Why is The Philippines so far behind the rest of East Asia?
Why is The Philippines failing on so many levels when it should, by all accounts, be a major contender in South East Asia? What you might not know, is once upon a time, it was just that, a major economic contender in all of East Asia.
I won’t pretend for one utterance of a second to be an expert in world history, religion or economics. However, after 2 years here I have tried to piece a few things together that some people may find interesting, or others may take deep offence too. Either way, it’s what I’ve learned and experienced.
How does it all break down? –
Complete Philippine history in a nutshell
- 30,000 years ago is the earliest record of human life in The Philippines as the Tabon man was discovered here
- The Philippines was actually a collection of independent island nations ruled by different people. So it was not one nation until …
- In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan arrived, although Portuguese, he worked for the Spanish crown as a citizen. By 1565 The Philippines became a Spanish colony and named after King Felipe II becoming known as Las Islas Felipinas (the Islands of Felipe)
- For the next 333 years Spain ruled The Philippines and instilled Christian Catholicism
- In 1898 The Philppines began to revolt against the Spanish and with the aid of the U.S.A. (Spanish-American war) became independent
- However, at the end of Spanish American war, the treaty of Paris handed The Philippines over to the U.S.A.
- The Philippines and the U.S.A. then went to war
- In 1902 the U.S.A. won and so The Philippines was now a colony of the U.S.A.
- This lasted until the Japanese invasion during WWII
- After the war, The Philippines gained full Independence from the U.S.A. in 1946
- The Philippines Economy was now booming
- A slew of Presidents took office during this time
- Then the corrupt dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos took over in 1965 to 1986
- In 1986 the people power revolution took back power lead by Corazon C. Aquino
- Since then her defense secretary (Ramos) took over and tried to change the constitution to allow a second term in office, it failed
- Actor turned politian Estrada then took over, and also tried to change the consitution to allow for a second term and was booted out on charges of plunder
- Enter Gloria Arroyo who took over his office, before then running for her own first term of office culminating in years of corruption alegations
- This year the new president Benigno Aquino III son of former president Aquino came to the Presidential office
The Philippines was once one of the fastest growing nations economically in East Asia
Back in 1950 excluding Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, the Philippines had a higher income per capita than any other nation in East Asia.
And, it continued to boom until the early 1970’s, when paradoxical the rest of Asia took off economically.
The Philippines went on the decline as it’s neighbors prospered.
What happened to The Philippine economy?
In The Philippines American colonialism is often referred to as a major factor to the downfall of the country during this time. But in parallel, the second country to be occupied by the USA during this time, Japan, rose up to become one of the worlds most powerful economies.
The same, but different … always
Both are island nations in Asia, which to me, negates the argument that The Philippines isolation and lack of resources is a major factor. Though, I will settle for contributing at some stages.
There is also the argument that when Marcos took over; The Philippines became devastated by dictatorship. But, this is largely negated by the fact that other nations in SEA also had tough political times. Indonesia is a prime example, along with Korea and Thailand.
Not withstanding this; crime, violence and corruption became rife in The Philippines at it’s highest level. Yet, it stayed with big business, and politics and did not sweep into the lower economic scaled classes.
But still, why can this land of smiling people not break free from the corruption that’s made it one of the lowest performing countries in East Asia? This, coming from a country that upholds a strong and devote catholic following. A faith, that for sake of argument, promotes good will and honesty to all.
Systemic corruption in the Philippines is a result of Christian dictates?
Now here’s an interesting theory:
Catholicism is the main religion by far in The Philippines. Brought in by the friars of Spanish colonists. They swept the fledgling nation up in what had helped Spain become a colonial super power: control.
Spain had colonies based on this in the Americas and Africa. The system worked well as it had done previously in the European empire building days of yesteryear.
The overwhelming teaching of the catholic church dictates that its followers should seek answers from within the catholic institution. As such Catholics depend on their church (the institution) for answers and guidance. This was for 333 years the modus operandi.
Enter the American influence on the Philippines
Almost immediately following the Spanish, the U.S.A. ruled the Philippines. The U.S.A. was predominately a Protestant Christian nation at that time.
The Protestant Church instills the value that people should find truth and guidelines from within the Christian Bible.
“Protestantism instills individual responsibility based on guidelines, whilst Catholicism instills a belief that centers around an institution.”
And so, an abrupt fracture in ruling beliefs that arburtrate the same end game began.
Robert H. Nelson also brings up another link that adds substance and evidence to this theory.
Similarities between The Philippines and Latin America
The Philippines is the only Asian country with a direct similarity to Latin American countries. Both have past colonial histories with Spain. And, to an extent been involved with the U.S.A.
They also have very similar trends in terms of economic, political and religious histories.
One of the great queries of our age is “why haven’t the neighboring countries of the U.S.A. done better” Both in terms of economy, and politically. It’s not for want of influence.
Religion again or something else?
You may have guessed the trend here too. Spanish Catholic colonialism and Protestant U.S.A. influence.
The outcome, anti U.S.A. sentiment for trying to impose values (not withstanding other areas), similar lagging economies and corrupt governments.
So a question:
“Is religion the major factor in the similarities between growth / lack of and development within The Philippines and Latin America?”
Past and present end game in The Philippines
With a few exceptions the rest of East Asia is progressing in leaps and bounds. Those that are not are largely a part of constrained political dictatorships.
The Philippines has been a free thinking, democratic country with strong ties to the U.S.A. and Europe for decades. Not to mention sitting beside some of the strongest economic countries in the world – China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea.
Other east Asia countries are marching ahead economically and politically – Vietnam and Malaysia. And, although bereft with political issues Thailand too has jumped leaps and bounds ahead of The Philippines.
Yet, The Philippines remains marred by political failings, economic downfalls, corruption, lack of proper healthcare, a juvenile education system, and perhaps more sadly; plundering moral values.
Parts of Africa were also colonized by Spain, amongst other nations. In my time there I met with many people who seemed to house a deep disdain and blame for their problems owing to their former rulers.
Paradoxically, in countries that do not labor on with this feeling, progress seems to edge on a few degrees faster.
Least we look even further back when the U.K., U.S.A., and China etc, were all colonies of other nations / empires e.g. UK – Rome, U.S.A. – England, China – Mongolia.
In The Philippines I hear much about the American influence (recent history). Japan is still mentioned, in ire. And, Spain now seems only remembered for the odd word that is still spoken here.
There is little ill will spoken of Spain here. It seems in The Philippines history becomes a part of the subconscious faster than in most other nations. Perhaps there is a reason for this though.
If the nations educational system was more apt in world history, it might bring about a little realization. Sadly, many people, have very little knowledge even about their own recent history in World War 2. Facts and figures are taught via rote learning, but little of the why’s, how’s and who’s are taught. Go past WW2, and even less is taught.
Walk into many a bookstore outside of Manila, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything other than bibles, business studies, self help, cheap tacky movie paperbacks, and romance slush piles. Where’s the history section?
History here seems only to be regaled by serious scholars, or those educated overseas.
In my estimation, history is where we learn about our present and future.
The future of the Philippines in Asia
Will this lagging yet once dominant nation return to being a leader in Asia?
Is cultural history and religious legacy within The Philippines going to dictate its fate?
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I recommend you try my own hotel search for The Philippines.
How business works on this journey, and how it does not …