Thinking Positive about the Philippines

trail01Thinking positive about the Philippines is difficult for many and impossible for a few. Let’s think about that.

Now I recognize this blog repeats some of the plaints I’ve issued recently, but I can’t restrain myself. Where o’ where is the inspired Philippines?

O’ rise ye land of happy fools!

Here is a nation being recognized again and again around the world for its progress and promise, taking first-world steps like hauling China to ITLOS and striking an amazing partnership agreement with Muslim Mindanao, rebuilding roads and airports and schools, financially sound, economically robust, battling typhoons and parasitic communist gangsters, jailing super-crooks, and treading the straight path.

But the nation is not cheering!

Why is it not cheering? Not just for the Bangsamoro agreement, but for the PHILIPPINES, our nation, moving out and up from the dirty, conniving days of Arroyo and Estrada and other plundering self-dealers. Moving step-wise into the light of promise and . . . some time away, yet . . . prosperity.

Let me step back and provide some perspective here.

I rather liken living in the Philippines to a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, as far as attitude is concerned. This famous trail runs the width of the United States from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon and Washington. Every April, a few hundred stalwart hikers set forth on foot to negotiate that trail. The timing has to be precise or one ends up in snow at either end, crossing over the rocky San Juacinto mountains outside of Palm Springs, California during early spring, or dealing with the rugged Cascade mountains near Canada at the end of summer.

This is a trip that is not to be taken casually.

One can decide to travel light and wear the same clothes for four months, or travel heavy and have luxuries such as first aid kit and extra water and a sleeping pad. The hike requires incredible stamina, for one is pounding the trail, 20 to 25 miles per day, going up and down and sometimes around nature’s glorious barriers.


Maps indicate where food can be purchased near the trail, and most people mail themselves provisions to “general delivery” for pickup at remote post offices along the way. Water is found where water is found, if it is there. In rivers or lakes or springs, or from kind wilderness residents who provide a rest and a drink and cheer the hikers on.

I figure one’s plans and acts and emotions on the trail are pretty much like living in the Philippines.

Attitude is everything.

One can either grouse and grouch and complain about the travails, or one can look at the journey as an exhilarating uplift, a gift, the views, the celebration of getting down the mountain and onto the next, the thrill of finding water, the comfort of an exhausted sleep at the side of the trail in the dark of night a hundred miles from anywhere. Those who get to Canada don’t grouse much, I suspect. I’m guessing they find uplift in every accomplishment, every mile, every view, every river crossed, every step. Every ache put out of mind.

Only a handful of people finish the hike. Injuries, snow blotting out the trail, sores, illness, exhaustion, lack of water . . . they take their toll.

It seems to me the Philippines is filled with people who would not get 15 miles along that demanding trail.

One barrier to negotiate, a hot stretch or dry spring, and the mind turns dark, looking for a culprit, looking for a way out. Get a blister and go home.

A leader takes a decision they don’t like, and suddenly the Philippines is back to being a backwater.

Every complaint, from almost 120 years of nationhood, is dredged up and hauled out to confirm that the Philippines is still getting it wrong.

One decision. Generally taken out of context.

And a huge pile of negativity.

I don’t get it.

The Philippines is a beautiful nation. As beautiful as the Pacific Crest Trail, but in very different ways, with jungle mountains and beaches and islands galore. But the beauty is much deeper than the scenery. It is in the history of the place, the diversity of languages and peoples, the street dancing and simple living done by 80 percent of the population. It is in the conflicted politics and social values, the dynamics of dynasties and masa, of the Catholic Church and Muslims and atheists and showpeople. Ahahahaha. Is that a religion?

Maybe so.

It is all a part of the fabric that is the tightly knitted, simple but complex, ever interesting, Philippines.

So I have a question.

When diversity is so magnificent, why are Filipinos so intolerant? So . . . crab like . . . as if they rise by pulling others . . . and their nation back?

