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Monday, May 26, 2014

No FUN in the Philippines -- WTF (Where's the FUN?)

I am not a fan of the website called because in my opinioin they write like political spinners and I have never read any article they have written that has anything good about the current government.  The website is really an anti-PNOY propaganda site.

If their goal is really noble, they should also go after all politicians who are tainted with corruption.

However, I should admit that in this article they have good points and because of that I think it is a good read so we can have a balanced perspective.

Read the full article below.
The Philippines: a world traveler’s musings and ramblings – WTF (Where’s The Fun?) 
During my time/career, I have visited, lived, and worked in more than 80 countries on both business and pleasure, and I have just spent the past 3 years touring Asia, which had many highlights interspersed with a few low ones, but the Philippines, where I was based for 18 months, ranks in a league of its own, and merits a few comments and observations, whilst fresh in my mind, and as I reflect upon my recently concluded Asian sojourn.

Behind the smiles is a sad sad nation.
Sometimes travelling is about seeing beyond the obvious, to try and understand the psyche of a country, even in a comparatively short time, to slowly peel away the layers, to relate to its people and its problems, and to paint a realistic picture, rather than just collect picture postcards, and to give honest opinions, unwelcome as they may sometimes be. This is one such time, and in the spirit that the Philippines professes to want more tourists, wants to improve, and welcomes expert opinion, then a few observations seem warranted, although usually any detractors or critics are regarded as persona non grata – how much of an island mentality does that suggest, and in the Philippines’ case you need to multiply that attitude by 7,107! 
It would take a book to describe the sheer political hypocricy, social dysfunction, and business inefficiency in the Philippines, which must rank as one of the world’s worst-managed and most corrupt countries – excluding failed African states – and also to do justice to the resilience and spirit of the 100 million people, the vast majority of whom (75+%) struggle to survive on a daily basis, (27% unemployment, and 35% living below the poverty line), who live in cockroach-infested homemade shacks where malaria and dengue are rife, but who cannot afford hospital care and medication, who experience regular natural calamities without the benefit of government readiness or meaningful assistance (e.g typhoon Yolanda), and who ultimately must fend for themselves, or rely on the many overseas charities/NGO’s ( non government organisations) – which admirably do what the government miserably fail at. 
And Filipinos, incredibly, suffer all such indignities and hardships mainly in silence under the rule of an incompetent and self-serving dynastic elite, which likes to masquerade as a democracy to the outside world, but which in reality has more in common with an imperial dictatorship, or feudal england in the 1500′s. What a sham, – which is also how the United Nations categorises democracy in the Philippines ( every election is replete with cheating, vote-buying, and numerous murders), and all without one ounce of shame by the political clans, as one hand promises hope, whilst the other robs the already poor of their tax money, and even worse, their dignity; and whilst one face smiles at election time, and their other face laughs in contempt at the poor the rest of the time.
Politics is a family business in the Philippines.
Throw this in too for good measure: the Philippines is the centre of drug trafficking in Asia, has 1 million sex workers – many under 14 and working in cybersex dens – and has a thriving industry in human and child sex trafficking, 14 million child labourers, 26 million who have no toilet and commune with nature (i.e defecate outside), the lowest IQ in asia – 86 – and one of the lowest in the world, and not surprisingly, it is also the 6th worst country in the world for crony capitalism. Not a pretty picture.\ 
