I lived in the Philippines from 2004 to 2008 as a JICA expert for a Japanese government IT project. My impression of the country changed a lot during my stay. I would like to elaborate on this.
What was my impression before I went to the Philippines? Admittedly, it was not a good one: a country that was not well managed economically and politically- poverty, crime, corruption, assassinations and so on that appeared often in the news. Did it change for the better then? Not quite for matters related to the economy and for politics on a national level, but YES especially in regards to the people’s positive character and strength.
I have experienced coordinating with our Filipino counterparts, the faculty staff of the University of the Philippines, and found that they were capable and determined, as well as persevering and strong. Another thing: I was surprised to find that they liked closer personal relations even at the office, as exemplified by numerous birthday parties (if it’s your birthday, you paid for everyone!), many get-togethers and yearly company-paid outings (a” dead practice” in Japan).
Now, turning to my personal driver and my housemaid. Both of them later took up work outside the Philippines: the former in Guam as a driver and the latter in Denmark as a housemaid again. Off course, they went abroad to earn better livings for their families, who stayed in the Philippines. This is something that the Japanese dare not do nowadays.
To understand the Filipino character and strength, the country’s history gives some insights. It is often said that the Philippines has experienced two epochal changes in the past: firstly, the Spanish rule from the 16th to 19th century that left “Catholicism” to name but one; secondly, the Americans who came after the Spaniards in the beginning of the 20th Century (until the Philippines gained independence in 1946) who established the educational system in “English” for the country.
So, as I see it, what happened was a fusion of the western inheritance (the better part of) and the predominant Asian culture and spirit based on family and community bonds. I would like this positive Filipino character to be kept and even expanded especially in a world of ever noisy self-assertion.
The entrance of the Rizal Shrine in downtown Manila. This is dedicated to Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines.
Sunset in Manila
San Augustin Church in downtown Manila. It is a world heritage site as one of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines.
This is Makati, a modern city center of the Metropolitan Manila.