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It was indeed a very happy year in 2007 for those who believed in this country, especially those who started believing as early as 2006. The good spirit at the start of the year is clearly evident with the amount of people traveling for the holidays. This year, our family decided to spend it in Hong Kong where my dad Joecon and his twin brother Raul also had their 76th birthday celebration. We were about 80 people on this trip, all the way to the grandchildren with my Tita Mely Hechanova although they were smaller in number since the men in their side of the family are less prolific than the children of the twins. The funny part is that my wife and I had the youngest grandchild considering our age, with Isabella now nine months old. She is definitely the best Christmas present we ever had. While we were in NAIA, there were a lot of people and it felt like there was a party in the airport. It was like an exodus as I saw people escaping Manila as if there was a coup.
Spending the holidays in Hong Kong was cheaper than going to Boracay and Cebu. With the peso at 41 compared to a year ago and with the boom in tourism in the Philippines, the prices of hotels in Manila have gone up tremendously. This was primarily because the hotel rates are in pesos and not in dollars with Fil-Ams and our Asian neighbors wanting to see the Philippines. Walking through the ocean terminal in Hongkong was like going to Rockwell or the SM malls since we saw so many familiar faces. We had great bonding time with the Aranetas, Fores and Oledans as Pinoy bands played all over the hotel. This was typical Filipino camaraderie. There was also so much tsimis, leave it to my sister Vina and she can tell you more who was in Hong Kong (and with whom).
Kidding aside, I wonder where the pessimists spent their holidays this year. I guess maybe plotting their next moves on how to sow greater fear or maybe planning another rally on how this government is getting nowhere. I wouldn’t blame them having converted their pesos to dollars at 56. They lost 25 percent. Not having invested in real estate and trying to now buy where condos are going for over P100,000 per square, or missing the stock market increase this year with the stock index soaring beyond 3,600 levels.
As I mentioned in the column last week, 2008 will be another good year for the Philippines as we will benefit from the Asian economic surge. Aside from this, new malls and community centers are being set up all over the Philippines which allow opportunities for new entrepreneurs to set up their businesses. What is important is for entrepreneurs not to become a “me too” and instead be more creative and innovative in their products and services. The peso should break the 40 levels soon but towards the mid of this year with the dollar getting stronger. I would convert my pesos to dollars when it breaks 40 and invest in peso-dollar bonds which is one of the best performing bonds over the past years.
We still don’t know for sure if a recession will hit the USA and how it will impact the Asian economies. My belief is that even if there is a very mild recession, it will just affect the stock market. The real economies of Asia will continue to do well specially the momentum of growth that is happening in China. You can also see this Hong Kong as I saw lots of people there waiting in line to enter the luxury brand stores.
Opportunities on tourism are growing rapidly and if we can sustain a peaceful environment, there is no reason why people from other countries in Asia like China, Malaysia and Singapore won’t visit the country. DOT Secretary Ace Durano is a good marketing man who knows where to focus our efforts which is in the Asian market. Korean visitors are already taking the country by storm and it is only a matter of time before our other neighboring Asian countries also start invading the Philippines.
My advice for the New Year is don’t just make your resolution in paper, go out and DO IT IN 2008.
Let me share with you feedback from people who have written to us these past few weeks:
(Feedback on a previous column, “The Challenges of Nation Building)
I agree with your recent column The Challenges of Nation Building and I agree that it’s going to take a while for Philippines to recover and change but there is hope and that hope can come nearer if our people will start making an effort to selflessly serve each other and our nation.
Being overseas for many years, I struggle with the idea of returning and investing in the Philippines, but 7 yrs ago I came back for a couple of years of volunteer work and helping the needy, then I realized that Filipino are worth investing. Since then I’ve been coming back and searching for ways to build businesses that will create jobs and training opportunities for the less fortunate.
I can’t wait until I can come back for good.
Euromoney Seminars Asia
Absolutely fantastic article! To start solving our problems is to start thinking different – thanks for inspiring our country men. My heart is crushed whenever I ride a taxi. Taxi drivers are slowly killing themselves – 24X7 driving, no heavy or nutritious meals, stress in the streets, etc.
Also for the traffic enforcers such as MMDA – they are exposed to pollution. I hope Mr. BF equips his people with masks and HMO. I was pondering on this. If you are a jeepney driver, how can you progress to become a sales man or a business man or a computer wizard? Life is more than becoming just a jeepney driver. What can we do with these people that they can be more than who they can be?
Aside from inspiration and identifying their dreams, what else do you think should be done? I was thinking of an NGO that will provide open specific short education that they can use in whatever specific field they pursue. A good example would be becoming a computer programmer or a chef. I myself is an open source hobbyist and I believe that the spirit of open source principle can be applied not only in software but also in other areas. Being free to pursue freedom from the bondages old Filipino mentality.
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