History Matters: Magellan Didn’t ‘Discover’ the Philippines After All


Philippines’ Igorot Tribe Wearing Loin Cloths, St. Louis World’s Fair 1904

Were precolonial Filipinos ‘primitive’ before the colonial Spaniards and Ferdinand Magellan ‘discovered’ the islands in 1521? Were Filipino tribes consist of ‘savages in loin cloths’ when the Americans came to the islands in 1898? I think it’s time to change that narrative because history matters.

In 1904, the Philippines Exhibit was one of the major attractions of the World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO. Over 20 million Americans attended the fair. About 1,100 Filipinos were ‘recruited’ and presented as part of the “living exhibits” that recreated their native villages. They came from various islands and ethnic groups throughout the Philippine islands. The most popular were the head-hunting, dog-eating Igorot tribe not only because of their novelty, but also for the scanty dressing of the men in loin cloths and their daily dancing to the tom-tom beats. They were also a major attraction because for their apparent appetite for dog meat which is a normal part of their diet (Virginia Pilapil, webster.edu) The ‘primitive aspect’ of Philippine culture was seared in everyone’s mind.

The narrative of ‘savages in loin cloths’ still continues till today. In 2004, National Public Radio (NPR) featured again this “living exhibit” of savage Filipinos in loin cloths.  One of the grandchildren of the tribesmen featured said that his grandfather made sure when he returned to the Philippines that all of his children and grandchildren received an education. They highlighted the benevolence of Western culture and how they helped everyone became ‘civilized’ (NPR ‘Living Exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair, 2004).

Dale Asis moved to tears viewing the Boxer Codex for the first time, a 16th century manuscript that included significant illustrations of rich, precolonial Philippine culture (September 2017)

In September 2017, I saw the 16th century manuscript, The Boxer Codex at The Lilly Library, Indiana University. The manuscript was written c. 1590 and contains precolonial illustrations of the Philippines.

Precolonial ‘Naturales Tagalog’ (everyday Filipinos) in elaborate garb and gold jewelry (September 2017)


The Boxer Codex detailed elaborate pictures of precolonial Filipinos in ornamental garb and gold jewelry, depicting a rich culture and trade with neighboring countries. Precolonial Filipinos, after all, were not ‘savages’ in loin cloths.

The Boxer Codex showed the rich culture, trade, gold, and relationships of precolonial Philippines. Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan didn’t ‘discover’ the Philippines after all.



Boxer Codex Illustrations of people from other countries as far away as Japan (September 2017)


The Boxer Codex included pictures of people from faraway places as far as Japan and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). It showed precolonial Filipinos potentially have traded with these countries and had a rich relationship with them that influenced their precolonial Filipinos’ beliefs, social organization, trade, gold and culture. Precolonial Filipinos were sophisticated traders after all, not just ‘savages’ in little dug out canoes.



(left to right) Dale Asis, Marc Butiong, and Camillo Geaga visiting the National Museum of the Philippines (August 2017)



Last August 2017, I traveled with NEXTGEN participants Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga to the National Museum of the Philippines and found out more about the rich, precolonial history of the Philippines.


The Monreal Stone was found in Masbate Island. It depicts ‘Baybayin’ pre-colonial alphabet used before the arrival of colonial Spain


The Monreal Stone is not just another piece of stone. It was found in Masbate Island and it depicts the existence of the precolonial alphabet, Baybayin, that was widely used before the arrival of colonial Spain.




Gold of Ancestors Exhibit, Ayala Museum Makati, Philippines

We also visited the Gold Exhibit at the Ayala Museum in Makati, Philippines. The exhibition featured more than one thousand gold objects celebrating the sophisticated cultures that existed in the Philippines before colonization.

(left to right): Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga enjoying the precolonial exhibit at the National Museum of the Philippines.

