Rhony Laigo


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A collection of Rhony Laigo's articles through the years while covering the Philippines, Saipan and now the United States of America: Malaysia is only country in Southeast Asia that produces its own cars.

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Rhony Laigo

  1. 1. Malaysia is only country in Southeast Asia that producesits own carsBy Rhony Laigo(Note: The author who became a full-fledged journalist right after college isa witness and at the same a victim of Philippines’ corrupt society, whoseworsening economic conditions back then forced him to abandon hiscountry to work as a reporter abroad – just like the 10 million Filipinos whoare employed overseas – and has been an outsider since 1991. Lastmonth, the author visited Malaysia, then an inferior country compared tothe Philippines a few decades ago, but now an economic power inSoutheast Asia. The following article is the author’s attempt to presentcontrasting features of the neighboring countries as he tries to persuadethe Philippine government to review its current policies on populationcontrol and federalism, and perhaps even emulate its Malaysian cousins,who welcome 22 million tourists a year compared to Philippines’ only fourmillion foreign visitors.)As a Filipino, I’ve always heard that in the 50s, a few years after theSecond World War, the Philippines was one of the most progressivecountries in Asia and was the leading country in the southeast Asian regionuntil the 60s. When I was a kid, there was even an ad on television thatsaid Philippine Airlines was “Asia’s first airline.” In fact the Philippines’ flagcarrier still promotes that title sans the shining luster it used to enjoy. Well,we were illustrious, until Ferdinand Marcos became president in 1966 andthen the country went into a downward spiral. Some 20 years later into hisdictatorship, the Philippines became the “Sick Man of Asia.”This month, the Philippines will remember that fateful day, September 21,1972, when Marcos declared martial law. If not for the EDSA uprising in1986, in which I was very much involved being a student activist at thattime and a scribe for a college paper, the “Sick Man of Asia” may have
  2. 2. been in a worse condition, no thanks to the plunder that the Marcoses andhis cronies did to their own country.Now, 26 years after the EDSA revolt, the Philippines has yet to fullyrecover. But our leader, current President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III,whose both parents suffered a lot during the dictatorship – his father, Sen.Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was assassinated, while his reluctant mother ranagainst Marcos and became president after the dictator was ousted (shesurvived seven coup attempts during her six-year presidency!) – may belooking at a country that is ready to face its economic challenges andhopefully be able to recover some of its lost prestige of the glorious past.Back in 2009, I had the privilege of returning to the Philippines. Admittedly,a lot has changed...at least in Metro Manila. There have been signs ofprogress, construction was flourishing and many of our kababayans wereemployed as outsource service providers in companies more commonlyknown as call centers, and even leads India in this sector. Personally, I feltgood…momentarily.Just last month, however, I was fortunate enough to have been invited bythe Malaysian government to take part and chronicle their55th Independence Day celebration that took place last August 31. As aFilipino journalist who has written several stories about the Philippines’transition from a dictatorship to a democracy, seeing our Malaysianneighbors celebrate their independence day was an event I will neverforget.While we in the Philippines have yet to cultivate a full sense of nationalpride mainly perhaps because of our parochial differences, the Malaysiansare marching towards greater heights, in spite of what I would consider afractured multi-ethnic union of different cultures, religions and backgrounds.On the contrary, our neighbors down south feed on their own diversity,using their own creativity and competitiveness to become an envy of othersoutheast Asian economies, the Philippines included as it tries to make
  3. 3. peace with two insurgent groups. Despite a majority of Malaysians beingMuslims, rarely if none were news about terror threats, unlike in Indonesiawhere there have been acts of violence against innocent civilians.Blessed with its own crude oil, Malaysia is the only country in SoutheastAsia to produce its own cars, Proton and Perodua. The country is alsoamong the world’s top manufacturing hubs for semi-conductors and otherelectronic components, employing hundreds of thousands of people,including foreign labor, many of whom are, you guessed it, Filipinos.Malaysia’s infrastructure is also among the most developed in Asia,according to Wikipedia. In one of our tours, we got the chance to view thenew city of Putrajaya, located some 15 miles outside of Kuala Lumpur, in awell-planned urban area where new government buildings are located. Thecity is beautifully landscaped with a massive man-made lake dotted withcaptivating bridges – there are nine spans around the city – because oftheir modern architectural design.In addition, Malaysia’s railway systems are one of the best in the world. ItsKLIA Ekspres also allows international airline passengers to check in theirluggage at the train station, therefore no long queues, and enjoy aconvenient high-speed but quiet half-hour ride from Kuala Lumpur to theairport, and with free wifi connections.Kuala Lumpur of course is home to the tallest twin towers in the world – thePetronas Towers – each having 88 floors and stands 1,483 feet high intothe sky. These buildings of stainless steel alone are a testament ofMalaysia’s solid growth, whose economy is third largest in southeast Asiaand is ranked 28th in the world vis-à-vis the purchasing power of its 29million people.Speaking of population, there again lies my envy. While the Philippines has90 million inhabitants – 7th in Asia and 12th largest in the world – Malaysia’ssmaller population means more social services for its people. In my one
  4. 4. week stay, I’ve tried my best to look for squatters and beggars in thestreets of Kuala Lumpur, which were very clean by the way, to no avail.Contrast that to Manila’s large squatter population, which often than not,results in violent confrontations when the government tries to relocate themaway from the metropolis.Malaysia has 13 federated states and three federal territories, which justlike in the U.S. is a form of government that the Philippines I think shouldalso greatly consider to let regions become more self-sufficient andcompete with one another.Comprised of 60 percent Muslims, other religions are practiced freely inMalaysia, including Buddhism and Hinduism along with a variety ofChristian denominations. The Philippines, meanwhile, has more than 80percent who are Roman Catholic faithfuls, whose church leaders opposethe use of contraceptives, but that is another issue altogether. ThePhilippines also is the lone country in the world that doesn’t allow divorce.During their Independence Day celebration, most, if not all, buildings andhomes displayed the Malaysian flag. Among those who proudly paraded inthe Merdeka Square were local Malaysian folks, some of whom drove theirteksis (taxi) that carry the Proton brand, which much to my own chagrin,were symbols of how far Malaysia has gone in terms of progress comparedto where I was born. I had goose bumps and my eyes welled up uponseeing them celebrate their 55th year as a free sovereign Malaysia withgreat pride. I wished the Philippines would emulate the same kind of self-respect that the descendants of our own forefathers possess, a truly unitednation.As they passed by the grandstand during the parade, those who took partwaved proudly to their king and queen and to their government officialswho, except for the royal couple, were wearing one type of uniform, bothmen and women: black trousers with a blue-collared white polo shirt
  5. 5. emblazoned with the number “1” on the upper left chest signifying unity and“One Malaysia.”http://rhonylaigo.blogspot.com/http://www.balita.comhttp://www.usasianpost.comA collection of Rhony Laigo’s articles through the years while covering the Philippines, Saipan and nowthe United States of America