Author’s note: The
original ideas contained in this article are wholly lifted from the presentations at the ReImagine Pilipinas Forum last week
at Antipolo and, thus, absolutely no credit for those ideas should be attributed, directly or indirectly, to this author.
Welcome to the Philippine Museum of Poverty and Corruption.
I am your cyberkinetic robotic tour guide, Z8P9. I’m happy to see students from the University of the City of Manila,
Freshman Class of 2150. For your information, this museum was established 10 years ago in order to remind young Filipinos
like yourselves that although the Philippines is now a first-world country — in Asia, we are second only to China in
terms of economic prosperity — things were not always so bright and rosy for our nation.
In fact, over a hundred years before this museum
first opened, about a third of our country’s population lived in poverty and the Philippines was viewed as one of the
most corrupt countries in Asia. The founders of this museum believe that although Filipinos currently live in a highly prosperous,
democratic, and free society, it is nevertheless important for the youth of our nation to remember the difficulties that your
ancestors overcame in order to achieve our present first-world status.
Let us begin our museum tour, please follow me to
the poverty hologram. As you can see before you in this holographic presentation, Filipinos were not always wealthy —
in fact some Filipinos had to go to the streets in order to beg for food and money and they lived in informal structures called
shanties. Some people called them “squatters.”
In the late 20th century, urban slums became squalid
centers of drug-related enterprises and criminality. Now most of you students only know about urban slums from the pictures
and videos that you see of these areas in underdeveloped countries. However, there was a time in our history when even hardworking
Filipinos could not afford a decent home. It was only in the early part of the 21st century after the government provided
affordable housing in well-planned communities for these “squatters” that the housing dilemma slowly began to
be solved. Of course, subsequently finding large oil and natural gas deposits in Mindanao and the onset of oil pesos for government’s
housing and anti-poverty programs contributed greatly to reducing the number of poor persons in the Philippines.
Follow me, please. Here we are at the Mindanao Peace
Memorial. What you are viewing now on the floating hologram screens is the signing of the comprehensive peace compact in Mindanao.
Lasting peace was established in Mindanao in the middle of the 21st century. Prior to the peace compact, the highest rates
of poverty — as well as lowest rates of healthcare and the least educational opportunities — were found in Mindanao.
Fortuitously, soon after the peace compact, huge
tracts of oil and natural gas deposits were discovered throughout Mindanao, particularly in the area formerly called the “Autonomous
Region of Muslim Mindanao.” With the onset of genuine religious and social equality among Filipinos, this portion of
the Philippines is now simply known as “Autonomous Region of Mindanao.”
The petro-pesos that flooded the Philippine economy
from these oil and gas deposits was one of the main ingredients for the economic takeoff of our country.
Now I’d like to direct your attention to this
newly opened exhibit, the OFW exhibit. OFW is the acronym for Overseas Filipino workers. The scenes acted out by the robots
and holograms in this exhibit were the quintessential duties and responsibilities of thousands upon thousands of Filipinos
who, in the 1970’s till the early part of the 21st Century, left the country to work as, among others, domestic helpers
in countries like the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.
I know it is quite a shock for you students to see
your fellow Filipinos as domestic helpers, especially since most domestic helpers in the Philippines now are either robots,
like myself, or originate from other countries. It might be inconceivable for you to imagine a Filipino woman leaving her
family in the Philippines to take care of someone else’s family but, believe me, it did happen. Poverty is a great motivating
factor. In fact, there were so few employment opportunities in the Philippines at that time that Filipinos were literally
forced to find work — any work even those below their educational or social status — in order to support their
families. Of course, nowadays, Filipinos who leave the Philippines to work abroad are employed as highly paid professionals
If you would walk this way, please, and this last
portion of the tour is not for the squeamish and faint-hearted — we are now entering the Corrupt Public Officers Exhibit:
what you are looking at are not mere wax figures or effigies of prominent public officials who stole from the coffers of government.
In fact, what is displayed are the actual bodies,
which are cryogenically frozen, of government officials who have been convicted of large-scale graft and plunder. The cryogenic
freezing process keeps these criminals in a state of suspended animation. It was after the law that punished corrupt government
officials by cryogenic freezing was passed in 2045 that we saw a huge reduction in government wastage and inefficiency.
The idea for freezing the grafters came about as
a way to side-step the legal ban against the death penalty. After the law become effective and a number of well-known corrupt
officials were punished, within a decade the Philippines became known as one of the least corrupt nations in the world. Other
nations followed suit and enacted similar freezing laws, though in one country, instead of freezing, the convicted grafters
were punished with castration. In that country, a few of those convicted moved on to very successful singing careers.
Well, thank you and that concludes our tour of the
Philippine Museum of Poverty and Corruption. We hope that you have learned valuable lessons and that you bear in mind that
while the Philippines is experiencing prosperity and abundance, we can easily lose it all if we return to the old systems
of corruption and inequitable distribution of wealth that plagued our nation in the past.
To paraphrase Jose Rizal, he who does not know how
to look back at where he came from will never get to his chosen destination. In that spirit, we hope that your experience
today will guide you — our precious youth — to an even brighter and better future. Goodbye.