Why must you be like the US, or Singapore, or Hong Kong, or anywhere else? Why not be like you?

Why is it that anyone who looks “wrong” or thinks “wrong” or was raised differently or belongs to a different church or votes differently is considered somehow defective?

Why is it that the President must make every decision the way any particular Filipino would make it or he is somehow deficient?

Why is it that every bad event of the past is viewed as a statement about the present? Americans are Filipina-accosting imperialists (uh huh) and the brilliant Doctor Rizal was perfect (he did NOT have a girl in every port) and all presidents are ineffectual and corrupt.

The negativity here is like tripping down the trail and deciding that rivers are “out to get us” rather than an absolute delight, or that barrel cactus is a thorny obscenity rather than a beautiful container of scarce water.

The fabric Philippines is what it is, you know? The trail is what it is.

You can either skip or slog, look about or look down, find the joy or relish the . . . crabbing.

Bottom line.

The issue is not the Philippines. It is you.


50 Responses to “Thinking Positive about the Philippines”
  1. chao-wei says:

    It’s not about the money, Joe.

    It’s not about the political problems, or the corruption. It’s the culture that’s making a lot of us Filipinos practically avoid the Philippines. Deep down, we want our culture to progress and make strides. We want to be at par with the Western world (not really America) in cultural thinking – that is our social goal. And yet, we are stuck in a giant whirlpool of oligarchy above and anarchy below.

    This is because our society is in denial about our cultural confusion. We do not know which things are really ours. We even have someone from outside to define it for us. We can’t face the fact that we are a diverse group of people, with many nationalities, and each nationality is different, yet somehow similar to the ethnic groups around it.

    I’m all for positive thinking, you know, and all of us in the Diaspora have a vision of the Philippines as a prosperous nation, a nation able to deal with scientific advances while preserving the old Filipino cultural way of thinking. But how can you preserve something you aren’t even sure of?

    Personally, I am optimistic regarding the Philippines. I see it as a super-nation of people able to move things, not only in their country but all throughout the world. But I am realistic as well: as long as the society does not change, the situation will not clear up. And, presently, society is changing rapidly. We only have to direct this change to a positive direction.

    • Joe America says:

      “We are stuck in a giant whirlpool of oligarchy above and anarchy below.” Very vivid characterization.
      “How can you preserve something you aren’t even sure of?” Zing, what a powerful question.

      Your last paragraph also characterizes exactly what is going on, I think, and I believe the directions are correct: to jail the crooks, to dilute the authority of the oligarchy by building a large middle class, and by stabilizing and starting to improve conditions and opportunities the huge masses of poor people. That takes care of your first point.

      To your question, I’d just answer, take pride in the richness of the confusion, and it will no longer be confusing.

  2. Joseph-Ivo says:

    May be not all to the point…

    The closer to perfection, the easier it is to see imperfection. In my previous life, outstanding factories were ashamed of a single speck of dust you detected, lousy “Charles Dickens” factories had pallets three high on the floor to get you through the dirt and didn’t see anything wrong.

    Raising expectations is easy, “no more corruption”, challenging targets for BIR… But when you only achieve a 90% improvement, eradicate 90% of the corruption or achieve 90% of your challenging goal, people are dissatisfied. “Under-promise and over-perform”, not the style of politicians.

    Filipinos define themselves comparing with peers. They have very sophisticated rules forcing you to share “for the time being”… meaning forever in plain language. Pulling yourself up also means that you have to pull up everybody around you, a petrifying task. It is easy to rationalize into “I could do it, but the others are holding me back”. Pointing fingers becomes natural and everybody is in the same situation, so they understand.

    Politics is not about ideas or principles, it is about making the other big man look smaller. Politics is at the base of all rent seeking, so very profitable in the Philippines. Being the next big man does not only create respect, it is very lucrative.

