Philippines: The Lost Pearl of the Orient

By: Alfred-Charles Co 许有泉

The Phillippines

BEIJING—(September 23 – M4Relay) — After the Second World War, there were two Asian countries that were at the forefront of development. One could probably easily guess that one of those countries was Japan, but most people today would try to determine the other one. That other mystery country is none other than the Philippines. The Philippines was considered to be the second most advanced country in Asia during the 50’s.

As a former colony of the United States of America, Philippines as a nation was among the first Asian countries to be taught and supported by the US and thus benefited a lot. Thanks to the US influence, English had been embedded in the Philippine Society as one of its two official languages, and the more frequently used of the two being the required medium of instruction in academic institutions at all academic levels. On top of that, Philippines also inherited democracy as a governing ideology. This ushered in freedom of speech which would ideally give the country a higher probability of getting the best ideas afloat. The Philippines also benefited from an American system of education. The country seized the opportunities given it, and for a while, it delivered; other neighboring countries learnt some of their industrial and technological skills from the Philippines. People from Hong Kong went to the Philippines to study medicine, while the Thais went to learn agriculture. Other foreign nationals streamed into the Philippines for diverse economic and social benefits. The fact that the Philippines was the first Asian country to have had its own commercial airline would help paint a more vivid picture of its privileged position at that time.

Bursting the Bubble

August 23, 2010, eight Hong Kong hostages were killed in a botched rescue attempt where one local news commentary likened the rescue police force to a bunch of vandals who did not know what they were doing.

This failure to handle an otherwise simple hostage crisis carried out by one disgruntled ex-cop who only had the simple demand of reinstatement and the return of his full retirement benefits coupled with the finger pointing that followed within the ranks of the government, only served as an exclamation point that shouted out to the world the lamentable depths of tragedy which the Philippines had sunken over in the last couple of decades. The incident was only an awaiting disaster, as it was an expected outcome of a society that had been degenerated by unthinkable corruption and by a culture of complacency, fatalism and selfishness to say the least.

Today, with over a fraction of its population forced by poverty to work abroad mostly as domestic helpers, the Philippines is less than the shell and the shadow of the country it once was. And after the hostage taking incident that captured the attention of the world, more than ever, the badly cut and bruised face of the embattled, poverty stricken country is put in the limelight.

Taking the Worst to Bring out the Best

There is a Chinese saying which translates as “Failure is the key to success.” The neighbors of the Philippines seem to validate this adage. China as the most prominent example rose from the ashes from being the sick man of the east to the fastest rising economy in history. Japan, from its crushing defeat in World War II built everything from scratch, having to “create something out of nothing” so to speak because of their largely barren land. These adversities only propelled them to be the second largest economy in the world for a few decades. Vietnam, fresh from the Vietnam War is also building itself up and following in the footsteps of China.

The Philippines’ neighbors were not crushed by the adversities they faced, but rather used those adversities to fuel their drive to strive.

The Philippines is in many ways, still in a much better position that its neighbors were in during their lowest lows. Whether the Philippines will react to this incident with indifference and fatalism that has plagued its culture to the bones, or whether it will take this most recent international humiliation as the bitter medicine to truly become what it refers to itself in its national anthem as “The Pearl of the Orient” will depend solely on the Filipinos themselves.

Just basing on physical facts alone such as being among the most natural resource-rich territories in the world and having the 12th largest population in the world at about one-hundred million people, and with English as an official language as huge bonus to top it all, Philippines has the means to stand up, the food is already on the spoon in front of their mouth, they just but have to open their mouth and eat it.

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