“A Nation Run Like Heaven”
The Philippine Economic Miracle Part 3 of 4 by Willy E. Arcilla
[I'm republishing the articles written by my friend Willy Arcilla, the marketing genius behind the success of C2 in the Philippines and Vietnam, on his 2020 vision for the Philippines. I share this vision that soon all of us will say, "I Live an Awesome Life in the Philippines." - Anton, Founder/ Editor of Our Awesome Planet ]
What happened to the Philippines, or IN the Philippines over the past 12 years?
Based on research and interviews with government officials and church leaders, management and labor in the private sector, ordinary citizens and experts from the academe, the country started to turn a new leaf in early 2008 when it was faced with the threat of the fragile economic recovery stalling again after posting a 17-year high growth rate of 7% in 2007. Buffeted by extraneous challenges such as the US recession and ensuing global credit squeeze; depressed by worsening poverty and destitution; anxious over a widening rich-poor gap causing social unrest; frustrated by incurable graft and corruption; weary from incessant destabilization plots and military discontent; incensed at a morally bankrupt government; distracted by overzealous presidential aspirants for the 2010 elections; and bedeviled by a runaway peso that has crippled exports, rendered BPOs and local tourism uncompetitive, and most of all, caused “self-strangulation” for 10 million OFWs and emigrants supporting 40 million dependents who were propping up the country’s consumption-driven economy, the Philippines was faced with an imminent implosion that could have led to a major social upheaval. But the worst was averted.
For some unexplained reason, Filipinos of noble intentions from all sectors of society, who have been patiently undertaking their own respective advocacies and work of redemption amidst all the turbulence, started to connect and coalesce, drawing inspiration and strength from one another, and radiating the positive energy across their own circles, which in turn started to create positive multiplier effects throughout the entire country. Importantly, they did not preach a violent uprising, but on the contrary, a love for God and country by engaging all Filipinos here and abroad with inspiring acts of heroism.
Gawad Kalinga, an holistic approach to poverty alleviation that provides land for the landless and homes for the homeless, livelihood and health services, education and values formation, which had at that time already built 1,500 villages benefiting 500,000 families, reached its tipping point in 2008 and opened the floodgates for mega-partnerships from private corporations, landowners, schools, national and local government units, NGOs and Filams wishing to reinvest in the motherland. They were moved by the epic tale of patriotism of a young Englishman, once ranked the 9th richest Briton, who used to live a lavish lifestyle before encountering GK. He sold off his luxury cars and donated millions of British pounds to build villages throughout the Philippines. An alien with no cultural affinity or an ounce of consanguinity with Filipinos fell in love with the country, fell in love with the people and fell in love with the daughter of GK’s champion. Together with his wife and 2 daughters, he launched a Caravan of Hope across a Highway of Peace stretching 22,000 km and covering 65 US cities over 4 months to help unify Filams in the war against poverty. People were awestruck by the contributions of a successful 2nd generation Filam technopreneur who single-handedly pledged 100 villages to Gawad Kalinga valued at P300 million. The famous paintings “Hapag ng Pag-Asa” and “Hapag ng Pag-ibig” have risen to national and global acclaim for bringing society’s attention to the deplorable plight of poor streetchildren, eliciting affirmative action and donations of scores of GK villages for thousands who benefited from the outpouring of generosity.
Filipinos were inspired to surmount their own personal challenges and “mountains” by the incredible accomplishment of the Philippine-Mt. Everest expedition team who proved that a people from a tropical country with no alpine environment can scale -- even traverse -- the world’s highest peak if they worked as a team, showing “Kaya ng Pinoy”. National pride continued to build with global recognition of the Filipino talent in music and the performing arts in overseas competitions, and in sports like boxing, billiards and even golf where the teamwork of 2 female golfers won for the country its first prestigious World Cup of Golf. Ordinary Filipinos from all social classes and age groups followed the simple “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do For His Country” written by an enlightened young lawyer, and reading “Good News Pilipinas” on the web, were moved to connect with OFWs and Filams of kindred spirit living overseas as patriots-in-exile. The youth were drawn to the idealism of the Galing Pilipino Movement that honored the goodness in Filipinos, instead of sensationalizing the bad, as they were inspired by dramatic stories of transformation in the former backwater of Marikina due to a husband-and-wife tandem, impoverished Bicol spearheaded by the selfless Mayor of Naga, and the dynamism of a progressive Governor of Camarines Sur. All were touched by the story of a priest-turned governor in Pampanga who was elected by his constituencies despite overwhelming odds; as they were awestruck at the miraculous gift of healing of a simple and humble Canada-based priest to alleviate the suffering of the sick and infirm.
