Filipinos feel a sense of national pride whenever Manny Pacquiao fights before an international audience, someone with even a minimal number of ethnic Filipino genes – or seems to have – is a contestant on American Idol, or a Filipino-American wins a local mayoral or city council election in the United States. Patriotism is provoked by the conviction that Filipinos are world class. At least until they become an obstacle to someone else’s job, or dreams.
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Speaking last week at the inauguration of a 35-meter high, 8,500 square meter hanger designed and built to provide maintenance services for the world’s largest commercial airliner, the Airbus A380, Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III spoke of a vision for his country. “Perhaps in the future, a great Philippine nation can have those A380s not only for maintenance, but to fly in tourists, investors and balikbayans, contributing to the creation of a society where working hard and following the rules get you to your most treasured goals,” he said.
“That’s terrific,” I thought to myself when I first heard of the president’s remarks. Working hard and following the rules—especially when everyone else does too—can make an incredible difference in an emerging economy. The Philippines has been trying for more than half a century to re-emerge as an Asian powerhouse, and much of the reason is because so few people work hard to follow the rules.
A Benedictine monk at St. Anselm’s Abbey in Washington recently told me about Jeff Grabosky, a Notre Dame graduate who is running from California to New York. Jeff’s life hit rock-bottom, and instead of going on a marathon pub crawl, he decided to undertake a 3,700-mile super-hyper-ultra-marathon on foot across America to clear his head and reorient his life. He says his mission is “to use this run to deepen my own personal prayer life and hopefully help others strengthen theirs.” Below is a conversation I had with Jeff about this incredible feat of endurance and what keeps him going on that long and lonesome highway.
Continue reading this commentary on The Washington Times website.
Don’t forget the real victories
Sports writers and columnists, athletes, and fans seemed universally dismayed over the Philippines’ performance in the 24th Southeast Asian Games, which took place in Thailand last week. The Philippines was hoping to match or exceed its 2005 performance in Manila when it took 113 gold medals. But it was not to be, and Team Philippines settled for just 41 gold medals, “placing sixth.” Thailand took 183 gold medals, finishing first.
While sports stories should be the preserve of sports editors and sports journalists, there are lessons in the 24th SEA Games that apply to business. Let’s start with boxing. There’s a lot of murkiness surrounding the Philippine contingent and its performance. But what the world knows for certain is that amateur boxing president Manny Lopez refused to allow seven Filipino boxers who reached the finals to enter the ring.
A Europhobe’s Horror
Now I have been very fortunate in my World Cup watching life.
In 1990, I watched in the taverns and restaurants of the Ironbound, a Portuguese and Brazilian immigrant neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A. This was far and away the best food and most knowledgeable fellow fans.
In 1994 I watched in the apartments and dachas of my friends and fellow fans in Moscow. These were certainly the most forgettable group of games. Not because the football was forgettable, but in the Great Russian tradition of Vodka consumption, I usually had to read the next days newspapers for the results, as very few of the viewers were coherent enough to pay attention by late in the second half of any match.
In 1998, I spent a lonely month in Manila trying to get my Filipino friends even marginally interested in the sport. In the end it was a losing proposition, and I had to install a satellite dish on my roof because no Filipino television station even carried the replays.