Archive for February 16, 2011

APPLAUSE TO UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS ON ITS QUADRICENTENNIAL

February 16, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

This writer hereby extends Big Kudos to the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas on its 400th Anniversary!

The University of Santo Tomas or UST, established 400 years ago in the Intramuros district of (old) Manila, has finally grown, matured, and reached international acclaim as an institution of higher learning. It had added milestones to its earlier feat as the oldest university in the Philippines, which renders it worthy of the accolades on its quadricentennial.

I still recall as a young school boy in the 1960s, that my teachers as well as history & geography textbook authors cited the UST as the nest of brilliant youth who later became great minds. Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, obtained his first level of university education from the UST (he took up advanced studies in Europe after the UST stint).

More patriots followed after the footsteps of Dr. Rizal later. The late Manuel L. Quezon, president of the country during the USA’s colonial occupation, was among them. A visionary whose thoughts were to linger long after he was gone, Quezon is among the great patriots of the motherland. He underwent collegiate education in the noble UST.

The UST did not only churn out great men in past eras. In this current context, we have the likes of Bienvenido Lumbera, one of the literary giants of the ASEAN and a National Artist, among UST’s alumni. And so is Brilliante Mendoza, CANNES Film Festival awardee as Best Director, among the long list of upcoming luminaries of the Philippines and the ASEAN.

If there is any coterie of minds that I would give due credit for re-inventing UST that enabled it to be among Asia-Pacific’s top 200 universities, it is the Filipino Dominicans and the Filipino professors who resonated with the innovative designs of their priestly sponsors. The new breed of Dominicans dared to transform the university’s teaching force from one of purely teaching tasks to one of scholarly research faculty broke the long tradition and moved the UST out of stasis.

Without meaning to denigrate the White Dominicans from Europe who dominated UST’s echelon for too long a time, I would have to state candidly that it was during their stewardship that UST stagnated. Thus, it was known for its oldness bereft of the qualitative substance of being a progenitor of new philosophies, arts movements, and scientific R & D.

UST’s faculty was merely tasked to teach, and was assigned huge teaching loads (e.g. teaching 24 units), hence disabling them from engaging in productive research and/or artistic productions. It was during the stagnation phase that the much younger universities—University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University, De La Salle University—became international universities, breaching the UST’s records by several notches.

I asked some pals of mine in the 80s and early 90s—who were teaching in UST—to share their own opinion regarding the relative stagnation of the UST. Without batting eyelashes, they blamed the over-bearing and subtly racist predominance of White Dominicans for the long stasis. Accordingly, the latter were of the mindset that they came to PH to civilize the Filipinos, a condescending if not arrogant attitude.

I was appraised of the situation within the campus and of the arduous efforts of Filipino Dominicans to make their dent in a context where Jurassic colonial tradition was still strong. By the 1990s the innovative Filipino Dominicans and UST professors were finally making headway. As a result, the UST made it to the top 200 universities in the Asia-Pacific in the late 1990s.

Research institutions have since been evolving within the present campus in the Sampaloc district. Some professorial pals of mine, who were products of the U.P. and DSLU and who took up doctorates in top universities abroad, have decided to base themselves in UST. They are now taking up the cudgels of re-engineering their respective departments, thanks to the new policy environment crafted by Filipino Dominicans.

Finally, as UST’s professorial pool has been up-scaling their research & development capabilities, building research institutions and generating research & publications products, the university is on the way to move UST to the next level, which is that of ‘world university’ status. I am highly supportive of the re-engineering, even as I’m confident the university will get there in the foreseeable future.

[Philippines, 15 February 2011]

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FILIPINO FASHION DESIGNERS IN HOLLYWOOD: SHOWCASING MANILA AS ASIA’S FASHION CAPITAL

February 16, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening! Magandang gabi!

Manila media just recently released the good news about Filipino fashion designers making it good in Hollywood. Led by Monique Lhuiller, who hails from an entrepreneurial family back home, Hollywood entertainers’ eyes marveled over the works of the Pinoy fashion designers worn by some famous Hollywood personalities.

As a sociologist and economist, this is what I can say of the matter: Philippine fashion design had already reached a very high level of maturity at this juncture. Both domestically and overseas, Filipino fashion designers are making waves precisely due to the mastery of their respective crafts.

Like their counterpart in motion pictures & mass media production, who are able to found institutions of higher learning—inclusive of graduate schools—for motion pictures & tri-media production, the fashion designers have reached a level of mastery and esteem enabling them to teach the craft to enthused learners. I have no better wish, as a sociologist studying popular culture, than to see couples of fashion institutes rising sooner or later in Manila and Cebu, the nation’s top metropolises.

Just recently, the fashion design guru Pinoy Moreno won his National Artist Award. Some people in the art & culture circles raised some eyebrows about the matter. There surely are people with astigmatic interests, who just couldn’t see the very positive implications of awarding a fashion designer as National Artist. The Award is a testimony of the maturing of the fashion industry itself, and should be welcomed without reserve.

The wave-making trend of Filipino fashion designers is also a testament to the rise of Manila/Philippines as the Fashion Capital of Asia. This trend should be stressed to the world, at a time when the global economy has grown. Filipinos are no longer the copycat morons as far as fashion is concerned, we have graduated to that of trend-setter or avant garde in the fashion & culture domain.

Not only is the Manila/Philippines the Fashion Capital, it is also the Shopping Capital of Asia. It boasts of malls that are spacious and exquisitely designed in architecture, malls that serve as retail outlets and/or display centers for some of the works of fashion designers.