    • Joe America says:

      Well, I think comparing with others is actually a good thing, rather like searching for “best practices”. But one should be oneself, in the end, taking what works and avoiding what does not. I think attitudes are mainly negative because the trail so far has been very difficult, mines and ieds here and there. None of those on the Pacific Coast Trail. They are man-made barriers and require thoughtful attention. Giving up or just grousing is not thoughtful attention. I agree with your characterization, in the main, and the last paragraph says well what goes on in a “nation of crabs”. Getting past that comes with not getting caught up in it, and adding to the people who don’t subscribe to it, one at a time. Rather like one gets from Mexico to Canada, one step at a time.

  3. Juana Pilipinas says:

    A home run, Joe.

    How do you instill tolerance, accountability, passion, commitment and other positive concepts especially to grown adults?

    Philippines next President will have to be larger than life. Someone with the ability to inspire and motivate all socio-economic classes. Someone competent, courageous and passionate…

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks, JP. I think getting someone larger than life is unlikely, so it will require a good, firm leader to get government to continue to clean up, walk a more considerate and efficient walk, and SERVE the nation. That government can be bigger than life, with all the efforts of the people working in the same direction: for the nation, rather than themselves.

  4. J says:

    Wow, great metaphor. Would like to try that trail when I get the chance to visit the US someday.

    • Joe America says:

      It is a grueling, glorious hike. I put 188 miles together one summer and had the opportunity to meet some of the people going the whole trek. They are very self-contained and confident, in the main. Most are your age. There are many places along the trail where you can pop on it, walk as far as you want, and pop off. All you need is the transportation at each end, or do it as I did it, park, walk 7 or 8 miles, and return. Or do 15, camp, and return.

      • parengtony says:

        About which section of the CA Central Coast this trail goes through? And around which dates or time of the spring or summer will the hikers pass the area?

        What a terrific analogy. Kudos, indeed.

        • parengtony says:

          Just saw that the central CA portion of the PCT is about 100 miles east of the CA central coast. Serious business.

          • Joe America says:

            Yes, it goes through the Sierras, not actually the coastal mountains. That is pretty rugged territory, those Sierras. I’m not sure of the times people are on trail except that they usually leave Mexico in April, I believe. You still have time to make the start! 🙂

  5. Geng says:

    The interesting aspect about this hike, or travel, that the people of this country had taken since the so-called independence granted by the US of A is there are so many who have divergent views on what is good for themselves; its never for the country or for the sake of all who are waiting for meaningful and lasting changes that the next generation will pin their hopes on for a better life for everyone.
    History tells us that the differences started even during the times when reformists in Europe did not see eye to eye on their ideas for a free country. Dr. Jose P. Rizal was at odds with Antonio Luna due to the latter’s regionalism and Andres Bonifacio was a threat to the dictatorial rule of Emilio Aguinaldo who became Don Emilio after his term as the President of the first republic.
    The political infighting among those who dreamed of becoming rich did not stop from there because it is the easiest way to unimaginable wealth exemplified by Ferdinand Marcos and to a lesser extent, by Arroyo and Estrada and possibly other presidents.
    It’s not a comforting sight to behold a family accused of so many crimes against the country, including plunder, who are now back in power again and are aiming for higher positions in the political mainstream and their devout followers who are waiting to enjoy the happy times once more.
    I do not foresee a country rising beyond its potentials in may be the next decade or so unless a catastrophic event will completely annihilate the thieving and conniving bunches who are pretending to be leaders but are only there for the returns on their financial investments.
    And then add in an utter lack of redeeming political and social values among those in the hike and the result is disaster that just would not go away any time soon, plus the spectators who also do not understand their role in nation building.
    I still am not hopeless but it seems the time is not yet ripe for something truly positive to happen to this beautiful country. The negativity and the greed is just so overwhelming that even a leader who honestly strives to show to the citizenry what good governance looks like or what it is really all about is relentlessly being pulled down on all sides by teeming crabs who want success to come on their own terms.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, you always characterize things so well. I can’t argue with anything you’ve said, and indeed, it will take time to ripen. But you see signs, eh? The Philippines has become a leader in Asia for demonstrating that a nation does not have to bow to China’s bullying in fear, or return her bully acts with bullets. Mr. Aquino is so dignified compared to the Chinese, and so self-assured compared to other ASEAN leaders. The airports are being cleaned up, and that will get rid of a black mark. New roads. Education being raised to internationally compatible schedules and standards. More middle class people, some funded by generous OFW’s. It is only a matter of time before Filipinos don’t have to be so shrill demanding respect from others. It will just come, through accomplishment.

