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Philippines

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OverviewEdit

The Republic of the Philippines faces many challenges to creating a favorable image abroad. These include claims that the country is an unsafe destination for tourists and that it is a region completely mired in poverty.[1] While these stereotypes may contain a certain amount of truth, Filipinos are also known to be some of the friendliest, most caring and hardworking people in the world.[2] This is a reality that the Philippines knows well and is using to shape its public diplomacy policies. With a citizenry scattered all over the world (the Philippines has the largest diaspora network globally with over 11 million of its citizens living abroad), the Philippines must deal with the arduous task of maintaining close ties as well as ensuring a reputable standing to help its many constituents overseas.[3] By sustaining a connection with its people abroad, the Philippines has the advantage of influencing the foreign public not through high-ranking officials, but through ordinary Filipinos living and working amongst international audiences in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. As a result, public diplomacy has become more important than ever for the Philippine government. Marked by a history of image enhancing projects such as the development of an ever-vibrant tourist industry, the Philippines continues to work towards making a unique and positive image of itself in the international community. The Philippines is also interested in Nation Branding, which the country hopes will put the collections of islands on the map and among the world’s influential powers. In an effort to establish an identity of its own, that is both apart from its colonial past and something that its citizens abroad will take pride in, the Philippines is increasingly engaged in the field of public diplomacy.

The Philippines in the NewsEdit

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Vital InformationEdit

Philippines map PhGov 08042008

  • Capital - Manila
  • Population - 89,468,677 (July 2006 est.)
  • Government – Republic
  • President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

TourismEdit

Historical BackgroundEdit

Philippines Marcos SSC 08041008jpg

President Ferdinand Marcos declaring martial law

On September 22, 1972 ex-President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines. According to Marcos, martial law was initiated as a “response to an emergency situation created by communist subversion and communal violence.”[4] Countries such as the U.S., however, saw it as an instrument to gain political legitimacy and to instigate economic credibility.[5] Whatever the purpose of martial law may have been, Marcos’ authoritarian regime utilized the tools of public diplomacy in order to promote the Philippines as a stable and enticing place to live as well as to visit. This was a particularly important endeavor for both the Philippines and Marcos due to the fact that the country had only recently begun its attempts at democratization. Marcos believed that if the Philippines was to be recognized and accepted on a global scale, then it had to appear as if it deserved to be. This led to the creation of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in 1973.

Linda K. Richter, a scholar of the politics of tourism in Asia, highlights the importance of tourism for the Philippine islands when she claims, “every visit is an endorsement of the continuation of the political, economic, and social stability achieved by…martial law.”[6] Richter further emphasizes the crucial nature of tourism in her statement that “…it was President Marcos of the Philippines who in 1972 demonstrated that tourism could be developed to convey and create regime legitimacy in ways and to a degree not attempted before.”[7] In essence, Marcos exploited tourism. This exploitation was not only expansive and expensive, but it was also strategic. Marcos did not simply target ordinary foreign citizens to visit the Philippines, but more importantly, foreign audiences who carried with them two necessary factors, influence and credibility.

Philippines MissUniv GamesBid 08042008

Miss Universe with First Lady Imelda Marcos in 1974

Philippines ThrillaManika BBC 08042008

Thrilla in Manila 1975

Among the Marcos regime’s many public diplomacy goals, the Philippines needed to attract major international events and gatherings. This included the Miss Universe contest in 1974 and the famous boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier called the “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975.[8] By hosting major events of global appeal, the Philippines’ “task was to sell [itself] as a ‘safe and delightful destination.’”[9] A noteworthy proponent of this goal was the President’s wife, Imelda Marcos. The First Lady had grand ambitions to turn the Philippines into “an international oasis for the luxury traveler.”[10]

Nowhere were these ambitions more evident than in the scramble to host the 1976 IMF-World Bank Conference. Within less than two years, the Philippine government hastily built 12 luxury hotels, in the process spending between $410-$545 million (US dollars) of Filipino taxpayers’ money.[11] This put the Philippines in enormous debt. Nevertheless, it was a great political success for both Marcos and the Philippines. Not only did military and economic aid to the country increase, but the Philippines also gained recognition and status for its “showcase of stability, prosperity, elegance, and beauty.”[12]

In addition to encouraging travel to the Philippines, the Marcos regime also sought to promote “the Philippines’ most important asset- a cheerful, hospitable people.”[13] Slogans such as “Where Asia Wears a Smile” worked to project the Philippines as a place where the people were caring, helpful, and welcoming.[14] This was the image Marcos desired to display to the world despite the reality of widespread poverty, corruption, and instability that constantly plagued the Philippines and the Filipino people.

