Aug 10, 2007

Knowledge and Ideas from Abroad

It always helps to get ideas from other countries. I used to scorn politicos who justified their foreign trips by saying that it "broadened the mind." Probably because most of them came back and continued being bad politicians.

My first trip abroad was in Hong Kong and I marveled at their train system, the lack of security guards checking bags in malls and office buildings, and the cleanliness of the streets and buildings. You could register a business in a few hours and open a bank account with only a passport. I was elated: despite the fact that many of them were rude, their system worked.

"Hong Kong is actually dirty," said one of the locals I was visiting. "You should see Britain." That comment opened my mind. I already liked what I saw in Hong Kong and this was still not enough for someone who has seen Britain?

From HK, more trips opened for me. I visited --

  • Australia, where the airport quarantine was really serious on protecting from foreign pests and disease and I could visit mountains and beaches just by riding a train;

  • Bangkok, where travel was smooth and peaceful because their roads were mostly free of potholes and the Thai did not honk their horns even in the worst of traffic; and

  • Europe, where they had lots of parks and greenery and (in some cases) their politicians traveled like the rest of us. In Italy, their old villages were travel destinations and they were proud of their village cuisine. In London and Paris, they have preserved their old buildings and structures and you can't help but wonder how inspiring it would be to work in these cities.

In all these countries, they had good mass transit (even Bangkok's Sky Train and Metro beats our 3 train systems) and travel-friendly signs and maps. In Bangkok, although most of their signs are in Thai, their airport and Sky Train have English maps.

PS: There are more than 565,000 registered OFWs abroad (and that does not include the undocumented ones), according to a 2006 DOLE report. If we include the undocumented ones and those who have migrated, along with their families, there must be more than 1 million Filipinos abroad. Imagine if we formed a forum or a think tank where even just a tiny percentage of these Filipinos took a few minutes to write down their ideas?

I am going to label this as "What Works Abroad". Future posts on this thread will be labeled similarly.


Robby Villabona said...

Actually there are about 8 million Filipinos abroad (2004 estimate), according to this doc.

In 2006 alone there were over 1 million deployed.

Since many are on a fixed-term contract, they rotate in and out of the country.

data tolentino-canlas said...

Visits to foreign countries remind me of the things I have at home. My travels abroad make me think: we have the same resources (in the case of Thailand), we speak very good English (even better than the Americans), and we have just as rich a cuisine as the Italians and French. Why are we still in the pits then?

On many occassions I would catch myself putting the Philippines down when I compared how efficient mass transit was in Thailand, or how culturally aware the Italians were. It was a shame that this is all I had to say about my country. Was there nothing I could say para mabida naman ang Pinas? When you think about it, meron naman. We just take a lot of it for granted.

Travelling abroad makes me realize that all we Filipinos need to do is take a step -- never mind how small. And if all those small steps happen in a concerted effort, we can make this country great again. We just have to insist on keeping our surroundings clean, be more appreciative of our heritage and culture, and generally just start saying nice things about ourselves. Nakakainggit yung ibang nationals when they thump their breasts and declare their nationalities. We can do that too. We just have to start believing in ourselves. :-)

haiku said...

THE SECRET diba? :D Dapat maniwala tayo na kaya natin umasenso. Of course it would help a big deal if we have a leader that the people trust and are willing to follow. Pero even without a great leader, kung lahat lang ng Pinoy mamahalin ang Pilipinas at gagawin ang makakaya nila at the individual level (yung hindi pagkakalat nalang dapat kaya na natin gawin eh), eh for sure there's going to be a big (and wonderful) change in our country. :)

Robby Villabona said...

One pet-peeve I have is how cashiers hand you change here: by handing you a pile of crumpled paper money then putting the coins on top of that (same thing with parking -- they hand the receipt with the loose change sitting on top). Makes for very awkward holding -- the coins will occasionally want to slide off falling to the floor.

In the U.S. I noticed virtually all cashiers hand them in a very efficient way. They put the paper bills on the counter for you to pick up, then wait for you to open your palm to hand you the coins. Even worse, sometimes we have here the cashier that does the opposite (thereby making it time-consuming to pick up the coins from the counter).

I know in the greater scheme of things this may be insignificant, but it's a reflection of how little effort we put in improving the customer's experience in general.

ben c. said...