And to add insult to injury, even essential commodities – electricity, water – which regularly suffer supply problems, and up to 8 hour daily brownouts (blackouts) in the summer, are the most expensive in Asia by far, as is the slow and antiquated Internet service. No surprise foreign companies base themselves elsewhere, and that the Philippines is bottom of the ASEAN league when it comes to FDI (foreign direct investment). 
Infrastructure is a shambles, with no major projects or groundbreaking solutions to well known and long lasting problems – symptomatic of the scrooge attitude towards investment, and the Filipino business model of monopoly pricing and excessive profits. 
The real obscenity however, is that the country is clearly not poor, as evidenced by the many new cars (even Rolls-Royce are opening a showroom this year) the western designer brands, botoxed mistresses dripping in jewellry, the endless lavish parties hosted by politicians, the palatial houses hidden behind high walls. But these cannot hide the fact that the country suffers from an income inequality that ranks amongst the highest in the world, and consequently which only likes to showcase to the outside world the contented 5%, but ignores the other 95% as inconvenient truths, even publishing propaganda polls to say how happy and hopeful everyone is!
Awash in cash: Recently-opened Rolls Royce showroom in Manila
The country incessantly likes to talk about a rosy future, but never plans, implements, or achieves, just promises jam tomorrow as it lurches from crisis to crisis. The bottom line of all conferences/trade visits etc is – “give us money” – the subtext being “let foreigners take the risk, and we keep control”. As if! The real message should be “we are incapable of managing ourselves!” 
A jackdaw nation, or should that be a cuckoo in America’s nest.
The situation for the masses is as bad now as it was 40 years ago, and whilst it suffers from paralysis by analysis, its neighbours focus less on propaganda and more on action, and reap both the economic benefits and international respect. 
Even the recent and much-hyped improvement in the Philippines’ GDP growth (7%) is pure smoke and mirrors, since a lot is simply ‘hot money’, and as 75+ % of the national wealth remains firmly in the hands of just 40 families due to the combination of extreme monopolistic powers, cartel agreements, and protectionist policies against any external control/competition, and wages are kept low, with inclusive growth impossible under the current regime. 
Top 40 families – wealth and economic control:
Philippines – 76% of GDP
Thailand – 33%
Malaysia – 5%
Japan – 2%
Uk – 0.2% 
The economic model and philosophy in the Philippines is, in essence, a communist one, with all its attendant problems and no possibility of attaining inclusive growth, stimulating competition, fostering innovation, or competing with the outside world, hence the only product the Philippines has is an abundance of cheap labour. 
Poverty and unemployment which are the only real barometers of progress and prosperity have actually got worse over the past 3 years as corruption has become endemic, and government ineptitude, by what one senator called ‘a student administration’, has plumbed new depths.
OFWs are really unemployed Filipinos disguised as expatriate workers.
The average wage is the local equivalent of 400 US Dollars/month, (a housemaid gets 50 US dollars/month), with managers on 600 US dollars/month, and senators on 800 US dollars a month, so those filipinos with BMW’s, Porsches, multiple houses and the inevitable properties in the US – Los Angeles and Las Vegas must be financial wizards, and there are clearly a lot of them in government! 
Corruption is the main income generator, and even lowly government officials, especially in Customs, drive new cars, some, as evidenced recently, a brand new Porsche – and all on the equivalent of 400 US dollars/month! 
It is estimated that up to 40% of the annual national budget is siphoned off by politicians. Robin Hood in reverse, or just Robbing Juan. 
In many ways the Philippines’ biggest problem is its struggle with its own identity – the Chinese have the financial power, the Americans the political influence and cultural saturation, and the indigenous people little influence or respect. Worst of all worlds.

