Elmer Blogger

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hoping for a Better Philippines

On my first trip to downtown Davao since December 26, 2004 things were not expected to provide surprises.

For one thing I had to complain (to myself mostly) that transportation costs have risen more than half! When I finished college the minimum fare (traveling within downtown areas: Bolton, Uyanguren, Claveria, Bankerohan, Ilustre or Ponciano and up to certain extent in Bajada, Matina and Ecoland), fare is P1.50 (US 2.7 cents). Last year it was P5.00 (US 9.25 cents)and now it's P7.00 (almost US 13 cents). Traveling downtown from Mintal has also shoot up to P20.00 (US 37 cents) from P7.00 (almost US 13 cents).

With employees hardly ever gaining any increase to cope with inflation and newly-implemented Expanded Value Added Tax, people have become more desperate into finding ways to make both ends meet. I am glad crime rate hasn't risen, again credit it to the compassionate public officials (at least some of them) under the leadership of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (he has been a Mayor of the city in most of the past 15 years). But it's evident that people have looked into ways how to go abroad; even my brother wants out.

The popularity of Overseas Filipino Workers as dollar reserve heroes not only to their (our) families but also to the coffers of the government to stabilize the currency. I had cousins who were working in Saudi Arabia and Dubai in the past, and I also could see the financial rewards their families get. (I get imported chocolates from them and now I feel guilty not stocking enough chocolates like I did in the past; these are the most easily purchased and handed out to everyone at home in Davao.) Their success stories inspired me to follow the trail they laid out although I am always apprehensive on life after being an OFW.

When OFWs get home for good, they are often unable to get a sustainable source of living. And previous savings are either improperly managed by other family members or are invested in a non-performing business. Thus, they return to where they were before the foreign employment took place.

I watch TV shows and I notice many of them have emotional attachments. My sister and mom are hooked into Wowowee, a show that gives everyone (garbage collectors, Ilonggo folks, pregnant women, people above 60 years old and market vendors) to be on stage, greet their families and win prizes by joining the game shows. Televiewers hope contestants win as much as P100,000 (about US $2,000) to celebrate Christmas even more happily, especially when they shed tears wishing for a merry Christmas celebration. Game Ka Na Ba offers prizes won by celebrity contestants to children in need of medical attention and with physical deformities.

Wish Ko Lang grants someone's wish whether they can meet a favorite actor or going to Hong Kong Disneyland. The victory of the contestants appear to be victory of the televiewers who can relate to the pains told by these contestants, many of them queue at dawn at GMA7 and ABS-CBN studios to get a better shot at joining these contests. Indeed, this country needs a lot of doctors who can heal emotional sickness suffered by Filipinos for a long time. More than just money, it's the hope of living a better life in the future.

But despite the fact the country is in severe economic difficulty, I do not think the country is on its way to the bottom. It should be able to recover. What is needed are leaders who have common sense (do not need promotions through government projects and photo ops) and entrepreneural spirit. Gloria Arroyo and Jose De Venecia does not qualify while the recently-died Reynaldo Wycoco, Bayani Fernando and Duterte are able candidates. OK, too much for that.

I see hope in my country. I believe in the Filipino people. When I first heard the song "Pinoy Ako" it's a pop song similar to elderly tunes like "Pagsubok" of Orient Pearl and "Pare Ko" by Eraserheads but the theme focuses on the free-spirited Filipino, which was often portrayed as a cult song for SEA Games fans of Team Philippines en route to overall title.

Stock market has stabilized, and Philippine peso strengthened against the US dollar (from 56 plus to about 53 pesos to a dollar). Mining industry has seen resurgence after the landmark Supreme Court ruling. Property market is on the rebound. Call center jobs are still in demand. Of course, Filipino sailors can be found in ships sailing through the Pacific, Malacca Strait, Mediterranean and North Sea because of their fun-loving yet responsible nature that require less supervision, Filipino nurses are high on the list of foreign jobs in US and Europe. And while this drains the country of skills needed to rebuild a country, it's the dollar inflows that are more needed at this time.

Problems remain, but I am hopeful.


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