Forgive me my filipino friends, but on my last visit to the Philippines in June 2013, I was confronted by the country. I flew into the old terminal which is severely run-down, hailed a cab (rookie error) with a less than reputable driver and stumbled my way to glossy Makati (the financial district) through the ramshackle streets and traffic.
I met wonderful people thanks to my hosts at AllFamous including the great people from Rappler an independent media company innovating in social media and many major brands. Then I ate a bite of good food and then zipped back onto the plane home.
Having visited and enjoyed Mumbai and Bangkok before, I was disappointed in myself for feeling a sense of unease from Manilla. Which is why So I was pleased to be able to return to Manilla again 6 months later. I was keen to understand the feeling of people, since November 2013, when the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan which caused so much devastation and destruction. This time I booked my car in advance and chatted with my driver about the country.
We chatted about the friendship of Filipinos and Australians and our mutual admiration for the features of our respective countries. We discussed Filipinos incredible hospitality which is often misinterpreted as subservience (and sometimes abused for less than wholesome purposes). My host agreed if you ask something of a Filipino, the answer is always “Yes” or at least “I will try”. This goes for family most of all but also friends old and new. This is certainly my experience of my Filipino friends in Australia, they are beautiful, caring, people.
However my hosts immediate emotion was fear-fullness, fear that disaster will strike again and fear that the government will continue to fail its people in the areas of reform. There was also hope, in the rejuvenation of charitable foundations due to the attention from the typhoon and hope in the power of technology in the form of mobile devices and social media to be a force for change in the country.
“… in the past, a crime was committed on the street, people felt they could do nothing. Now they take pictures with their phones and post immediately to social media.”
the empowered citizen journalist seemed to be a great source of hope for him:
“Now the government, it has started to fear the people. It is harder to hide corruption.”
For Brands and multinationals the opportunity of a growing middle class in a country of 100 million is immense, the adoption of technology and social media is impressive, the people seem to be skipping a number of phases of technology evolution and running straight to hyper-connection. Famous Filipino service is now available on demand via Twitter and Facebook.