Every change begins with re-imagination

Makati Skyline
The Philippines: How can we contribute towards its progress?
It has been said time and again that every act of creation in the physical world begins with creation in the world of imagination.

Before a home is built, it is first an architect’s blueprint, and even before that, a picture in the architect’s mind.

Before a song becomes a hit single, it is first some notes on a page, and before that, a few bars ringing in the songwriter’s head.

Before a book becomes a best-seller, it is first a series of drafts that form a manuscript, and before that, words, dialogues, and characters dancing around in the author’s head.

Every structure and machine that was ever built, every idea that had become a glitzy advertising campaign or a movement, every Hollywood blockbuster, every technological wonder out in the market–even every living thing on this planet, whether its birth was planned or unplanned–was created first in someone’s mind.

The mind is a truly wonderful, powerful thing. According to an article in The Scientific American , “If your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.”

But what happens when the mind is bogged down by present-day realities, by heavy baggage coming from the past, by worries about what will happen in the future–where to get the next meal, how to pay for the bills, the state of a loved one’s health? Imagination weakens, and we succumb to the false perception that every day is going to be just like the next, that nothing will change and things will always stay the same.

But consider this: as recent as five years ago, the women of Payatas were condemned to a live of poverty, working all day to make and sell rugs that were valued at just P1 each. Then in came a group of friends and colleagues that called themselves Rags2Riches, and the lives of these rug-makers, these “nanays”, were transformed. Rags2Riches worked to create more value out of the rugs by working with some of the Philippines’s most talented and internationally-renowned fashion designers, and the nanay’s products then became highly coveted fashion accessories.

A little over three years later, R2R, as the company is also called, is now a multi-awarded social enterprise employing hundreds of “nanays” who earn about 20 to 50 percent of each bag made, which in turn cost around P400-2,000+ each. The company itself has won tens of thousands of dollars, pounds, and euros in grant money to expand its operations.

All this in less than five years–all with a little help from creative minds with hyperactive imaginations.

According to the Psychology Dictionary, “Imagination is the faculty through which we encounter everything. The things that we touch, see and hear coalesce into a ‘picture’ via our imagination. The way we understand things… the way that we ‘make sense’ of things is through our imagination. The ability to problem-solve… to see things from a different perspective… to empathize… all happen because we have this technicolor, multi-channel, curious imagination. Imagination IS the ability to create perceptions. Novel perceptions. Fantastical perceptions. Hypothetical perceptions.”

But what if the perceptions could possibly become more than just fantastical or hypothetical? Ten years ago, nobody thought that blogs would have the power that they do now. Nobody had imagined how the world could be connected through social networks called “Facebook” or “Twitter.” Nobody imagined that governments would be so threatened by these new forms of communication that they would have to be shut down in certain countries. Five years ago, consumers could only wish for something like the iPad. And 25 ago, nobody would have thought that a bloodless revolution was at all possible.

Miraculous things can happen when we open our minds to the possibilities, when we break the shackles of our past and present to look at the world and all its possibilities through different lenses–when we take ourselves out of ANY box and begin to re-imagine.

The Philippine archipelago connected by high-speed trains? Why not?
Thirty years ago, we didn’t even imagine there would be MRTs and LRTs in the metro–and traffic of this magnitude. Why can’t we re-imagine Philippine transportation for the rest of the 21st century?

A country less dependent on coal and oil and powered by renewable energy? Why not?
At present, only 33% of our energy needs are supplied by coal and oil combined. Thirty-two percent (32%) is actually supplied by natural gas, and another 33% is supplied by a combination of geothermal and hydro power. Can we bring down the numbers of coal and oil? Most certainly!

A professional football league in the Philippines–finally? Why not? Mid-last year, when the rest of the world was going ga-ga over the World Cup, we could only dream of fielding our own football team into the professional leagues. The Azkals‘ victory in the Suzuki Cup semis changed all that, and now Filipinos are realizing why the rest of the world loves football.

A Philippines that can leverage its biodiversity to earn revenues for the protection of our ecosystem? Why not?
Brazil was able to maximize the Amazon Rainforest, setting up the Amazon Carbon Exchange and getting polluters in North America, Europe, and Japan to pay for carbon credits that are now being used to preserve parts of the Amazon. Why can’t we learn from the rest of the world and adapt to create our own working models?

At the turn of the second decade of this century. it is imperative that we begin looking at our present and future through perspectives that have otherwise been called “crazy”, “impossible”, and “far-out”. It’s important for us to leave the baggage of the 25 years post-EDSA, or the 100-plus years post-Spanish colonialization, behind and begin re-imagining a future that is worthy of the lives we want to live, the lives we want for our children.

