By Floro Mercene
Three hundred years of Spanish colonization, half a century of American rule, and discounting the two years that had some of us singing Kimigayo, the Japanese anthem, every morning in 1943-44.
Under martial rule for almost 20 years and those traumatic experiences have reduced the Filipinos into “damaged culture.”
The term was coined by Asia correspondent James Fallow in his essay on the Filipino society, which appeared in the November, 1987, issues of The Atlantic.
Fallows offered a dark view of a nation not only without nationalism but also without much national pride.
I quote Fallows pertinent observations in whole and it is up to the reader whether they would like to read his entire oeuvre, available in the Internet.
“The countries that surround the Philippines have become the world’s most famous showcases for the impact of culture on economic development. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore — all are short on natural resources, but all (as their officials never stop telling you) have clawed their way up through hard study and hard work.
“Unfortunately for its people, the Philippines illustrates the contrary: that culture can make a naturally rich country poor. There may be more miserable places to live in East Asia — Vietnam, Cambodia — but there are few others where the culture itself, rather than a communist political system, is the main barrier to development.”
“The culture in question is Filipino, but it has been heavily shaped by nearly a hundred years of the ‘Fil-Am relationship.’ The result is apparently the only non-communist society in East Asia in which the average living standard is going down.”
Fallows wrote that critique 31 years ago and was proven prophetic. True, Makati and Bonifacio Global City became our showcases to the world, but one has to be blind not to see the extreme poverty that pervades Metro Manila and the country as a whole.
He said: “It seems to me that the prospects for the Philippines are about as dismal as those for, say, South Korea are bright. In each case the basic explanation seems to be culture: in the one case a culture that brings out the productive best in the Koreans.”
(To be continued)