When I first stepped into a foreign land, Hong Kong to be specific, I was amazed and disappointed at the same time. I admired the order and modernity of the country. I marveled at the fascinating architecture. I relished the well-maintained parks. I was like a kid trying different toys as I ride modern buses, trains, trams, and cable cars for the first time. Then I wondered, why can’t we do it too in my country?
I am envious of their progress. I know they also have problems, but I also know that it is possible for us to have the good things they have; efficient forms of transportation, beautiful and free public parks, and a thriving economy just to name some. So why don’t we have it?
Is it because of manpower? Do we lack the talent or skills? I don’t think so. My dad worked as a foreman, heavy equipment operator, and miner in five different countries. He helped in building dams in China, roads in Malaysia, and underground tunnels in Hong Kong and so do millions of other Filipinos. My mother’s boss claimed that she was the best helper they ever had. Key teachers and department head assistants from my previous school in Thailand are Filipinos. Filipinos are receiving recognition in different fields like health care, research, engineering, arts, music, and sports all over the world. So why don’t we have the facilities we helped create in other countries?
Brain Drain and the Philippine Health Care
Many bright Filipino professionals are leaving, and I don’t blame them. Who doesn’t want greener pastures?
One government official claimed that the brain drain is a myth and that we always had an ample supply of doctors and nurses. Maybe we do, but the government is not hiring them. Or if they hire them, they have to know someone from the inside or someone from the government.
During my years as a nursing student, we had our clinical rotations at different hospitals in CAR, Region I, and Region 3. I had my student nursing duty in at least 10 hospitals. I have seen the health care staff shortage first-hand. It was not unusual to see one nurse catering to 50 patients. There was this hospital with only one doctor hopping from special areas to the wards.
Health care workers are overworked and underpaid. But it seems like the government is not paying attention. Health care is never a priority. Corrupt officials have the nerve to milk the country’s universal health coverage provider for their personal gain. The Phil Health corruption allegations have not been settled and PhilHealth already announced increasing monthly contributions for members. Does this mean that Filipinos will have to pay for the wickedness of these greedy officials? Outrage from Filipinos made the president deter the contribution hike, but the 15-billion lost funds have yet to be returned.
Back to the question. Why can’t the Philippines be like other successful countries? Do we lack natural resources? The three countries who colonized the Philippines for a total of 384 years know that this is not true.
The Philippines is rich in natural wonders and resources. Each of its 7,100 islands is blessed with a certain gift from nature. The country’s total coastline is 17,500 kilometers. It also has various natural water forms like rivers, lakes, and falls. These bodies of water serve as a source of livelihood including fishing and tourism.
The pearl of the orient seas has fertile lands, diverse flora and fauna, and rich mineral deposits. Unfortunately, all these treasures can disappear. The Philippines is named as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. All the more should we be more concerned about environmental threats.
The wealth from nature can be used sustainably to move our country forward. Eco-tourism, the development of renewable energy, and the construction of green facilities are just some ways we can take advantage of what we already have without compromising them.
The Lone Breadwinner System
A bank released an ad during the past holiday. A man and his mom were about to eat when the man announced that he just lost his job so they wouldn’t be having their Christmas plans. His mom left the table and came back showing his son that he was able to save some. Christmas will go on as planned.
In the comment section, a lady commented on how she wished every “breadwinner dependent” is the same. She narrated how she has been giving monthly allowance to her ungrateful mother, only to be told it was not enough. Others shared similar stories.
The lone breadwinner scenario is common among Filipinos. Parents expect their children to provide for them as soon as they finish schooling. Some don’t even wait until then.
In my previous workplace in Thailand alone, many of my Filipino friends are breadwinners. One said he sent his siblings and some of their children to school. Now he’s sending his grandchildren to school. Another provides for his parents. One spent 20 years in Thailand but he still couldn’t go home because he has more relatives to send to school.
It’s common for Filipinos to extort their working relatives for their luxuries like birthdays, gadgets, and vices. Breadwinners oblige because they feel like it’s their responsibility. If they refuse, they will be accused of having no utang na loob, something you owe to your parents or anyone who has done you a great favor. This cannot be paid by monetary means and you should spend your life returning the favor.
Having only one breadwinner in an extended family enables laziness. Children shouldn’t be the insurance fund of parents and parents shouldn’t be the emergency funds of their children once they’re grown-ups. Helping out family members is a beautiful thing. But once it’s abused it becomes toxic. Financial help to adult and able family members should be voluntary instead of obligatory.
Corrupt officials in the Philippines rarely go to jail. When caught, after a few months of media parade, the accused will either continue living — as usual, end up in a wheelchair, or get re-elected in a government office. Every year whistleblowers expose corrupt practices, many with compelling evidence, only to be forgotten after the next issue arises.
Corruption doesn’t start when one holds millions. It starts with little things we normalize; getting supplies from an office, giving the traffic enforcer grease money to avoid a ticket, or not speaking up when we see corruption. When someone tolerates these things growing up as normal, it will not take long for them to fall into temptation when the opportunity arises.
Lack of discipline is not the problem. It’s the lack of a system that encourages discipline.
I always hear about Filipinos lacking discipline. Is that really the case? Maybe for some, but not for the majority. Why do we follow laws in other countries easily but it’s hard to do the same in our country? Lack of discipline is not the problem. It’s the lack of a system that encourages discipline.
A friend was fined 200 Singapore dollars after being caught smoking in a non-smoking area. Guess who never smoked in public again. Our environment plays a huge part in our behavior but we place too much emphasis on personal discipline.
Solving the country’s overpopulation solves several other problems like poverty, unemployment, and environmental degradation. Passing the Reproductive Health bill has been arduous and controversial. Now that it has finally turned into law, its implementation has still a long way to go. The early fruits of its implementation have been curtailed by the pandemic. Poor families who need family planning supplies the most are unable to access them due to the lockdowns. The University of the Philippines Population Institute projected around 214,000 extra unplanned babies to be born this year.
Multiple studies have shown the impact of family size on poverty, education, and employment. I hope the government places emphasis on population reduction programs instead of relying on band-aid solutions just for them to win the next election.
The Philippines is slowly emerging as a rising tiger. The poverty rate has been decreasing before the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, COVID-19 halted economic growth and increased the poverty rate. However, some organizations project the Philippines to have one of the best economies in the coming years. I hope that this economic boost will benefit those who need it most, not just make the already rich even richer.
Accepting that we will forever be this way will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy if we don’t reject it.
Solving the issues of the Philippines is a complicated process and a single article cannot possibly cover it all. But changing our minds is a good start. Accepting that we will forever be this way will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy if we don’t reject it. “Filipino kasi” or “Pilipinas kasi” should no longer be an excuse for unacceptable behavior or situation.
How can we be a part of our nation’s progress? Speak out. Lend a hand. Register to vote. Encourage people with skills and integrity to run for office. Vote for them. Be educated. Educate others. Hold government officials accountable. Support Filipino products. Be productive. Save. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
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