Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Photo courtesy of Sec. Cesar Purisima's Facebook page.

We've got visitors this week.

You can tell by the way the landscape is being refreshed in major thoroughfares like EDSA and Roxas Boulevard -- palm trees earth-balled and replanted in the center island -- making it look like Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Sidewalks, flyovers, overpasses, even urinals -- all have been repainted. Corrugated sheets of aluminium were put up on the sides of bridges to cover the smelly, dirty mess of the estuary and the informal settlers below. The usual truck ban just became unusual as it was expanded to a total day time ban. These are just few of the things the Philippines is doing to put its best foot forward to the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank from 2-5 May 2012.

There’s nothing wrong with all these preparations. It’s common sense for any country to do some housekeeping in anticipation of visitors, especially foreign ones. We can say that our country is like a good homeowner, who makes his house clean and tidy in time for fiesta season. S/he will put her/his best foot forward to make sure that there won’t be any inconvenience to the visitor within their stay. This kind of attitude is also reflected in the way we attend meetings, conferences or even weekly worship service – we come in our best clothes, making sure we look clean and tidy in the presence of others. Thus, it is excusable if the government spends tax money, time and effort for this event. Failing to prepare for this event will do more damage to our pride and reputation as a nation, compared to the inconvenience of a total truck ban or sheets of galvanized iron to temporarily cover squatter shanties.

Consequently, it is unreasonable for trucking companies or informal settlers (or anyone else for that matter) to complain how they are being affected by these preparations. Their actions are tantamount to a child complaining about having to keep his/her toys in the toy box because Uncle Sam or John Bull is coming to visit. Much like in the household, all stakeholders in this nation must understand the need for these arrangements. For a country trying to convince the world that “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, cooperation, not obstruction, is ever more important right now. Regardless of what ever issue we have over the Asian Development Bank (especially over loaning practices and influence over national economic policies), in keeping with being a good host putting her/his best foot forward, we must avoid acts that could set a negative impression such as unrest, illegal rallies and demonstrations, and the likes. (This is one call I am directing most specifically to our friends in the Left Movement out there.) After all, despite what they have to hurl against ADB, we cannot deny that it is one of the country’s biggest benefactors in the fight against poverty in the country.

Nevertheless, even as we exceed in this task of hospitality and generosity towards our foreign visitors, we must keep in mind the principle of Occam’s Razor: “It is vain to do with more, what can be done with less.” We can be welcoming and cordial, without having to pompous and extravagant. It doesn’t have to take beyond the capacity of our meagre resources just to appease our guests to the highest level. Our target is simply to make their stay secure and comfortable, and their mission, successful and fulfilling. And if we are to extend that best foot forward, I sure hope we could continue extending it after the visitors have come and gone. After all, a host who is kind to the guest, but is cruel to waiters and servants is NOT a great host. If we can be a good host to our neighbours, then we must be good host to our own people, who expect the most from our hosts, as well.

The 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank will be from 2-5 May 2012 at the Philippine International Convention Center, CCP Complex, Pasay City. TSS

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