Metadata-prompted digressions on why there’s not much “Made in the Philippines”

I’m currently taking a MOOC on Metadata over at Coursera. In one of the in-video quiz items, I got this question:

metadata_madeinrp

Funny I’m Filipino but I don’t remember the last time seeing “Made in the Philippines” in any of my clothes. More like “Made in China” or some other. There are few “Made in the Philippines” tags (which to answer the quiz is not an administrative metadata, before I digress further) because many manufacturing firms in the country closed down due to diminished competitiveness post-GATT era.

My father lost his job at a bottling plant during the massive 90’s layoffs, but when I got out of college the BPOs and call centers already had wide-open recruitment. So it seems that my generation got a good bargain from globalization. This metadata course I’m taking, it’s because I’m in tech and this sort of specialist knowledge is a boost to my liberal arts background. That’s me talking about ‘competitiveness’ at the level of personal branding, how the self gets corporatized.

Well it must be OK since my generation could afford shopping at Zara and Hermes in many Metro Manila malls. What’s sold may not be “Made in the Philippines”, but salaries (add up overtime and night differential fees) from outsourcing jobs can buy them. This Mango-wearing Manila crowd sees left and right construction of condominiums and office buildings and it’s easy to succumb to the illusion of progress.

The headlines say that we’re recording the fastest economic growth in Asia this year, but the number of jobless is still quite high. It’s partly due to the fact that we still lose out manufacturing jobs, which are crucial to industrializing countries. There are those like me who had a ticket out of the country by way of an overseas job, but we know it’s not sustainable (if we’re not financial savvy enough) since many return to poverty as soon as our work contract expires.

The powers-that-be should make sure that growth trickles down especially to those in rural and underdeveloped areas. For one, the World Bank pushes for revisions to business regulations and for investments in infrastructures and social services. Current investigations on politicians leeching off public funds is welcome development as well.

I place my bet on investing in education as the great social equalizer. While holding the government accountable for ensuring the right to basic education, I hope that a culture of lifelong learning also develops among Filipinos (hey, free MOOCs!). Maybe we’ll see manufacturers among our midst once more, and possibly R&D innovators as well.

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