Manila airports: definitely not an oasis of pleasantness for the weary traveller
First impressions – the main international airport in the capital Manila – the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) – repeatedly captures the ‘prize’ as the worlds worst airport, and i can only agree wholeheartedly. An absolute disgrace. Long queues, bad signing, dirty and inoperable toilets, non-funtioning aircon units, and very rude staff (recently an immigration officer was caught on camera physically hitting an arriving passenger – maybe he was complaining about the terminal roof, which partly collapsed the previous month injuring waiting passengers!), not to mention the disgusting food outlets selling cheap inedible processed rubbish. All just a taste of things to come! 
Mabuhay – Welcome to the Philippines!
Best advice – if you cannot avoid Manila airport, and Manila itself – keep calm or risk an increase in blood pressure. 
Manila – the world’s most densely populated city (21 million, as people from the provinces gravitate to the centric capital in search of any work), and also which attracts other dubious honours – high on the lists for pollution, crime, and with, horrendous traffic jams, incessant roadworks, an overcrowded and breakdown prone mass transit system, illegal bus operators, and antiquated fume spewing rust buckets called ‘jeepneys’ (Jeepneys – transport for dwarfs who have no feeling in their arse and no sense of smell; best advice – plenty of deodorant) makes going from point to point more like negotiating an orienteering or obstacle course, and any stop means well-schooled beggars suddenly appearing at the window of the taxi/car complete with a doleful look and outstretched hand. The government plays the same game with foreign aid, as it plays the victim and begs for financial help, despite being the 28th largest economy in the world. As one writer said – “a rich country pretending to be poor”.
Best advice – wear a filter mask, and don’t risk driving. The rules are only there to be ignored. 
When in a taxi, lock the doors.
Horn honking, mistress bonking, dog barking, videoke cranking, perverts wanking, ladyboys hustling, children bawling, women shouting, beggars wanting, maids cleaning, politicians stealing, fish frying, rice cooking, heat searing, nothing working, everyone pissing, skin whitening, bellies swelling, vagina tightening, dollar loving, telenovela watching, cock fighting, basketball playing, gun toting, police shooting, tax avoiding, self deluding, idea copying, buck passing, always promising, never doing, self deluding, propaganda pushing.
Public housing in the Philippines
Manila – the sights – shameful neglect has obliterated the stunning art deco buildings which once graced the city, and the few remaining spanish buildings have fallen into a state of neglect along with the roads, and everything else. Filipinos do not like spending their own money, and do not regard the environment as important (man-made, or natural), but prefer to play the victim, hold out the begging bowl, and scam aid/grants/investment from abroad, and then siphon off most of this to off-shore accounts. Ergo, the city is dilapidated, and is now a vast shanty town, complete with hordes of illegal squatters, cheek to jowl with a small modern oasis for international corporates in new high rise towers and high security housing for expat execs and politicians, plus the obligatory chain hotels which provides western style civilisation for the few. Sofitel does have French flair and a great location and view, but is also usually full of Filipino politicians on expenses, so a double egded sword – pearls before swine, and social etiquette is very basic. 
Best advice – avoid bus tours! Three years ago, a member of the Philippines’ police force held a group of Hong Kong tourists hostage, ending up in both a farce as the Philippines’ keystone cops tried to rescue them, and in a tragedy as 8 tourists died in the ensuing melee. The Philippines even refused to apologise to Hong Kong, and the President still has not done so. Filipinos refuse to accept blame or responsibility for their mistakes. ‘Lie and deny’ is the common mantra. Be prepared for that. On the flip side Manila is proud to proclaim that it is the ‘selfie’ capital of the world. Mmmm – that says it all really. 
Manila – the nightlife – at night Manila takes on a different persona. Out come the rats, as big as cats (at least some things are well-fed), and other unsavoury characters. Not something to dwell upon. Best advice – If you do take a walk on the wild side then keep safe! Don’t leave an unwanted ‘somebody’, or take home an unwanted ‘something’. STD’s are common (even the President’s sister admitted to having one – classy!) – the use of condoms is not! 
Manila – ‘it ain’t half hot here, mum’ – The heat in Manila is oppressive most of the time, and unbearable during the summer months, which inevitably coincides with daily brownouts/power cuts despite consumers paying exorbitant prices to the monopoly (up to 8 hours daily in some areas/regions). A similar situation exists with water (shower when you can). Selling generators must be very profitable in the philippines, but beware cheaper hotels and stores do not have! It makes Baguio – the summer capital an attractive proposition – until you get there! 
Best advice – lots of wet wipes.
Baguio – after a 5 hour journey, which can be hair-raising at times, on pot-holed mountain roads, hairpin bends, and marked by regular accidents, you arrive at the mountain town of Baguio. Cool temperatures, it was designed and built by renowned American architect Daniel Burnham in 1909, and became the R&R base for American officers during World War II. An architectural gem originally meant for a population of 30,000, now houses 300,000 precariously perched on an earthquake-prone hillside (thousands died in the last major quake in 1990), plus innumerable tourists and Korean students – it is now locally called little Korea. And the pine trees are gradually making way for shopping malls! A sad reflection of Filipino priorities and their lack of respect for heritage, although the locals did protest, but money shouts in the philippines. Best advice – enjoy the strawberries, and expect rude Koreans.

