Posted tagged ‘Manila’

SCOURGE OF CORRUPTION

March 4, 2011

SCOURGE OF CORRUPTION

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

We just celebrated the 25th EDSA People Power Revolution in PH last Feb 25. A full twenty-five (25) years after EDSA, the country remains mired in the gargantuan problem of bad governance. Graft & corruption continues to be a scourge to this country, ditto for other countries.

Patrimonial interest groups of every shade continue to pillage the national coffers and the business sector. Business and politics are as intertwined as ever, thus barring efforts to bring down patron-client relations in the public and private spheres. No wonder that corruption remains high and could be, in fact, scaling up the heights in exponential fashion.

For as long as bad governance (‘bureaucrat capitalism’ is the Maoists’ term for it) remains in a vicious circle pattern, poverty will loom large in the near future. People’s incomes will be relatively stagnant, resulting to a stagnant if not declining middle income class. The high growth figure of 7% annual growth will therefore be meaningless, as the growth benefits largely those who are already very rich.

It doesn’t matter if the Philippines has already been urbanized, with as large as 68% of the population and/or the labor force residing in cities and big towns. Urban it is alright, yet replete with narratives of burgeoning urban poor populations.

So that brings us back to square 1, which is the self-perpetuating bad governance cycle. Whether the vicious cycle can be broken during the incumbency of the Aquino regime is doubtful. This government is being run by mediocre bureaucrats who are predominantly Jesuit-schooled boys and girls, who as a whole administer the public sector like “running a student council” as Sen. Joker Arroyo aptly described them.

Sadly for the country and other emerging markets, it is this governance side of the equation that cancels out the very positive outlook resulting from high growth. To note, it is this same scourge that had angered youthful Arabs in Tunisia and Egypt who watched their national leaders plunder the coffers like they were lusciously consuming personal candies, and the scourge is now driving many other Arabs to the streets to overthrow their corrupt leaders.

Good governance, strong institutions, and right policies are getting to be appreciated all the more by the youthful working peoples of the day, such as those in the Arab states. They are values that strongly appeal to the middle class of developing countries, while they resonate well for the young generation of Arabs. Amusing observations!

If the middle class of emerging markets can inspire the young generations of Arabs and countries with authoritarian regimes at the helm, well and good. But let the ‘regime change’ agents be reminded that overthrowing corrupt authoritarian and/or autocratic regimes do not an incorruptible government make.

Examine the history of the Philippines and other countries that are similarly situated, where bad governance perpetually churns itself out long after dictatorships were overthrown. Our neighbor Indonesia is similarly situated, and so are couples of countries in Latin America. The more so for African countries where the problem of racial integration complicates the scourge of corruption.

It seems like we badly hit a quagmire in PH and other developing countries, in regard to graft & corruption. Whether we shall all jettison efficaciously out of the quagmire in the short run is a delusion. And maybe never will there be hope in reforming governance institutions that would enable eradication of poverty and attendant problems.

As to the reason behind the scourge, I am reminded of the explanation of the pioneer sociologist Emile Durkheim. The noblesse gentleman cogitated that there will always be deviants in society, unless that society is populated by saints. Deviance, such as corruption, will always prevail at levels beyond the residual, to follow Durkheim’s logic.

Economists would have it that ‘rent seeking’ will assert itself in diverse circumstances, inclusive of the public sector. Rent seeking, or reaping profits beyond opportunity costs, explicates corrupt practices and no less. The UP School of Economics professor Emmanuel De Dios had already writ informative articles about the matter, so please try to search for his articles in university libraries and online.

I do perceive corruption as a scourge, even as I remain optimistic that in the very long run it will be minimized. Humans will gradually evolve across time, and I guess the conscience of future humans will work the greater to make values work in daily life. But it seems my concluding note is only wishful thinking, so I’d leave it up to you to form your opinions on the subject matter.

[Philippines, 27 February 2011]

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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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FILIPINOS 104 MILLION STRONG: 94 IN PH, 10 OVERSEAS

February 12, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Magandang gabi! Good evening from PH’s suburban boondocks!

 

The Philippines just conducted a census last year, 2010, and the result shows a sum total of 94 Million heads in the archipelago. The population growth of 2 Million heads per year is also indicated, showing an increase from the 1.7 Million heads annual increase ten in the year 2000 (when the last census was conducted).

 

The 2 Million annual growth is already a total result in itself. Accordingly, about 500,000 fetuses are aborted every year in the country, a figure that has alarmed population and health experts. Never mind if the national charter bans abortion, women who commit unwanted pregnancies simply decide to go abortion.

 

94 Million Filipinos, at a time of economic boom and rising incomes, is a cause for celebration. With a rising middle class at hand—who form the demand base of consumption-led growth—we expect a steadily growing number of Filipinos who comprise the family income bracket earning U.S. $6,000-$30,000 annually. 20 Million Pinoys are in that category today, which will expectedly rise in the next couples of years.

 

Thus, PH qualifies as an ‘emerging market’. It has first of all a large population, and millions of people falling within the middle class spenders with incomes ranging from U.S. $6,000 to $30,000. Many heads working and earning well translates into economic wellness for a country, so we should welcome this development.

