A Pair Of Shining Shoes Made In Marikina

You still remember that while the City Mayors (organizer of the World Mayor Award) was looking for the Top 11 Mayors around the world last 2007, we found our town Bulan wrestling with the Central Bus Terminal-or CBT Scandal. Whatever happened now to this CBT case, we are practically no longer  interested with it as long as our Mayor Helen De Castro does not forget her responsibilities to our town and to our town people, not falling short in delivering the basic services and is sincerely concerned in providing adequate solutions to the immediate problems of Bulan community like unemployment, poverty (malnutrition), health care (hospital and medical personnel!), environmental protection and cleanliness (waste management), education (schoolrooms, more teachers, school dropouts), clean water supply, peace and security- and, last but not least, to inform the public (local, national and international) about the result of the CBT trial.

Practically, what counts are good results and all other minor failures in the past are forgotten. Most of all, she should focus, emphasize and make use of the unifying symbol of her office, a function of supreme importance in activating the identity and creative energy of Tagabulans. A symbol like this needs to be transparent and accountable for it to enter people’s perception, i.e., be processed as such. Investing in such values as transparency, accountability and corruption-free leadership pay off in the end for everybody than investing in their opposites. And this is the proof of it- a pair of shining shoes from Marikina that caught the attention of the world!- a pair of shoes worn by the lady Mayor Marides Fernando of Marikina City for winning 7th place in the World Mayor Award 2008 (launched by City Mayors last 2004 ). This is no joke. Here’ the reason for this prestigious recognition:

-“Mayor Fernando is credited with having turned Marikina into one of the Philippines most desirable places to live in. “Mayor Marides Fernando transformed MarikinaCity from a sleepy and lackluster town (always in the shadow of its bigger sister city Quezon City) into one of the most progressive and shining city in the Philippines. With the Mayor’s creative leadership by example, Marikina is the most peaceful, most orderly, cleanest, greenest, corruption free, educated and cultured new city in Asia.”

-“Under Marides Fernando leadership Marikina was named the “greenest and cleanest city” in the Philippines. The city also received a number of other awards: “The most recent and most prestigious award received the city of Marikina was the Most Competitive Metro City in the Philippines from the prestigious Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Research Center, Asia Foundation, International Labour Organization (ILO), German Technical Foundation, and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, and the Continuing Excellence Award in Local Governance given by the Galing Pook Foundation, DILG, Local Government Authority and the Ford ” . (See other comments given out by some observers of Marikina.)

“Marides Carlos Fernando (sometimes known as MCF) was elected mayor of Marikina City in 2001 and re-elected in 2004 and 2007, is a member of the centre-right Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party of President Gloria Arroyo. She is married to Bayani (“hero”) Fernando (also known as BF), her immediate predecessor as mayor and current Chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (himself the son of a former mayor) and Director of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the capital. Marides ran the BF Corporation of property developers during her husband’s three-term tenure as mayor (1992-2001), serving as vice president for admin and finance since 1985. In January 2008, BF announced his candidacy for the 2010 presidential elections.” (Source: Tann vom Hove, Editor, World Mayor) 

This years World Mayor Award went to Helen Zille, Mayor of Cape Town. Here’s one of the many comments about her and her team:
“Helen Zille and her team have brought stability, decency, integrity and good management to the City of Cape Town after many years of ANC mismanagement, corruption and lethargy. She has done a brilliant job of turning things around in the face of thwarted and hostile forces. A deserving winner of this prestigious award.” (Source: Tann vom Hove, Editor, World Mayor) 

Indeed, it’s wiser for a mayor to invest in stability, decency, integrity and good management than mismanagement, corruption and lethargy!

For these reasons, I’m proud to see Mayor Marides (Marikina, 7th place) on the list beside Helen Zille(Capetown) and Elmar Ledergerber (Zürich)! I know Ledergerber very well and I can only agree to the comments and praises given to him by people of Zürich, like:

“Mayor Ledergerber is often described as a bridge builder between the city’s Swiss nationals and immigrants as well as between the well-off and the less wealthy residents of Zurich. “Elmar Ledergerber has the unique capability to integrate the diverse political interests of the rich banks and the ordinary citizens, and achieve consensus on a good balance between moderate taxes and responsible spending for social welfare.”

