the Philippines Ever Become a Developed Country? The short answer to that is
no—at least not in our lifetime. While the country has of late improved it
credit ratings as evidenced by upgrades from Moody's, Fitch, and Standard &
Poor's all that perceived progress is illusory. In the Fifties and Sixties,
when the Philippines was undeniably the country at the top of the heap in
Southeast Asia, people said it would always be the most industrialized
country in the region. In those days, not only did the Filipinos believe
that, even those from neighboring countries admitted that the Philippines
was well ahead of everyone else. But where is the Philippines today? Towards
the bottom of the heap, competing with Cambodia and Myanmar for last place.
How can that be, one might ask. We had an almost insurmountable lead back
Global corporations that
once placed their bets on the Philippines have been mostly disappointed.
Ford, Federal Express, Procter & Gamble, Intel, to name just a few no longer
see the Philippines as their central base of operations in Southeast Asia.
Corruption is rampant, superstitious beliefs are widespread, while math and
science aptitudes remain dismally low for the majority of the population.
And why would any foreigner
want to live here? The air is polluted by the millions of poorly maintained
diesel engines used by the ubiquitous jeepneys and buses. Rivers and
streams are open sewers emitting nauseating odors. Traffic in parts of Metro
Manila moves at a snail's pace no matter the time of day or night. And it is
not just Manila that can be described as the "gates of hell" as author Dan
Brown notes in his novel "Inferno." Most major cities in the Philippines fit
that description as well.
The bottom line is we
Filipinos are solely to blame for our predicament. Why? Because we are lazy
(or "indolent" as noted by our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal). We prefer to
get something for nothing, be it wages or dole-outs. We have no sense of
nationhood—our commitment, our loyalty and our trust extends out only to
members of our extended family. Our ningas-cogon trait forces us into
all manner of get-rich-quick schemes because we're never in anything for the
long haul. And we bend the rules and look the other way whenever doing that
suits us. In short we are a people with very big problems that will likely
take several generations to fix.
Education is the key
Again in his 1890 essay
"Sobre la Indolencia de los Filipinos" Rizal noted that the limited
training and education we Filipinos were receiving back then was a major
factor for our indolence. Sadly the education system that exists in the
Philippines today is little improved from the one Rizal was complaining
about. In fact a well designed and properly executed education system could
have "fixed" most of our problems a long time ago, had there been the
political will to do so. Instead the entire Philippine education system
continues being used as a means to perpetuate the status quo, keeping the
oligarchy in power, while keeping the masses sorely under-educated, easily
manipulated and easily controlled. A long procession of Secretaries of
Education have sat behind their fancy desks warming their seats while doing
nothing to bring about an educational system that could have moved Filipinos
out of the dark ages and into the twenty-first century.
In most cities, the
government has effectively handed over the task of "education" over to the
Catholic Church. A move that has perpetuated the problems Rizal noted more
than a century ago. The church's end game in education after all is
different from the government's. The church's aim first and foremost is to
indoctrinate its students in order to guarantee its future survival. As far
as the church is concerned; if in the process, their students somehow manage
to learn math, science, civics, and history, well and good—but those are
still only secondary to the church's aim of indoctrination.
Our improper education has
thus kept us backwards. And we are falling further behind in today's highly
technological world. In his latest book "Asia's Cauldron: The South China
Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific" author Robert D. Kaplan notes that
the United States military planners "had thought of selling the Filipinos a
late-1980s frigate, but with a turbine engine it was judged to be too
complex for them to maintain. Thus Washington was encouraging Manila to
invest in less sophisticated frigates from Italy, and in small patrol boats
from Japan (which the Filipinos have received)."
If US military officials
think a 1980s turbine engine is too complex for Filipinos today, how much
more the sophisticated high-tech weaponry needed in today's battlefield? In
short, it appears that we don't have a ghost of a chance fighting off any
adversary other than the NPA or the Abu Sayyaf—and even with those two we
can't seem to get a leg up in the fight no matter how hard we try.
The bottom line is: as a
people, we're in bad shape...really bad shape. And unless we do something
drastic to properly "educate" ourselves, we'll be stuck this way forever.
Rizal already told us over a hundred and twenty years ago what needs to be
done. The solution is nothing mysterious or complex; neither is it
impossible to achieve—as a nation, we just need to have the political will
to see to it that each and every Filipino child receives a proper math and
science-based education from kindergarten through college. If we don't do
what needs to be done, we'll be stuck in the dark ages forever—while other
nations laugh at us and continue to take unfair advantage of us.