It’s 2012. What now Philippines?

Based on the past two decades (1991–2010), one can fairly argue that the Philippines has seen its unremitting decline in international reputation as can be seen through its generally poor performance in the aspect of economy, social and political stability, curbing corruption, poverty reduction, administration of justice, environmental preservation, agriculture, tourism, science and technology, health, education, sports, entertainment, etc. This ironically happened when most of its Asian counterparts (China, South Korea, India, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.) are further gaining ground for their respective international reputation.
During those decades, the Philippines has seen also its rapid population growth, rapid rise of unemployment rates and crime rates, rise of medical exodus, worsening of insurgencies, worsening of political mudslinging, massive corruption, rice importation, environmental catastrophies, commodification of education, etc. It was during this time also that NAIA Terminal 1 was considered one of the dirtiest airports in the world, Manila one of the most dangerous cities in the world, the Philippines one of the most corrupt countries in Asia and one of the most dangerous places for journalists, and top Philippine universities lagging behind in world rankings.

In 2011 the Philippines takes on the same pattern. It’s still, for the most part, a decline in our international reputation as a nation. For while we are proud of the feats of Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Manny Pacquiao, Shamcey Supsup, and Charice Pempengco, and the instant celebrity status of crocodile “Lolong,” it was a year when no Philippine university entered the “Top 400 Universities in the World” as released by Times Higher Education, the Philippines settled at the bottom of the ranking of 180 countries as of corruption index, the devastation wrought by typhoons Sendong and Pedring brought international attention, the execution of drug mules in China, the troubled Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East, Japan and New Zealand, the house arrest of a former president, and the first-ever impeachment trial of a chief justice.

For these past years, it is unfortunate that the Philippines seems to earn its international reputation not primarily through what the nation accomplishes through a strong performance in its economy, social and political stability, and scientific and technological innovations but primarily through the individual accomplishments of its citizens especially in sports and entertainment or through an identification that a foreign celebrity is in some ways Filipino (e.g., Maria Aragon, Nonito Donaire, Bruno Mars, etc.). While individual accomplishments in sports and entertainment add to our country’s reputation, they are “lesser” when compared with what a strong economy, social and political stability, and scientific and technological innovations adds to our international reputation—for it gives us “power” and “might,” social and political resiliency, and better opportunities for citizens to excel amidst the world. Hence, if primarily the Philippines strongly performs in its economy, social and political stability, and scientific and technological innovations, and secondarily in sports and entertainment, then our international reputation becomes stronger.

Is the above unattainable for the Philippines? No. The Philippines has done it before: the Philippines was the second largest economy in Asia in the 1960s, the ratio of US dollars to Philippine peso was then 2:1, it is in the Philippines where the Asian Development Bank was established (1966), the Philippines hosted the legendary boxing event “Thrilla in Manila” (1975), the Philippine basketball team won Bronze in the 1954 FIBA World Championship, the Philippines was the Asian Basketball Confederation champion in 1960, the Philippines was the Eastern Division champion of the David Cup in the 1960, a Filipino (Carlos Romulo) served as the president of the Fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1950, the Philippines hosted the 1978 FIBA world championships, the Philippines won the first-ever Asian Games basketball gold medal in 1951, among many others.

The Philippines can do more than being known as the country of Manny Pacquiao, the home of the largest crocodile ever caught and the shortest man alive, and the location of one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.”

We shall have to hope that the Philippines of 2012 will improve its international reputation through a strong performance in its economy, social and political stability, scientific and social innovations, health, education, sports, and entertainment.

This can happen only if its citizens act as “doers” rather than “whiners” and “talkers.”