  6. Maxie says:

    Sabi ni Ninoy … ang problema natin ay hindi imperialismo o communismo. Ang problema ay TAYO MISMO!

  7. Mark Anthony says:

    Select your President for 2016, let’s see the Netizen’s thoughts about the future leaders of this country…

    • Joe America says:

      Interesting list of candidates. I missed Casino, as I’m getting ready to profile him. As a former (professional) researcher, I never vote in on-line surveys because the set of respondents is not representative of the people generally, but rather people with a computer and web literacy and interest. The results tend to distort the process because people take them as being “real” or meaningful and bandy them about. The polls are too often audience build-up tools in the guise of meaningful.

      Which reminds me, I should do some polls here. Word Press has that tool.

  8. edgar lores says:

    1. It is 2160. I have decided to be reborn a Filipino after two births from my present existence.
    1.1. In my first rebirth, I decided to stay in Oz to see how my grandchildren would fare in the new Dreaming. I chose the female form in order to know how it feels to be right all the time.
    1.2. In my second rebirth, I thought I would lead the simple life of a monk In a Buddhist temple in Kyoto Prefecture.
    1.3. It was heaven… of course. But after all that mindless peace and bliss, I yearned for excitement… and fun! And where else on earth can that be found?

    2. So here I am, in 2160, a young Ilocana with Dad, Mom and little brother Jose on a rocket train to Manila, the old capital. The journey will take just an hour. In the back of my mind arises the wisp of an image – a fragile memory? – of passing along these vistas of greenery and low hills in a wheeled vehicle that used fossil fuel.
    2.2. This is my second trip to the old city. We spent a few days there when Dad took us to Disneyworld in Taal, Batangas. Boy, I enjoyed that trip. This time we are staying in the old city for Dad to receive an honor something – honoris causa? – from the University of Santo Tomas for his “revolutionary work on anti-gravitonic propulsion which may enable men to reach the stars.” At least that is what the nomination for the Nobel Prize in Physics said. If Dad wins, he’ll be the first Filipino ever. Yay!
    2.3. If you look at old pictures of the old city at the turn of the 20th century, you see a derelict city encrusted in grime, as an old writer said “the gates of hell” …

    3. …And that is the beginning of how I was going to describe the Philippine Utopia 200 years from its Commonwealth birth. But, nah, it’s too ambitious. I was trying to imagine the form factor of future mobile phones and computers, and the brain stopped dead in its tracks.
    3.1. The point I want to make is that we won’t see a Philippine paradise in our lifetime or even our children’s lifetime. Even if Binay does not win in 2016. Chao Wei is right: it’s the culture. Joseph is right: everything takes forever. And Geng is right: not in the next decade because the negativity and greed are overwhelming. Add to this my rant in item 6 of yesterday’s post, and with Parengtony I cry, “Mea culpa.” Only JP has stars in her eyes. And she and JoeAm are right: It has to start somewhere and it has to start now. So keep the faith, JP.

    3.2. The good news is that the senators have been charged. And ole Binay jumps to their defence and asks, “Why not also charge the political allies?” He says this is a test of fairness.
    3.3. Well, 2016 will be a test of the intelligence of the Filipino people.
    3.4. I will be positive when Binay does not win. I will be positive when GMA, the senators and their accomplices are imprisoned and are not pardoned. And I will be positive when no Marcos occupies a public office.
    3.5. I may not see all these things happen, so I shall return in 2160. Maybe by that time: “Pumuti na ang uwak.”

