Luzon mining camp, 1899of colonial discovery hit the Philippines in 1521. The billard queue is long gone but the balls keep moving. Just a preview of a new movie about Lumads in Mindanao shows this (link). Loggers come into the hunting grounds of the Manobo, who finally get sucked into the middle of armed conflict. Uniformed men bullying Lumads are heard speaking Visayan, telling their commanding officer who speaks Tagalog and tells them to stop that he is still naive about the realities of the conflict. A scene that shows one of the many ethnic hierarchies of the Philippines in a nutshell.

Examples of the greed of early encomenderos, those granted land by the Spanish crown in the beginning of colonization, are documented (link): Several principales from Ylagua (Dagua) testified that Salgado had charged them one chicken each in addition to the regular tribute. This, it was claimed, caused “much damage and loss to their wealth.” Principales already being the Filipinos of higher rank – I wonder if low-ranking Filipinos would have dared complain to a royal Spanish tax collector. Even today extortion seems to be practiced by those who have the power to (link).

A pattern seems to have been established then. The pattern of taking instead of building, the easy road to wealth. The path of least resistance. A path that does not create long-term wealth at all. Mine the soil, don’t build anything with the minerals. Sell sugar, coconuts and tobacco abroad – but don’t bother to make soap out of coconut, or at least even cigars or rum like in Spanish times. Let your OFW and migrant relatives work, and spend their money at the mall instead of building something at home. Might be extorted by police or NPA anyway, so who knows it might be wiser?


Two men from Spain – the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian – played a decisive role in the conquest of gold-rich ancient Dacia. Affluent Romans liked to settle in Spain, while the Romans who went to Dacia were usually soldiers, adventurers and convicts – the roots of what became Romania. In 2013, protests against the planned Roșia Montană gold mine were the roots of a civic society movement (link) that ousted a Prime Minister in 2015 and a Minister of Justice just days ago. Decades after ousting a dictator, after decades of backlashes, corruption and populism.

A country with more than 10% of its people working abroad. A country that is home to a lot of business process outsourcing, as its people have learned to be flexible and multilingual in their history. Also a country that has been in the vicious cycle of poverty and corruption for very long (link) with people speaking of: constant, everyday bribery — at hospitals, schools and public institutions. And yet a young man says: A new generation has emerged that doesn’t keep drawers full of bribery presents. Everything can be shattered in the next 10 days.


Seeing is believing. Could more Romanians have seen with their own eyes, in places like Western Europe, what real value productive energy can create? That it isn’t just take or be taken from? That just spending energy taking from the earth without reaping – and from others – makes most people POOR, long-term? Possibly those who have understood have begun to reach a critical mass. This critical mass is not yet there in the Philippines, which seems to be evolving backwards or sideways in recent months. But one never knows what surprises kinetic energy may hold in store.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 12. February 2017