I saw the Boxer Codex up close and saw the rich illustrations of precolonial Filipinos in elegant garb wearing elaborate tunics and gold buttons. I saw hundreds of gold objects that were minted and designed before the colonial Spaniards came in 1521. I saw hundreds of objects of precolonial pottery, language, trade, and culture before the Americans colonized the islands in 1898. Did the Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan ‘discovered’ the Philippines when it already had rich, trading routes with countries as far away as Japan and Ceylon (Sri Lanka)? Did the Americans tamed ‘the savage Filipinos’ in loin cloths and provided them with education and Western civilization, as depicted in the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair? I think it’s time to change the narrative. History matters. The islands had a rich culture even before the colonizers came.

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10 Famous Foods You’ll Love in the Philippines

(from left to right) Dale Asis, Marc Butiong, and Camillo Geaga enjoying view of the Taal Volcano and the food from Josephine’s Restaurant, Tagaytay

In August 2017, Bayanihan Foundation NEXTGEN participants Marc Butiong, Camillo Geaga and I enjoyed the many food delights of the Philippine Islands. Marc is a self-described foodie and through his excitement trying new foods, I also got carried away trying wonderful Filipino food delights during our visit. Most food lists often highlight the weird stuff which makes Filipino fare seem exotic and inedible. Every cuisine has their share of ‘weird’ foods, even American fare. Have you tried deep-fried Twinkies? Yup, they serve them, as they say, “proud to be Ammerican” at the Illinois State Fair.

Enjoying Fried Twinkies at the IL State Fair (Chicago Reader, 2008)

Here’s my top 10 list of food delights you must try the next you visit the Philippines Islands:

10. Bibingka at Kesong Puti (Filipino pancakes and white cheese made of carabao’s milk). The cheese complements the pancake so well. It tastes better than any goat cheese I’ve ever tasted.

Bibingka at Kesong Puti (Filipino pancake with white cheese made of carabao’s milk at Josephine’s Restaurant, Tagaytay

9. Manggang hilaw na may bagoong (Sliced, green mangoes dipped in anchovy paste). Every island seems to have their hometown favorite of anchovy paste. You can skip the salty anchovies but you should try the crunchy flavor of a fresh, green mango. It is to die for.

Fresh, green mangoes dipped in anchovy paste

5. Turon (fried bananas dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll). The best street food snack.

Turon, a Philippine snack made of thinly sliced bananas dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll (Talisay City, Cebu)

6. Fresh guavas. I picked this one right from the tree in Liloan, Cebu.

Fresh guava fruit right from the tree (Liloan, Cebu)

5. Tuyo, itlog, sinangag at pandesal (dried herring, scrambled eggs, fried rice and pan de sal bread). I enjoyed this hearty, Filipino breakfast, a perfect start when you’re going to see the sights of the islands.

Tuyo, itlog, sinangag at pandesal (dried herring, scrambled eggs, fried rice and pan de sal bread with butter) – typical, hearty, Filipino breakfast.

4. Kalamansi juice ‘moxtail’ (a moxtail is a nonalcoholic beverage mixed with natural fruit juices and typically with iced tea). This one is made of fresh Philippine lime (Kalamansi). This one is a perfect refreshing drink I got at Greenbelt Makati.

Kalamansi ‘moxtail’ (a non-alcoholic drink made of fresh Philippine lime juice) (Greenbelt Makati)

(left to right): Marc Butiong, Dale Asis, Vicente Yanesa, and Camillo Geaga at Greenbelt Makati (August 2017)

3. Sweet rice with mango slices (Cafe Cesario, Cebu Airport).
Believe it or not I got this at a restaurant in Cebu Airport. It sure beats french fries or potato chips.

Sweet rice with mango slices (Cafe Cesario, Cebu)

2.  Make your own halo halo (shaved ice sundae). There are countless variations of halohalo. Ideally, it’s a layered dessert consisting of shaved ice, evaporated milk, ice cream, and variety of mix-ins. Camillo Geaga enjoyed making his own version of halo halo at Cabalen Restaurant at the local Robinson’s Mall in Manila.

