“Pwede na” is a Filipino phrase commonly used to denote mediocrity or a mentality that bare minimum compliance is enough.
“Gaya-gaya” is a Filipino word defined as a copycat or someone with no originality.
My father always told me there were three kinds of people in this world:
People who make things happen
People who watch things happen
And worst of all, people who don’t even know what happened
In my twenty-three years of existence, I’ve spent a huge chunk of it living in passivity and escapism. Unfortunately, I was what my father dreaded — I was the worst of the three. The difficult part was being reminded every moment possible that I used to be the best of the three.
But you see the world got to me and I cowered in fear — I refused to stand out in fear of disappointing or not living up to my potential.
Only up until I flunked out of law school did I realize that I had no idea what to do with my life nor did I have an introspective compass or a heart song to sing or lead the way. Reality finally hit and I realized I was extremely off tangent. What big ambition and drive I thought I had reserved for ’that moment’ was nowhere in sight and my tank was running on empty. My ultimate goal and dream of becoming one of Time 100’s Most Influential People was a pipe dream and I had no idea how to get from Point A to Point B.
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, this isn’t a success story (at least not yet).
This is a story of progress and an op-ed combined — taking it one step at a time in the ripest age possible for innovation and creativity in a city prime for reinvention.
Manila, in my opinion, at 2014 has become a lucrative economic hub for entrepreneurs and artists. It is evident in the large-scale patronage and support of new concepts and out of the box ideas. I mean, look at our food, travel and lifestyle industry at present — we’ve come a long way from copying Big Brother and we’ve started to become original, quirky and unique with what we have to offer our fellow Filipinos like The Henryhotel, Manila Pop-up, Outbreak Manila, The Girl + The Bull, and the multitudes of cafe concepts spread all over opening left and right.
I’d want to acknowledge the fact that social media has played a huge part in this — its presence has wildly upgraded the ordinary Filipino standards to an international and global scale. This has had good and bad effects; good in a sense that it opened up a whole lot more doors for consumers and entrepreneurs; and bad in a sense that this has forced sub par and ‘pwede na’ competition to either catch up or get left behind.
Gone are the days when we compared what we had to our neighbor next door or what ‘pasalubong’ we received from our Tito’s and Tita’s abroad. Remember when Krispy Kreme used to arrive stale and cold from the plane ride home? Now, we’re comparing ourselves to neighboring countries: a neighbor’s customized car in Germany; a neighbor’s film in New Mexico; or a new neighbor’s app in Silicon Valley. In this Information Age, we know everything we need to know by the second — heck, even when we don’t want to know anymore.
The points of comparison between international and local offerings aren’t as vast as they used to be. I remember wanting to travel to the US because they had H&M, Forever 21, and a whole lot of other brands that are here in the Philippines now. But shopping abroad is no longer prestigious because of the growth of online shopping and local availability. Even the clamor for well-made films is gaining traction, everyone’s starting to finally see what a joke the Metro Manila Film Festival is and it has paved a way for films like On The Job or Ang Nawawala to take flight.
We’ve started to close the gap and created a new personality for ourselves all on our own by drawing inspiration from the fusion of international and Filipino influences resulting in local application like Rappler for news, OLX for purchases, Our Awesome Planet, The Fat Kid Inside and Pepper.ph for travel and food, or Spot.ph for Pinoy pop culture and a collection of who, what, when, and where.
We no longer find comfort in depending on other countries, we now find comfort in quality products and services with a Pinoy twist. We want in on the action, we need our own versions now. The preference is changing and it’s changing to our advantage.
Now, what’s my point here?
This opportunity and this period of transition is something I desperately beg everyone in this country to take advantage of.
What I ask of you to consider is for you to pursue and work on your God-given talents and do what you love and figure out what it is you’re meant to really be doing.
Why? Because we no longer have to move to another country nor line up and beg for a cookie-cutter job at the steel gates of corporate giants. We no longer have to pay an expensive amount of money to learn or educate ourselves with the skills we want to acquire. We can make things happen on our own in our turf (and sometimes in our very own homes from our very own rooms) and reciprocally contribute to our country and ourselves.
Today, we hold the key to our own successes. Not the academic board, not the big bosses, not the government officials (okay, maybe the government officials), nor the corporations or professions we hold on to for dear life for fear of instability and uncertainty.
Now linger on that for a second and actually believe it. Isn’t that just amazing?