Filipinos were shaken from their stupor created by a misguided sense of poverty after listening to a popular lay missionary exhort everyone “to get rich for the poor” because God wants us to maximize our talents and take dominion over the earth, captured in “8 Secrets of the Truly Rich” and “Simplify and Create Abundance”; reading two eye-opening books, “Think Rich Pinoy” and “Grow Rich Pinoy”; following and listening to an enlightened businessman who preaches “Business Matters Beyond the Bottom Line”. Plain employees and OFWs who have coalesced as a potent force of 10 million under the Global Filipino Nation were inspired to set up their own businesses by a Go NeGOsyo movement espousing entrepreneurship and the book “Be Your Own Boss” by a nationalistic entre-pinoy from Batangas who started selling at the age of 10 and advises; “it’s not the money you earn, but what you save and invest that will make you rich.”
Then something truly awe-inspiring transpired. The country’s 40 richest men, with a combined net worth of US$17 billion dropped a bombshell when they collectively announced they will give back 50% of their fortunes to various foundations and charitable institutions to help uplift the poorest of the poor -- as if to compensate for the failure of a young and rich man seeking heaven to respond to Jesus’ appeal to, “Go and sell all your possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and come follow Me”. The 40 honorable men must have realized the wisdom in not leaving excessive inheritances for descendants who may be tempted to lose their drive, and fail to appreciate the value of hard work when born with a giant silver spoon; and that inherited wealth may spoil their descendants to live a life of undeserved leisure, perhaps even lead to moral decadence that can make them even culpable of their descendants’ loss of heavenly rewards.
Bankers too, started to reduce usurious lending rates and spreads, channeling more lending towards MSMEs and agriculture and fisheries sectors as they realized their long-term neglect of these sectors has caused their contraction and an over-reliance on big borrowers, leading to the country’s protracted loss of self-sufficiency in food production and higher cost-of-living that made Philippine industry uncompetitive. It seems even the small businessmen stopped their unscrupulous and unfair trade practices like selling substandard products and services, overpricing and profiteering, delaying payments to suppliers, running sweatshops and paying employees wages below subsistence, thus enabling employees to finally save more in banks which were reinvested at lower interest rates for business expansion and working capital requirements. Many adopted the principle of profit-sharing and distribution of shares of stock to employees. Floundering businesses revived once owners undertook a conversion, practicing good management practices and corporate social responsibility, thus “doing well by doing good”. There was an outpouring of good karma following the law of attraction, as people started to live the universal golden rule: “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.”
Afterwards, the country’s business associations started to form coalitions among themselves, forging partnerships with the national and local governments, exhorting their own members to reshape their business models to help uplift the marginalized in both urban areas and the countryside. Experts say that many businessmen were also inspired by one corporate giant that undertook a landmark heroic decision not only to return 144 hectares of disputed farmlands in Sumilao, Bukidon to its original landowners, but to work together with the beneficiaries to raise productivity and rural incomes in the area. NGOs which used to pursue their advocacies separately – in education and environment, health and nutrition, entrepreneurship and livelihood -- began to synergize their efforts to share best practices, optimize and allocate scarce resources and collaborate for an holistic solution. The Catholic Church urged the faithful to turn their faith into action, thus activating Catholics who have been long criticized for practicing a nominal Christianity.
Then something totally unprecedented, unthinkable and unimaginable happened. The political figures from the Marcos dictatorship up to the incumbent did what everyone had thought impossible. One by one, the past leaders, their relatives and cronies voluntarily returned their ill-gotten wealth – not part or some, but all. Billions of pesos stashed away in secret overseas bank accounts or kept locally under false names resurfaced and were returned to government coffers in public acts of restitution. Other government employees followed the lead of the biblical “Zaccheus”, the tax collector who gave half of his wealth to the poor, and paid everyone he may have stolen money from “three times” the amount he took, prompting Jesus to proclaim, “Salvation has come to this home”. The nation’s villains have turned into heroes. Importantly, the corrupt politicians did not change because they were denounced by church leaders and NGOs; shamed in media exposes or sued by PCGG prosecutors. They changed because they realized they had to.
It seems the beloved relatives – grandchildren and children, spouses and parents, and true friends of all the corrupt politicians -- prevailed upon them to return what they have stolen or taken “by mistake”. The very beneficiaries of their graft and corruption refused to be accessories to their criminal offenses, out of love and compassion for their fathers or spouses, invoking the Gospel passage when Jesus Christ said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his soul?” One precocious 5-year old granddaughter was reported to have innocently asked her famous political grandfather, “Grandpa, what good is it if we have all this money if we are all going to hell for it?” Consumed by remorse, the former top leader returned billions to the government. Good governance ceased to be a dream, and turned into a reality; the norm not the exception. From a paradigm that preferred a “nation run like hell by Filipinos”, politicians realized that they can, and in fact they ought to lead a “nation run like heaven by Filipinos”.
[The author is a business graduate from the UP and an industrial economist from the UA&P-CRC. He has a 25-year career in various roles in Corporate Planning, Marketing, Sales, and General Management across Asia-Pacific, and is a recipient of the Agora Award for Marketing Excellence. He is now President of Business Mentors, Inc., a newly-formed management consultancy firm and Regional Director of ZMG Ward Howell, Inc.]