NEXTGEN participant Camillo Geaga enjoying his halo halo (shaved ice sundae) (Cabalen Restaurant, Manila)

1. Seafood feast from the mangroves in Mactan, Cebu. We were guests of the fisher folk community in Mactan, Cebu and they served us a feast! (left to right clockwise: rice, shrimp, soy sauce, boiled crabs, fried fish, fresh seaweed, boiled bananas, and shellfish from the mangroves).

Seafood feast from the mangroves in Mactan Cebu (left to right clockwise: rice, shrimp, soy sauce, boiled crabs, fried fish, fresh seaweed, boiled bananas, and shellfish from the mangroves (Mactan, Cebu)

I noticed that Philippine cuisine is very regional. It  varies as much as the thousands of islands that make up the archipelago.  So what’s your favorite Filipino dish? Do you also have a list of top 10 favorites. Let me know. Enjoy!

Posted in Philippine travel, Philippines, Youth leadership development | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

What’s Next? Support Women Vendors and Their Children To Have Access to Clean Water

Cebu’s Carbon Market is the oldest and largest farmer’s market in Cebu City, located in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, and is a major tourist attraction (Wikipedia, September 2017).

In 2014, Cebu’s Carbon Market was devastated by a terrible fire displacing hundreds of vendors (Inquirer News, January 2014)..

In 2014, Cebu’s Carbon Market was devastated by a terrible fire that raged on for two hours at this city’s premier public market, razing to the ground a whole block of the market in Sitio Warwick Barracks. More than 100 stalls and hundreds of subsistence vendors lost their livelihood and their homes (Inquirer News, January 2014).

Housing settlement of women vendors displaced by a devastating fire in 2014


In August 2017, the 2017 NEXTGEN participants, Camillo Geaga, Marc Butiong, and I visited the new housing settlement of the displaced vendors. They live in a patch of land in Talisay City, about 11 kilometers away from Cebu’s Carbon Market, their place of livelihood.


Displaced women vendors of Cebu’s Carbon Market tell their stories. They were displaced due to a devastating fire in 2014 and still have to be properly resettled.

After the fire, the women vendors organized themselves and formed an urban poor association, through the support of the Visayas Mindanao People’s Resource & Development Center (VMPRDC).  We visited these women vendors and their families. They shared with us their heartfelt stories of earning meager wages, barely enough to feed their children. Some of the displaced women vendors of Cebu’s Carbon Market cried when they shared with their heartfelt stories. For the last three years, these women vendors are still waiting for restitution and justice. Without adequate insurance, government assistance or social service protections, these women do not have any other recourse.

Emz Aliviano of Visayas Mindanao People’s Resource & Development Center (VMPRDC)


Emz Aliviano of Visayas Mindanao People’s Resource & Development Center (VMPRDC) showed us the substandard housing conditions of where these women vendors and their children live.




Standing, filthy water surrounded the substandard housing of the displaced women vendors

The lack of proper water drainage creates a public health hazard for the women, their families and their children

I saw that standing, filthy water surrounded the substandard housing of the displaced women vendors. There was clearly a lack of proper water drainage surrounding their homes and that it created a public health hazard for the women, their families and their children.

One water well with inadequate, basic sewer system provides access to drinking water to 67 families



There was one water well that provide access to drinking water to 67 families. It has an inadequate drainage system where the water flows out into a puddle of standing, filthy water.





Toddler waits for clean water in Talisay City, Cebu

Last month, one vendor family lost a toddler to dengue fever, due to the unsanitary conditions of the standing water and the lack of proper water drainage around the homes.  The filthy, standing water creates a public health hazard as it breeds mosquitoes promoting dengue fever and other mosquito borne diseases.