My friend from UP Marian Coquia-Regidor emailed me this comment:

So what do you think about past and current efforts to replicate Silicon Valley in the Philippines? It's been years, almost a decade since I first heard of such efforts. I also sat through a
presentation on Silicon Valley start-ups organized by Paco Sandejas et al., with speakers who were touted as Pinoy success stories in the Valley. It was an interesting exchange of ideas, even if years later, I discovered that one of the speakers has been accused of being a
patent troll (!). I've had several sober discussions about this with some of you, like Jopin and Jopas, but I'd also like to hear from others... I haven't read Dennis Posadas' book yet but intend to pick up a copy soon.

BenC, nice going on this KM project. :-) If you want more mass rail transit ideas, I'll hook you up with my hubby Reg.

Here are my contributions for the day:

- In Chicago, garbage trucks and other delivery vehicles ply designated lower-than-ground-level roads and routes that don't typically cross or mix with pedestrian walkways, probably also to lessen the chances of garbage being strewn on the street and fouling
up the air... We actually share something in common with Chicago - Burnham designed Chicago's grid-like city structure and also made the plans for Manila, yet Manila and Chicago are worlds apart.

- In Thailand, the preservation of historical and heritage institutions is financed by a customer-oriented tourism program. In the Grand Palace, old or broken glass and ceramic tiles are used to retouch damaged reliefs. In other attractions, audio tours and tour
guides are available in over 15 languages including Russian, for a fee, and the revenues help preserve art and cultural treasures. (It's strange though, that Thailand has also become the mecca of cheap cosmetic surgeries)

- In Singapore, cars over 10 years old are prohibited on the streets to cut down on pollution and lessen the volume of cars. A burdensome tax is imposed on car ownership, so people are encouraged to take the train, which is also an efficient means of transport. (However, I find
it creepy that the government actually maintains a nursery of plants, later to be transplanted elsewhere in the city to make sure all of Singapore is manicured and perfect, perfect, perfect! Particularly hate Sentosa Island's peacocks and fabricated beach.)

Last year in Toronto, a Pinoy-Canadian lawyer led us to a dimly lit alley in downtown at around midnight so we could take it as a "short cut" back to our hotel. We hesitated, because our natural instincts told us that it was unsafe. Our host told us, "Naku wag kayong
matakot. Hindi Pilipinas ito!" Nakakalungkot di ba?

Robby Villabona said...

Clark base was supposed to have been our Silicon Valley, but Microsoft (remember Bill Gates visisted in 1997?) changed their mind about investing when Erap won the 1998 elections. At least that's what an insider who was working on it told me.

ben c. said...

From my HS best friend, Henry Carreon:

hi Bentut,

i am now in Malaysia working as a factory manager in a coconut milk factory. the moment you step outside Kuala Lumpur Intl airport grabe you will wonder why what happened to the Philippines I mean walang traffic the roads parang NLEX ang luwag at ka smooth sa NAIA sakit ulo because of traffic and bad roads. Anyway here all signs are also in Malay so very few people speak in english specially here in the province. aside from smooth roads and no slums(most housing units are tenement style, BLISS during Imelda Marcos time) so hindi masagwang tignan. Yes, lets all help our country, small ideas pooled together can make a big difference.

ben c. said...


I've received many email feedback on the stats about OFWs, telling me there are more Pinoys abroad. Of course there are more Pinoys abroad and estimates vary.

I quoted the DOLE study to give a *baseline* -- and that baseline in itself is already impressive.

Now, add to that the number of undocumented cases, the Pinoys who have migrated and those who travel a lot but are PH-based and you get lots of ideas.

Some comments also expressed doubts as to the effectiveness of pooling ideas together and questioning if it's the OFWs will indeed change our country. These comments missed my point, actually and I don't want to waste more time debating with these people who are obsessed with obstacles and block any ideas before they can even germinate.

My generic response to the critics: I want to focus on ideas that have proven to work, as shown in other countries. It can be done! We need to record these ideas and let more Pinoys know that it can be done.

If we know that these ideas work, then we will have more conviction when we question our lousy government leaders. Trapos have prospered by keeping us ignorant of what can work. So we are better equipped when we demand things from them.

That's just one way to start change. There are many more ways. Let's find them and pursue them.