“To See Is To Believe”
The Philippine Economic Miracle Part 2 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 ]
But perhaps nothing beats visiting the archipelago of 7,107 islands as to see is to believe. One can now fly on an Airbus A380 and land in the modern Philippine International Airport (formerly DMIA and Clark) in Pampanga that now rivals Singapore’s Chang-I, take a high-speed train for 15 minutes over 80 km of well-manicured ricefields along the route, then get off at a spanking NAIA international terminal (formerly NAIA 3) now akin to Kuala Lumpur. One is greeted at the airport by young and courteous immigration officials and even “bellhops” to lend luggage assistance for free. Philippine-brand taxicabs are brand new and clean, metered with official receipts, and driven by honest and polite drivers who speak English and some colloquial Spanish and Russian, Mandarin and Cantonese, Korean and Japanese, Malay and Arabic, enough to take first-time tourists to their destination. One’s cellphone beeps with a welcome message and language options appear with a tourist helpline for emergencies manned 24/7 by courteous multilingual staff. Scores of tourist information centers dot the cityscape.
The major thoroughfares are wide and long, impeccably smooth, lined by colorful flowering plants, with clear directional signs and brightly illuminated at night throughout their entire stretch. A new patriotism is palpable as the bold colors of the national flag flutter proudly against an azure sky on the major streets and in front of all buildings, with not a few in front of houses or flying on vehicles. Roads are named after national heroes such as Rizal, Bonifacio, del Pilar, Gomburza, Silang, Lapu-Lapu, Malvar, Aquino, Diokno, Manglapus, Roces, Tanada, Salonga, Cardinal Sin, and even foreigners who have helped the country, like Gen. Douglas McArthur, Fr. James Reuters and monuments preserve their memory. New urban centers are named after historic places of bravery and heroism like Pugad Lawin and Tirad Pass, Bataan and Corregidor. The business districts have been redeveloped to provide more breathing space, or “green lungs” for the nation’s workforce. Pockets of parks and gardens dot the entire metropolis akin to Saigon’s French-inspired parks for smaller neighborhoods and communities. Even the old cities and districts of Pasay, Quiapo and Rizal Avenue in Manila, Cubao in Quezon City, long suffering from urban decay, have undergone a massive renewal program tapping foreign funds that have restored them to their former glory and splendor similar to London’s Canary Wharf and Shanghai’s Bund. Megamalls have given way to MEGAPARKS where families are free to stroll, run, play, and picnic amidst the lush greenery of trees, grassy knolls and flowering plants, without having to spend unlike in shopping malls. The public has access to cultural performances, museums and libraries with free wifi.
The clutter of billboard advertising has been replaced by elegant neo-Filipino architecture that witnessed a renaissance from both Filipino and foreign architects. Billboard advertisers realized their overspending on mass media produced boomerang effects as consumers consumed themselves to poverty. To make up for decades of brainwashing to buy and spend; shop-till-you-drop, companies started urging folks to save and invest.
There is no graffiti or litter anywhere on the streets and incessant flooding due to rains has ceased. Condominiums and single detached units are now more affordable to a rising middle class with an average of 2 children, and private exclusive subdivisions are giving way to more inclusive communities that no longer distinguish between the rich and the poor. One will notice the disappearance of shanties in squatter colonies, now replaced by brightly-colored, neatly-organized communities with signs “Welcome to GK” where neighbors live in harmony with one another. Violent demolitions have ceased as residents of squatter colonies voluntarily dismantled their shanties and relocated to the countryside where they grew their own food – staple crops, vegetables and fruits, livestock and poultry – and sold their surplus for an incremental source of livelihood. The Church hierarchy played a pivotal role when it made a categorical statement condemning overpopulation by the poor arising from the irresponsible use of the gift of procreation, thus ending up with too many offspring poor parents cannot afford to feed. Without the need for birth control and artificial contraception, people practiced responsible parenthood – delaying marriage, abstaining or natural family planning.
The newfound patriotism is also finding expression in local fashion exemplified by modernized versions of the “baro-at-saya”, popularized by patriotic celebrities and young airline stewardesses of the national flag carrier that has all but replaced the skimpy wear that exploited women’s virtues. The 21st century Maria Clara and barong tagalog have become the standard wear in formal events. Philippine architecture entered a golden era as increasingly more developers and homeowners designing buildings and establishments preferred a Filipino theme, used indigenous materials, and named them in honor of Filipino heroes. A famous city landmark called the “Twin Horns” skyscrapers in a central business district, shaped like the horns of the lowly carabao, the beast of burden symbolic of the Filipinos’ resilience and silent hard work, is connected by a Filipino-themed 7-star hotel plus a shopping complex featuring world-class Filipino products.
