Do Filipinos Think They Are Third World?

I was rather surprised last week as I engaged with the CPMers at Raissa Robles’ Top blog. The subject was a new law passed by the Congress and sent to President Aquino for signature. The new law amends  RA 8293 which deals with protection of copyrights and importation of pirated goods and similar matters.

The amendment and the law confuse me, frankly. It seems like a matter of whom to believe, Raissa Robles or the Intellectual Properties Office (IPO). The IPO claims the amendments actually liberalize what can be brought into country. But Raissa is not buying it, and has issued a series of blogs on the matter.
The readers were freaking out when the first blog dropped, figuring they would have their computers and cell phones torn apart upon entering the Philippines from abroad, or CD’s ripped from their luggage by rabid, red-eyed Customs extortionists.
Well, I confess, the subject doesn’t fire me up because I don’t have that much music. My Bob Seger, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bonnie Raitt songs will ride with me to the grave. Oh, my wife is into the newer stuff, that blond weirdo with the sex fetish and a lot of Filipino music that seems to me to be a lot of pining for guys lost or gained, or girls. I like my thump, frankly.  I find that the quality of an album diminishes after the best three songs and after that you might as well be listening to the Holy Roller Choir singing “Rock of Ages” over and over again. So I don’t buy albums, just spot grab a new i-tune every once in a while.
But I digress mightily.
The Raissa Robles Top Blog readership was in a panic, inspired by Raissa’s fine panicky headline: “Congress erased every Filipino’s right to bring home music, movies and books from abroad“.  Blog readers were moaning and groaning and condemning the legislators and ready to vote for a whole new pack of Senate Candidates.
Normally, I see this kind of out-of-control passion when America is in the headlines because one of her boats has run into a reef or a private has been unkind to a Filipina.
I popped into the discussion and got into a brief impolite exchange with one guy who termed the Philippines “Third World”. He was serious. I responded that I had written several blogs about the “First Class” Philippines.
So here I am, the American who rants and raves, along with a volcanic cousin, about this or that. And I am not as down on the Philippines as the CPMers seem to be. I see more uplift in the sails than they do.
What’s with this?
Is this a transactional nation or what, with one’s judgment swinging this way or that depending on the latest incident?
Indeed, the CPMers seem to be drifting into the anti mode that frustrated people like BongV at Anti-Pinoy or beningo at Get Real migrate to. A relentless condemning of the structures and people of the democratic Philippines. They couldn’t find joy if angels descended from heaven to sing hallelujiahs in their ears.
My observation is that Philippine senators are actually rational and bright people if compared to the idiots who inhabit the US Senate and House of Representatives. There you have truly malicious, dark-scheming people who would throw the nation under the economic bus or good people under a tank for some minor political advantage. Or, even worse, half the Congress wants to destroy the President of their nation. Now THAT is a dysfunctional government.
Compared to that, the Philippines is earnest and sincere and dedicated to improving the nation. And the President’s cabinet stacks up well to any American cabinet. Secretary Del Rosario and Hillary Clinton interacted as true peers. The greater part of the rest of President Aquino’s cabinet is also, from what I observe, dedicated to achieving specific things and building a better nation.
Do the top Philippine government officials have personality? Of course they do. What, everyone is supposed to be a Piolo Pascual, cut to perfection? Can you imagine how boring it would be if that were the case? Hey, one thing I DO admire Senator Santiago for is her character, her high falutin’ legal linguistics delivered as hot lava from the mouth of Pinatubo. She is unpredictable and worth listening to. I aspire to those ends myself.
So I think this blog explosion at Raissa’s house is reflective of two qualities of Filipino culture that deserve being noted.
  • One, as I have already said, is the transactional character of emotion and act that goes up or down, left or right, incident to incident.
  • The other is what seems to be a weak ability of so many even intelligent people to strike compromise. To bend, to give, or to lose once in a while for the good of a group.
So we all get yanked by titillating headlines from incident to incident where people are busy insulting each other because that is one way they at least APPEAR to win.
And, as it seems from reading CPM arguments on this particular incident, if laws are not tailored to the BIG ME, my personal interests, the laws  are obviously wrong.
Mmmm, I don’t think so.
That’s the deal about democracy. It welcomes different ideas and sometimes solves problems the way OTHERS want them solved. And if the OTHERS are insurance companies or media giants with a direct role to play in who gets elected, they might have a little more clout that a group of rabble-rousing bloggers at figuring out how problems get “solved”.
That is the system. It is a good system. And the trick is not to whine and spit and cry, and rag on your nation. It is to band together, to organize, to get loud and effective at promoting your own agenda . . . and remain proud of your nation and its leaders.
Without question, the Philippines has a weak infrastructure of voices for citizens. No Civil Liberties Union or Consumers Union. No attorneys dealing up class action lawsuits. The outspoken voices that do exist tend to collect around specific bills or issues, have their say, and die. On the other hand, it does seem like these voices are getting louder and starting to have impact. The Cybercrime Law may be a dead duck.

