry, an official of the Department of Transportation and Communications said.”

“Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Julianito Bucayan Jr. told delegates at the recently concluded 8th Ports and Shipping Conference in Manila that a sound and harmonious relationship between the government and the private sector is key if the Philippines aims to become a major player in global shipping and shipbuilding.”

“The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC), a coalition of seven foreign business chambers, has joined the clamor for the swift enactment of amendments to the BOT Law in order to sustain investor confidence by institutionalizing the processes that have improved the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program over the past four years.” [JFC calls for swift passage of BOT amendments, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 21st Feb 2015]

“We call on government to swiftly enact the amendments to the BOT Law that will institutionalize the PPP Center and its processes, which we believe will further strengthen our PPP framework and prevent hindrances to the implementation of critical public projects,” the JFC said.”

And Mindanao, of course, continues to hug the headlines: “Assuming that the ARMM is a failure, is it the law that needs drastic changes? Or, is it because the officials “elected” to occupy the ARMM high offices failed to faithfully execute their duties? Quite a number of them became extraordinarily rich by helping themselves to the ARMM budget as if it were their own personal fortune…” [Applying the lessons of history II,Former Senator Atty. Rene Espina, Manila Bulletin, 21st Feb 2015]

“There are two ways of thinking and of having faith . . .” [Pope Francis Slams 'Prejudiced Mentality' Of Believers Who Fearfully Cling To Religious Laws, David Gibson, Religion News Service,, 15th Feb 2015]

Indeed our faith is strong but mustn’t forget that there is also thinking. Where does “bahala-na” come from? Is what we call faith in fact a reliance on our “heart” and leading with our heart is why we can’t get our act together? Because our hearts can’t be one and the same? “Kanya-kanya” comes from the heart? But community sense and the commitment to the common good comes from thinking?

I’m writing this while in “Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar” (billed as a “heritage resort” – “Pride in the past; Hope for the future” – in Bagac, Bataan) where a brother-in-law hosted us and his siblings to an overnight stay. They’ve stayed with us (snowbirds) in Marriott facilities in Phuket, Bangkok and Phoenix and the brother-in-law wanted us to experience something Filipino . . . to be proud of.

We thoroughly enjoyed Las Casas and my wife and I relished walking around and feasting on the sights of old homes and of old Binondo and Escolta, complete with the esteros. (That's coming straight from our hearts.) The young guide who showed us around heard that I once worked at an office in Escolta and asked if I'd confirm the names of the establishments he enumerated. He knew what he was talking about.

As our group compared notes, one of the siblings said that the island resort that we visited a few years ago in Marinduque has turned into a strictly chartering business. The conclusion is it was unable to sustain itself as a regular resort. But the facility would compare to a Marriott and why the reference. And we went recalling the different places we’ve visited. And the ones we thought we liked the most were pretty accessible and easy to reach. And like all enterprises, sustainability is never guaranteed especially when competition offers better value. (That's where thinking comes in.) I mentioned that some of our European friends have gone to Boracay and their common comment is “getting there is an adventure.”

My wife explained how the Marriott vacation club (which was known before as the “time-share” concept) has learned from the past – and is thriving. She calls it the opposite of “kanya-kanya.” People buy ownership by weekly units. The business model (apart from the reality that Marriott is a trusted brand; they have countless locations around the world and thus benefit from economies of scale) simply is the enterprise does not carry the costs of the assets and maintenance as well which are passed on to the fractional owners. What is the hypothesis of the Marriott experiment? Owners aren’t fixated by acquisition cost when there is perceived value in convenience, flexibility, choices and high-end resorts – the metric that Marriott set to define and translate the idea into a tangible product.

The moral of the story: If individual enterprises find the challenge to succeed and thrive daunting, what more of a community or a nation – especially when “kanya-kanya” rules? There are two ways of thinking and of having faith, so says Francis.

Should the Church take on the challenge of educating Juan de la Cruz to toss “kanya-kanya”? To be inclusive and to take care of the poorest of the poor is Christian-like, but it does not mean dole-outs. Dole-outs precisely reinforce and perpetuate an oligarchic economy. Think of the few fighting and cornering the economy while championing CSR. Beyond the church, should the educational system help Juan de la Cruz to square the circle?

Our inability to get our act together given “kanya-kanya” adversely impacts vital facets of the Filipino life thus our failure to feed half of our people. Has it in fact buried our better self?

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