Law & Order south of the Visayas
Elsewhere the second largest city – Davao – is run by a gun-loving mayor and his well-publicised death squad of vigilantes (DDS), who regularly shoot transgressors, and he is proud to regularly say he will kill law breakers. The mayor also has an aversion to anyone smoking in the city, and is anti-foreigner. A real jungle bunny, but popular with the locals. Even the mayor’s daughter ( who was vice-mayor – now its his son) goes round beating up people, as was caught on camera last year – talk about thugs in charge. Best advice – quit smoking
“It ain’t much fun here, dad” – Nearby, the Muslims and Communists in Mindanao regularly kidnap foreigners for ransom and keep the National Geographic and Discovery channels supplied with stories for their – ‘I shouldn’t be alive’ segments. This is also the area where the infamous Maguindanao massacre occured in 2009, with one political clan wiping out another during the election period, killing 58 people, incuding 34 journalists! No-one has yet been convicted as the trial drags on. ‘ justice delayed, justice denied’ is the norm for the Philippines legal system. Best advice – as per US/European embassies – avoid. 
The nicer places – such as Boracay and Cebu are rapidly falling victim to the Filipino characteristic of over developing, with short-term greed over-riding long-term planning, and becoming overcrowded with the accompanying problems of noise, dirt, hookers, Americans etc. 
Tourism – The Philippines is Poverty Tourism for Masochists, and judging by the numbers, also appeals to many fat bald 50/60+ year old Americans who are a common sight in places like Angeles City and Cebu holding hands with teenagers! R&R for dirty old men. Even the US ambassador Harry Thomas said most Americans who visit are sex tourists. Best advice – kick the perverts in the balls, hard. 
Language – Filipinos do speak pidgin American English, but mainly limit their usage with foreigners to ‘hi Joe’, ‘hello friend’, ‘want chicks’, ‘gimme money’, or ‘are you my daddy?’ Best advice – if your name is Joe then it will get confusing, and even more annoying than for everyone else. Headphones. 
 Emotions – Filipinos are very sensitive, emotional souls, and the slightest criticism will result in either tears, or anger, but perversely they do not mind being used and abused by their own politicians, and presumably having gone from past colonial dominance to the current feudal system subservience is now part of their dna. Schizophrenic masochists with borderline personality disorder (females)/ narcissistic personality disorder (males), and with the vast number of ladyboys most probably being a psychologists dream patient. Best advice – everything with a big pinch of salt. 
Cuisine – Filipino cuisine merits a special place in the kitchen – the waste bin. Everything fried, everything with rice, everything brown, everything overcooked, usually cold, and some things just too disgusting to contemplate (balut comes immediately to mind, but is not alone). Food represents national culture/identity, so no surprise that the cuisine is simple, boring, repetitive, and the cooking is lazy, lacking in imagination or innovation, and even manages to take something good (raw ingredients), and turn it into a disaster. Best advice – go on a fresh fruit diet, and/or always carry toilet paper. And not one Michelin restaurant in the whole country. Street food is pot luck – guess wrong, and suffer the Manila Killa, and 4 hours on the toilet – always carry toilet paper!. 
The people – Increasingly I found that the focus gravitated to the 1% corrupt at the top, and the 1% criminal at the bottom, and they determine the agenda for the other 98%, who are simple but welcoming, and as i have mentioned are too tolerant for their own good. The women are beautiful – but rice 3 times a day takes its toll come 30. The obsession with becoming white (creams, lotions, potions) is crazy, but driven by the media (and cheap pharma companies), who are very racist and elitist. And if you do not speak English then your career options and social aspirations are immediately limited. Maybe a companion for a fat American becomes the career choice. 
Some Filipinos and Filipinas see foreigners as walking ATM machines, and it doesn’t take long for the inevitable sob story to be unloaded – relative in hospital/died, school fees. Some of their relatives seem to die every other week – often the same relative! 
Headlines from newspapers – gives good and rapid insight. Always dominated by corruption scandals, drive-by motorcycle shootings of politicians or journalists, beauty pageants, and any part Filipino who has achieved success abroad. Vicarious pride! 
TV – endless telenovelas, bad acting, and in-depth interviews with Z-list personalities – naturally with accompanying background music as the cue for tears, and the five-star lifestyles of politicians – just to rub salt into the wound for the haplesstax-payers! There are no investigative reporters on TV who ask the hard questions, only chararacters who seem to be part of the same social circles as those they are questioning. Talk about sugar-coated, sanitised interviews which are more like PR adverts laced with layers of conflict-of-interest. Karen Davila is the one exception, but still too nice. 
Religion – the Philippines is a Catholic country and Filipinos love going to church – ? to escape the heat – and profess to be god-fearing, but that hardly stops the murders, rapes, child trafficking, corruption, scams, and the lying that has become a national art form. Thank God I am an atheist. The Church itself loves to get involved in politics, and prescribes to their flock who to vote for, as the priest takes delivery of a new SUV! As with everything else in the Philippines, hypocricy rules, even to the extent that marriages get annulled (i.e. declared as never happened) owing to a lack of a divorce law. Even the president’s sister – Kris Aquino – keeps getting her marriages annulled – a perpetual virgin! Best advice – if religious, pray for the Philippines!