Part of Marcos’ well-planned efforts to refurbish the Philippines’ image abroad along with his own, included attracting Filipinos living overseas to visit their homeland. This was accomplished through the formation of the Balikbayan Program and “Reunion for Peace.” The Balikbayan Program (meaning “Homecoming”) was founded in 1973 and was “created to assuage concerns about martial law.”[15] The program provided Filipinos with incentives such as subsidized travel and provided the Philippines with much-needed economic stimulation.

The “Reunion for Peace” initiative, on the other hand, specifically targeted former World War II servicemen originally from the Philippines to return home. “Reunion for Peace,” which was created in 1977, gave Filipino war veterans and their families the opportunity to tour old battlefields and memorials.[16] It also allowed these visitors to see firsthand the “positive” effects of Marcos’ development policies. If the war veterans and “balikbayans” (or “returnees”) went back to their host country and reported seeing and experiencing a Philippines of peace, fun, and democracy, then Marcos’ rule would win further recognition. In addition, it would greatly improve the Philippines’ image in the international realm.

Projects such as hosting international events and “Reunion for Peace” exemplify the public diplomacy efforts of the Philippines during the 1970s until the end of martial law in 1981. In fact, the Balikbayan and “Reunion for Peace” programs were so successful that they were praised as “innovative” and “constructive” by the United Nations.[17] Moreover, similar programs were adopted by other countries hoping to develop their tourist industries.[18]

By the time martial law had been lifted, the tourist industry had already reached its peak and was in slow decline. The political instability of the Philippines and the public discontent of Marcos disrupted the growth that tourism and global recognition had brought.

Philippines BenignoAquino Wikipedia 08042008

Opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.

“The debacle of massive luxury tourism development was too obvious. The spillover effects of enormous inflation, housing shortages, energy, and water shortages, and the shame of gigantic proportions of mass prostitution (over 100,000 prostitutes in Manila alone) made tourism a political liability to the regime, a source of controversy, and an avenue for violence.”[19]

In 1983, conditions worsened as the opposition leader, Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the Manila International Airport. Domestic outrage spread throughout the country and the international community began to distance itself.[20] Filipinos eventually made their frustrations known through the “People Power Revolution,” a nonviolent movement in which natives demonstrated and prayed together in the streets.[21] This movement also led to the exile of Ferdinand Marcos and his wife to Hawaii in 1986.

Tourism TodayEdit

Since the end of Marcos’ regime, the tourist industry has not experienced such extravagant and expansive development, but it has remained a central part of Philippine public diplomacy. Today, tourism continues to be the main outlet through which the Philippines promotes its rich history, culture, and traditions. Furthermore, the Philippines is focused on sustaining its ties with the millions of Filipinos living abroad, primarily through the cultivation of the tourist industry.

Under the Republic Act of 1989, the government re-enacted the Balikbayan Program to keep encouraging Filipinos to visit the Philippines. According to the Consulate General of the Philippines, a “balikbayan” is entitled to the following benefits:

(a) Travel Tax exemption;
(b) Visa-free entry to the Philippines for a period of one (1) year, for a foreign passport holder;
(c) Duty-Free shopping privilege of up to US$2,000.00 (US$1000.00 as arriving Balikbayan and US$1000.00 as arriving passenger) provided that:
(i) Shopping must be done within two days upon arrival;
(ii) Duty free shopping privilege can be availed of only once a year; and
(iii)Purchases must be made personally by the Balikbayan.[22]
Philippines WorkersAbroad GMA 08042008

Filipinos working abroad in Sweden

Keeping Filipinos connected with their roots is a fundamental part of promoting the vibrant, freedom-loving nature of the Philippines. As First Secretary and Consul, Hyjayceelyn Quintana, stated in conference concerning Philippine public diplomacy,

“…a large migrant community can be an important partner in reaching out to the people of the host country. They are at the same time the focus of Philippine public diplomacy tapping them for Philippine development. Campaign after campaign – for increased remittances, for traveling to the Philippines as tourists, investors, and retirement prospectors.”[23]
The Philippines depends largely on its population abroad to bring about domestic development, especially economic growth. Without the 10% of its population working abroad and consistently sending money to their families, the Philippine economy would not be as lucrative nor would its tourist industry be as successful.[24] As long as Filipinos continues to leave the country in mass migrations, Philippine public diplomacy will continue to direct its efforts towards its own people.

Nation BrandingEdit

With so many of its citizens living abroad, the Philippines has placed public diplomacy high on its list of priorities. Rather than spending millions of dollars on ads and catchy slogans, the Philippines is now looking at the possibility of nation branding through its most important asset – the Filipino people.[25] Just as its tourism efforts are geared towards Filipinos, the Philippines sees its people as the perfect ambassadors to promote what the Philippines stands for. To describe exactly what the Philippines and Filipinos are all about, Filipino journalists, Junie S. del Mundo and Robert de Quelen, point to what they call “the 4Cs: Caring, colorful, creative, and collaborative.”[26] These are the attributes that set Filipinos apart and they are also the characteristics that Philippine public diplomacy looks to promote.