It is not at all impossible. It can be done. Why do I believe so? Because the mind is a truly powerful thing, and when enough of us engage in collective re-imagining, there is no limit to what we can achieve together. It has already begun; we just need to keep going and keep re-imagining.

Niña Terol-Zialcita

Niña Terol-Zialcita is a “Communicator, Connector, idea Curator, and Changemaker” who uses the power of words and ideas to advocate causes and promote the Philippines at its best. She is ProPinoy.net’s Deputy Editor, as well as Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler, the longest-running travel magazine in the Philippines. When she is not writing, blogging, or traveling, Niña is conducting writing workshops with Writer’s Block Philippines, hanging out at art galleries and cafés, and performing poetry with her husband, percussionist and performance artist Paul Zialcita. She is also the author of the book "[r]evolutionaries: The new generation of Filipino youth and youth organizations".

  • Superhentaipervert

    You know, what really pisses me off is Pinoys are basically defeatist by nature.  Look at those jokers from Pinoyexchange LAFI, all day all night what they do is complain complain complain whine whine whine they waste their energy and then they eventually FORGET!  Yet they are too cowardly to confront the government head on, and too lazy to actually do something to better their lives.  Spoiled brats definitely have no imagination. 

  • MRS. Z: Where are we in the process of societal development? If one does not know where we are in the process of change how do we change?

    “This evolutionary character…..is not merely due to the fact that economic life goes on in a social and natural environment which changes and by its changes alter the data of economic action; this fact is important and these changes (wars, revolutions and so on) often condition industrial change, but they are not its prime movers. Nor is the evolutionary character due to the quasi-autonomic increase in population and capital or to the vagaries of monetary systems of which exactly the same thing holds true. The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumer goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates….The opening of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as US Steel illustrate the state process of industrial mutation – if I may use the biological term – that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
    Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.

  • Lastly MB who invented fiat currency? That is more popularly now as, money, currency, legal tender.

  • Bert

    “Every change begins with re-imagination”

    Huh? Is that true? What happened to evolution?

  • manuelbuencamino

    “Who designs and plans for the development of the Philippine economy. According to knowledgeable economists that is the governments role.”

    Maybe in a centrally planned economy, in a communist state but not in a capitalist country.

    Creativity and imagination do not come from five year and 20 year development plans.

    Governments in fact follow the lead of the private sector where creativity and imagination lie.

    The nature of a bureaucracy with all its rules, regulations, and guidelines makes it a tool for efficiency and the effective delivery of public services

    A bureaucracy is not conducive to creativity and imagination. It encourages working with givens and not thinking out of the box.

    The swipe at Kris and casinos is uncalled for.

    Anyway, “The history of economics in the U.S. is one of guided intelligent design by the government of the U.S.”

    Really. Is that what explains the ups and downs of the US economy. Inflations and recessions are planned?

    One thing one has to realize is that many of America’s scientific accomplishments are by- products of weapons development. Rocket science, study of the atom, machines that collect and collate data and make high speed calculations, materials development, high speed data transfers etc. Without defense funding for basic research, where are US companies, labs and universities going to get their money? Ever heard of the military-industrial complex?

    The US government’s main task is to ensure the security of its citizens, and the fact that military science produces great side effects for civilian use is something that happens by accident and not by design.

    • MB:Based on the economic history of the US since its founding the central government played a major role in the economic development of the US. The facts can be researched by anyone interested on the role of the State. The economic model is one based on what is called a mixed economy.

      Please note the history of financial crisis bringing on economic crisis is also well documented. The deregulatory and liberalization policies by dogmatic free traders caused the last crisis. The same with the 1930’s. The introduction of macro-economic policies then led to the greatest economic expansion in the world. Please note macro economic policies means state intervention in the economy.

      It is a wonder that you are a member of action for economic reforms and you appear to be ignorant or illiterate when it comes to economics.

      The United States industrialized their economy behind a protective tariff wall for almost 200 years.

      The American president who said that government cannot do anything right however imposed quotas on Japanese cars and semiconductors from Japan. Japanese car makers were forced to put up plants in the U.S. Ronald Reagan then helped promote the protection and rapid development of the semiconductor industry. In economics that is called industrial policy. The proactive side of protectionism. The role of business is self interest and that it what it should be. They are and always will be for private interests. The State’s responsibility is the social returns. (bread and butter)

      The WTO just recently ruled that Boeing was the receipient of illegal government subsidies in the development of their Dreamliner 787.