    • I love your story about futuristic Philippines. Write it and I’ll buy the book. I am a sci-fi fan and I like your storyline. I am serious.

      1.1. I like it. I’d like to see Edgie carry a baby to term, birth it, and raise it. I would not want to see her at a certain time of the month. A PMS-ing Edgie is not someone I want to mess with.

      3.1. I am blessed with optimistic genes. The scientists are amazed at my colorful and cheerful DNA strand. The double helix even radiates positive energy. 🙂

      3.2. HUUURRRRAHHHH! Is Binay a woman in disguise?

      3.3. Indeed.

      3.5. Note: add white crows and flying pigs to the futuristic storyline.

    • Joe America says:

      I’m sorry, I made the mistake of reading 1.1 and now I fall into paroxysms of laughter and can’t finish the story. Where are people pissing in 2160 and what are the bishops doing?

  9. JM says:

    I am a pessimistic guy in nature. My work also requires me to spot the bad things so that we can remediate them. Im also just an average guy who works 5 days a week who gets paid semi-monthly. Here’s how I see things:
    1. China is still occupying our territory. I will only be positive about this when those bastards are gone. UN cannot enforce its decision even if we win. Maybe if america stopped supporting the chinese economy, this may happen. I remember you telling me that the US government and the US corporations are separate entities. If China and US went to war, do you think the US corporations will be safe? Just look at the Japanese companies in China, and there’s not even a war yet.
    2. When I go to work, the traffic is still heavy. Heck, it’s getting worse. There is no difference commuting except that it is way cheaper. Maybe it’s a sign of progress but why not build more trains if the country is getting better? Oh right, they are too busy filling up their pockets.
    3. Corrupt officials are charged. Again, I will only be positive about this when they are convicted and jailed. There are so many cases against powerful people in the country but nothing really happens. Just look at erap, and im supposed to be positive about that?
    4. Taxes takes a third of my salary but each time I go to a government office the service is really slow, manual, and takes too much time. They have online forms, but when you go there they want you to fill up the forms AGAIN. So many people in line and you see the employees just chatting around, smiling. You see people who paid fixers go home after a couple of hours while your stuck for a whole day for doing the right thing.
    5. Bangsamoro deal. We made peace with the group by giving them land and more autonomy, and a small group breaks away. We go to war again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    • Joe America says:

      Lots of meat here, JM. Thanks.

      1. I agree. China must be made to feel pain for her transgressions. In my mind, the developing scenario sees China concocting some reason to move her ships forward and stake physical claim to all rocks that she wants. It will not be enough to cause the U.S. to either engage militarily or in commercial sanctions. Therefore, it will fall to the Philippines to do what she can do. There should NEVER be a Chinese drilling rig set up in Philippine waters. Sink’em, blow them up, use terrorists, whatever it takes. To me, that is defense. It is a burglar in the home.

      2. Building more trains is being worked on, just not aggressively enough. Plus those cars should be manufactured in the Philippines, not the Czech Republic or wherever the government is sending our tax money these days.

      3. I think it is coming. I certainly hope so. The time it takes is ridiculous, a symptom of a very convoluted justice system. When the Senate works to clean up that morass of inefficiency and overlapping jurisdictions, we’ll KNOW there genuinely is a new mood in Manila.

      4. Yep. It will take time to fix that. NBI is feeling a lot of heat now. Other agencies will, thanks to social media.

      5. Ah, my. But the agreement this time is right. Economic health over independence for the sake of independence. We’ll have to see what the Supreme Court has to say.

      There are some blogs in the pipeline you’ll be interested in. Keep reading and speaking up.

      • sonny says:

        Joe, sorry don’t know where to put this comment.