Source of Pinoy Pride: Manny Pacquiao
Personalities – the centre of life in the Philippines is the tacky lives of ‘personalities’ and politicians. Usually one and the same, and even brain dead boxer Manny Pacquaio is a congressman – with the highest absentee rating of all congressmen and the least effective, and is now being touted as a future senator and president. Knock me down with a feather. His provincial wife is now a vice governor, and his sister- and brother-in-law local politicians. A new dynasty arises. Pacquaio as a womaniser and tax evader (owes 4.5 billion pesos), has no interest in politics (he is about to become a basketball player/coach) is therefore the perfect politician for the Philippines. No need to ask why the Philippines is an international joke politically. And his colleagues in congress/senate for the mould (rapists/murderers/cheats/money launderers etc). Not a decent role-model anywhere. 
Shopping – a major pastime as the US-style malls provide aircon and free events, but as a one-time retail consultant, the system soon became apparent. The Philippines is in essence a clearing house for rejects, over production, last year’s model/fashion, bought very cheap but sold at high prices, and no returns/money back. Add to which fakes and counterfeits are everywhere. Once money is in a Filipinos’ hands you would need a crowbar to get it back. Even the stalwart of service and value – Marks and Spencer – is a disappointment under its franchise, Rustans. Bad move. Best advice – caveat empor 
Crime – personally I never suffered, but one visiting friend had a phone stolen from inside her zipped over the shoulder bag. Modus operandi – a sharp knife had sliced an opening in the back. Best advice – vigilance in crowded areas/markets and common sense. Even luxury hotel rooms are not safe as one visiting British member of parliament recently discovered. Use a hotel or room safe. Guns and security personnel are everywhere and Piers Morgan would have a field day — another aspect of adverse American influence, and big business for the US arms/defense companies, and lucrative big contract bribes for Filipino politicians. Human rights take a back seat, and journalism, especially in the provinces has a high bullet-laden turnover rate. 
Sports – Filipinos are not natural sportsmen and, judging by what I read, are prone to cheat at golf and shout at caddies. Unheard of at the R&A. Immediate expulsion. In the Philippines cheating has to be a component of everything. And despite being so small, they choose basketball as the unofficial national sport – clever! 
Hospitals – they seem ok, but nearly all politicians go abroad for treatment, especially when they are caught up in a corruption scandal when they suddenly develop a condition which necessitates expert hospital attention which they say is not available in the Philippines! Good marketing for medical tourism. Also the good nurses and doctors have already left to work abroad due to the low salaries. The pharmaceutical companies supplement salaries with bribes, but be warned – 40% of all brand drugs are actually counterfeit from China/India with god-knows-what inside them. Best advice – gold insurance and a ticket home. 
Drinks – local beers are cheap enough to get the locals drunk and bad enough to make a foreigner sick. Filipinos have a low threshold for alcohol, and after one drink a girl will be giggly, stupid after two drinks, after three drinks sick, and passed out before drink five. Best advice – take her straight to the hotel and feed her afterwards if so inclined. 
Overall – Best advice is to go to Singapore for shopping, culture, and cuisine, and raffles – go to Phuket/Koh Samui for beaches – go to Sabah for scuba diving – go to Borneo for nature – go to Macau for gambling – go to Bangkok for temples or Pattaya for ladyboys (if thats your scene) – go to Vietnam for the old orient – go to Korea if you want to be insulted – go to Taiwan for electronics – go to Japan for the spas – go to Philippines just for the hell of it, and you will at least understand why author Dan Brown called Manila “the gates of hell” with the Devil’s disciples all residing in Malacanang, the Senate, and the House. 
Filipinos are inherently good simple people ruled by bad corrupt politicians resulting in a nation that most Filipinos want to escape from, (70% according to the last poll), and many do (10 million filipinos work overseas particularly as housemaids, on cruise ships, and in hotels, sending money home to their families, and which accounts for 12% of GDP). Add to that, the brightest and the best have created a brain drain, and with the average national I.Q being only 86 to start with, then don’t expect much intelligent discussion, critical analysis, innovative thought, or creative arts. 
In fact Filipinos don’t really integrate well, and display a lack of social awareness and etiquette, particularly when abroad, with clumsy politicians invariably upsetting their ASEAN neighbours, so a friendly smile is usually a pre-cursor to asking for money, or wanting to sell you a Rolex for 10 dollars! 
The current president in typical dynastic fashion was elected after his mother’s death (the late ex-president Cory Aquino) on a wave of sympathy. (Cory Aquino who also had never worked/achieved anything was also elected in her 50′s on another wave of sympathy after her husband was assassinated (according to the BBC by a member of the family – politics is thicker than blood in the Philippines, and more profitable), with filipinos learning slowly and always repeating the same mistakes (until you shout at them, then after the inevitable tears they get the message).