In an article by del Mundo and de Quelen, both of whom are writers for the Philippine Daily Inquirer,

“…the core ingredient of the Philippine brand is its people. Filipinos are the brand and have the responsibility toward this brand because each is apart of it and it’s a part of every citizen.”[27]
Del Mundo and de Quelen continue by inspiring Filipinos around the world to “be ignited with a deep sense of pride in their country and the confidence to carry this (the task of acting as the country’s messenger) out successfully.”[28]

Philippines Nurses PhGov 08042008

Filipina nurses with Senator Benigno Aquino III

Philippine Ambassador, Delia Albert, echoed this encouragement when she said,

“Public diplomacy is not just what ambassadors do. The caring competence of Filipino nurses in California hospitals, the patient professionalism of our call center agents, or the creative skills of our animation artists are now becoming recognized all around the world, transforming each of these ordinary Filipinos into ‘brand ambassadors extraordinaire.’”[29]

A uniquely Philippine brand would carry with it many advantages, both domestic and international. Domestically, a country brand would help the Philippines expand local investment, while also uniting the nation into a strong coalition. Internationally, a Philippine brand would attract foreign investment to boost the economy and it would put the Philippines on the world map. More importantly, a Philippine brand would “help earn recognition for qualified Filipino professionals and workers” living abroad.[30] Especially after the Desperate Housewives controversy (see below), which stigmatized the reputation of Filipinos working in healthcare as nurses and doctors, the Philippines seeks to build an image both for itself and its people that will be looked upon with respect and credibility.

Philippines mangos Wikipedia 08042008

Philippine Mangos

In order to gain these priceless benefits, del Mundo and de Quelen suggest trademarking. Considering that the Philippines has an abundance of unique resources, including the ilang-ilang (a Filipino flower sold in France) and the Manila hemp, the Philippines can easily trademark these products and use them to distinguish itself as an unique and exotic destination.[31] Just as Russia is known for its vodka and Italy for its ham, the Philippines can be known for its mangoes or some other major product unique to the Philippines.

Desperate Housewives ControversyEdit

"The Desperate Housewives scene sparked heated antagonism from millions of Filipinos around the world"

In September of 2007, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) aired the season premiere of its popular television show Desperate Housewives. The episode featured the main character, Susan (played by Teri Hatcher) going to the doctor’s office after learning that she may be going through menopause. The dialogue between Susan and her doctor was as follows:

Doctor: “Listen, Susan, I know for a lot of women the word ‘menopause’ has negative connotations. You hear ‘aging, brittle bones, loss of sexual desire,’” Susan: “Okay, so before we go any further, can I check these diplomas? Just to make sure they aren’t, like, from some med school in the Philippines?”
What was meant to be a joke actually came to be perceived as a racist comment that many, especially in the Filipino community, did not find funny. The network received numerous phone calls from Philippine officials, while thousands of viewers signed an online petition demanding an apology from ABC. In response to the widespread outrage, ABC offered an apology:
“The producers of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the brief reference in the season premiere. There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines. As leaders in broadcast diversity, we are committed to presenting sensitive and respectful images of all communities featured in our programs.”[32]
Philippine Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita commented on the incident saying “,On the face, we can look at it as a racial slur. We are looked down upon too much, considering the number of our medical professionals in the US.”[33] Ordinary Filipinos further expressed their discontent all over the internet, not just through online petitions, but also through various blogs and forums. One such message from the Desperate Housewives official message board demonstrates the frustration shared by many other viewers,

Philippines Protestors Inquirer 08042008

Filipinos protesting the racial comment made on the season premiere of hit tv show Desperate Housewives

“The comment on DH about Philippines med school was just a bit over board. I’m NOT mad or saying that the comment was Racist/Prejudice, I’m just disturbed that many Americans, including the DH producers, are unappreciative. Im not saying all Americans, but those of you leaving all the negative responses…take a look at this. Go into any hospital in the US and see how many filipino nurses there are.Some of them are doctors in the Philippines. See how many FILIPINO nurses come from our homeland to take care of YOUR child, mother, father or even help take care of YOUR nursing shortage.Also we are on the rise to bring in teachers to TEACH YOUR CHILDREN. It’s sad to see that a lot of Americans do not appreciate foreign workers esp filipinos.”[34]

Although ABC has apologized for its unintended insensitivity, the controversy brought to light the kinds of stereotypes the Philippines is constantly working to disprove and that its workers abroad must persistently battle. With the powers of public diplomacy at its disposal, the Philippines finally has the perfect opportunity to combat such negative views and to distinguish itself as a worthy actor on the international stage.