      My crack was serious about Body by Belo. That is part of governments push here to push medical tourism. It is tough here since medical malpractice is not clearly established in law. Hence the quality is suspect.

      “Throughout American history, strategic government investments in areas like education, technology, infrastructure, and energy catalyzed the entrepreneurship that has paved the way for so many of the great American technological and economic successes of the 20th century. The American story is one of ‘limited but energetic governments that used aggressive federal power to promote growth.
“ Begun under Republican President Herbert Hoover and expanded under Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, America begins an era of large-scale investment in hydroelectric dams, providing clean, cheap electricity to power economic development in the Southeast and American West.”
“Facing aggressive Japanese competition, Republican President Ronald Reagan’s Defense Department finances the creation of SEMATECH a public-private partnership to restore U.S leadership in the global semiconductor industry.” David Brooks

      “The U.S. government has taken several steps to encourage research on semiconductor technology The Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984 enhanced protection of intellectual property, and the National Cooperative Research Act of 1984 loosened antitrust restrictions on R&D joint ventures. Partly as a result of this legislation, Sematech was incorporated in August of 1987 with 14 founding members (AT&T Microelectronics, Advanced Micro Devices, International Business Machines, Digital Equipment, Harris Semiconductor, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LSI Logic, Micron Technology, Motorola, NCR, National Semiconductor, Rockwell International, and Texas Instruments).”


      J. Bradford DeLong, a former US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Research Associate at the National Bureau for Economic Research.

      By the way UCLA is state owned and operated university. Correction- it is the military-industrial-academic complex.

      Please note capitalism means the complete technological and scientific process behind mechanization and automation. Men is now in the process of mechanization and automating the thinking process. However machines still cannot dream or imagine.

      Please look at MRS. Z’s post.

  • J_ag

    Ms. Z: Who designs and plans for the development of the Philippine economy. According to knowledgeable economists that is the governments role.

    Do you think the guys at the Senate get on the ball or the present government in power could organize to discuss this?

    Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinto set the US government in funding and promoting the digital revolution. What can Noynoy, Kris and Boy Abunda contribute? So far it has been Body by Belo and casino development. What gives?

    Anyway you look cute. Keep it up if for nothing else. Stay young and gorgeous.


Barack Obama, in case one is clueless is President of the U.S.
    The history of economics in the U.S. is one of guided intelligent design by the government of the U.S.

    Protectionist policies are one side of the mercantilist coin. The other side, which is proactive protectionism, is industrial policy.

    “This history is worth reviewing because America is poised for another debate over whether its economy evolves or is designed, with President Barack Obama’s opponents claiming that whatever is good in America’s economy has always evolved with no guidance, and that whatever is bad has been designed by government.”
“This claim is, of course, ludicrous. American governments will continue to plan and design the development of the economy, as they always have in the past. The question is how, and whether the design will be in any sense wise.”

    • Dear J_AG,

      Thanks for your comment. However, you will note in my piece that I did not focus merely on government–because so many solutions, best practices, and models come from OTHER sectors. The power to change the country lies NOT in government ALONE. I cited the example of Rags2Riches, renewable energy (not merely in govt’s purview, although we had already enacted the Renewable Energy Act). Sports, social enterprise, technology, the arts… there are so many avenues for reimagining that it is impossible to place it only on the hands and shoulders of government.

      I also would rather not use U.S. news, policies, speeches as basis for this (although I did quote an article from the Scientific American for its universal content), because America’s context is different from ours. And it is now far from being the superpower that it once was.

      As for your comments, thank you but my looks have nothing to do with this piece and for me to stay young then it means I will have to die now. I don’t think I’d like that.

      And, it’s MrS. Z.

      ~ Nina

      • J_ag

        Dear MRS. Z:

        Obviously you do not wish to be addressed by the PC MS. However let me clarify my wishes for you. When you die you are no longer young, you no longer exist.

        However staying gorgeous and staying young even if you are 80 years old is dependent on how you see yourself. Katherine Hepburn was old in years but stayed young and gorgeous.

        Steve Jobs gave a memorable graduation speech in Stanford sometime back. His last words to them was simple: “Stay hungry, Stay foolish.” I will leave it up to you to figure out what he meant.

        Men has always looked for tools and processes to better himself to make life easier. It was in his self interest and this selfishness and greed properly directed gave us our modern societies. That planning and direction was done by enlightened government.

      • Bert

        Dear Ms. Nina,

        I’m sorry to disagree, but your looks has something to do with this piece, it brightens it up.

        And I agree with J_AG that you are gorgeous…and beautiful.

        This is not meant to offend, I just wish you take this as a compliment.