Why invest in the Filipino?

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ARCHITECT FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

ARCHITECT FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

WHEN love is the motivation of work, the work becomes a gift for two people: the intended beneficiary of the service or output, and the loved ones who depend in the income of the work. In this sense, work is both an act of prayer and selflessness.

A few weeks ago, when I met again the founder and Dharma Master Cheng Yen of the Tzu Chi Buddhist International Foundation, she reminded me that good work needs to have both skills and the heart. In her mission, the master encourages the more fortunate ones to look at success as increasing one’s capacity to offer charity and love. Work as a form of service, and success as a gift to be able to give more. The Catholic saint, Josemaria Escriva, the founder of the Opus Dei, reminds us that “work is a form of prayer” and good work is a form of sanctification.

This year the Tzu Chi Foundation founder and Dharma Master as well as donors and volunteers from96 countries appointed Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group to be the architects, planners, engineers, designers for a hospital, a university, and three schools in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake that devastated that nation. We were instructed to design the buildings and structures to last a thousand years to benefit 40 generations in a city vulnerable to catastrophic earthquakes.

Invest in the work of the Filipino
I wish to share this outlook in work because I believe this is the kind of work ethic that many Filipinos can offer. The motivation of the Filipino is their families and this motivation makes them one of the most hardworking in the world. Filipinos are passionately family-oriented. That is why their work is often driven by both necessity and love.


I believe one of the reasons of the success of the information technology and business process outsourcing industry is the willingness to work difficult hours, the capacity to carry on conversation, and the willingness to be trained and to learn.

Another great advantage of the Filipinos is their tri-lingual capability: they can speak English, Filipino, and a hometown dialect. In other schools and universities, students are required to learn Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, or French, among others. There are studies that say that people who know more languages are able to think more critically. And currently the ability to speak both American English and British English is one of the most important economic driver for the knowledge industry.

With this, I believe the Department of Education and the Department of Science of Technology have a bigger role to fulfil in the coming years to spur socio-economic development. But I am slowly seeing an emphasis on research, people training, and good skills training. It is important to note that the technological breakthroughs in South Korea, Japan, China and the US and Europe, among others, is the merging of both creativity and critical thinking. Our TESDA centers and colleges should encourage creativity and critical thinking application, which I think a handful of schools are doing.

Architecture and infrastructure
The Duterte administration has announced that the coming years will be the “Golden Age of Infrastructure”. Eight trillion pesos is the budget in the next six years to build transportation systems, roads, seaport, airports, schools, and hospitals. The annual GDP to infrastructure spending ratio will be no less than five percent, and with the target aiming at seven percent, according to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

There is also a housing backlog of at least three to five million homes, so it is expected that the construction boom has barely scratched the surface. But I also want to remind developers and investors that balance is needed. Housing should target the other regions, provinces, and cities outside Metro Manila. There are so many opportunities in the housing and urban and regional development, but the emphasis on good planning and good architecture are needed. In Palafox Architecture and Palafox Associates we integrate the planning process of an integral ecology: a balance among “people first” or social equity; the “planet earth” or environment; “propriety” or profit; and economic goals, heritage, history and culture, and spirituality. There should be a strong emphasis on sustainability, livability and resilience to the impact of climate change.

The golden age of infrastructure also means the golden age for architecture, urban planning, engineering, and interior design.

Filipino expatriates not OFWs
When I worked in Dubai, I was called a Filipino expatriate; so were the other Filipinos who were working in other countries. I’ve talked with friends in foreign countries and they think highly of Filipinos. But one of the comments I get is that OFW sounds like other acronyms that are not pleasing. This impression caused by word play is actually affecting the brand of Filipino expatriates.

Yes, we should start calling our Filipino workers Filipino expatriates again. A point of interest: the Americans, British, and Japanese are called expatriates, not OFWs, so why change the word expatriates when it gives a branding of prestige?

Why invest in the Philippines?
The Filipino people are worth investing in. And the current administration is actually trying to level the playing field for businesses. Many cities have successfully reduced the number of permits needed, as one of the thrusts of the administration is the ease of doing business.

I invite foreign investors to talk to local businessmen about the real business climate that the country is experiencing today. The political noise as described by some media outlets focuses only on one of the many aspects that this administration is confronting. And I want to remind media outlets and influential writers that speculation and narrow perspectives go a long way in affecting national economic and social development. Interview more credible businessmen regarding their outlook on the Philippine economy.

All I can say is, the Philippines is open for business. Invest in the Filipino people. The country has a young population and strong local consumption, and the amount of work to be done is a promising prospect for investment and development.

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