 

Now, let us not forget the Overseas Filipinos or OFs who comprise an estimated 10 Million heads across 200 countries more or less. These OFs earn an aggregate income of U.S. $400 Billions annually, $20+ Billions of which is remitted to the Philippines as Net Factor Income from Abroad or NFIA. Of the $20+ Billions, only around $18 entered legally established channels of remittance annually.

 

That means the OFs remit 5% of their earnings to the motherland, and that is good enough. No matter what misery-inducing policies the global elites would slap Pinoys with via the World Bank-IMF-WTO Group, the most demonic being the austerity policies of the IMF, the Philippines can survive thanks to the OF remittances. Let the evil elites shackle PH with crippling low credit ratings and low entry of ‘smart money’ and investments by them, we will still survive thanks to the remittances and our own domestic investments.

 

The signs are pretty clear that fecundity, the capacity to give birth, is high among Filipinos. This for me is a cause for celebration. Let us sustain our high birthing capacity and increase the number of middle class people by the year, and we will all the more exude our economic and social power as a people.

 

Contrast that high fecundity to the trends in Japan and Russia, where their populations are falling by the year. Russia has been alarmed a decade ago yet about falling population, and identified the phenomenon as the top national security problem. Japan just began to experience a falling population, and this early look at how alarmed and panicked the Japanese stakeholders are of the consequence of diminishing population.

 

Not so for my beloved Philippines. We will be producing 2 Million+ Filipinos annually in the archipelago and overseas for many years to come yet, and we shall use the burgeoning population as leverage in negotiating with other nations and regions. The global oligarchs can no longer be fooling us at this time, whacking us with oppressive policies that produce deplorable conditions for our poor folks.

 

Abroad, our own Kabayans are now crystallizing a consciousness as an Overseas Filipino Nation, and I do welcome this progressive development. United by culture, language, and shared experience, the OF Nation will wield the stick to leverage vis a vis governments, market players, and interest groups in their host countries. They can no longer be fooled in the negotiating tables, much more enslaved and butchered like unwanted pests by sociopathic monsters without responding in a pro-active way.

 

Clearly, the days when White Americans sang “Brown monkeys have no tails” in the archipelago, a sordid racist song they popularized upon invading the Philippines, are over. The figure of 200 Million Pinoys can be breached by 2050, at a time when PH will be a wealthy nation, huge and wealthy to lead the ASEAN Union.

 

In sum, 104 Million Filipinos should be welcomed as good news. It is the leveraging power of Pinoys in the new era of Urban Philippines, whence 68% of Pinoys are residing in urban communities here.

 

[Philippines, 11 February 2011]

 

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PEACE TALKS BETWIXT PH GOVERNMENT & REBELS RESUME

February 8, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We have a glad tiding of news coming from the Philippines as the stalled peace talks between government and rebel groups will resume again very soon. A heartwarming news this one is, as Filipinos are now very sick and tired of local wars. It’s time that total peace be achieved very soon.

To recall recent history, Maoist and Muslim insurgencies broke out in the Philippines way back in the early ‘70s. Martial Law, declared in 1972, was instrumental in further swelling the numbers of insurgents, leading at one point to conflicts bordering civil war proportions.

The Maoist New People’s Army, military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP, a ragtag band at its inception, grew to a huge size across the major island groups along the way. Smaller factions split off from the CPP-NPA, it shrank in size in the past decade, yet it continues to be a threat to the central government.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF was a splinter group from the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF. The latter, original Muslim insurgency group agreed to a negotiated peace settlement in the ‘90s yet, so only the MILF eventually pursued the old dream of an independent state for provinces where Muslims have a strong presence. While the MNLF held a secular ideology, the MILF was largely a sectarian, Islamic movement.

Talks between both rebel groups and government stalled during the incumbency of the Gloria Arroyo regime. It was unfortunate and tragic a consequence of failed talks, as battlefronts across the islands continuously experience ambuscades and confrontations between warring forces. Collateral damage had already downsized, but it continues to be a phenomenal consequence of the hot wars.

I just hope that the peace talks won’t be for show, like a zarzuela of sorts. Like most compatriot Filipinos, I have grown tired of the wars though I see legitimacy in the advocacies of the insurgents. I myself am of the opinion that social causes are at an all-time relevance, yet these social causes can be fought for through legal and electoral means.

Filipinas has already urbanized across the decades, and urbanization is proceeding at a rapid pace. 2% of folks are added to urban population every year, while 2% are deducted from rural population during the same period. At 68% urban population today, Filipinos can better be convinced about pursuing social causes and advocacies via the ‘urban way’ of mass movements, civil society, and electoral contests rather than the bloody armed way of the old rural Philippines.

The Maoist Left and other Left groups have already proven the relative success of the ‘electoral way’ to institute structural and economic changes. It may be time now to fold up all rebel groups from the most secularly-oriented groups to the most sectarian-fundamentalist groups. The rugs under our feet are changing and the pace of change is fast, so ideological blocs should be fast enough in retooling themselves and co-directing the compass of change via the ‘urban way’.

