Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Generally my motto this time of the year is the older the better but these two are my choice to play this year:

Sunday, December 23, 2012


For a number of reasons, I started thinking about Philippine history and given that its the holliday season and new year coming is time for reflection and nostalgia, I started to look up things and found these to be interesting:

Manila the 1800s-1900s

Manila in the 1960s:


When you go to Manila and ask about old Manila, they will point to Intramuros - old Spanish fort. What I find more interesting is the history of places nearby Tondo, Binondo, Escolta, Santa Cruz,  Quiapao, San Miguel   which were great commercial and residential areas at the end of the 19th century but now literally the scariest place to be in Manila. Also places like Ermita, Malate when the American took over were literally the IT place to be before the war.

The business, shopping and entertainment center or "Broadway (as in NY)" of Manila in the 1900, Escolta:

Escolta Street, Manila, Philippines, Picture in Leslie's Weekly, New York, USA, January 27, 1900

Nearby, Tondo in particular fascinates me. Pictures of late 19th century showed a well-ordered warehouses and office of trading houses with boats along side the sea and beaches with Nipah house settlement inland.

Tondo 1898

During the American-Spanish war, much of the area was razed to the ground. It was rebuilt under the American only to be bombed during WWII. It got rebuilt again to look like this by 1960s:

tondo-pasig river 1960s

Now it looks like this:

Tondo, Manila

By the 1960s, given the limit of technology then,  Manila was already nearly Singapore is today - one of the most developed city in the world. In fact in 1965, Philippine GDP was six(6) times the size of Singapore and a net capital lender.

In the early 1970s, Marcos countered economic downturns by borrowing heavily that by 1983, foreign borrowing was 100% of GDP. Singapore then had only a slightly bigger GDP but Singapore banks loan one third (1/3) of the money..

Its a good reminder to all of us how half a century of achievement really can be all quickly gone within a very very short time if we let politicians and self-engrossed elites to mess it up.

I find it curious why was it so different when Marcos and LKY were both brilliant lawyers who clawed their way from nothing to the top. In fact, LKY had a more elitist background and mercurial rise. The difference really is that Marcos clawed his way to the top of an already successful country  but LKY really climbed into the top of a country of little significance and under tremendous challenged. In the early 1970s, when the two met, they had very different ideas of the challenge of their nation, Marcos was pre-occupied with grand vision and emotions basically to out-do the elites of his own country and elsewhere while LKY basically had a down-to-earth paranoid for success whatever means necessary attitude. Philippine, like many Latin Countries, was on a course of import substitution and statism economy with borrowed money rather than free trade and open economy that tiny Singapore had no choice in the matter. With the collapse of commodities and global economy in the early 1980s, Singapore better finances, and more open economy was more well-placed for what was to come - the semiconductor, IT revolution and globalisation wave that took it to where it is and Philippines basically could only struggle just to get back to normalisation for decades and as Tondo shows - still paying the price.

Singapore obviously benefited from LKY benign authoritarianism whereas Marcoses failed miserably at his dishonest one NOT so much because LKY was more able - LKY had less choices. There was simply too many ways Marcos could get it wrong especially given dishonesty which he royally did.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ah.. That time of the year is here...Because its kind of chilly out every morning here this year..