        95% of Filipinos reside in only 10 or 11 of the islands. Can’t somebody “parse” that fact to some benefit for everybody? Thank you. EOR (end of rant)

        • Joe America says:

          That is a very interesting statistic. People tend to migrate to the cities because job opportunities are better. Logistics make it difficult for people to disperse more, I suspect. How to get gasoline, food. Electricity. Health care. I think island living is for the rich and famous. My wife and I have been discussing the advantages of living in Manila for educational and extra-curricular activities (team sports) for the kid, health care for me, and shopping for her (groan). Those qualities are not all readily available in a small municipality.

  10. brianitus says:

    Sharing some short thoughts.

    The negativity resides mainly online, especially those with enough time to shoot down whatever comes in front of them. He who out-Googles the other wins all the points and becomes a revered expert on anything under the sun, a guru!

    Those offline are realists and would only believe the good news if it hits them in the face. Waiting for something to trickle down from the tip of a giant pyramid takes a lot of long term commitment.

    I don’t think the country and its citizens loves to dwell in negativity. If that was the case, we would have all killed ourselves Jim Jones style a long time ago. Maybe Apathy is the word you’re looking for.

    And then there are those living in denial…oops.

    Oh, would it be safe to say that the positive people are too busy? They’re the ones who see an opportunity and would most likely capitalize on it.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, I’m reminded of a quote I gathered for a blog in the pipeline. Something along the lines of “Gathering articles to support your view is not research, it is self-delusional lunacy”.

      Maybe you are right, it is just the online world I am responding too. The real-life souls are not even apathetic, I think, just engaged in subsistence and pretty much figuring that changing things is beyond their power. A bag of sardine cans is worth more than a vote any day.

      But then, perhaps it is the online negativists I’m mainly speaking to, eh? So my message is rightly spoken. And it will encourage some, I hope, to look a little harder for the positive that surrounds them and to think before being harsh toward their own nation.

      • brianitus says:

        Maybe you can start an empaowerment blog or something along that line of thought? We can have articles about cashing in on the good news. We can have thoughts on entrepreneurship, too.

        • Joe America says:

          Intriguing ideas. I do believe there is money to be made for motivated self-starters with a little capital to get them started. Do you know the term “self-starters”? It is people who can set the day’s agenda for themselves, pointed toward a goal, and carry out the work needed to get it done. Give them a little capital and some mentoring and they are off . . . the next generation’s oligarchs perhaps . . .

          • brianitus says:

            And usually, these are the people on the other side of the non-negative spectrum. However, I’d like to see people spread the weath rather than hog all the cash. The idealist in me dreams of that.

  11. Lil says:

    I try to think positive about the Ph too, Joe but I end up getting cynical so I’m praying instead.
    You know what my prayer is, Joe? My prayer is that someday, the Philippines will finally have a well-oiled government and credible defense to be proud of…
    because in this cold, cruel world not having that is just making more problems and enemies for us, intentionally or not :/
    I was reminded of this while browsing through various blogs and forums today searching for valuable info/insight as usual when I stumbled upon sinodefenceforum.
    It made me a bit sad for a minute at the comments made by Taiwanese? nationalist and their thoughts of bitter revenge because of the fisherman’s shooting and other territorial disputes with the PH.
    It was for only a minute because then I realised the sheer idiocy displayed.
    One idiot even said that US would look the other way because Taiwan is more important than Philippines since US would lose Taiwan to China. Lol.
    Here you can check out them out. Let me know what you think. Lol.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, Lil, I read those hate forum wars and get more than cynical, I get depressed. But then I see what is going on in the U.S. with increasing anger and entrenchment in very narrow, partisan ways, and I think that is the way of the world in our era of the quick easy on-line shot. Eventually, it will get so bad that people will develop a healthier ethic for interacting online. Or most adults will, anyway. Or else we will all just murder each other.

      • JM says:

        I read some of it too. I got depressed and pissed. But I have to accept that it’s true. China will just walk over the country’s army. I researched more about instances wherein the Chinese and we Filipinos fought. I saw this:

        Read through 1-3. I know those days are over and probably won’t happen again but it’s a good read to lift up the mood (less than 2k Filipinos vs. 40k Chinese).