Bayanihan Foundation to support these women vendors and provide them clean water for their families and children

Yes, you can help! The Bayanihan Foundation would like to support partner organization VMPRDC and its urban poor women vendors by providing them access to a basic, water sewer system around their homes. This way, the water will not be left standing to breed mosquitoes and other mosquito borne diseases that could affect families and children. VMPRDC will provide the technical assistance and the local community members will provide the manual labor to dig the ditches and provide the basic, sewer system for the community. How much will this cost? You only need to donate $25 to provide access to clean water and help prevent another death of dengue fever. Donate securely online at the Bayanihan Foundation’s PayPal link: https://www.paypal.me/fdnbayanihan

Provide access to clean water to women vendors and their children

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Mission Accomplished: Hospital Lobby in Calamba Completed, Before And After Pics

BEFORE 2014: Makeshift hospital lobby of the Calamba Municipal Hospital

AFTER 2017: Renovated hospital lobby of the JP Rizal Memorial Hospital, courtesy of the donations of ‘The Adorables’ and the many donors of the Bayanihan Foundation


In 2013, I visited Calamba, Laguna, the hometown of my late cousin, Peter Aldeza. Calamba is located 100 kilometers south of the capital, Manila.  I found out that the only charity hospital in Calamba, JP Rizal Memorial Hospital, did not even have a proper hospital lobby. The hospital serves over 20,000 indigent patients every year and it’s the only medical facility for miles that provides charity care. All indigent patients have to wait out in a makeshift shed with a few corrugated metal sheets attached together as a roof and a few slabs of wood as benches. I wondered what happens when it rains and the patients have to wait out in the open?

BEFORE 2014: Makeshift lobby of the JP Rizal Memorial Hospital in Calamba, Laguna

AFTER 2017: Renovated emergency lobby of JP Rizal Memorial Hospital, courtesy of the donations of ‘The Adorables’ and the many donors of the Bayanihan Foundation


‘The Adorables’ throwing a successful fundraiser in 2014: (left to right): Dr. Dorothy Anoina, Eva Torres, Aurora Gagni, Carminda Aldeza and Dale Asis)

In October 2014, I shared this project idea with my late cousin’s wife, Carminda Aldeza. She immediately got to work and recruited other Filipinas to help in putting together a fundraiser to build a proper lobby for the hospital. Carminda recruited 20 other women to help – Ate (older sister) Sally, Ate Chit, Ate Aurora, Ate Aurora, Ate Sionie, Ruth Banatin, Christine Krogmann and countless others, including my mother Shirley Pintado.  They put together the best party of the year – a Hawaiian ‘luau’ theme party replete with grass skirts, leis, tiki torches, a roast pig ‘lechon’ and the Aloha spirit. It all happened so fast! In  I thought that the party was going to be a small get together honoring my late cousin Peter but it turned out to be the best of the year honoring Pete Aldeza’s memory, his goodwill and his legacy. But most of all, Carminda and the legion of volunteer Filipinas called ‘Adorables’ were the highlight of the party.


Ground breaking ceremonies at JP Rizal Memorial Hospital in 2015 (left to right): Dr. Borlongan, Carminda Aldeza, Dr. Ronaldo Catindig, Jeff & Penelope Krogmann, Christine Krogmann, Evelyn Castillo, Gov. Hernandez, Mrs. Hernandez, Brian Aldeza, Atty. Rebanal, Angelita Alviar & Rosemarie Aranza

In February 2015, I joined Carminda Aldeza and her family in the groundbreaking ceremony of the hospital lobby areas for the JP Rizal Memorial Hospital in Calamba, Laguna, the only charity hospital in the Laguna area.


(left to right): Camillo Geaga, Marc Butiong, and Dale Asis visits the completed waiting lobby for the Calamba Municipal Hospital

In August 2017, the NEXTGEN 2017 participants Marc Butiong, Camillo Geaga and I visited the municipal hospital in Calamba, Laguna. I am proud to share the completion of the hospital lobby. The donation resulted in the completion of the covered lobby for the emergency hospital, the covered waiting area, and the outpatient services lobby. Now, the patients do not have to wait in the elements. Besides the request of additional paint for the emergency lobby awning, mission accomplished.

