Author Topic: “It’s time for the Filipino to make himself truly globally competitive”  (Read 20592 times)

Joe Carillo

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Why is it that in the 21st century, the Philippines is still underdeveloped and poverty stricken when many of its Asian neighbors—despite getting themselves started in the development effort much, much later—have long gone through those hurdles and have already become developed economies?

In his recently released book Learning to Reinvent Ourselves: How to Make the Philippines a Winner in the 21st Century (Central Books, 312 pages), Romeo O. Encarnacion, a Filipino-American human resources and business development consultant, offers penetrating and often brutally frank insights into what have brought about this retrogressive state of affairs in the Philippines.

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Encarnacion argues that the underdevelopment of the Philippines is largely due the strong parochial instincts of its people, who he says are predisposed to act as if they are islands unto themselves. He explains: “The imperative of self-preservation drives its poverty-stricken sector to shun the participation of foreign capital in local business and industry; instead, Filipinos seek refuge in the patronage of an economically powerful elite and in the consolations of their religious faith.”

The author speaks from the perspective of his 22 years of management experience in a Fortune-500 company as well as his nine-year consulting engagement in post-socialist Eastern Europe—an engagement that helped propel a small Bulgarian consumer-products maker into a fast growing highly competitive consumer-products maker in Eastern Europe. His client company in Bulgaria was chosen by the European Business Awards in 2011 as among Europe’s best from the 15,000 companies vetted for the selection.

“In contrast to the Philippines,” Encarnacion says, “many Eastern European countries have shaken off their socialist roots and are now keenly tapping foreign investments and the obvious benefits that come with them—technology, innovation, and the firm commitment to develop talent, products, and markets.”

In 80 wide-ranging essays in his advocacy cum professional memoir, Encarnacion proceeds to describe and analyze the attitudes and culture as well as the management practices that have led to the underdevelopment of the Philippines and its lack of global competitiveness. “We are a product of our experience,” he says in the book. “In my case, after working so many years overseas—even longer than the 20 years I logged while based in the Philippines—I just could no longer take our dire economic situation in the Philippines as an unalterable given. My four decades as a professional have made such basic principles as cause-and-effect a living reality to me. So I began to ask: Why is it that the Philippine economy, if not now a confirmed basket case, has clearly been lagging behind that of its Asian neighbors all these years? What’s causing it? What can be done about it?”

After dissecting the pitfalls in the Filipino’s attitudes and worldview, Encarnacion offers a roadmap on how the Filipino could more clearly define his future—where the Philippine economy should rightfully be and how it could get there: “Will Juan de la Cruz finally be able to step up to the plate and become outward-looking in keeping with the times? Can he become globally competitive enough to join the inexorable march to the Asian Century? I believe so, but as I have set out to show in this book, this will be possible only if Juan de la Cruz will first accept the reality of a globalized and a competition-driven world economy, really take pains to reinvent himself, and then clearly define and relentlessly pursue what I call in this book his desired nirvana—the Philippines as a truly developed nation.”

Encarnacion describes the problem with the Filipino’s development paradigm these past many years: “All along we have been talking ‘paradigm shift’ in the Philippines, but now we must walk it. Indeed, what’s so disappointing is that many years ago, when I was a regional manager in the Asian region, the only place where I would hear the term ‘paradigm shift’ was the Philippines, yet it was only in its neighboring countries where I saw paradigm shifts actually taking place. So it’s time we got it into our heads that the world will not change the rules to fit our comfort zone. It’s time to realize that competitiveness today is not about reinventing the wheel but in leveraging what an interconnected world has to offer. It’s not about being steeped in tradition; it’s about challenging our wrong assumptions so we can formulate a contemporaneous worldview—one that can create a much better future for us.”

In the foreword to Learning to Reinvent Ourselves, Prof. Ricardo Lim, dean of the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines, describes Encarnacion as a modern Marco Polo: “If Marco Polo moved from Venice to the far eastern lands of Kublai Khan, Romy moved from Manila via the United States to the mysterious lands of post-Iron Curtain Europe…Such a journey has equipped Romy with unique lenses for learning, particularly about his own Philippines…To me, Romy’s unique take is to paint the complexity of the Philippines by contrast. While others might paint differences between the U.S. and the Philippines—obvious, because the first is distinctly a First World economy and the second, a Third World economy—Romy compares Romania and Bulgaria and Ukraine and the Philippines as arguably all ‘Third Worlders.’ With more subtle contrasts, come finer arguments.”

Encarnacion sums up what the Filipino has to do to make himself a winner in the global economy: “The role of the reinvented Juan de la Cruz is nothing less than to erect the building blocks of the Philippine economy and to optimize the returns on the country’s God-given resources. I trust that this book has adequately identified the guideposts and caveats for enabling him to realize these goals.”


Romeo O. Encarnacion is a Filipino-American business consultant who has focused on Eastern Europe over the last nine years. His client in Bulgaria, a highly competitive consumer-products maker, was chosen by the European Business Awards in 2011 as among Europe’s best from the 15,000 companies vetted for the selection. He started his career in 1968 as a human resources trainee in the Philippines. He then joined a Fortune 500 company in 1981, working with its Manila subsidiary for seven years and later moving up to its Asian regional headquarters where he held a global responsibility until his retirement from the company in 2003. He considers himself very hands-on and professes a strong bias for simplicity and successful execution.
Click this link for details about the book and to read excerpts from Romeo O. Encarnacion’s Learning to Reinvent Ourselves: How to Make the Philippines a Winner in the 21st Century.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2022, 07:46:44 PM by Joe Carillo »