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Home Columns Reinventing the Philippines Reinventing the Filipino Psyche (Part One)
Reinventing the Filipino Psyche (Part One) PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Reinventing the Philippines
Monday, 14 May 2007 06:52

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made a stopover in Los Angeles, California, on Nov. 21, 2001, she did not rate even a single column-inch coverage in the Los Angeles Times. It has the second-biggest circulation in the United States. The L.A. Times’ failure to cover President Arroyo's visit was not the first time that a Filipino President was snubbed by the mainstream press.

 

Then President Fidel V. Ramos also visited Los Angeles. He spent nearly a whole day meeting with the Filipino-American media and the community at the L.A. Sports Arena on Nov. 21, 1993.  Yet, President Ramos' visit did not land also even a single column inch of coverage in the L.A. Times. (Editor's Notes: The L.A. Times did cover in its Metro Section President Ramos' trip to the Los Angeles City Hall on May 7, 1997, when he visited with Mayor Richard Riordan and the City Council. But many doubted if the mainstream press would have covered the Ramos' second visit to Los Angeles if he did not go to the City Hall to address the City Council.)

Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada did not also merit any coverage by the L.A. Times during his two visits to Southern California.

After the Ramos visit in 1993, I sent a letter of protest to Shelby Coffey III, the editor and executive vice-president at that time of the L.A. Times. I told Mr. Coffey that it was ridiculous for his newspaper to ignore President Ramos' visit to Southern California when there were more than half-million (now a million) English-reading Filipino Americans in his newspaper's primary market. Besides, I said that President Ramos belonged to the West Point Class of 1950. How could the mainstream American media ignore a West Point alumnus who is now president of a country, an American former colony at that? As usual he did not bother to reply to my nth letter to him. I wrote again to Mr. Coffey and said that I was compiling my letters to him and the other editors of the Los Angeles Times and I would publish them into a book. I said that I planned to have "Tea, Coffey and Me" as the book title. Why tea? In one of my letters to Mr. Coffey, I said that the Philippines was obviously not his cup of tea.

I talked later with a Caucasian friend, who was a public-relations practitioner in Los Angeles. I asked this friend why the L.A. Times usually publishes in full color in its front page the visits of the Presidents of South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and/or the People's Republic of China but ignores Filipino Presidents? He said that the coverage could probably be accounted to several factors. 

First, he said that the Philippines does not have even a modest public-relations budget. All the Filipino government officials in Los Angeles do was to cater to the Filipino-American press and worse, only to the Filipino-American writers who write favorable stories for the Philippine vested interests.

The second factor was that the Filipino-American community did not advertise in mainstream newspapers unlike the other Asian-American communities that count on their ethnic mid-size corporations to giant (home country-based) conglomerates producing or selling automobiles, electronic products, computer components, etc., in the United States.

Third, Filipino businesses did not usually buy many American products. An example is the Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The Philippine Airlines (PAL) operates only four 747s while Korean Airlines for instance flies nearly 20 of them. The second airline in Korea, Asiana, operates nearly a 747 fleet two or three times bigger than that being flown by the PAL. Many Asian airlines for instance operate 747 jet freighters while the PAL does not have a wide-body (or even a narrow-body) all-cargo jet. 

The point according to this PR practitioner was that "American businesses reciprocate matters with buyers of American big-ticket products." The Fortune 500 companies’ PR departments exert efforts to have the heads of state of their biggest nation-buyers get favorable media attention when they do visit the United States. Superb PR work generates more foreign linkages that result into more exports of American products and technology.

The same rule applies to the so-called "Military-Industrial Complex" (MIC) that supposedly controls many facets of American life, politics, trade and commerce. President Arroyo came to the United States to ask for surplus military equipment, armaments and ammunition and she got what she asked: A used Hercules C-130 aircraft, a retrofitted Huey helicopter, a surplus patrol boat, some hand-me-downs M16s and ammunitions. Compare this to the Taiwanese leaders who come regularly to the United States on buying missions (shopping sprees). The Taiwanese wanted to buy several brand-new Aegis-class nuclear-powered destroyers worth more than $1.2 billion (spelled with a B) each. The U.S. Congress and even the Pentagon, so as not to antagonize Mainland China, refused to sell the Taiwanese the desired warships and offered only new conventional destroyers. Now in the realm of reality, even private businesses entertain more potential customers than proven beggars.

Such is the reality of life, more so in America where the bottom line is, well, the bottom-line.

The Philippines does not have economic influence because its population that now exceeds 85 million souls does not have much buying power. For many Filipino families earn an average of a measly U.S. dollar per day. There is really no change in the income of the Filipino family. Then Philippine National Security Adviser Jose Almonte reported at a Socialist Congress in Chile in 1994 the same income of one-dollar a day.

Economic power translates to political clout. And as the adage says, mendicants cannot be choosy. This is the reality that sadly very few Filipino national leaders and many Filipino-American community associations cannot understand, or refuse to understand. # # #

To view Part II of this series, please click on this link:

Restoring the Dignity of the Filipino (Part Two)

 



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