Sunday, July 03, 2005

[Blog Entry] Stabilization, Of Living in the Philippines


When I started my 9 am – 6 pm job in January, I was still unaccustomed to my eating habits. I mean shortly before that, I’d have a late breakfast, at around 10 am, and my next meal would be shortly before sunset, at 5:30 pm. That’s nearly an eight-hour fast for most people, but for me, that’s just normal.

With work though, that old schedule couldn’t be followed. Breakfast starts at 8 am at the latest, and dinner at 7 pm at the earliest. That usually meant I’d be hungry some time during work hours, and I’d have to spend money to order food. Which unfortunately, puts a strain on my tight budget.

Lately though, after a few months of work experience, I’ve managed to find stability and my stomach has adapted to working conditions. I could go for nearly twelve hours without food or water. I suspect there will be comments about feeding myself and the like. It’s not me refraining from satiating myself. I’m simply not hungry at those hours, at least not anymore.

Of Living in the Philippines

To foreigners, looking at out country now might seem bleak. Heck, to some countrymen, the Philippines appears bleak. But those who actually live here know that today is no different from yesterday. We thrive under these conditions and we’ll survive.

I’m sorry if we don’t have the conveniences of first world countries. That won’t be happening for a long long time. As for economic tumult, well, we wish that isn’t here either, but that’s the scenario. And it’s not like we’re the only ones experiencing economic problems. As for government instability, well, politicians here for the past few decades have been plotting and scheming. The system remains though, so unless there’s a change in how things are done, the faces will alter but the country will remain what it is. Honestly, even if terrorists attack or some other incident happens, short of war, things will remain. If the country has any flaw, it’s that it stagnates and resists change. Sure, we might cry for revolution (which is the case now, as some Filipinos clamor for a new president), but honestly, rather than actual change, the more things stay the same. If anything, Filipinos are prone of repeating the past. EDSA 1, EDSA 2, EDSA 3... we can disagree at how important they were in our history, but we can’t deny that people rallied during those events. Seen from an outsider’s perspective, it’s a classical Greek tragedy: a nation struggling for change yet ends up repeating itself, as if unable to escape their own fate.

Yet perhaps the greatest mistake we Filipinos could make would be to remain apathetic. When one continually suffers, we tend to get desensitized to it and after a certain point, fail to realize that something’s wrong. One stops writing the wrongs, and a new problem pops up to distract us once more.

If you’re a foreigner, don’t be afraid to come to the Philippines. If you’ve been here before, I suspect the place will look just as familiar. If you’re an investor, go ahead and invest. The business will thrive or it won’t. Rather than perceive the current conditions as a deterrent, see it as a way of life. Either you’ll enterprise will adapt or not. Even if it survives this time, for example, there’ll be another crisis in a few months. Better to let your endeavor grow and mature: the Philippines is a place that trains and builds up people... or breaks them.

As for Filipinos, it’s not your emotions or agendas that are in doubt. It’s your methods. We seek the simplest of answers when it should be the difficult ones we should be taking. Sure, our current government doesn’t give us much in terms of solutions, but what the other camp is offering isn’t a viable one either. The easiest thing to do is to criticize and we do just that. When that doesn’t work, we want somebody else to replace our current leaders. For other nations, that might work. For us, the best analogy I could think of is buying a detergent that doesn’t work, and asking the company to replace it with a new one. We fail to realize that the detergent is ineffective not because it’s defective, but because it was designed that way. Replacing it won’t really solve our problems. So instead of criticizing, we should give concrete, workable solutions.

Many people think they have the right solutions. Unfortunately, it’s not always the most well thought of. If anything, most are just replacing the current problems with new ones or making scapegoats of other people. I mean one of the most overused solutions I hear is “tax the rich”. Honestly, that’s not a real solution, nor is it just. First, it’s merely moving the burden from the entire country to a select few. Second, it’s not like those select few have the power to cause the change itself. I mean honestly, tax the rich? So what does that mean, the poor doesn’t pay taxes anymore? Or if you tax the rich too much that they stop being rich, what incentive would people have to become rich? Might as well apply the egalitarian society of the former Soviet Union. At least that would make more sense. It’s also not really solving the problem either. It’s like there’s this big bully in school, and instead of standing up to the bully, we pass on the burden of being bullied to someone else. We don’t stop the bully, we just pick who gets bullied. And that’s actually reminiscent of Filipinos: we love pointing figures and avoid taking responsibility. If there’s a problem, the first thing we do is say that “it’s not my fault!”. And so the accusation gets passed on until everyone gets blamed for it yet no one admitting to it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the solutions to all these problems either. Admittedly, the best I can do is point out the flaws in people’s arguments. If I had all the answers, I’d run for president. Perhaps in a few years. I’d come up with solutions by then. But I think the real problem isn’t in coming up with the answers: it’s convincing people to agree with you. And the Philippines is a democracy, so that’s millions of people who have to agree with you. For a change, I want the country to be ruled by both the mind and heart rather than just the latter.


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