Tuesday, January 29, 2013
THE PEOPLE AND NOTHING BUT
Spending the Christmas holidays in the Philippines is something akin to, if taken as one of the most comparable experiences anyone could ever wish for, becoming enamored with the poetic depths of a vivid universe.
During my family’s recent holiday getaway to the Philippines, I totally communed with the hypnotic gravity of Manila’s sights, sounds, and smells; with the beautiful emerald desolation of the Philippine countryside; with the consequentially-qualitative and affective view of a country poised to fully embrace the vaunting tempest of socio-economic development; and with the earnest vibrancy of Philippine culture and tradition.
Visiting the Philippines—after a four-year hiatus—restored what had become my sedated passion for the everyday joys of being alive. The trip reminded me that life is not an eventual graveyard of hopes and dreams but a beckoning collection of generosity, humor, culinary delights, intellectual capital, and stimulating anticipation. This encapsulates what all my previous visits to the Philippines were grounded in: a frame of reference lit by the compelling residue of revitalizing escapism and spiritual renewal.
I know awkward sentimentality and romanticism runs through what I am writing here but that is missing the point. None of what I just wrote would have cracked the door of my consciousness had it not been for the people who meandered in and out of my company in the Philippines. After all, what makes a country, a culture, a society, but its people. With delicate strokes of courtesy, graciousness, schmoozery, and affability I was able to establish a respectful but promising rapport—and at the same time reinforce existing relationships—with quite a few individuals.
It reminded me that a country’s greatest resource is its people and that is certainly the case with the Philippines. No one but Filipinos themselves can make or break their country. Many would hold forth that the Philippines still is a poor republic, and also give the impression that Filipinos have failed to live up to what has been expected of them. To say this—however true it is—is to repudiate the Philippines’ increasingly-valued place in the community of nations. This optimistic perspective is not mere wishful thinking. This perspective has much to do with the country’s economic performance as of late and with the driving force of that economic performance, the Filipino people.
More and more Filipinos are coming to be viewed as having a high degree of industriousness, ingenuity, and entrepreneurial imagination and savvy. No longer does the outside world have to feel sorry or contempt for Filipinos. Granted, there’s still a long way to go yet. Despite much being made of the country’s good economic figures and outlook, the Philippines remains ineligible to join the top of the emerging powers list where China or Brazil reside. But that is only for the moment—the Philippines is one country that is headed in the right direction. It’s prospects look bright as it is only a question of “when” and not “if” the Philippines changes its tune from that of a chronic basket case to an amazing success story.
As of the early weeks of 2013, the Philippines may be one of the least known internationally of the emerging markets. In the years to come, that is bound to change. Most notable about this favored path to prosperity is that it is being forged by tens of thousands of Filipinos who are maximizing their efforts and opportunities to fulfill their historical responsibility to make the Philippines the nation we all know it can be and should have been a long time ago.
The Philippines’ power is its people. Filipinos can second that motion which places the burden on them and them alone. That burden—of meeting the country’s potential—which has been assumed by the people has not been shared equally by the economic elite, the Catholic Church, and the multitude of disputatious politicians who have only gotten in the way. That is one reason why the Filipino people should be held in higher esteem than any religious, financial, or political institution or supremo.
More than on any other trip to the Philippines, it was a real eye-opener for me in seeing our friends and relatives as they left an indelible mark on my psyche. It was clear to me that they helped me learn to treasure the Filipino people more than anything else in a world where people are being taken increasingly for granted.