It’s easy to be hopeless in the Philippines. I’ve only been living here 34 years so far, and I already can’t count the struggles of our society. Those older than I am surely have more stories to tell.
A year doesn’t pass by here without political scandals and those televised “investigations-in-aid-of-legislation”. I think most Filipinos find these entertaining and our politicians are more than happy to oblige.
Most of us here are underemployed. Yes, we have good schools, but there are few matching jobs that can get us above the poverty line. This force us to leave the country to seek better employment or settle for careers that we didn’t even think of touching with a ten-foot pole before.
The gap between rich and poor here is quite far. It keeps the prices down, but it also keeps us from progressing as a nation. The poorly educated, which outnumber the well-educated, are manipulated into voting for politicians ill-suited for government. And the cycle resets every generation. The effects of this trickle down to us citizens in the form of substandard infrastructure and half-hearted plans for the future.
The climate here swings from scorching-hot to destructive storms regularly. We’re right beside a typhoon nursery called the Pacific Ocean. So the chances of experiencing catastrophic super typhoons are high.
China also likes to kick some sand into our eyes while were down on the ground struggling to get up. Nothing makes you feel the gravity of the situation than a Superpower claiming some small islands that are obviously within your territory.
I don’t even want to talk about the taxes, Bilibid prison or the traffic congestion in Manila because I don’t want to be long.
There are endless reasons to complain.
But I would rather focus on the positive. It’s good to remember these as we approach Christmas and the New Year.
Here are just some of what most of us pinoys take for granted as the problems are magnified by the media…
1. The raw beauty of our islands. While people from other countries travel halfway around the world to go to a tropical paradise, we actually live in one. There are still undiscovered beaches, caves and dive spots here.
2. The freedom of speech and expression. In other places, people get imprisoned, tortured and/or killed for publicizing their views. Here, we’re generally free to do so. Many criticize the government publicly without punishment. It is legal here to hold strikes and rallies. Although there are cases of media men being murdered, it’s not a default reaction of those in power to do so.
3. The freedom of practicing one’s religion and beliefs without discrimination. It is a blessing to be allowed into establishments here regardless of your beliefs. Education and employment does not depend on one’s beliefs on these islands. One can even create his or her own religion, as many already have.
4. The freedom to gather in large groups. We can convene and have conferences without the government nosing around. We can also create groups or soceities, even if its politically wrong.
5. Close-knit families. While some societies kick out family members once they turn 18, here family support extends to adulthood. If somehow adulthood is never reached, there is generally no pressure here from family to stand on one’s own feet. Even when one successfuly does so, family ties are often closely maintained.
6. The abundance of food and water. Food is so abundant that restaurants and carinderias pop out of nowhere regularly. The food in fiestas also are testimonies to that. Running water may be worrisome, but it is available. For those who want cleaner alternatives, stores selling purified water are widely present. Starvation due to extreme poverty is present just like in other countries, but that’s a different issue altogether.
7. The option to live a low-cost, simple life. The cost of living here is delightfully low. Proof of that are the increasing number of foreigners who choose to live here. There are cities that are quite expensive like Makati. But there are more places that offer an affordable life.
8. Relatively stable market conditions. Local big banks are doing well and have been around for decades. The markets are free and bustling. Car sales are good. Smart phone sales and food businesses are booming. Real estate business is OK. Our OFWs’ remittances are a major reason for a moving economy. It can be a lot better and that’s what we’re hoping for. As of now, if one knows how to work hard and smart, there’s a good chance of thriving with business here.
9. Unrestricted internet connection and telecommunication. The internet and the telecoms are enjoying more freedom here than in other places. There is unrestricted access to information, news and simple contact to loved ones. As long as the infrastructures are intact, the internet and telecoms are always on. No one is monitoring and censoring the activities. If it is being monitored, chances are they’re not from around here. This, just like any other freedom has its drawbacks of course. The local government is mostly helpless when crimes are done through this medium.
10. The absence of widespread war. Thank God, there are no tanks rolling and firing in our streets. There are no curfews due to war, no soldiers taking cover in our houses and no suspension of our human rights. There are some skirmishes in Mindanao and some far-flung areas. There are rare terrorist attacks just like in other places. But generally, the Philippines remain peaceful.
When I think of things like this, the balance is tipped. It is still worth living here. Indeed, for men like me, it is still more fun in the Philippines.