        • Joe America says:

          Very interesting reading, thanks. I do know that the Filipino rebels who fought the Japanese were tenacious, and that evidently was carried over to Korea. I am also reminded that the U.S. lost the Viet Nam war because the North Vietnamese were not willing to accept foreigners on their soil. I sense a determination building in the Philippines. Maybe China is actually doing a good deed, uniting the Philippines and generating a deeper national spirit.

  12. Micha says:

    Hello Joe,
    Considering that you have previously written a more or less accurate description and analysis on what ails the country and its people, I’m surprised that you’re still surprised there’s not much trickle down prosperity in the land of happy fools.

    • Joe America says:

      The economy is simply too thin, the trickle is but a wee little drip or drop, the need so great. If I judged the trickle by just looking around my area, I’d say things are improving. More cars on the road, more hollowblock homes going up instead of bamboo homes, masons heading off to Manila to work on a job for several months then returning, seamen retiring and building nice homes. It is just not translating into what might be termed substantial jobs, paying, you know, more than P8,000 a month. There is no industrial hub. There is OFW wealth, overseas guests (me) wealth, retiree wealth, and big shot wealth (the mayor). Nobody is making any product anywhere.

      • Micha says:

        Yup, I’m not aware of any distinctive manufacturing industry where we really excel or are a significant player in the world stage as opposed to, for example, the South Koreans.

        Relying on tourism and agriculture just won’t cut it. We need to start knowing how to actually make things and be able to globally market our brand apart from Dagupan bagoong and Guimaras mangoes.

  13. edgar lores says:

    Different yardsticks.

    The negatives are generally measuring character development progress. The positives are generally measuring economic progress.

    There will always be economic progress. This is almost a given. Unless the country is an African country that descends into chaos because of tribal wars or a tinhorn dictator.

    Character development progress is problematic. On one hand, there has been some progress in societal character development. People have learned how to queue. Some people have renounced the religion of the oppressors. Attitude? People are generally happy. Happier, in fact, than people in First Word countries.

    On the other hand, there has been a general regression in political character development since the start of the Commonwealth. The public service is a disservice. People sell their votes. The dynasties rule. The corruption chain remains unbroken: Macapagal, Marcos, Erap, Gloria, Corona, the congressman. There are bright spots in the women serving today in the Ombudsman, DOJ, COA, BIR and the judiciary.

    The progress in social justice is also problematic. The NPA is still active. The implementation of agrarian reform is in shambles. The Church is still promoting over-birthing and resisting reproductive health. On the bright side, there is social welfare from the government in the cash transfer program, there are many local and foreign organizations, like Gawad Kalinga, helping out.

    The land of happy fools will remain just so.

    • Joe America says:

      Very well put. The conflicted land of happy fools in a nutshell.

    • sonny says:

      (Reply to Edgar) “different yardsticks”

      “some people have renounced the religion of the oppressors…”

      Edgar, I have been going back to Luzon at least once a year since 2006. One of the hopeful signs about this part of the Philippines is the consistent numbers of church attendance whether in the city or the province. This is particularly so in Baguio where the Sunday Mass schedule is every hour from morning to afternoon, attendance is SRO. This is also true in San Fernando (La Union). A chance visit to San Juan, Batangas was particularly impressive. Townsfolk were very particular with the cleanliness of their parish church and environ.

      I am aware that religious sentiment here is subdued, at best. For me that is not objectionable. I just want to voice out this observation. I count this as a positive because the gathering power of the Church to proclaim the Christian standards of behavior week in and week out is a stabilizing force for individuals and community whatever the vicissitudes people are subjected to.

      • edgar lores says:

        Thanks, Sonny.

        My honest reaction to your observation is, “Oh, no.” My reaction is not to the Faith, but to the particular messenger.