(left to right): Richard Lee, hospital staff, Dr. Amy Belarmino, Marc Butiong, Dale Asis, Camillo Geaga, and Mahli Sales) presenting an office printer and FAX machine to the JP Rizal Memorial Hospital staff


In addition, the Bayanihan Foundation donated a printer and a FAX machine for the hospital administration use. The completion of this project is especially significant and an important milestone for me. This project demonstrated the persistence, patience and commitment of many people behind the scenes that made this project possible.



Crab Mentality

Filipino crab mentality is the desire to outdo, outshine or surpass another (often of one’s same ethnic group) at the other’s expense.

In this project, I was confronted with intense cultural challenges that I did not expect in my endeavors to raise funds for community projects. These cultural challenges include intense competition among Filipinos and the pervasive ‘crab mentality’ (Nadal: Filipino Psychology, 2009).  Crab mentality is the desire to outdo, outshine or surpass another (often of one’s same ethnic group) at the other’s expense.  These challenges include fragmentation and distrust and intense competition. I’ve realized that these cultural challenges run deep and might be the main reason Filipinos are not unified to face together larger community challenges including combating poverty in the Philippines, the big gap in income between the rich and the poor and increasing out-migration. Without any solution in mind, I began to accept the crab mentality thinking and just soldier on. This project somehow embodied how Filipinos could overcome deep fragmentation and distrust among each other called ‘crab mentality’. This story renewed my hope on the Filipino community spirit of giving. I slowly evolved from pessimism to optimism.

Special Thanks

I would like to thank a lot of people who made this project possible including the ‘Adorables’ (Carminda Aldeza, Dr. Dorothy Anoina, Aurora Gagni and Eva Torres). They changed my perception from pessimism to optimism. They bonded and worked hard to put together a terrific fundraising party, to raise funds to build a hospital lobby in Calamba, Laguna,  in memory of the late Peter Aldeza. They are a living testament that Filipinos could overcome the cultural challenge of ‘crab mentality’ and worked together in Bayanihan, for the common good. Special thanks go to Evelyn Castillo, the Bayanihan Foundation’s Liaison that made multiple trips to Calamba to make this project happen. Special thanks also goes to: Dr. Borlongan and the hospital staff of JP Rizal Memorial Hospital; Dr. Doreen Sales; Dr. Amy Belarmino; Christine Aldeza Krogmann; Sionie Sales; Shirley Pintado; the continued support of the Bayanihan Foundation board and the many donors that supported this project.

“As a familiar story goes, one can leave a basket full of crabs and not worry that a single one of them can ever climb out of it and escape the cooking pan.  The moment one succeeds in pulling itself up an inch, there will be a dozen claws that will make sure it doesn’t make it to the top.” (Mejorada: The Filipino Express, 1996)


Honoring Peter Aldeza (left to right): Dale Asis and Carminda Aldeza

Honoring Peter Aldeza (left to right): Dale Asis and Carminda Aldeza

In the end, the indigent patients of Calamba, Philippines benefited with new hospital lobbies where they could wait in comfort and not out in the open.  I have indeed renewed my spirit. The Bayanihan spirit of community giving, Kawang Gawa is alive and well.

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Kawang Gawa (Helping Others)


Members of the Visayas Mindanao People’s Resource & Development Center (VMPRDC) assisted participants of 2017 NEXTGEN Program to plant mangrove seedlings in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu

In August 2017, I traveled with the participants of the 2017 NEXTGEN program, Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga. During our visit, we demonstrated ‘kawang gawa’, the age-old cultural trait of helping others.

We planted mangrove seedlings in Mactan island with the local community supported by the Bayanihan Foundation’s partner, Visayas Mindanao People’s Resource Development Center (VMPRDC).

