“It’s hard to see something so simple, could possibly be… so capable,” Alex Grey, a Chinese Filipino mestizo said.
Alex could easily be talking about iPad. It was simple, and so capable. Its tablet form factor was a canvas for software.
But we weren’t talking about iPad.
There were four of us sitting by the beach on an island that Grey owned off the coast of Bulalacao, Mindoro. Bulalacao translated in English is “shooting star.”
It was idyllic. There was blue sky stretching in all directions. Coconut tree leaves were serenely swaying while the wave was gently smashing against a white sandy beach.
“The first EDSA was a revolution, Sarah Santos stated. “And we learned so much about it. We learned that we wanted to be free. The second one? We learned that democracy was harder than we first thought it would be.”
“So we wanted to take all that,” Anne continued. “To take everything we learned in the last hundred years, and combine it with technology. We wanted to change the way we do things everyday. We handed this technology, turned it loose for a whole new generation; a whole new class, the next generation.”
Anne was Sarah’s twin. Though it was such a cliche, and definitely it was unnerving that they would finish each other’s sentences like that.
“It didn’t just happen overnight. We didn’t just decide, and boom! Everything fell in place,” Sarah explained. Anne caught her eye, and she continued, “There was definitely a lot of growing pain.”
“So we looked at our country, and said, let’s redesign it all.”
“Reimagine,” Anne stated. “We redesigned every single city, and every single road and railway; every beachfront, every seaport and airport. What we got, were cities, in order of magnitude than our counterparts.”
“Our beaches stood out.” Alex chimed in. “Philippines is the best place to surf or snorkel. It just feels right to squish sand by your toes, and feel how fine it is. It just feels right to step into that surf, and just ride the wave.” He said with such reverie.
Alex paused, stood up, and reach out to Sarah to helped her up. We started walking, as the sun was setting as trees continued to sway in rhythm. Then he continued as we looked out the horizon, “It is the best place for sunrises; a kaleidoscope of colors!”
“With a view that great, that spectacular, you just reach out to your significant other.” And Alex held Sarah’s hand, “It just feels right, you know? To hold your significant other’s hand, strolling by the beach at sunset. You don’t even have to think about it. You just do.” Then Alex kissed her passionately.
Anne, smiled, her hazel eyes were bright. She laughed, and held on to my arm and said, rather loudly, to break the couple’s spell, “The Philippines is a world-class player.” Anne continued to explain. “It is incredibly fun, but very productive. It has the fastest, widest Internet coverage. You can go through huge quantities of email, really quickly. So even by the beach, you can catch up with work, or simply stay in touch with your family back home.”
She should know, I thought to myself. Anne was a manager for a local telecommunications company.
“Business that come into the Philippines will note the high level of infrastructure. We lead the world in deploying wireless technologies to connect the islands of our archipelago. There is Internet everywhere.”
“We build those electronics,” Alex remarked. “We invested in battery technology to keep them running through storms and disasters. We took sensors to a whole new level by embedding it throughout the country, so data is being gathered and processed if a river is about to overflow, or predict traffic conditions. It helps us understand how things are doing in the country, in real time.”
“It took years, and a lot of investment, and more importantly, a lot of commitment, but it is now paying off. The Philippines is the only place in the world where you get this level of communications refinement.”
Sarah added, “The face of the Philippines is pretty much defined by stellar smiles. And that’s it. There’s no right or wrong way to smile. A smile is the universal greeting. We speak English, Spanish, Mandarin as much as Filipino. So when you’re in the Philippines, you don’t have to change yourself to fit the country. It fits you.”
Alex expounded, “So when you touch down at any port in the Country. In any airport, for example that’s just the beginning; it starts with perfection. We took the hospitality and people skills that Filipinos are known for, and combined it with the best technology we could afford, and just started to give guests the best airport experience they will ever get. The roads and railways to and from those ports and made it easy. We wanted the Philippines to be as accessible to everyone, everywhere, right from the start. So we designed it that way. In many ways, this defines our vision, our sense of what’s next and what should be right.”
“Twenty-five years ago, the Philippines was Asia sick man, now look at this country,” I said. “I still find it mystifying how everything can be laid-back and still be progressive. Now, it is a canvas of infinite possibilities.”
“You know it’s true,” Sarah started. Then she paused, considering deeply what she wanted to say. She looked at me straight in the eye and said, “When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical. And that’s exactly what the Philippines is.”
Anne nodded, her eyes, hauntingly brilliant, smiled, and enchantingly repeated, “Magical.”
Author’s note: my apologies to Apple for borrowing some of their lines.