Important LegislationEdit

Government AgenciesEdit

Visit My Philippines
WOW Philippines
WOW Pinoy

Private OrganizationsEdit

MediaEdit

Public Opinion PollsEdit

BlogsEdit

Further ReadingEdit

Useful LinksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Kemerait, Bob R.C., "A Truer Face of the Philippines, a Face Hidden from Americans," Asian Journal Online, 16 February 2007, http://www.asianjournal.com/?c=193&a=18114
  2. Kemerait, Bob R.C., "A Truer Face of the Philippines, a Face Hidden from Americans," Asian Journal Online, 16 February 2007, http://www.asianjournal.com/?c=193&a=18114
  3. Collymore, Yvette, "Rapid Population Growth, Crowded Cities Present Challenges in the Philippines," Population Reference Bureau, June 2003, http://www.prb.org/Articles/2003/RapidPopulationGrowthCrowdedCitiesPresentChallengesinthePhilippines.aspx
  4. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 54
  5. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 54
  6. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 53
  7. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 54
  8. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 56
  9. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 55
  10. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 55
  11. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 57
  12. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 56
  13. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 56
  14. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 56
  15. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 59
  16. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 60
  17. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 61
  18. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 61
  19. Richter, Linda K., The Politics of Tourism in Asia, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Page 77
  20. Wiki Contributors, "Benigno Aquino Jr," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Accessed 1 August 2008, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benigno_Aquino,_Jr.#Assassination
  21. Wiki Contributors, "People Power Revolution," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Accessed 1 August 2008, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_Power_Revolution
  22. Consulate General of the Philippines San Francisco, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Accessed 1 August 2008, http://www.philippineconsulate-sf.org/consular_visa.htm
  23. Brown, John H., USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 28 April 2006, http://uscpublicdiplomacy.com/index.php/newsroom/johnbrown_detail/070501_public_diplomacy_the_philippines/
  24. Higham, Nick, "Skilled Workers Desert Philippines," BBC News, 7 January 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6194333.stm
  25. del Mundo, Junie S. and de Quelen,Robert, "Branding the Philippines in a 'Flat' World," Inquirer, 18 January 2008, http://business.inquirer.net/money/features/view/20080118-113165/Branding-the-Philippines-in-a-flat-world
  26. del Mundo, Junie S. and de Quelen,Robert, "Branding the Philippines in a 'Flat' World," Inquirer, 18 January 2008, http://business.inquirer.net/money/features/view/20080118-113165/Branding-the-Philippines-in-a-flat-world
  27. del Mundo, Junie S. and de Quelen,Robert, "Branding the Philippines in a 'Flat' World," Inquirer, 18 January 2008, http://business.inquirer.net/money/features/view/20080118-113165/Branding-the-Philippines-in-a-flat-world
  28. del Mundo, Junie S. and de Quelen,Robert, "Branding the Philippines in a 'Flat' World," Inquirer, 18 January 2008, http://business.inquirer.net/money/features/view/20080118-113165/Branding-the-Philippines-in-a-flat-world
  29. del Mundo, Junie S. and de Quelen,Robert, "Branding the Philippines in a 'Flat' World," Inquirer, 18 January 2008, http://business.inquirer.net/money/features/view/20080118-113165/Branding-the-Philippines-in-a-flat-world
  30. del Mundo, Junie S. and de Quelen,Robert, "Branding the Philippines in a 'Flat' World," Inquirer, 18 January 2008, http://business.inquirer.net/money/features/view/20080118-113165/Branding-the-Philippines-in-a-flat-world
  31. del Mundo, Junie S. and de Quelen,Robert, "Branding the Philippines in a 'Flat' World," Inquirer, 18 January 2008, http://business.inquirer.net/money/features/view/20080118-113165/Branding-the-Philippines-in-a-flat-world
  32. "ABC issues apology for anti-Filipino slur; Desperate Housewives forum flooded," The PinoySpy Reporter, 4 October 2007, http://www.pinoyspy.com/2007/10/04/abc-issues-apology-on-teri-hatcher-anti-filipino-dialogue-abante-calls-for-ban/
  33. "ABC issues apology for anti-Filipino slur; Desperate Housewives forum flooded," The PinoySpy Reporter, 4 October 2007, http://www.pinoyspy.com/2007/10/04/abc-issues-apology-on-teri-hatcher-anti-filipino-dialogue-abante-calls-for-ban/
  34. "ABC issues apology for anti-Filipino slur; Desperate Housewives forum flooded," The PinoySpy Reporter, 4 October 2007, http://www.pinoyspy.com/2007/10/04/abc-issues-apology-on-teri-hatcher-anti-filipino-dialogue-abante-calls-for-ban/

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