I’m not asking everyone to up and quit their day jobs and start gallivanting in the streets parading and executing their brilliant idea claiming they’re the Steve Jobs of the Philippines. This isn’t my call to action. If you do, the risk is smaller but the chances of you failing are still pretty high, but by all means if you have the balls and the right idea for it. March on! I’m about to do the same myself.
My point is, light the fire and start working on the ideas you tucked away in your Plan B notebook and build the skills you need to execute it because soon enough, the market will be much much more conducive for whatever niche product or idea you have in mind. It’s all about timing and opportunity.
As of the moment, I believe we’re at 40% progress in changing the landscape of jobs and businesses in the Philippines. Innovation has long started but its arduous journey has only trickled down to widespread growth maybe two or three years ago. But with the support of the education sector and various communities for creative and entrepreneurial pursuits, it seems like a good time to start.
We’re not at par with the scale of diversity and opportunity in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, but we’re at the early stages of huge possibilities and potential backed up with open-minded support from the consumers who are now the determining factor of profitability and demand. They’re sick of factory-made concepts and their eyes will glaze over another cliche product. We’re at a point where it’s the consumers who control the product and not the other way around. The new consumer craves for personalization, diversity, flexibility, convenience and applicability to their everyday lives.
Guys, we’re starting to grow up and think for ourselves!
It’ll take years before we eventually get to that New York-level but I want you to know that it’s possible to start now. I mean, isn’t that a big relief? That your dreams aren’t as far-fetched as you thought they were? That it’s within reach or an arm length away?
The Filipino dream of every Gen-X parent for their child is to send them to an exclusive school, attend college in one of the Big Three and depending on your household you either end up on the path of a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a nurse, an accountant or anything that requires a professional license to practice. You either end up working here or working abroad in New York or wherever your more successful relative is. Like my mother said, these are the jobs that will save you if you were a Jew and lived in the Nazi occupation, but that’s besides the point.
This is the path to success. Correction, this was the path to success. We can’t blame our parents though, they’re just teaching us the only way they know how. Like Austin Kleon said, the writer of Steal Like An Artist, “All advice is autobiographical, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.”
But by all means, if this is your passion in life, I salute you — but don’t stop reading because this applies to you too. These days everyone’s a multi-hyphenate. Why? Because a college degree doesn’t guarantee anything anymore, the existence of a lawyer-horticulturist; a host-singer-actress, a doctor-food blogger, a restaurateur-social media manager changes everything.
If there’s a job offering or a scholarship grant, a cookie cutter lawyer with above average grades will lose that offer to a lawyer with average grades specializing in environmental law who volunteers for Teach For The Philippines and is a social entrepreneur that focuses on renewable energy. You’re not limited to one occupation or one skill, not anymore. If you want to get ahead, it’s your combination of skills, hobbies and interest that makes you valuable commodity.
This age has brought about a new breed of workers and innovators. This is the generation that grew up instinctively knowing what quality really means, an upgraded five senses if you will of what is good and bad. We know for a fact that the ‘pwede na’ mentality will not cut it. This generation values work that they love over work that they need, passion over money, and purpose over stability. We know that it’s about results and not about intentions.
I believe in this generation’s idealism, boldness, creativity, and ingenuity. I’ve discovered and witnessed it permeate and manifest into results. A lot of the people, businesses, initiatives and organizations I look up to and admire right now are those who found their heart song and tenaciously set out and fought for it. Like A-ha Learning Center, Muni, Rags2Riches, Wanderrgirl, Mango Red, Rabbit Hole Creatives, The Better Story Project, Trade School Manila, Human Nature, Team Manila, The Circle Hostel, Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel, Co.Lab and Theo and Philo. Honestly, the list could go on and on.
What sets people apart these days is the unique set of skills you possess, the side projects you work on, the different communities you are part of, and what you can offer to the world and the community you live in.
As a late bloomer, my mission as of the moment is to find these people and to learn from them. Passionate responsible doers who believe that they can make a change and those with a sense of urgency to know that there is not a second of time to waste.
I’m betting everything on this. Manila will reign sooner than you think. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I highly doubt that.
But hey, I’m just me, a casual observer honing her skills, looking for the right people to execute her dream project with, and waiting for the right opportunity to pounce.
But I guess, my real hidden agenda here is.. is there anyone out there who agrees? Because as I bloomed into this mindset a little later than I would’ve wanted, I find myself crawling in the dark for people who think so too.
Hope I’m not alone in this.
Now, let’s make something happen.