A New Philippines


by Patrick Aguiluz 

“Don’t judge the Philippines based on its past, but rather on the changes/progress that it is making.” –Tony Meloto (Founder of Gawad Kalinga)

Growing up in the U.S., my view of the Philippines was limited to the stories and descriptions of those who have either visited or lived there for an extended period of time. Sad to say, these views were not positive at all. In fact, it led me to be biased in a negative way. I still had plenty of fun when I would visit, but that mentality led me to be cautious and more guarded than usual, not allowing me to fully experience my trips the way I would have liked.

I recently visited the Philippines in January 2013. Let me tell you, the Philippines is no longer the country that people once described it to be. It is no longer the same country our parents and the generations before had talked about, nor is it the “Sick Man of Asia” as some have labeled it to be. Now don’t get me wrong. Like any other country, there are, and will always be, challenges and issues. However, the current situation and outlook for the country is very inspiring.

So, why all the excitement? Because of “Pioneers of Change.”

New Leadership (NoyNoy “P-Noy” Aquino) - My intent is not to claim that we now have a perfect government, but rather to point out that a positive change had to start somewhere and needed to be pioneered by someone.

The NoyNoy effect:

1.     Solutions Oriented – Many talk about the problems, but NoyNoy is all about solutions. The many changes he has implemented would not have been realized if he were simply talking about things.

2.     Focus on Addressing Poverty – Poverty is a mindset! More than 50% of the Philippines population currently resides below poverty. It’s difficult for any nation to rise up and reach its potential if more than 50% of its population’s primary focus is on food and shelter.

3.     Stance Against Corruption – One of the biggest stigmas of the Philippines is that it has a corrupt government. Other countries hesitate to invest in these types of governments, as the past would indicate. More and more governments are now open to investing in the Philippines.

4.     Small Business – They are the “lifeblood” of any economy. NoyNoy recently signed the ”Kasambahay Bill” that would benefit millions of domestic workers in the country.

5.     Building Relationships – The biggest testament of this is by seeing the many foreigners in the Philippines today. I saw them everywhere and with a larger concentration is the downtown areas such as Makati, The Fort, and Rockwell. Also, many big companies now operate in the Philippines. These folks are not just coming here for the business opportunity, but they see the Philippines as their “gateway” to Asia.

6.     Results – NoyNoy’s biggest challenge was making changes to some seriously engrained cultures and mindsets, not just policies. To bring about the results he has already produced tells me that there is no turning back because the momentum for change is much stronger than the chains of our past.

There are plenty of other things to be excited about, and as well skeptical. The important takeaway here is that positive change has begun at the top and it is starting to build momentum.

Gawad Kalinga (GK) (www.gk1world.com/) – I will highlight a few things here, but will not go into detail as I encourage you to get the explanation from them as I may not do the same justice explaining it. Instead, I can connect you with GK if you would like to learn more about them beyond what the website articulates. GK shows its validity to make changes through results and a phenomenal track record.

  1. Goal of eliminating poverty by 2024. Being an engineer by trade with an MBA degree from Pepperdine, it is normal for me to be skeptical about this goal. After spending time with GK’s founder, Tony Meloto at GK’s Enchanted Farm, I now understand how they plan on accomplishing this and also believe it to be attainable.
  2. Vision for Agriculture – This is and will become one of our competitive advantages. I will explain later.
  3. Social Entrepreneurship for Social Benefit – Major buzzword in the Philippines. It is a brilliant concept that ties in agriculture with entrepreneurs.

Shift in Economic Power – If you understand history, then you know that economic power eventually shifts from one country/continent to another. Signs are indicating that Asia is where the new shift is headed.

1.     U.S. has deep rooted issues that I believe will be difficult to overcome. It doesn’t mean that the U.S. will become a third world country, it just means that they will not be as dominant as they once were. Part of what will allow the U.S. to be relevant here is the superior military. Here are some reasons for the U.S. decline, creating opportunities in other parts of the globe:

  • a.     Outsourcing manufacturing – This was the U.S.’s competitive advantage and core competency. Outsourcing this to other countries caused the U.S. to lose one of its competencies. One that was a huge part of their economy. In addition to that, it increased its reliance on imports and decreased exports.
  • b.     Lending economy and high debt -The dollar is overvalued, and considered exaggerated currency. It is a lending economy where the majority of the population is not able to borrow.
  • c.     Lending crisis – Wall Street really did a number on the U.S. and most of its current policy makers are still on Wall Street’s payroll.

2.     China – Many believe that China will become the most dominant economic force, supplanting the U.S.. Though this may be true, they will have to compete with the Philippines for this recognition.