“During Elmar Ledergerber’s leadership, Zurich has several times been named as the most liveable city in the world: “After a large period of decline, Zurich is now vibrant again – not only has it been rated number one for quality of living for several years now, but it is now developing further. Mr Ledergerber is a major driving force behind the redevelopment of Zurich-West, the expansion of public transport, the re-discovery of urban recreational space… I have been living in Zurich for 4 years now and he is definitely my choice for world mayor.”

The mayor is also praised for staying in touch with ordinary people: “Elmar Ledergerberis smart and articulate, he listens to the people, in fact he is very approachable and friendly, has an excellent way to communicate and explain his visions yet with the right amount of tenacity to get them into reality. Zurich is a wonderful town with an outstanding quality of life – and this also thanks to our Mayor Ledergerber who has significantly contributed to this success over the years.” (Source: Tann vom Hove, Editor, World Mayor)

Sadly, he recently announced his resignation in 2009. People don’t want him to go. But listen to his reason: “My 16-year old son needs me urgently now”. Also a very noble reason, isn’t? So people understand him.

“Born in 1944, Elmar Ledergerber has a degree in history and literature as well as in economics. He obtained his PhD in economics at the university of St Gallen. In 1977 he established a consulting firm, which he managed for more than 20 years. He was elected mayor of Zurich in March 2002. Before that he had been active in Zurich politics and nationally, as a parliamentarian.The mayor leads a city council, which consists of nine members from four political parties. He is divorced and a father of three. His youngest son is almost 16.” (source: swiss-info)

I even played with the idea that if it were not for the dramatic political backround in Capetown  where Mayor Helen Zille works and achieved good results, Mayor Ledergerber would have won the first place for reasons cited and for his simplicity.

Why publish such things here in Bulan Observer? Well, I think we need to learn some lessons we could use in our journey to a better Bulan if we ever want to continue with it. Success needs both- a good leader and responsible constituents. In a city like Zürich with intelligent and highly responsible and educated population, a good leader is still indispensable. How much more in a developing town like Bulan? For a brighter Bulan now and in the future, we need these lessons.

Finally, Bulan Observer congratulates Mayor Marides Fernando for her exemplary achievements!

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer


Press Release

By  Tonyboy ( PIO, LGU-Bulan)

Bulan, Sorsogon – October is declared as the Month in honoring the Elderly, and the Bulan Senior Citizens, responding to the call for activeliness in community undertaking, came in big numbers representing various Senior Citizens’ groups.

The Office of the Senior Citizen Affairs (OSCA), headed by former Councilor Joe Tan, under the supervision of the MSWDO and the Office of the Mayor, prepared several activities for the Month for Elders. It was also supported by various Senior Citizen Organizations like the BASCA, headed by Mr. Jose Jolloso, Veterans Post-Bulan Chapter, headed by Mr. Florentino Loilo, GRETA under Mrs. Benita Guan and the FSCAP under the leadership of Mrs. Nelly Diesta. This year’s theme is “Mga Senior Citizens, puwede pa makadanon sa pag-unhan san Bulan” (Senior Citizens, contributors to Bulan’s progress).

On October 4, during the Fiesta sa Kabubudlan, the elderly came and joined the Tree Planting activities at the Eco park.

On October 6, 800 undernourished children were attended to by the elders as they conducted a feeding program at the Bulan Freedom Park.

On October 11, the Bulan Lions Club helped in ECG examinations for the elderly at the Pawa Hospital.

On October 14, some 800 elderly came for the medical and dental activities intended for them at the Sabang Park, sponsored by the LGU. Mayor Helen De Castro, in a gesture of goodwill, also provided snacks for all of them. Present to extend medical assistance were Dr. Ludovic Tan, Dr. Tita Fe Palad, Dr. San Jose, Dr. James Apin, Dr. Estrella Payoyo, Dr. Kates Rebustillo and Councilor-dentist Jolife Dellomas, Dr. Visconde and Dr. Marilou Jimenez. The Bulan Rural Health Unit also assisted.

