Marcos was ousted. Cory came in. The first President Filipinos called by first name. Nobody called President Marcos Ferdie.
Short historical background
Let us look back first to understand:
- A tribal archipelago with some proto-states like Maynila was thrust into a sort of Dark Ages (link) by colonization;
- There was modernization but the old mindset always messed up things, the postwar Republic had many difficulties (link);
- Marcos was a promising leader for so many in the beginning (link), yet the reality of his rule was bitter for a lot of people (link);
- People went on the streets to give cover to two who had changed sides – Ramos and Enrile. Cory became President (link);
- The renewed democracy continued to struggle (link), beset by the systemic and cultural flaws of an accidental nation (link) –
So here we are, and here am I, looking at a country that is alternately hoping and in desperation. Like Romania:
- They threw out the Ceaucescus in 1989. The Ceaucescus also said goodbye on a balcony, but Elena did not sing and no Russians came to rescue them.
- The Ceaucescus were placed before a tribunal and executed, their son jailed. All ill-gotten wealth was confiscated, Nico Ceaucescu lives a private life.
- There was enormous turmoil because people abused their new freedom. There was a backlash under Iliescu who was a “reformed” member of the old regime.
- The former mayor of Bucharest Traian Basescu, a populist who was controversial for having street dogs killed (link), became President of Romania for a while.
- The Directie Nationala Anticoruptie or DNA (link) battles corruption. The people ousted Prime Minister Ponta (link) late last year, who was charged with corruption.
Romanians working abroad (and returning) as well as BPO workers pushed many changes. The Romanians only became a nation after centuries of Turkish rule.
Some own observations
Back to the Philippines and some personal observations which form part of the picture I have:
- Top Gear Philippines (link) not only shows modern cars and traffic issues – I also see much cleaner and more modern roads than before, and a sense of order that was lacking in the 1980s.
- Around Albay (link) shows an up-and-coming province with modern malls, tourist resorts, new roads and more. Pictures from Facebook pages of my relatives there confirm this reality.
- When in Manila (link) shows the highly sophisticated tastes and venues of a rising new class. Filipino movies win in international filmfests like Cannes (link) and the Berlinale (link).
- There is a group of German lawyers with Filipino partner lawyers. This shows business is going up. Imported Lambanog is a high-class drink in Germany (link), tourism is on the rise.
- My internet research shows massive engagement of the EU and Germany. German aid for justice and policing (link), German factories setting up shop (link) and educational aid (link).
I will write an article on the German aspect at some point as my research is ongoing. German industries are value-added and need skills, the EU and Germany seldom work with losers or crooks.
The current situation
The picture remains jumbled and multifaceted. But seen high-level, the Philippines now faces three major challenges:
- it is on the new geopolitical fault line (link) between two superpowers, the United States and China, similar to the old Berlin Wall fault line between the USA and the Soviet Union.
- the exposure of its people to the world has changed (link) more deeply than after the Suez Canal opened. The old insular culture and its institutions are being challenged by new ideas.
- it faces major ecological challenges due to 1) a population that has grown enormously 2) loss of both forest and agricultural land and 3) climate change: stronger storms, rising seas (link).
Some top priorities that could be set in order to make the country able to face the world are:
- Use the present economic boom to deepen build-up of industries, tourism, agriculture, even if the first industries are just foreign factories it helps build the right skillsets locally.
- Utilize the global exposure of large parts of the population and even that of foreign retirees (link), but for this the country must become more open-minded (link) and civil (link).
- Ramp up education (K-12) and getting people out of poverty (4Ps) by pushing more SME development, maybe give incentives to companies that hire qualified poorer candidates.
The Netherlands became a strong nation fighting the sea and Spanish colonizers. The Swiss were once just three tribes (link) that united in evil times to keep lords and invaders out.
I think it is time to pay much attention, learn quickly, and truly apply lessons learned. Overconfidence and complacency will not help. I shall continue to observe.
Irineo B. R. Salazar, 23. February 2016, München