Want to understand the Philippines? First turn off CNN
I used to deal with tons of people coming to the country on business. I used to answer a lot of emails before they arrived, and then got to listen to phone calls when they did, and while they were here. Trust me, I got a few laughs along the way. Let me give you some examples.
Clueless in Wonderland
You know these sorts of people. They never traveled outside of their own country. They have a boarding pass in their pocket and a lot of expectations on what it is like here.
In the US, only 6 percent of people have ever left the country. So lets give an example like “Susan”. She is an executive for a multinational company, she lived in Canada. Now most Canadians think they are like the Irish, you know that wonderful country north of the US border, known as the home of peace loving people that enjoy the rugged Canadian outdoors and have beavers, moose and other wildlife outside their door?
Well 90 percent of Canadians live within 50 miles of the US border, and really know more about a shopping mall, WalMart, and other things than trudging around in the wilderness. Stereotype eh?
And most Canadians think that because they aren’t a gun toting American they shouldn’t be associated with those Right Wing, Gangland, school shooting white supremacist psychopaths down south across the border, because they can just flip out their Canadian passport and be immune from all those things the rest of the world has, right?
They are more like the Irish, and no one complains when an Irishman is in the room, because since the IRA is no more, after all, who would say an Irish passport holder is much of anything other than a nice person who likes Guinness Stout and a footie match.
And Canadians want to be known as “Nice” and “Not American” (Even though a lot of them like Disney World and shopping across the border, condos/timeshares in US locations, but naaa, they don’t go there) So why not have a badge that says “I’m Canadian” because as we all know, they are like the Irish, eh? Being American has such negative connotations after all, enjoy being Canadian because we all know, the world loves them, eh?
Clueless can get you in Trouble
So Susan comes to Manila, and stays at the Shangri La, is going over to Greenhills to do a little discount shopping for knockoff Tods bags and other trinkets while she is here. Here are a couple of things that happened along the way.
Susan was up in Greenhills in a stall, and it just so happens I am escorting her around, when suddenly all the locals start running towards their nearest exit faster than Catholics from a pagan ritual. When you see a proprietor suddenly jump over the counter and leave what they have in their stall and run along with the crowd toward a door, either there is a fire or something seriously is amiss.
Of course Susan is oblivious to what is going on… it so happens the NBI is raiding the place for pirated DVDs and Susan looks around like “well I wonder where all these nice folks are going? Is there a sale somewhere in another stall?” when I grab her and say “time to go dear” Hon, if you aren’t in the US or Canada, and people run for a door, better be aware of your surroundings… she wasn’t. Luckily we got out without tipping off the local constabulary.
Good Morning Makati – The Upcoming Movie
Which brings me to another chapter of this story. Now she is staying on a different trip in the same hotel, and there is the case of the Oakwood Mutiny trial where some of the participants in the trial decide to march directly out of court and down to the Peninsula Hotel across the street and barricade themselves in. Only in Manila could prisoners just sashay out of a courtroom because they didn’t like the ongoing proceedings and do such a thing, but such is justice and courtroom security here… so anyway I start getting phone calls because Susan tunes in to CNN and sees that there is a commotion in Manila. In fact right outside her window at the corner of Ayala and Makati Avenue there is an armored vehicle.. egads!
Susan: “Rick, there is a story on CNN and I looked outside my window and there is an TANK and people with M16s!” “Can you call the Canadian Embassy and get us evacuated!!!”
Rick: “Susan, this is a local commotion, there are a few people holed up giving a press conference in the lobby of the hotel next door” “They are behind 20 feet of reinforced concrete and ain’t coming out no time soon” “The best thing you can do is relax, stay away from the window facing the street, go down to the lobby where there is a splendid spa and have a massage” “This will be over in a little while but nothing to worry about”.
And trust me.. I had 20 more folks in hotels in Manila that day and you thought there should have been the Seventh Fleet sailing in with a Marine Amphibious Unit full speed to rescue the citizens from this dreaded bastion of anarchy.. NOT
Memories and Timelines Fade over Time
Since Tom Clancy died, their just isn’t any good fiction anymore…
Most people remember the days 20 years ago when a dictator was toppled, so they think civil war is going on here. That was a long time ago and while the political system is replaced with another set of vultures, there is a thriving democracy here. They just replaced the thieves you know, with the ones you don’t know but hey its More Fun in the Philippines. It also makes for great chuckles when you read the newspapers.
Whey CNN will rot your Brain
If you believed CNN, there was a terrorist behind every tree in Manila. Not true.
Lets refresh our memories.
World War 2 was over in 1945
The Japanese now make major investments in the Philippines like Panasonic, Toyota, etc… in other words, they are their capitalist friends.
EDSA Revolution was over 20 years ago so forced interrogations and jail time is not the norm here, unless you are a Greenpeace Activist confronting a policeman during a demonstration which could end up getting you deported permanently.
Terrorists are NOT behind every tree in Manila
A trike explodes at a bus stop. A package blows up in a bus. A wall has an explosive set up at a bus stop where people are getting on and off and it is detonated. A trash can had an explosive at an outside pickup area 400 feet from a terminal. All these happened in Manila, and happened over a 10 year period.
Frankly, while it is polluted and the Infrastructure sucks, it’s a fairly safe place with some world class shopping environments!
No school shootings, no mass massacres in Manila. Oh there was a mass massacre, but politically motivated and 450 miles away in Mindanao. But not in the capital. There are over 10 million people here, and most are very nice.
There is 14 billion US dollars generated by the Business Outsourcing Industry here, with JP Morgan, Citibank, IBM, Accenture and other companies doing business here. Over 400K jobs in that industry alone. Not just grass shacks on the beach with guys with flip flops wandering aimlessly (even though I don’t mind that idea now that I am retired).
There are not 1 but TWO malls here that are huge and has received world recognition for their innovation and design. (I wish the same could be said for their airport but as Filipinos say..”There is always hope”)
They also have a few billionaires, Telecom Magnates, Shopping Mall Magnates, Airline Magnates, etc. Again, not as poor a country as you may hear or expect. Yes there is a disparity between rich and poor, but there is a huge middle class developing and yes they have money.
Unemployment in Metro Manila is about 12 percent. Not all doing what they like to do, but they are doing something.
A major condominium development had 9000 units and they sold out within 90 days of opening here, so do people have cash, definitely!
Part 2 will be coming soon!