  • a.     China will have a manufacturing economy.
    • i.     This will increase its reliance on energy consumption. China is not known to be producers of energy/fuels and this will cause them to become dependent on those who have it.
    • ii.     A key aspect of manufacturing is low cost. How sustainable is that in the long-term aspect and even more so with such a large population. U.S. experienced this same issue as it grew.
  • b.     China’s population is not Internet savvy. This is a government policy.
  • c.     Language barrier – Those who speak a foreign language have a strong accent which limits their ability to communicate effectively.
  • d.     Because China is a communist country, it has developed a culture and mindset that will challenge its ability to build relationships in the global marketplace.

3.     The Philippines (Competitive Advantages)

  • a.     Geographic location – The Philippines is positioned perfectly to become Asia’s hub.
  • b.     Natural resources – As a country, we are ranked #1 in this area.
  • c.     Fertile land – There are plenty of opportunities for the agriculture industry to flourish.
  • d.     The population speaks English – This universal language helps to make communicating with other people easier.
  • e.     Highly educated and skilled workforce – We have the ability to scale our workforce as industries and companies allowing businesses to grow.
  • f.      The people are hospitable, peaceful and easy to get along with. This will helps the Philippines to build stronger relationships, which is key to any success.

The Filipino Children/Youth

1.     Our parents and their parents worked hard to ensure that we had better opportunities and quality of life than they did. Because of this, we did not grow up with the same scarcity mindset that they had.

2.     The migration of previous generations has enabled the Filipinos to have/posses the best of all the countries. Our skills to adapt along with the talent to assimilate has enabled us to own the best of what we have come across.

3.     Unlike previous ones, the kids of the newer generations are getting along. I experienced and witnessed this on my trip. I was interacting and socializing with both Fil-Ams (Filipinos that grew up in other countries) and locals (Filipinos who are born and raised in the Philippines). Bayanihan spirit is revived.

4.     As a country, we did not realize our independence until 1946 (67 years ago). This means that we are only a generation away from the colonial mindset that previous generations were subjected to.

5.     We crave the change. I am hearing this from all ages. From as young as 8 years old to the new generation of business owners, these folks are eager and hungry for a new Philippines.

6.     Unlike previous generations who were willing to give up and disown the Philippines, we have a passion for the country like no other.

7.     New generation with this new and different mindset are starting to outnumber the old mindset.

8.     Gentrification – The infrastructure is developed and constantly being upgraded. Downtown Makati is a drastic change from 10 years ago. One could actually mistake its sky view with Downtown Los Angeles or some other large metropolis.

9.     Fil-Ams (Filipinos who were born and raised in different countries) are coming back. These folks are highly skilled with a very different and diverse background. They are the key! They have the passion for the country, posses the original culture of “Bayanihan,” and come with a new mindset.

Foreign Presence – The whole world is seeing our potential and the change. So should we.

1.     Big foreign companies are established or are establishing themselves in the Philippines.

2.     Foreigners, and not just Americans, are all over the Philippines. They walk around as if they are locals. They feel safe there.

Bayani Tour – Growing up in the U.S., the only reason for me to go to the Philippines was to accompany family for vacation or to attend a wedding. When I would go, I usually did the basic things like go shopping in malls, hang out at the bars, and eat at the restaurants. Bayani Tour gives Fil-Ams a different reason to visit the Philippines, with folks who share similar interests, and a in way that is fun and culture enriched. Experience the Philippines through Bayani Tour!

The (positive) change has just started. We still have a lot of work ahead of us but I can sense the momentum picking up. If you are Filipino, you should definitely be excited.

If you are asking me what is needed to expedite the (positive) change, see my below suggestions:

  1. Restore our humanity – Do away with the bitterness that the past has left us and instead grow an intelligent heart.
  2. Create a system/economy that will cause a “Reverse Brain Drain.” We need to find a way to support our top young talents and leaders and at the same time create reasons for the ones that are already abroad to come back.
  3. Get back to basics. Build an agricultural industry to leverage our fertile land. One of the most basic human needs is food. We should be the leader in food supply.
  4. Buy Filipino – Develop a culture of self-reliance, similar to what Koreans do.
  5. Education – We need to get better in certain areas. Businesses have to get better at treating, motivating, and managing people. We can’t improve and create positive changes by using the same mindset, knowledge, and practices that caused the issues
  6. Promote & foster art in all forms. This is the quickest, most neutral way for the new generations to come together and unite.
  7. Every Filipino should take notice to what JFK once said to the U.S. people. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
  8. Improve the system for small businesses.
  9. Focus on and seek solutions. Stop talking about the problems. We all know what they are and we have heard it enough times. Let’s start talking solutions.
  10. Look within us for the answers. No need to keep pointing fingers at who is at fault and start looking within us for reasons to be better.
  11. “Discover the genius of the poor,” as said by Tony Meloto
  12. Challenge the impossible. Enough excuses already.
  13. Make the future colorblind. Let’s work together not just among Filipinos, but with all nations.
  14. Be students of history so that we do not repeat mistakes made by others.