During the Culminating Activity on October 18, a HATAW physical exercises were rendered by the Senior Citizen. It was lead by Mrs. Anilin Diaz. Also present during the program, were Mayor Baby De Castro, Kgd. Dondon De Castro, Kgd. Joey Guban, Kgd. Goto Geronga and Kgd. Jolife Dellomas.

Mayor Helen De Castro has been greatly supportive of the senior citizen sector, especially thru the OSCA. (PIO, LGU-Bulan)

From Mayor’s 2007 Report to the People of Bulan, 2008/10/23 at 5:46 AM

Two-Edged Swords

by jun asuncion

( My reaction to rudybellens interesting contribution ” Lessons We Should have Learned…)

This situation analysis about Taiwan and the Philippines boils down to the most basic fundamentals again that we have been talking about: education and character, with all its strengths and weaknesses. To illustrate this I quote hereunder salient portion of rudybellen’s report:

“The Philippines still has an edge in being an English speaking-country and in having many natural resources, unlike Taiwan that only has its people as resource. However, its sole wealth in people, enabled Taiwan to tap its greatest potential in developing high-technology industries. ITRI, an agency with more than 5,000 researchers and more than 1,000 Ph.Ds, has enabled the spin-off of many technology companies.”

Taiwan has a high quality educational system as we have seen in PISA results. Wealth is a matter of quality not of quantity. Quantity-wise, we are richer than Taiwan in terms population, about 23 million (Taiwan) vs. about 90 million (Philippines). But this “wealth” of ours is more of liabilities than assets when it’s not educated in the modern sense as Taiwan; Taiwanese are highly educated and this is the big difference. The other thing that contributes to their success is their character. The Taiwanese engineers and scientists trained in Silicon Valley in the 80’s and 90’s returned to their small country and helped boost its economy in the succeeding years. This is loyalty and patriotism, a character trait that seems to be strongly anchored among the Taiwanese.

The Philippines’ claim of having an edge being an English speaking-country is a farce, outdated in my view for it did not/doesn’t contribute substantially to the country’s economic progress. We were made to believe by the American colonizers that by adopting their language and lifestyle we would boost our economy, i.e. get rich. The fact is that many countries that are rich and successful are not English-speaking ones,-Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and many more. The Philippines learned English early yet remained poor until now. So where is this edge? These countries acquired English much later but now they write and speak much better than most of us; they have learned their lessons well, thanks to their better equipped teachers and schoolrooms.

It is not to be disputed that the Philippines is endowed with rich natural resources compared to Taiwan, that in fact our wealth is still not fully tapped and converted to economic wealth yet -though we have already ravaged our ecosystem to a greater extent due to ignorance, greed and lack of political foresight. This is sad but I believe that there is still much left to be saved and recovered for us now and for the next generations. Let us not be pessimistic about our environment for in the long run it’s not we human beings that shape nature, but nature us human beings. Naturally we have to maintain our immediate environment clean (less pollution) if we want to survive and harvest something from it or else commit a planetary suicide.

This is an option left for us to decide. But such things as global warming and climate change, etc. are nothing new in the history of our planet and solar system. Central Europe was not always a temperate zone; hundreds of thousand years ago it was a tropical region with corresponding flora and fauna; there used to be palm trees like coconuts in Luzern for instance during those times. Glacial ice melted here and there millions of years before the invention of cars and Al Gore’s birth. Behind man’s exaggeration and hysteria about the climate is his belief that he is the center of all things and thus being in control of the world. Our realistic responsibility is to keep our surrounding clean and productive, nothing more. The universe takes control of the whole- even us little creatures.

How are we related to cows and milk? Well, they reveal a lot about our weaknesses and strengths. I do not mean the strength you get from drinking fresh cow’s milk every morning nor the weakness from the lack of milk, but about our political will and character.