Raissa’s blog is one of the important voices, and kudos to her for riling the roost of the Intellectual Properties Office. But one needs to keep things in some kind of positive perspective.

And I suppose that overall the national debate, if I think about it, is mostly constructive.  It is not riots in the street or duels at sunset. So consider my complaint one of “take care” rather than “you idiots!”.I personally think President Aquino has calmed the Philippines is ways we don’t totally comprehend.

And for sure, I don’t believe the Philippines is Third World. I don’t care what economists think, or even world poverty experts. I no longer even think it is “under-developed”. I prefer to think it is “young”. And First Class in many respects. The gap between rich and poor is huge, no doubt. It is that gap that gives the Philippines the commercially competitive momentum it now enjoys, the ability to do things at low cost. Like call centers and tourism and, soon, casinos. Another competitive advantage is the OFW remittances. Perhaps it is a sweet and sour advantage, but it is an advantage.
The modern Philippines was born in 1987. This “Fifth Republic” has suffered through a series of unfortunate presidencies. Now it has a superb President.  From 1987 to 2010, the Philippines was like a drunk in the alley, not quite sure which is the way home.
President Aquino is sober and the walk is as if through a park, refreshing. With muggers here and there to be taken into account, for sure. But refreshing.
Central Park in New York and The Mall in Washington D.C. are little different.
So what is my takeaway from these observations:
  1. Philippine culture is transactional. (I’ll write more about this in tomorrow’s blog.)
  2. Philippine culture is rigid. Right and wrong are held fixed and unbendable by individuals with little interest in finding compromise or demonstrating consideration of others.
  3. Consumer voices are still being formed and are transactional themselves, not adhering to any longer term vision or mission or staying power.
  4. The Philippine democratic government is very young. It  is not underdeveloped; it has character. There is no dysfunctional ideological conflict as there is in the U.S.

The Philippines is an exciting and rich place to live and there is a lot of work to be done.

What? You want some boring, mundane place of no notable character? 

Move to Iowa.

24 Responses to “Do Filipinos Think They Are Third World?”
  1. Anonymous says:

    "Raissa Blog readership was in panic"Tough when hitching a ride without questioning destinationFearmongering sows confusionFactually, it was Much ado about nothing energized by publicity seeking referenced expert lawyers, apparently launched by mistaken understanding of the law. Everyone should have listened to analysis of @saxnviolins, calmed down and moved on. Predicted before that topics were becoming mediocare at most accepted without thinking by some followers. The first sign of the pitfall was promoting the silly articles of the male partner riding on the fame of the woman confounded by him unreasonably insulting everyone offering disagreeing opinions, sounding like GRP. And readers swallowed everything, hook, line and sinker except yours truly and Mariano. The partner forgot to analyze that their commenters before sunk in numbers when Johnny Lin experimented to stop posting and recovered after he returned. Now he has permanently abandoned their blog.He he he