President BS Aquino’s popularity made it easy for Filipinos to trust him. 
The problem is that the 50+ year old bachelor had never achieved anything in life, and leopards do not change their spots, so not surprisingly President Benigno Aquino has been voted the world’s worst leader – the Philippines ends up top of many of the ‘worlds worst lists…’! The Aquino family were also guilty of a massacre of their farm workers on the land the Aquinos illegally keep hanging on to – Hacienda Luisita, and Aquino senior was guilty of treason — a traitor after helping the Japanese occupation in World War II. A criminal clan! The borgias of the east. The first family of the Philippines! WTF!! 
In conclusion, as Basil Fawlty, or no doubt Philippines Tourism Secreta
ry Mon Jimenez, would say, “apart from that, was everything OK?” There were many aspects I enjoyed, but sometimes you have to take off the rose-coloured glasses and look at the big picture, not just be content with cocktails on the terrace. 
The Tourism Department have the slogan ‘more fun in the Philippines’. I have some advice for the Philippines – stop the delusional and meaningless slogans, understand the needs of customers and travellers, clean up your act, (and the streets), and get real – root canal performed by a trainee dentist would be more fun! 
Oh, and the Philippines should stop stealing aid money raised by decent concerned people in the west for Yolanda victims, and throwing away donated food which ends up rotten due to government incompetence, who are still waiting for any government help 6 months on. I don’t believe that the circa 10,000 who died, or the 800,000 affected, and still homeless, think it is much fun in the Philippines either. Maybe the tourism slogan should read ‘more funerals in the Philippines’ or, ‘the Philippines only puts the fun in funerals’ 
The Philippines truly merits its real slogan – ‘the basket-case of asia’ – 7,107 islands and the same number of problems, and corrupt politicians. What fun!
Paalam na.

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