Fisher folk community leaders from Barangay Mactan in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu explains their dire situation of displacement as informal settlers in rapidly changing Cebu

We learned about the challenges of the informal settlers and fisher folk community that are being engulfed by the rapid tourist and economic development around Cebu. We also heard the struggles of the struggling street vendors of Cebu’s Carbon Market. I think we demonstrated that the tradition of kawang gawa of helping others is alive and well.

Posted in Diaspora Giving, environmental sustainability, Philippine poverty | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Young Filipino Americans Travel to Philippines to Discover Heritage, Give Back

(left to right): E Armea of Kaluluwa Kolectivo and Marc Butiong, NEXTGEN Fellow distributes food packages to indigent Filipino Muslims in Iligan City, Philippines July 2015

In June 2015, I traveled with young Filipino Americans to the Philippines as part of the Bayanihan Foundation’s NEXTGEN Program. The NEXTGEN Fellowship Program is designed for young Filipino Americans to learn more about their Filipino heritage and connect them to the foundation’s sustainable projects in the Philippines.  In August 10, 2017, I will be traveling for 10 days with two young Filipino Americans, Marc Butiong and Camillo Geaga as part of the Bayanihan Foundation’s 2017 NEXTGEN Program. Marc, Camillo, and I plan to visit historic sites in the Philippines; learn more about their Filipino heritage; connect them to the foundation’s sustainable projects; and potentially give back to the community, locally and globally.

Marc Butiong

Marc Butiong from Chicago, IL

“I’m Marc Butiong. In May 2015, I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with a degree in Business Management and minor in Finance. I work as a Sales Analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. I hope to pursue a career in healthcare administration after completing graduate school. I split my time between Chicago and Detroit where I support multiple nonprofit initiatives including the Bayanihan Foundation.

As a recipient of the first NEXTGEN scholarship back in 2015, the program provided me the opportunity to visit the Philippines for the first time and understand my Filipino identity. For this year’s trip, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the country and exploring more of its rich history to share with the Filipino community back home.”

Camillo Geaga

Camillo Geaga from Berkeley, CA

“I’m Camillo Geaga from Berkeley, California. I am completing an Associate degree (AA) in Liberal Arts and Humanities at Los Angeles City College. I will be joining this year’s NEXTGEN program and this will be my first time to visit the Philippines. I’m excited about my experience to travel to the Philippines in the hopes of cultural enrichment, education, and further participation with the Bayanihan Foundation.”

During our 10-day trip, we plan to:

  • Visit historic sites related to precolonial Philippines; colonial sites under Spain and the US; Philippine revolution for independence; and to World War II;
  • Connect with community groups like the Visayas Mindanao Resource Development Center (VMPRDC) and their local efforts for community sustainability. The Bayanihan Foundation has been connected with VMPRDC for the last six years;
  • Plant mangrove seedlings in Liloan, Cebu, as part of the thousands of mangrove seedlings already planted to combat climate change;
  • Complete the two new hospital lobby areas for the JP Rizal Memorial Hospital in Calamba, Laguna, the only charity hospital in the Laguna area. These hospital lobbies were donated by many donors from Chicago, IL; and
  • Relax and enjoy the Philippine islands, including visiting an active volcano, Taal.

Taal volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world (photo courtesy of Philippine Primer.com)

Interested in joining the 2018 Bayanihan Foundation’s NEXTGEN Program? Applications for travel scholarship will be available late fall 2017. So stay tuned! In the meantime, take a look at the history links and Voice Thread presentations to learn more about Philippine precolonial history, its colonial past, and its diverse culture and heritage.