To quote again rudybellen’s report to us:

“A foremost backer of a strong dairy industry was former Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani, who launched her White Revolution years ago to bring in Indian cows and bulls to propagate higher yields of milk and meat in the country. The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) also developed in vitro fertilization (IVF) to propagate better breeds, including some from Hungary, to increase the number of livestock for milk production. Dairy farmers have complained that there is little incentive for milk production even though there are large pasture areas in the country that have not been adequately exploited”.

You see clearly that it’s not the lack of brains in our country but the lack of political will to continue something good that has been started like this White Revolution launched by Senator Shahani. Mr. Ningas Cogon and Mrs. Crab Mentality are names that dominate the government’s payroll. They are the enemies of our economy for they come only to search and destroy, instead of to search and preserve or further develop. These large pasture areas in the country have been adequately exploited not for the dairy industry but for residential subdivisions, an example of those projects that are a two-edged sword for though they create, they destroy much more than what was created.

There are other solutions to solving the housing problems of a growing population. First, control the population, and second, design housing structures vertically, not horizontally. We know that global food crises come and go- only to come again. We are experiencing it at the moment. Yet I have never heard until now of such problem as global housing crisis where countless people die in a short period of time. There is always a way to find a little corner to sleep or a roof when it rains- and survive. To find food however is too difficult when every inch of the land has been cemented; you would survive after you have eaten your grass-deprived cow or goat, but not long.

We should therefore be avoiding converting vast areas of lands for housing purposes but should preserve them for our cows, rice and grass. Building subdivisions is destroying the economy and landscape and investing huge money in an economically poor project; it has zero-returns for the whole country and other related industries, hence a passive investment. The land should produce crops and offer living space for productive animals.

In the same manner that two-edged swords destroy our economy, death penalty in Saudi Arabia destroys heads every week in public squares. An Erap head should have rolled all along the Edsa Highway, instead of being house arrested with all the luxuries of a first class prison and getting pardoned in the end by an egoistic Arroyo. Death penalty is a tool that I think is reserved only for a very just government where, to quote rudybellen “we only need to implement the law rationally”, and justice for all- if I may add something to it. We have already seen in Arroyo’s action that such death penalty is also a farce in a corrupted political and legal system. Where money and power rule, death penalty is a joke for the rich and powerful criminals but of course feared like hell by smaller criminals.

Have you ever heard or- in case you are an OFW in Saudi Arabia- seen an Arabian Prince or influential public official hanged in those many execution squares in Saudi Arabia on charges of corruption? Saudi Arabian politics is unequalled in bribery and corruption- even before they discovered their oil. It is often called as the Kingdom Of Corruption- and it has the most advanced and active death penalty of the world!

Death penalty in this country is a tool used by corrupt officials to protect their status quo by propagating fear (deterrence) among the little people, but not to stop corruption itself. Take note also that countries with less or no grand scale corruption are countries without death penalty in their legal system – with the exception of the Philippines. In a public act (display) Arroyo aborted death penalty in our country yet her term has the highest record of extra-judicial killings. Whatever the motives behind these two events, and whether there is relationship, is open for interpretation. This is my observation.

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

Lessons That We Should Have Learned Long Time Ago…

from rudybellen


On Technology Development :

The research agency that virtually turned Taiwan around from an agrarian to an industrialized economy suggests that the Philippines should put up a similar agency that can get technologies take off from the shelves. The Philippines may derive a model from Taiwan in having established in 1973 the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which widely bridged the gap needed in technology commercialization.

ITRI told a Congressional Commission on Science, Technology, and Engineering (Comste) forum that the US technology model (of the academe collaborating with industries) may not work in Asian countries like Taiwan and the Philippines. But the ITRI model may work too for the country as much as it did in Taiwan. US companies are very big and have the capability to do research through links with the university. ITRI is like something in between to get the universities to work with industries. Such institution, should be run like a private enterprise, although it may receive seed money from government.