Meantime, Norway has committed itself as a 3rd party to the talks with the Maoists, while Malaysia has done the same to the talks with the Muslim rebels. The Filipinos down the ground welcome the peace talks, and wouldn’t squirm at the venues of talks whether these be domestically located or overseas. What matters most is peace talks are resumed and warring parties are holding genuine dialogues.

So far, confidence-building measures were already done by the Aquino regime, with the release of political prisoners from the Left. Not only that, even the political prisoners from the military rebel group Magdalo were also released (the mutiny group is ragtag/no peace talks are necessary between it and government). Development projects in areas covered by Muslim rebels are being scaled up.

A nice beginning for the year 2011 indeed, as the crucible of dialogue pervades among warring camps. Let dialogue be the strategic expression, as conflict folds up and is consigned to historical archives.

[Philippines, 06 February 2011]

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GRANDEUR AND MAGNIFICENCE IN ASIA’S CITIES

January 25, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day to my fellow global citizens!

The year had just kicked off, and we’re already witnessing the contrast in images projected in the mass media between East and West. Just notice the projections regarding urban life in each hemisphere, and you can see the differences in the images.

Asian cities have been projecting themes of cooperation, growth, exquisite city plans, 21st century architectural wonders, and these themes were projected well despite the typical urban problems of decay (congestion, pollution, traffic jams). In contrast, those of Western cities’ projected crimes, street protests, snow storms, floods (e.g. Australia’s), and related pessimistic images.

Coming from the East makes me feel with awe and pride about the transfigurations that our own emerging markets and big cities are going through. Our economies are clearly the drivers of the world economy, our investments and treasuries in the West largely keep their economies alive, and our growth and rising middle class make for our urban accomplishments as well.

Whereas before our cities were citadels of flies, malaria, squalor, and crimes, today our big cities have mutated to model skyscrapers, exquisite urban plans with many mixed land use commercial centers, architectural wonders & cultural innovations, and multi-cultural cooperation. Peoples of the West who are truly appreciative of our feats would normally experience their jaws drop in awe over the marvels that our big cities can show to them.

Among recent depictions, I recall vividly the images of Christmas trees in malls all over Asia even in countries that are Buddhist, Hindu, and Moslem. Asian urbanites are showing the way to how a former sectarian event—the Christmas holidays—can be globalized and celebrated by every nation, race, and culture. Buddhist children in Thailand for instance showed deep fondness for Santa Claus and Christmas, so their respective schools respected their fondness and celebrated Christmas as well.

In Indonesia, Moslem workers were shown preparing the finishing touches for Christmas decors, Christmas trees, food & delicacies for the Christmas event, and related paraphernalia. Many of the exported decors from Indonesia’s Muslims reached the Philippines, with some of the Christmas lights reaching our home in suburban highlands east of Manila. China’s toys, Christmas lights, delicatessen, wines, and holiday paraphernalias made us equally happy as did the Indonesians.

Scenes of Asian cities celebrating the New Year—largely the Western New Year based on the Gregorian calendar—were well projected on television, internet, and print media. Taipei 101, the 2nd highest building worldwide, had its equivalent scenes of pyrotechnic fireworks and revelry of people in its surrounds. Such an event happened in all the big cities of Asia, rest assured.

Beijing with its trade exposition buildings, wondrous streets, magnificent palaces, and other marvels, were among those projected in the media. The world’s largest mall is in this city, and is owned and built by the SM Group of companies of the Philippines (owned by the Sy family).

The cities of Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Calcutta, Shanghai, Shenzen, Mumbai, Manila, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Dubai, Abu Dhabi among others, were also projected with each one having their contributions to the grandeur of 21st century life and the bright beginnings of 2011. Till now the very positive projections of lustrous performance and compass of the future in such cities are still being churned out in the mass media.

Contrast those images to the still prolonged floods in Australia (cities affected too), another round of snow storms in the USA, massacre in Arizona by a sociopathic young man, hundreds of deaths in Mexico (how many dead in Acapulco? Mexico city?…), continuing protests in Europe over austerity measures and rising poverty,…well, negative images dominate those reportorials about Western cities, with some images shocking and unnerving.

Before the year 2010 ended, an American lady (professional) whom I met in a social network, shared to me a videofilm of hers about “3rd World America.” Depicting huge poverty incidence in the USA coupled with urban decay, huge income disparities between rich & poor, and deterioration of the once mighty physical economy there, the short feature film struck a cord. It amplified scenes of 3rd world deteriorations in America at this time, degenerations that we analysts thought would take place in the next decade yet.

The film was hair raising and admittedly effective in portraying its intentions. Knowing the rapid ‘decline of the West’ (ala Spengler) that is going on in the industrialized world, I could only but hope for a reversal of degenerative trends there, trends that are likewise manifested in the negative images about the Western cities.

Maybe it’s time that Western peoples should look up to the themes and images projected by Eastern cities, watch and learn from our nascent innovations and urban marvels, and hope that the experience could help to reverse the deepening pessimism and nihilism going on in Western cities and nations.

[Philippines, 19 January 2011]

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