A Mercedes Benz in a slum

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SOMEBODY said some time ago that the Philippines is a rich country pretending to be poor.

If my memory serves me right, the first who said that was a flamboyant lady who wanted to justify her lavish lifestyle at the expense of the Filipino people.

I heard that again from the head of a government agency, using it to justify the purchase of a Momi Momi massage lounger, an expensive high-tech chair that scans a user’s body and adjusts its pressure points automatically.

These things came to mind when we had a dozen visitors at The Manila Times College (TMTC) last week from the University of Kyodo in Kobe, Japan. They were Japanese and Chinese graduate students taking up Masters in Business Administration (MBA)


In the course of exchanging views with our students on their impressions of the Philippines, most of the visitors spoke of how amazed they were about the big shopping malls here despite images in the press that the Philippines is a poor country.

The students had gone around the SM Mall of Asia and had seen the malls in Makati and Pasig/Mandaluyong during their first four days of stay in Manila.

In restaurants, they said they were impressed with the hospitality of the service staff, although they did notice slow serving of their food orders in some places they visited. But in one restaurant, a Chinese student said they were served one dish for free.

They have seen some of the slum areas, and one Japanese student said he was surprised and found it strange to see a Mercedes Benz car parked in one poor community. He said he didn’t know however if a resident owned it, or somebody else did and was just dropping by there.

They said they anticipated the traffic congestion because they read it in the news before coming here. They also knew about the “tanim-bala” extortion racket and were worried about the possibility of falling victims to it.

While they were thankful that none in the group was found to have a bullet in the luggage, they did not expect the traffic jams to be worse. And about the Filipino time? Oh, they were visibly disgusted about locals showing up late for appointments.

A Chinese student who had visited St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City said he was impressed to find out that the country has a number of medical facilities that are well-equipped to be globally competitive, especially in medical tourism promotions.

Having been around Metro Manila for four days, one of the students had observed the large gap between the rich and the poor. He said he was curious to find out how the government has been helping the small and medium-scale enterprises to push economic growth.

Being MBA students, our visitors said they believe that small businesses need support to grow in terms of infrastructure, capital and tax perks from government.

The traffic congestion around the megacity is an indication, they said, of the urgent need for an efficient mass transportation and adequate infrastructure like roads and bridges. The Japanese students suggested that subways would alleviate and eventually solve the road congestion in the Philippines, just like how it has worked in their country.

Nevertheless, the students said the country has positive economic outlook and that they believe that solutions to problems like infrastructure are underway. They have seen the road constructions as they moved from one city to another around Metro Manila such as Skyway 3 that would connect the south to the north expressways from Makati to Quezon City.

One of the students said the delicious food and “nice” Filipino people are among the things they would remember most about their week-long stay in Metro Manila.

Listening to them and sharing some stories with them was a welcome respite from the vicious name-calling, twisted and propaganda stories on politics in the mainstream and social media.

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7 Comments

  1. Arturo Cabrera on

    Yes, the Philippine is indeed a rich country. Despite the presence of several corrupt government officials and employees for decades, its economy did not go bankcrupt.

    • Getting bankrupt or not is not a precise measure of wealth. When an employer losses money while the employee are sustained by the lossing business does not make the employee is wealthier than the employer.

      If the Philippines did not go bankrupt because its economy is bouyed buy Domestic labourers working as contract workers elsewhere, does that make its economy bigger than those of Italy or Spain? Definitely not!

      A ship that as a hole in its haul taking some water is still bigger than a small banca that has no hole and not taking in water. Being economically vibrant does not mean economically big.

      Japan and US economies at some stage shrunk while the Philippine economy did not, but both economies a very very much richer than the Philippine economy.

      Know the difference between ignorance and feeling not ignorant?

  2. Miss Valderama, what the Japanese students saw is exact;y what all foreigners see in our country. What they do not see is the NON-INCLUSIVENESS of the Philippine economy, whose elite can sustain their opulent lifestyle because they enjoy 90% of the gains in the economy while the rest of the population get only 10% of the benefits.

    This phenomenon of NONINCLUSIVENESS has increased under the BS Aquino 3rd administration.

  3. I totally disagree with the comment of one visitor that building subway will solve traffic problem in Metro Manila. This kind of mass transportation is not adaptable because of the risk of its uselessness during the rainy season wherein Metro Manila is almost 5 feet submerge in flood/water.

    The most adaptable mass transport system is the OVERHEAD mass transportation. Years have passed & none of the leaders have advocate this kind of transportation

    REPLY

    Your objection–floods–is refuted by the existence of undersea subways in Hong Kong and other places in Europe, messrs JFC.design.construct. It seems that you have to keep your ancient knowledge of construction up-to-date.

  4. Indulging in foreign views of the country, specially from visitor who only skim through our country for a couple of days may falsely lead the population to believe how the country really stand against international comparisons.

    Ya its good to mention about the good aspect of the Philippine nation, slightly mentioning the economic demographic highlighting the richness. Philippines is not a rich country pretending to be poor. It is really a poor country pretending to be rich, that’s why you have big malls and mercedes benz’es as they would make someone feel like somebody in a glimpse of time even without the resources to sustain. This traits I believe could only be summarized as mass ignorance. Collective belief of what the country is not.

    REPLY
    It is a RICH COUNTRY whose WEALTH is enjoyed oonly by the few who are very rich even in global terms. But the majority of the Filipinos are soooooo poor and depend on the income of their OFW sons and siblings whose remnittances also help make our country VERY VERY rich.

    • There is always truth in the very old saying “A little learning is a dangerous thing”.

      Having a dollar among a crowd of penniless makes you the richest indeed, yet does make you rich enough to buy even lunch.

      Are you really rich?

  5. Seeing a Mercedes Benz parked in a slum area could only mean one thing. The driver drops by to see a lover, or the driver dropping by to make a drug deal for his boss. In any case, the Benz was there for a reason and that is to possibly make some more money.

    First impressions are the most important in every introduction, it gives an overall feeling of what will be possible and real and look at the other problems like traffic in a different perspective, because at the end of the day they are in the country to learn.