  2. Edgar Lores says:

    1. Interesting observations and comparisons.2. The trouble with American politics is that it is no longer ideological but personal.2.1 At the start of Obama’s first term, the GOP decided to oppose any and all programs of the administration. Thus the unrelenting opposition to Obamacare and the brinkmanship on the fiscal cliff. The GOP’s eyes were focused on winning the 2012 election. In short, it was all about power, all about what is good for the party rather than what is good for the country.2.2 The same situation obtains in Oz. The Opposition is so hungry for power that political debate, if you can call it that, is so denigrative that Prime Minister Gilliard is better known for her anti-misogyny speech than any of her real accomplishments. Her government has passed something like 400 bills.2.3 Ideology, with the help of Clinton (B not H), has become a bad word so I’ll use the term political philosophy. In Oz, the political philosophies are better defined than in US. There are the Liberals (read GOP), who are global warning atheists, and who side with the capitalists and the miners. There is Gillard’s Labour (read Democrat) successfully passing a carbon pricing scheme and siding with social reform and the labour movement, and taxation of the miners. Then there are the Greens who do not know which way their heads are screwed on, a supposedly environmental friendly party which voted against the carbon pricing bill. Imagine that.2.4 Gillard rules with a very thin margin, having to make deals with 3 independents to form government. However, her hold is so tenuous that she has had to work out compromises, especially on a watered down mining tax that was supposed to reap billions for the government but has returned instead a paltry 250M. 2.5 In Oz, there are political platforms. In the US, there are programs. In the Philippines, there are no platforms or programs, just personalities and slogans. Political parties here, with the possible exception of the Left, have no overarching philosophy. And the government muddles along, wholly dependent not on political philosophy but on the character of incumbents. 2.6 As I said, Filipinos are playing reverse Russian roulette. Out of 6 presidents, they get lucky with one. Out of 12 senators, they get lucky with 2. You get to pick which 2. 2.7 So in these 3 countries, politics – which is supposed to be the art of governing – has become dysfunctional because of the need to win power and maintain it at all costs. Power is wielded for its sake and not in service for the people. People do get the dregs because the bastard politicians do need to show something, but even so the dregs are etched with the names or initials of the bastards.3. I have not really thought about it but blogs seem to adopt the character of political parties.3.1 It may be because some blogs are extensions of political parties, or in our case, of political personalities.3.2 Some are lobbyists for a particular sector, like the LGBT site.3.3 Others are non-denominational like Raissa’s and this one. Raissa’s is topical, piecemeal, dealing with the latest controversy or attempting to create one. Viewpoints differ but are largely progressive and reformists against government and official malfeasance. Voices are usually strident in tone around the moderating voices of Johnny and Baycas. With the exception of the Corona case, there is little continuity.3.4 This blog is also topical but less so, with an underlying theme and philosophy. The theme is the Philippines, analyses of the Filipino psyche, analyses of political issues and government conduct within and without. The philosophy is Western liberalism, in particular, American liberalism. Voices are moderate in tone – with the exception of Maude’s coloratura mezzo-soprano – although ideas may be radical. 3.5 Or I could be talking through my hat.

  3. Jetlag807 says:

    Third World Country: "The economically underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, considered as an entity with common characteristics, such as poverty, high birthrates, and economic dependence on the advanced countries."Seems to me, the Philippines can check ALL three boxes and more…

  4. Well, Jet, the US is dependent on China, so we all are entertwined these days. But I understand your point, which is why the greater world classifies the Philippines as "Third" amongst the crowd. I think the Philippines is vastly ahead of Nicaragua, however, or Honduras, or half of Africa. So maybe it is "2 1/2 World". My point is that there ought to be recognition that there is good here as well as bad, and there is bad everywhere.

  5. You are definitely not talking out of your hat.Do you wear a bush hat, like those popularized by Crocodile Dundee? (I'm reminded that I stood on the very rock where his opening scene in the first movie was shot, in Kakadu.)Your comments 2.5, 2.6 and 2.7 do an excellent job of characterizing what is going on in the three nations. Dysfunctional execution of democratic ideals.I also think your characterization of blogging in the Philippines is right on the money.You are not whistling in the wind, either.

