I came across an interesting piece in Reyna Elena‘s popular collective blog BarrioSiete.com. Its title “Bulgogi Nights: A Country Prostituted Again!“, pretty much is a dead give away of its author’s (who goes by the handle johnonymous) lament — that the Philippines is being over-run by Koreans.
For those who have a high tolerance for that earsore called Taglish, here is an excerpt that pretty much sums up this lament:
There’s nothing wrong about embracing foreign culture, yung nga lang when we tend to givaway, throw or lose ourselves from immersion, that’s another thing… small examples like Koreanovela, K-Pop and etc products.
Ang hirap kasi sa society natin sunggab lang ng sunggab! Di natin napapansin, may foreign infestation na nangyayari sa ating lipunan. May 100K na yata daw sila dyan and counting.
It’s so odd: kadalasan ng mga immigrants ay nagmumula sa mahihirap na bansa patungo sa maunlad na mga bansa… pero sa kaso nitong mga Koreano, pumunta sila sa mahirap na bansa natin…
With this magnitude of Koreans now, I think it’s beyond the education they had sought for. They are there to exploit a 3rd world country where consumer protection is very elusive and you could sell anything or everything — just be great with your BS selling points!
And for the benefit of the rest of us who still value a bit of discipline around the way we communicate, I provide this rough translation:
There’s nothing wrong with embracing foreign culture. The problem lies in the way we lose ourselves in a blind embrace of foreign artefacts. Examples, in the case of our growing addiction to Koreana, include things like Koreanovela, K-Pop, and other products.
The trouble with our society is that we eat up everything fed to us without realising that our society has already succumbed to foreign infestation. They say there are already 100,000 Korean nationals residing in the Philippines.
It’s so odd: In most cases, immigration flows from poor to rich societies. But in our case we are seeing Koreans moving from their prosperous society to our Third World nation.
Seeing the numbers of Koreans living in our land now, I think their motives now lie beyond availing of our cheap education [an observation made earlier in the article]. They seem to be here now to exploit a Third World country where consumer protection is non-existent and where you could sell just about anything! It just comes down to how clever your sales and marketing approach is.
Well now, don’t you just love free enterprise, Mr. johnonymous? It’s an economic system that makes winners richer and losers poorer. To some people (like me), that comes across as quite fair. To some, it obviously doesn’t. Looking beyond the lamentable lamentations of your blog article, I say you have highlighted a sad reality of what it means to be a loser and what The Free Market means for a society imprisoned in a loser mentality.
In short, the Philippines is obviously an attractive land. Unfortunately native Pinoys lack the brains to see much of the oppportunity sitting under their noses. But then foreigners seem to see it. So I can imagine these foreigners thinking this:
Look at that rich land over there, its moron inhabitants are turning it into a wasteland. But before they do, let’s go over there and make a bit of money out of it before it all goes down the crapper.
[NB: The above is based on an actual comment I left on the blog article.]
And that, my friends, is my theory as to why Da Pinas will in the foreseeable future be subject to colonialism. Though this colonialism may no longer be political in nature, it will as evident in Mr johnonymous’s observation be economic and cultural in nature.
At the end of the day we have no one to blame but ourselves and the damaged psyche that is at the core of our culture. Where we consistently fail in our own homeland, it seems the Koreans are taking up the slack. The blog article acknowledges that Koreans are good “community builders” and that this flies in the face of our own inability to continue building and encouraging “Pan-Filipinism”. As another commentor observed:
there are places in manila where filipinos are off-limits. in fact, they even have a place for americans ONLY. you must show your US passport. will they allow a place in the united states FOR FILIPINOS ONLY?
what is weird is that, filipinos seem to marvel that they were able to BE in these exclusive places. like they are several notches above local, under-privileged filipinos.
For me it is quite simple. Filipinos as a people are unable to offer the world much in the way of (a) a national identity beyond that ingrained as a result of the colonial legacy of Spanish rule, (b) a clear meaning in being “Filipino”, and (c) convincing evidence of collective achievement as a sovereign people. Therefore if we are unable to offer these to the world, it seems to follow that we are unable to offer this to ourselves. This explains why we are quick to latch on to foreign presences for validation and eat up foreign artefacts to shore up status.
There is no validation or status in Filipino cultural artefacts. Filipino cultural artefacts are seen as low-class. Sad, but there it is. The real option we have, given this sad sad reality inherent in being Filipino, is to answer a question that doubles as a challenge:
What are we gonna do about it?
When translated into a business problem, the issue of the low-class status of and perception around Filipino cultural artefacts implies a specific solution:
The perception of Filipino cultural artefacts as being low class stems from the concept of “Filipino” as possessing very low brand equity.
I devote an entire section to exploring this business problem in my book Get Real Philippines Book 1 where I articulate the nature of the problem and the challenge we need to step up to in detail:
There is no Filipino brand and no “Philippines Inc.” The Philippines has no brand equity to speak of. Our cuisine, as shown in the previous examples, is virtually unknown and unmarketable globally. Chinese, Thai, and Indian individuals, by sole virtue of their being Chinese, Thai, and Indian, can set up a restaurant in any corner of the world and can easily command an immediate following. The very words, “Chinese”, “Thai”, and “Indian” placed before the word “restaurant” by themselves already add value, just like Picasso (as the unverified story goes), carried around a pen and a doodle pad instead of a credit card or chequebook whenever he went out shopping.
What Filipinos fail to realise is that regardless of whatever physical or natural resource a society may possess, it is still intellectual capital that creates value out of the mundane. All the oil underneath those desert kingdoms would be worthless today if someone had not come up with the idea of the internal combustion engine. It took the American multinational companies Dole and Del Monte to create the immense pineapple production industries that sustains much of the island of Mindanao today. Indeed, even the one resource that Philippine society is so efficient at producing – warm bodies – is being harvested and put to far more productive use by foreign societies, foreign organisations, and foreign processes and technology. Just like the vast oil reserves in those little desert kingdoms and all the rubber trees in Malaysia and Brazil, countless Filipino souls would continue to languish in low-added-value Third World standards of productivity if not for the opportunities afforded to them by foreign employers and the local operations of multinational companies.
In short, we have to build brand equity in the same way that the great enterprises of mankind have — by strengthening our value proposition to mankind (what we offer that the rest of the world values) and delivering this value in a consistent manner. The most valuable brands on the planet built their equity by earning the trust and respect of their customers and patrons. Have we put enough effort to earning the global community’s trust and respect?
Singapore is now at the advanced stages of building the brand equity of the concept of “Singapore” [an excerpt from management guru Tom Peters’s rant paper “Project 05” written in the summer of 2005]:
Senior Minister K.Y. Lee (former PM Lee), architect of Singapore’s awesome transformation, addressed our group, and acknowledged that Singapore had achieved its exalted status by becoming Southeast Asia’s hub of “operational excellence.” Singapore does it right! (Or some such.) But he also acknowledged, the reason for his invitation and presence at the conference, that Singapore, now, had to be … and he almost cringed as he said it … “COOL .” Thence “the” “Brand Singapore” conference.
We have yet to prove that we can do the basics right (produce good quality products and deliver them as agreed, for one thing). And as such we are at a woeful Square One in this journey. To achieve the exalted status of cool is an aspiration we can only dream of. And until we have a plan around how to get us there, we will remain pathetically beholden to the foreign.