The Jurassic trend of Filipinos having to fly overseas just to buy some good fashion and quality garments is long gone. The trend now is for Filipinos to invite kins and friends overseas to come visit Manila and other key cities to do a shopping spree and appreciate the fashion designs done by our topgun designers who are also Asia’s fashion gurus today.

Incidentally, around 6/7 or 84% of fashion designers are in the couture business. So any enthused appreciator of our designers’ works should deliberately visit the couture shops to enjoy the exquisite works of the fashion masters. Only 1/7 or roughly 16% of the fashion designers are in the RTW business, either as consultant designers or as designer & owner of the business.

The likes of Ben Chan, for instance, are among designers who also own RTW chain of shops. The Bench brand owned by Chan happens to be the forward linkage for his design works. Both high end and mass markets are catered to by the Bench brand, and I’d say my own kudos to the likes of the noblesse gentleman.

Those in the fashion design as well as the shoe design should better look up to the motion pictures & tri-media production their models of institutional strengthening. The challenge is for both sectors to set foot in the universities to install special departments or institutes for fashion design. Fashion design should better broaden to integrate shoe design into it, and the broadened sector should establish a presence in the University of the Philippines or U.P. as exemplified by motion pictures & media production.

Clothing technology is already present in the U.P. The presence of clothing in my alma mater should be a stepping stone to opening up a learning institute for fashion design since this new domain of arts & culture is giving a very positive name for the Philippines.

As a long-time educator, I recognize that setting foot in the premier university is a yardstick of the maturity of any sector in the country. Fashion designers, from couture to shoe design, better count me among their appreciative allies. May the tribe of fashion gurus—coming from our masters of the fashion craft—increase and multiply.

[Philippines, 13 February 2011]

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PHILIPPINE ECONOMY 46th LARGEST WORLDWIDE, CAN GO UP SOME MORE

February 16, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Let me continue to tackle the matter of glad tidings for my beloved Philippines. I feel the exuberance and optimism of fellow East Asians who wish to share the joy of the growing economies we have here with the rest of the world.

For this note, I will focus on the Philippine’s national income, an update particularly of the Gross Domestic Product or GDP and the Gross National Product or GNP. The Philippines is one of ten (10) members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN, a grouping of cooperating nations that will integrate economically in 2015. PH’s growth pattern contributes in no small measures to ASEAN’s growing economic might.

In 2009 PH ended the year with a GDP of around PH P7.67 Trillions. Nominally, that translated to around U.S. $186 Billions. At that time, Net Factor Income from Abroad or NFIA, derived largely from overseas remittances and offshore operations, was around$17 Billions. GNP, which adds up the GDP and NFIA, totaled $203 Billions more or less for that year.

2009 was quite a bad year, as the Great Recession of the Northern economies affected PH by a lowering of the merchandise exports. GDP grew so minimally at a mere 1.5% that analysts thought it couldn’t rebound soon enough. The forecast for 2010 was around 5-6% growth range, already considered a very optimistic forecast.

2010 proved to be a relatively bountiful year for PH, as it grew 7.5% during the first three (3) quarters alone. Election spending pumped up the growth rate to a certain extent, while exports and imports grew up at fat sums as the Northern economies were able to re-absorb higher volumes of merchandise imports. The yearend growth could be at 7% more or less.

A figure of $13 Billion is therefore expectedly added to the old 2009 GDP, to yield a 2010 GDP figure of U.S.$199 Billions. NFIA, based on overseas remittances, ends up at $18 Billions, so the GNP for 2010 stands at a least figure of $ $217 Billions of nominal income.

Manufacturing and services are proving to be the most consistent growth drivers of PH economy on the production side. Agriculture turns out to have a weak performance carried over yet from the 2009 incidence of the strong typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

With infrastructures and energy gearing up for larger projects, the growth will be sustained at a very positive level, ranging in the area of 6-7% for 2011. Exports will be sustained at upscale rate, and so will be imports. So we expect excitement in PH growth for 2011. We just hope that agriculture will be able to catch up and breach the 5% growth target at least, then sustain it at that level for the long term.

Consumption-wise, domestic consumption has gone up at an appreciable trend for 2010. Overseas remittances continued to sustain driving up domestic consumption. Private consumption was at all-time high, which contributed to heated retail sales of past 10% and housing & realty continuing its dynamic trend. Government consumption is the one that needs catching up here, a sluggish pattern that is a carry over of past years’ trends yet.

Accordingly, PH garnered the 46th largest economy out of the 200+ nations worldwide in terms of nominal income. At that position, it is clear that PH is among the middle income countries, or that it is way out of the old ‘poor country’ status it had till the years 2002-‘03 when the middle income status was attained.

As the Northern economies are going through stagnation, it is best that PH should target higher growth rates and attain them decisively to be able to move up the ladder of prosperity. In a decade’s time, PH can facilely surpass the performance of European countries one after the other, till it can reach the level of Italy’s or France’s economy as early as 2025.

I am optimistic that in the long run, PH can breach the No. 30 largest economy worldwide. The momentum of growth and prosperity is already there, and a large labor force is proving great as harbinger of wealth production. A large population, with a rising middle class, is also contributing immensely to sustaining consumption in the long run.

As early as 2030, PH can be on the Top 25 economies and maybe even better. PH economy should better double every seven (7) years or so for a straight twenty-one (21) years to be able to make it to the top. When it does so, ASEAN’s aggregate income will surpass Japan’s and possibly the USA’s and EU’s. Let’s all look forward to seeing that day come in the future.

[Philippines, 12 February 2011]

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