  6. My point would be that you are correct in your assessment of what was going on during your debate with Alan. But the Philippines is more likely to proceed positively if your sharp voice remains an occasional contributor to Raissa's blog. Along with other sharp voices who may not agree with some of the perspectives or dialogue. It is crucial to build blogging as a voice of "the people" that is powerful enough to offset dynastic influences.

  7. Jetlag807 says:

    I agree… The Philippines is WAY ahead of 'Hondo, Nicaragua, the DRC (definitely ahead of the DRC), etc. The term "Third World" was used to classify countries within certain allied blocs; NATO being 1st World, Marxist Countries (USSR, China, etc) taking the 2nd World and everybody else placed in the 3rd World category. The term itself, insofar as its original intent was concerned, does not apply. Over time, people have used the term to describe any country not considered Western but, at the same time, no one would consider Japan to be a Third World Country.Saying the Philippines is a DEVELOPING COUNTRY would definitely apply. That is to say; still not THERE yet but could get there in time. The same is true for many countries that were (and still are) considered Third World.

  8. Edgar Lores says:

    No, I don't wear a bush hat although I've always wanted one. You know, the one with corks hanging on strings along the brim. Excellent fly swatters. Should be adopted in the Philippines to ward off the sun and pests. And hopefully to ensure clearer vision.

  9. Edgar Lores says:

    By the way, you know how everybody is saying that the answer to political dynasties is the "education" of the ignorant voters, I do not see anyone carrying out the education. I do not see how anyone can perform that task without being partisan.If dynasties cannot be removed by action of Congress nor by action of an "enlightened" citizenry, then the country will be under the rule of a self-perpetuating political elite for some time to come.If Nancy wins, I will give up on the country… until my next life.

  10. Yes, well, I am pondering on a strategy that says, okay, if the dynasties are in charge of the means of reaching the voters locally, and I (not you) am against restricting dynastic people (like Angara) because he is likely one of the best qualified to be Senator, then maybe a "rope a dope" strategy is needed. To let the dynasties wear themselves out punching whilst we relax on the ropes. My thoughts have not yet congealed, but that's the direction I'm thinking in.But the hat, Edgar. Buy it.Then send us a photo for publishing on this blog site. heh heh

  11. "Developing" works for me. That means it can have first class components whilst still being consumed in poverty, corruption and bad thinking whilst doing some good thinking and work here and there to enlarge the first class base. There. Unravel that tangle. "Developing" it is.

  12. Thank gootness my balikbayan went thru unmolested by crocs at customs. In it were more or less 500 movie titles ripped and burned from Los Angeles Public Library, I still have more. My son have complete set of Star Trek, Jason Bourne, Lord of the Rings, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel and many many many several hundreds more that would have sent me, if it were intercepted by U.S. Customs, a life sentence with 24/7 armed guard, free chow, books, internet service, excellent medical and health benefits FOR FREE! FOR LIFE! I would rather secular Americans send me to prison like heaven than by religious Filipinos' Muntinlupa like hell.WHY ARE FILIPINOS MAKING SO MANY LAWS WHEN THEY CANNOT EVEN IMPLEMENT IT???WHY IS RAISSA ROBLES making a fuss out of it when she should be counting the laws that are ignored and unimplemented.THESE FILIPINOS are eating more than they can swallow. WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO PROOVE?It is like wasting money on STOP signs and nobody stops at a STOP sign. Purchasing Hamilton Frigates agaisnt China and never use them instead THEY USED IT AGAINST DEFENSELESS AMERICAN WINE SWEEPER to prove to China that Philippines cannot be bullied by SUPERPOWER AMERICA so better watch out!!!