Comste said that government has been studying the setting up of an institution that will enable the country to develop niche products that have high commercial potential. And ITRI may just lead the way. We may set up an R&D institute that’s partly government and partly private. This may need legislation. The role of government is basically to set incentives, maybe give some grants, some tax breaks. Essential to making research institutions meet private enterprises’ needs for technology is a law that allows government-funded R&D works to be owned and patented by researchers themselves. Comste said that to start off with a similar ITRI agency, government may pass a law converting the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) into a profit-earning corporation. ASTI at present is one of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DoST) seven-research institutes. While earning a small profit, ASTI remits much of its earnings to government. In my own personal view, I would probably start small and consider ASTI which is now focused on ICT (Information Communication Technology) and electronics to “corporatize”. Their mandate can cover many areas, not only ICT. Because it is advanced science and technology, it can also be on biotechnology and nano technology.

As Taiwan has been beefing up its R&D budget, which is now approaching three percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the country should devote more budgets for this from its present minuscule 0.12 percent of GDP, many times less than that of Taiwan, a lot smaller country of 23 million people, in the 1950s-1960s, the Philippines had a higher per capita income. Taiwan with its investments in R&D, ninth biggest in the world, has experienced an economic miracle that has made it sixteenth in rank in global trade and foreign exchange reserve fifth in the world. The Philippines still has an edge in being an English speaking-country and in having many natural resources, unlike Taiwan that only has its people as resource. However, its sole wealth in people, enabled Taiwan to tap its greatest potential in developing high-technology industries. ITRI, an agency with more than 5,000 researchers and more than 1,000 Ph.Ds, has enabled the spin-off of many technology companies.

The emergence of world’s biggest wafer foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.,
is partly attributed to it. ITRI has invested more and has helped growth and birth of 255 companies under its Open Lab. These are Taiwan’s world market share in technology products: soho router, 93 percent; WLAN, 90 percent; Ethernet LAN switch, 84 percent; and cable CPE, 80 percent.

On Melamine Scare : Gov’t should strengthen dairy industry

The global impact of the melamine scare should push the government to reexamine its dairy program and accelerate its milk self-sufficiency target, which is originally set for 2018. The National Dairy Authority (NDA) set 2018 as the target for 100 percent milk sufficiency even as the discovery that large inventories of milk produced in China were laced with melamine, a chemical ingredient in the manufacture of plastics, has cast doubts on the integrity of imported milk. NDA is targeting to secure 11,000 dairy cattle in the next five years in its bid to raise production to 63 million kilos of milk yearly.Total national production is only five percent of demand, and the country’s entire population of milking cows is a pittance at 15,000 head. The annual production, mostly from cooperatives, is only 13 million kilos, while a big Thai dairy cooperative produces one million kilos a day.

A foremost backer of a strong dairy industry was former Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani, who launched her White Revolution years ago to bring in Indian cows and bulls to propagate higher yields of milk and meat in the country. The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) also developed in vitro fertilization (IVF) to propagate better breeds, including some from Hungary, to increase the number of livestock for milk production. Dairy farmers have complained that there is little incentive for milk production even though there are large pasture areas in the country that have not been adequately exploited.

Industry players have said milking cows could increase milk production by consuming moringa or malunggay leaves, as proven by the experience of Nicaraguan farmers who secured an increase in milk by 45 percent. Malunggay could be intercropped with fruit-bearing trees to ensure that farmers would earn more. Experts said that with enough malunggay in pasture areas and with abundant grass sufficient for 10 cows per hectare, milk production could increase significantly.Some enterprising dairy farmers have proven that with enough pasture land; a cow can produce 15 liters of milk a day. More pregnant cows mean more milk, and cows can produce milk from seven to 10 years. They give birth on the eighth month and can get pregnant again after three months. Experts said small farmers all over the country could participate in the dairy improvement program through proper training and education on the long-term benefits of milk production.