A system of modern, clean, and efficient mass rapid transport trains now run quietly on 2 levels, providing commuters with air-conditioned escalator ramps going up-and-down, while studies are underway deliberating between the first Metro subway ala Singapore and Hong Kong or a 3rd elevated railway by 2025. These have successfully decongested the roads of public utility and private vehicles, most of which are now running on locally-made biofuel or electricity. Even the wailing sirens of police escorts and bodyguards for politicians have fallen silent. Most impressive is the noticeable improvement in road courtesy and motorist discipline, and pedestrians using zebra crossings or crossbridges, thus resulting in smoother traffic flow and higher productivity. The country’s erstwhile dependence on foreign oil has been replaced with alternative forms of renewable energy.
The stench in Manila Bay has disappeared while marine life has reappeared. Even the Pasig River is unrecognizable because the color has turned from a stagnant, slimy black to flowing brown waters. Modern, bright-colored and environmentally-friendly ferries now transport students and housewives, workers and traders up and down the stretch of the Pasig from its mouth in Manila Bay and upriver. There is a special tourist run leading all the way to Laguna de Bay, which itself has undergone a transformation from once being the world’s largest septic tank to the world’s largest fish farm and aquarium.
Gone are street urchins and beggars, as all are now at school or at home, at work or at play. Students at all levels read assiduously, write proficiently and speak fluently in English with a neutral accent, while respecting Tagalog as a national language. Performance scores in English, Mathematics, Science and Engineering, have soared to rival the best in Asia -- the Koreans, Chinese and Indians, even surpassing their American counterparts. A third language is commonly taught in all schools – Mandarin or Korean, Spanish or Russian. To supplement the efforts of the educational sector, mass media undertook part of the responsibility for values formation. TV programs and magazines were revamped voluntarily by broadcast networks and publishers to promote human virtues, while suppressing the countervalues such as sex and violence, gossip and foul language. Even the drive to restore English proficiency received a booster shot when the KBP decided to reair Sesame Street and promote English usage in daily soap operas.
On visiting the countryside, one can take a 10-lane expressway from Aparri down to Jolo, crossing islands via safe and efficient Roll-on, Roll-off (RORO) ferries, and one notices that all of the land has been put to productive use – either as farms or communities with well-manicured gardens. The expressway and major thoroughfares are lined with beautiful greenery consisting of the leafy acacia, narra and kamagong, coconut and mango, with the multi-colored bougainvillea creeping up concrete posts of flyovers. Rows of informal settlers along the national roads have been replaced with guardrails and ornamental plants as rural GK townships and villages have embraced all former squatters. Trains traverse Luzon from north to south, and criss-cross the island of Mindanao, making travel overland efficient and affordable, safe and reliable for ordinary Filipinos.
Practically all of the country’s major tourist attractions have been developed with modern infrastructure network consisting of roads and bridges, hotels and clean restrooms – from Aparri to Jolo and the islands of Batanes to Basilan – making local tourism accessible and affordable for local and foreign visitors. This has also decongested the world-famous Boracay island, which was crumbling under the weight of overconstruction, thus spreading the benefits of local tourism development across the archipelago – Pagudpud and La Union, Alaminos and Subic in the north, Batangas and the Bicol region in the south, Palawan, Mindoro and Masbate islands, Samar and Leyte in eastern Visayas, Camiguin and Siargao in Northern Mindanao, Davao and the Sulu islands in the south.
Filipino countervalues of “bahala na” and “pwede na yan”, “ningas cogon” and “bukas na lang”, “baka makaisa” and “baka makalusot”, “unahan” and “get rich quick mentality”, “chismis and intriga”, “pro-foreigner colonial mentality and anti-Filipino crab mentality” have started to give way to a new work ethic and morality driven by love for God and country. Enlightened leadership replaced the status quo characterized by privilege and patronage. “Sipag at tiyaga” and a “country above self” ethos replaced mediocrity and “kanya-kanya”. A culture of blame and judging has changed to one of accountability, inspired by the admonitions of Jesus Christ when He warned his disciples “not to judge so you may not be judged yourself”; and “why do you notice the splinter in a neighbor’s eye, but not the plank in your own”. Indeed, the face of Christ started to shine in a people who once adjudged each other godless – as everyone sought to fulfill the 2 greatest commandments which are to “love God above all, and love one’s neighbor as oneself”. Man’s greatest temptations of pride and power, fame and fortune, are now resisted by a genuine display of humility and honor, heroism and holiness. Hurting became helping.
As a visitor picks up a copy of the day’s paper, he glances at the front page. Puzzled, he quickly leafs through the rest of the newspaper, as if he picked up the wrong paper or he is in another country. Then he heaves a sigh of relief and a smile crosses his face as he realizes that all the negative reporting and pessimistic editorials, self-flagellation and finger-pointing, scams and scandals, conflicts and controversies of media sensationalism are now distant memory, replaced by genuine good news about the Philippine economic miracle that Filipinos continue to create and build, while inspiring the rest of the world.
Indeed, the Filipino miracle seems, to borrow a popular line of balikbayans, “for good”.
[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.]