  13. "WHY IS RAISSA ROBLES making a fuss out of it when she should be counting the laws that are ignored and unimplemented."Indeed, it is rather futile to obsess about laws when the systems of law-enforcement (police, Customs, judiciary) are so out-of-control. If Customs is the problem, clean them up. Then worry about what this law says.I agree. That is a great insight.

  14. Philippines is young not mature yet. It is not underdeveloped, it is developing laws, most of the time, over-developing laws plagiarized from abroad to make it appear they are mature but not mature enough to implement the laws.Philippines is a country of contradiction. Its inhabitants preach the word of God and practice every form of corruption. They crank out laws and never implement them. It is only implemented if jealousy, eng-get got the better of them when the victim thought the law was never there.Bloomberg news says investors are flocking to the Philippines. Shebamethembas !!!! Those investors are just parking their dollars for the meantime being before it looses its value parked elsewhere. When the U.S. economy chugs along and benign0 Aquinos term is over, they'll leave Philippines in drove. Well, Bloomberg's correspondent journalists are Filipinos. So, what do I expect?

  15. Jetlag807 says:

    Oddly enough, your definition perfectly describes US cities like Detroit; "first class components whilst still being consumed in poverty, corruption and bad thinking" (LOL)I second your motion to unravel the tangle.

  16. Ha! Detroit is a developing city. Developing downward.

  17. Yes. The trick is to use this brief interlude of positive impressions to get some real new elements of the economy going. I see Japan manufacturers are looking to the Philippines to set up shop, given that China is inhospitable. Where are the commerce missions to Japan. Baby, ratchet up the energy to attract Japanese manufacturers.The Philippines should be opportunistic about this window.

  18. andrew lim says:

    Let me share with you guys these two pieces of writing:1. Written by David Harwell, an American expat who has been in and out the Phils many times. Very poignant. Written by Boying Pimentel, a Filipino who immigrated to the US with his family, as a response to the love letter of Mr Harwell: goes to show you really cant make a composite sketch that easily. There are world class Filipinos who live in the Phils and abroad. There are a lot of third world or even fourth world Filipinos here and abroad. Our job is to be like the first, and push back the latter.

  19. Wow, Andrew. Thank you for sharing those letters. I was about to take issue with letter one, then read letter two. How much better that the clarification would come from Mr. Pimentel. I agree with your assessment, but rather than "push back the latter", I'd say educate them. Thanks for bringing this exchange of letters to our attention. No cross-cultural dialoge would be complete without them.

  20. Edgar Lores says:

    Thanks, Andrew.I totally agree with David Harwell about the capabilities and attitudes of Pinoys working abroad. I may not agree, however, with his assessment that the world would stop if all OFWs went home. The world would stutter but not stop. :-)The puzzle is why Pinoys who work in the Philippines do not work like OFWs who work abroad. There is not the decency, the dedication, the attitude of self-sacrifice that David so admires. Is it because the pay is low? Is it because the pleasures that OFWs miss are at hand? Is it because they see the monkey politicians playing at the top and imitate them? Tis a puzzlement.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Glad to know I wasn't the only one who thought that Raissa's blog has become a bit hysterical.

  22. My answer to your question has three parts:One, the lack of strategic thinking (today's blog) that anchors work to the promise of self-improvement (motivation experts never made it to the Philippines). Managers are authoritarian.Weak career tracks as favorites, family and friends are inserted into all the glory jobs. Why work hard if there is no where to go? Just work for salary.The economy just does not provide enough good jobs and enough salary for the work done. People are working beneath their station. Overseas, they can rise to their proper station.

  23. On this latest series, the original headline was sensational, and it jacked people up. I think it is a case where "edgy" was pushed too far. Not that I have ever ever done that myself, no, no way. Like that headline where I attached an "I" word to President Aquino. Sigh, shrug, and wait for the next article. (See today's blog.

  24. Attila says:

    "Philippines cannot be bullied by SUPERPOWER AMERICA so better watch out!"You said it! The "nice but stupid Kanos" are used and abused to scare off China. I see desperation and primitive mentality.

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