The government needs to invest at least P500 million annually to enhance the local dairy industry’s capacity to produce milk and help lessen the country’s dependence on milk imports. The country imports between US$ 500 million to US$ 600 million or P25 billion worth of milk and other milk products annually. About 99 percent of milk and dairy products available in the Philippine market is imported, while only one percent is produced locally.The country’s dependence on imported milk and milk products makes the country vulnerable to the entry of toxic food products. Should the government “diversify” its focus and invest in the local dairy industry’s capacity to produce milk, the country could ensure the safety of dairy products in the market. The annual investment, will cover the importation of milk producing animals such as cows, which is estimated to cost P70,000 per head. The P500 million per year investment can easily be recovered by lessening the country’s spending on imported milk. Only a small portion of the Department of Agriculture’s budget is allotted to the local dairy industry, with the bulk of expenditures focused on rice sufficiency and operating expenses. Food security advocates, on the other hand, said the influx of contaminated food into the country could be traced to the Philippines’ trade policies. According to the Task Force Food Sovereignty, the trade liberalization strategy adopted in the early 1980s has caused the “inevitable toxic food dumping” at present.

Of Greener Pastures, Brain Drains and Headhunters

 (A response to J.A. Carizo’s comment on A Lesson from From Shamans…)

Colonization actually started also with the dream of greener pasture which, as in the case of Spain, not really to spread Christianity and glorify their God and His Ten Commandments like Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall love thy neighbor etc. , for in fact they came in search of resources and employment and, worse, conquered, enslaved the natives, murdered and looted the whole Philippine archipelago. In the Philippines alone, colonization provided jobs for tens of thousands-perhaps millions- of Spaniards at that time in the Philippines and surely substantially increased Spain’s GDP during this pillage that lasted for 333 years. How about if you add to that the colonized South American countries? You may recall the Galleon Trades en route Mexico-Manila-Spain resulting to sinking some of these ships for being overloaded with golds, silver, goods and slaves. Some treasure hunters are still on the way mapping out the oceans with the hope of locating these lost  cargo ships. Now, we may just say it was the past and we just happened to be one of those unlucky nations that fell into the hands of those European colonizers. Some European friends of mine also admit that they were the ones who started the troubles in this world. It was painful for the colonized, glorifying for the colonizers. But from today’s modern perspective, for the former colonizers, what they did was a shame and source of remorse, for the former colonized ones, it was the birth of nationalism and authentic heroism, in short, a source of pride. You see, how situations and meanings change with time, true to the maxim that time heals if you were the victim, time injures if you were the perpetrator. In other words, time brings justice. From the modern, civilized, humanistic perspective, the Philippines is a proud nation for it has a clear conscience unlike Japan, Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain and America who unti now suffer from this collective guilt and in some cases have to pay reparation fees.Viewed against this context, we can shout  with clear conscience to the whole world “Mabuhay Ang Pilipino!”.

However, we now can comfort ourselves with the idea that the Spanish colonizers’ landing on the shores of Mactan was far from being an exact planning. The work of Professors Feyrer and Sacerdote of Darmouth College showed that it was wind direction and speed which decided where Europeans settled first and not by cherry-picking, i.e. choosing consciously better islands to settle. In short, by chance. Good or bad luck for us, you may say, for in truth colonization had both its negative and positive sides. Spain helped accelerate our development in many areas like education, arts, literature, sciences, engineering, architecture, nation building and -whether you like it or not-religion and Catholicism; they planned and built our cities, towns, universities, hospitals (and churches!) etc. The same with our American and Japanese colonial periods; they also contributed to the development of these areas mentioned. In effect, it has united us as one people, gave birth to nationalism, provided the platform for the development and cultivation of the Filipino mind and stimulated our political consciousness. We are all familiar with the negative sides of colonization so it’s about time we talk about its positive sides and use these with our modern insights to help us overcome those negative ones for as a nation we cannot afford to linger forever in the past and keep romanticising the pains of colonialism; we have to move forward.