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, Philippine travel, Youth leadership development | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Philippine President Duterte Optimistic Development Plans

Dale Asis (seated far right) joins 60th wedding anniversary of Luz (seated middle) and Vic Saavedra (seated second from right) in Iligan City, Philippines (June 2017)

In May 2017, I joined my aunt Luz and uncle Vic Saavedra’s 60th wedding anniversary in Iligan City, Philippines. During this festive family celebration, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in Iligan City and the island of Mindanao to crush militant rebels in nearby city of Marawi (BBC News, July 2017). Legislators in the Philippines have voted overwhelmingly to extend martial law to deal with an Islamist insurgency in the restive island of Mindanao. The island is home to a number of Muslim rebel groups seeking more autonomy. Martial law allows the use of the military to enforce law and the detention of people without charge for long periods. This a sensitive issue in the Philippines, where martial law was imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos for much of his rule. Leaving Iligan, we went through many checkpoints and delays as we head towards the local airport.

A Philippine policeman mans a checkpoint along a highway in Iligan City, Mindanao (May 2017, Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Like many Filipinos at home, those overseas largely voted for Duterte. So as soon as I got back to the US, I wanted to find out some answers on key questions in my mind:

  • Why does President Duterte continue his surging popularity in the Philippines, despite the setback of the insurgency in Mindanao?
  • What kind of migration policies does he support? Is he like the other Philippine presidents that actively promote out-migration to continue the flow of remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW)?
  • Will his tough on crime stance hinder Bayanihan (community giving)?

Philippine President Duterte greets displaced residents of Marawi City affected by local insurgency (June 2017, photo courtesy of Xinhua Chinese news agency)

Behind the headlines of the brash President Duterte, I was surprised that his polices were thoughtful and departs from his predecessors. Beyond the media hype of get tough, macho stance, his policies seem more optimistic, in fact, looking ahead. His presidency’s development plan is unprecedented that it situate a development agenda within the longer-term AmBisyon Natin 2040 (Our Vision 2040; literally, ambition), which reflects the aspirations of Filipinos for themselves and their country (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

Duterte’s long-term view for the Philippine development plan (PDP) is novel. These development plans are typically anchored on the six-year cycle of each administration and nothing more. The new PDP explains, “As one of Asia’s better-performing economies today, the Philippines is in a more favorable position than it has ever been in the last four decades. No longer weighed down by an unmanageable fiscal deficit and more secure in its political legitimacy, the government can now afford to think about national goals based on a longer time horizon.” The Duterte administration’s target is to achieve annual GDP growth of 7-8 percent in the medium term, and the PDP aims to cut the poverty rate from 21.6 percent to 14 percent overall, and from 30 percent to 20 percent in rural areas. It also seeks to reduce the unemployment rate of 5.5 percent by 3-5 percentage points by 2022 (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

The new development plan also gives special attention to overseas Filipinos by incorporating international migration issues, often referring to migrants directly, throughout. It gives attention to the special circumstances of migrants and their families, and aims to protect their rights and improve their well-being, strengthen their engagement in governance, ease their participation in the country’s development, and ensure their smooth reintegration upon return.

Last March 2017, Duterte visited Thailand and he spoke to almost 2,000 overseas Filipino workers.  The Philippine President said, “My dream for the Philippines will not be reached overnight, but we can start it. In 10 years, you don’t have to travel abroad to find a job.” (Manila Bulletin, March 2017).  This is a departure from other Philippine presidents that actively pushed Filipino workers to find employment abroad and keep sending vital remittances back to keep the country fiscally afloat. Limited employment opportunities affected many higher skilled Filipinos, forcing Filipinos to migrate by necessity and not by choice.  And their emigration results in brain drain, which deprives the country of human capital important for development. (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

On the other hand, Duterte’s long-term plans calls for strengthening the long-running Balik Scientist (Return Scientist) Program and similar schemes. He is open to the idea of tapping foreign experts, including overseas Filipinos, for institutional capacity building and development expertise. This is an important policy pivot. The Bayanihan Foundation believes in connecting the expertise of Filipinos abroad, promoting return migration and reversing the brain drain. However, it remains to be seen, if Duterte will keep up the momentum to maximize the development potentials of migration, while continuing to look out for the well-being of migrants working abroad (The Philippines Beyond Labor Migration, Asis, 2017).

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