All things in their own good time
FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) Updated December 26, 2010 12:00 AM
Perhaps if the Askals had won the game against the Indonesians it would have been a nice Christmas gift to all Filipinos. But it would also have ended the story of the spectacular rise of a sport they had once excelled in but abandoned. That story still has to unfold.
Constitutional reform warriors of the CORRECT Movement, a group of young Filipinos suggest that the surge of football may not be all that coincidental but comes with a growing desire of Filipinos to shift to parliamentary government. Apart from other reasons, Filipinos learned football and the parliamentary governance from the Spaniards.
Maybe it is time to revisit the Spanish colonial era and find an explanation for this unexpected revival of football as the country’s national sport.
Spain’s colonial period no doubt had its abuses and was bound to fail. But there were other things going on at the same time. There were benefits we have not sufficiently acknowledged. For example, I was surprised to know that the legendary footballer Paulino Alcantara (with an unmatched record of 357 goals in 357 games) was born in Iloilo of a Filipino mother. How many know that the 13th Prime Minister of Spain Marcelo Azcarraga Palmero was part Filipino whose mother was a mestiza from Albay and his father a bookshop owner at the Escolta. These point to a need to revisit Spain’s influence on the country and how it shaped the nation. That does for sport as well as its system of government.
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We still do not know just how the Askals story will unfold. A number of the players are also of mixed parentage hence the name askals – mongrels. But so far the omens have been good. For example, Simon McMenemy, the British coach who led the team very nearly did not accept the job. He was not sure that a team at the bottom of the heap, would be worth the trouble. But today, his opinion of the team has changed.
He is not fazed that they did not win the finals. The Philippine team moved to a respectable performance in football in Southeast Asia that it had not known for years. From the bottom to the Final Four of the 2010 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup means the team has great potential. As he said the team might not have won the finals but it won respect.
“There were a hundred and one things telling me that I shouldn’t do it, but (I thought) when do you get the opportunity to coach a country like this… a sleeping giant that if it was to awake, it can really do some damage,” said the 33-year-old McMenemy, who became the youngest national coach in the world after taking the job. It was their spirit and determination that impressed him.
“So the opportunity to be in this situation really prompted me to take the job.”
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When the Wikileaks scandal first broke out, I was told by friends they received text going around that former President Arroyo would be the subject of cables to expose how much money she made during her government.
I thought that was ingenious – who would be sending cables about President Arroyo and who would cable what to whom?
The machination to oust her was not a secret. There was a concerted assault to make her a weak president, weak enough so the people themselves would rise to oust her government. But she fought back.
More likely the cables will say that the attacks on her by Opposition elements and external forces were not succeeding and that they should be stepped up because she was a hard nut to crack. When President Bush met her on the side of an APEC conference he joked that he had heard she was difficult to oust. As far as I know the Manila-Washington cables have not been released yet. But cables so far released show that both “China, US perceive GMA as good leader.”
These impressions were contained in leaked cables between China and the United States. The exchange revealed that both countries, often at odds with each other about the Philippine government, agreed on this point: Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “is a good leader because she had shown being in control.”
The leaked cable was dated March 5, 2007. According to online whistle-blower WikiLeaks the diplomatic cable was about “Progress in the Philippines, but More Needed”. The cable discussion between Eric John, then US deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP), and two senior Chinese diplomats Hu Zhengyue, then China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general for Asian Affairs covered Southeast Asia in general.
I think that is the more interesting aspect of the leaked cables. There is a mutual interest on the part of the competing powers in seeing a stable Philippines.
DAS John agreed with the Chinese officials that President Arroyo has stabilized Philippine leadership and had enacted strong fiscal and economic policies. But the two countries differed on priorities.
The US wanted more transparency in government as the key to its progress while China considered poverty as the main problem.
In a recent interview with some Chinese diplomats with this column they described US-Chinese relations as a “strategic partnership.”
The Chinese were more concerned with their investments to develop the agricultural system and transportation infrastructure. To them, poverty was the key challenge and that dealing with corruption only comes second.
I think the same debate is taking place in wider Philippine society as well but the coverage in oligarch-owned media has made it impossible to achieve a more coherent strategy for the country.
The best example of this incoherence is the national broadband network (NBN) project involving China’s ZTE Corp. and a railway system. The accusations of perceived corruption should have been confronted and dealt with but the projects should not have been put on the back burner. These would have immediately benefited the country’s development program. Had it been implemented asap.
Something could have been worked out within the broad background of “strategic cooperation.” But it may be that there are other considerations other than “strategic partnership” between China and the US as far as the Philippines is concerned. With the Arroyo government under siege throughout her term, the Philippines could not assert policy decisions to maneuver within the strategic cooperation. We can only speculate how we might have done better if we had the independence other countries in the region had. But instead it became a no-win situation.