        • sonny says:

          Thank you for clarifying that, Edgar. Many times in discourse, I fail to catch breaks or transitions in figures of speech. Thus I need to pause and retrace steps.

    • Joe America says:

      Two absolutely fascinating reads, Angela. Thanks. The term that I have come to like regarding the Philippines in many aspects, social, political and economic, is “conflicted”. Free expression, autocratic laws, broad education, weak curricula, earnest people, a pack of thieves and cheaters. I’ll feature the Social Progress Index in the “must read” section, and add it to the library. Very good food for thought.

  14. ikalwewe says:

    It is refreshing to hear something positive about the Philippines. Unfortunately, I am one of those who complain and complain and complain. I complained about the Phlippines (and still complain when I am there), now I am complaining about my host country. Don’t get me wrong – I am always happy and positive (good feng shui!)-that people are really surprised when they find out my feelings for my host country (“I’d rather shoot myself in the head than live here forever”), but I can’t rid myself of this ungrateful attitude. I am trying- which is why I’ve turned my complaints into a blog. I guess people can’t help covet what they don’t have, especially when they see what their neighbors have. Isn’t that what instagram is for?

    I was watching a documentary about Myanmar’s first girl group (Me N Ma Girls) – none of them were mestiza. In short, they represent the majority of the people and how they actually look. I lamented this to my husband- saying how I wished we have more celebs who look like us in the Philippines- just before the scene where the studio decided to sack them for being “ugly” and too “plain” looking and having dark skin. And this is from a country who just opened itself to the world! Then I look at the people back home, facing the dilemma of their dark skin and flared noses- and it seems that the more “exotic” (Malay?) looking a person is, the more he/she claims more strongly to be of Spanish/chinese heritage. If this isn’t insecurity, I don’t know what is. It’s like we don’t find our true, non-mestizo/mestiza selves beautiful when we look at the mirror. And i think we have to start with that- being comfortable in our skin, appreciate our “exotic” selves – before we can truly think and act positive. How can one think of good things when you hate what stares back at you in the mirror?

    • Joe America says:

      Yes indeed, I think Philippine society is rather cruel in some respects, thriving on ridicule, driving itself into an alley cat mood with envy, and cheating one another until the cows come home. It ends up a brutal place to live unless you are a certain shade of white.

      My first couple of years of blogging were mostly complaint as I had not yet come to the recognition that it is not necessary for all lands to be like America, and that, indeed, in many respects, it is good that they are not. Once I accepted that the difference is all right, then I could focus on the complaints always with a good reason (that efficiency is good because it generates wealth for the Philippines, not because it is the American way).

      I’m sure Japan must be infuriating, because so much is hidden and what you see or hear has nothing to do with what “is”. Plus the intolerance of risk drives people to be downright dysfunctional. And racism does not exist because there is really only one race, and everyone else is an interloper. At least that’s the way it was at my bank when I worked for Japanese owners for 13 years.

    • edgar lores says:


      Thank you for the LOLs in the first paragraph. (Just a thought: if you shoot yourself in the head, then for a certainty you won’t live there forever. 🙂 )

      As to the second paragraph, I can empathize. I am a male of the species, I am not vain, I have been mistaken for a Mexican in the US, an Indonesian in Australia, and yet I cannot deny having such impulsive thoughts about my physical characteristics. Not so much the color of my skin but my nose and my height. When I watch movies or the telly, I console myself with such thoughts as “How long and thin the faces of these Westerners!” or “How funny that they have to twist their faces when they kiss because, unlike Eskimos, they cannot kiss face to face – they always have to do it at an angle!”

      As for when I look at the mirror, I make faces to give myself a good laugh.

      The mind is a strange country. We can have such lofty thoughts then descend into the abyss. Wait, wait… I don’t want to end on a sour note. I can say beauty lies inside, but that’s so trite. I can say that the trick is not to compare, but that’s also trite. Oh, ah, oh… we are all made of stardust, and the truth is we can all sparkle.

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