Translated into our Bulan politics, we should act in such a way as to help those people in our municipal government be aware of their own good sides and good intentions so that they’ll think and act accordingly resulting to positive achievements for the town. This is what I mean by redefining many things in Bulan. We have been acting and behaving for ages according to the old definitions we carry in our subconscious that’s why we never move forward. We have to define our politics anew if we want progress: For the politician or politician-to be, think of how you can enrich your town while in office or if elected; for the political opponents including their supporters who lost the election, think also of how you can help those elected enrich the town. Fair play and teamwork is needed for the town to grow. This is simple but hard to do for this means transcending the ego for a higher end. This is difficult for it goes against the natural man in us and requires a civilized step we call reflection. Not transcending selfish motives and hate means staying by the old definition of politics and therefore against the idea of Bulan moving forward. The mayor should respect her office and use it to motivate and unify our people and act according to our new definitions of things in Bulan. This is the only way for Bulan to move to the next form.

You have mentioned OFW. The same way that Spain suffered a big outflow of human capital at that time the problem of human capital flight in the Philippines is as old as our colonial history itself. Think of the years spent by Rizal, Luna, Hidalgo, etc. outside the Philippines during their most productive years. Brain drain, originally coined by the Royal Society to describe the emigration of scientists and technologists to North America from post-war Europe, is not a new phenomenon and familiar causes of emigration are conflict, lack of opportunity, political instability, etc. -reasons also known to Rizal in his time. But we should not forget that it was not one sided at that time. Our country profited during that time also from  a huge in-flow of human capital or brain gain; educated European brains settled in our country and improved our GDP by bringing with them their knowledge and skills we never had before they came. Actually it was the colonizing-and later the war-torn Europe- that first suffered from brain drain. The families and relatives of the OSW, or Oversea Spanish Workers, knew already long ago the sentiments we Filipinos are experiencing now with our own OFW. Actually, brain drain in the Philippines started in the 1970’s due to the government’s adoption of international contract work known thereafter to us as Oversea Contract Workers whose first wave landed mostly in Saudi Arabia and in other Southeast Asian countries as well. There are by now around 8 million Filipinos working abroad (more than the population of Austria, Finland and Switzerland) and last year they sent home over 10 billion dollars which is about 12% of the country’s GDP. Arroyo’s government is happy about this money that’s why it boasted last July 25 of “coffers with monetary reserves” to face the world’s food and fuel crisis. But this is the hook to it: The lack of nurses and doctors and other medical personnel is continuously damaging the country’s health care system (resulting to closures of hospitals) – this with around 15,000 nurses leaving the country each year.

The problem in our country is that our political and economic situation is only conducive to brain drain but not to brain gain, i.e. in-flow of highly skilled individuals. Many foreigners are hesitant to invest their money, time and knowledge in our country for we do not meet the requirements of these people; it’s unthinkable for instance for European or South Korean nurses and doctors to apply as such in our country. However, brain drain is not only a problem among developing countries, it is a global problem. On the other hand, countries benefiting from brain gain (human capital) and economic gain (financial capital)  are countries that invested and continously invest in education and research and are politically and socially stable ones. A case in point I know so well is Switzerland, one of the best headhunters in the world. This is a place of brain gain from almost every imaginable discipline. I can say with certainty, as an example, that at the moment in history, the best brains of theoretical and astrophysics are gathered in Geneva working for CERN’s recently opened Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator. Whereas, to talk about headhunting in the Philippines is still taken literally by many foreign nationals, which understandably triggers fear and flight instinctive reactions in these people.

To qoute J.A. Carizo, “Aren’t the municipality missing guys like you and Atty Benjie and the rest of the Taga-Bulans who are now in Manila and other places living far from your hometown for lack of opportunities?”. Well, Attybenji would somehow find it easy as a lawyer to find a job in Bulan. I could imagine him as practicing lawyer, a competent politician or as a legal counselor to our mayor, for instance. But for a clinical psychologist, I think it woudn’t be easy to find clients in Bulan, a psychiatric hospital or a psychological clinic/research institute. Or, am I mistaken? I stand to be updated here!


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer