We need to transform our nation or die trying

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

AKITA, Japan: We’re in Akita, the northernmost tip of the Island of Honshu, where we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo Station hurling at 360 kph in what was then a technological wonder in Japan in the early sixties. Today, the Shinkansen is a major part of Japan’s railway system that works with a Swiss watch clockwork precision. In one of Japan’s latest technology, I was served a braised beef tongue with rice on a cardboard box, where all you need is to pull a string and voila! Five minutes later, your food is steaming hot! All this without lighting a fire to cook it on your lap!

How could the Japanese people achieve such technology? 71 years after hundreds of US B-29 Superfortress bombers firebombed and flattened Tokyo killing more than 100,000 people, rendering millions maimed and millions more homeless?

While the scars of war apparently have been erased (perhaps not from the memories of the old folks who lived through that kind of hell) or disappeared from the Japanese landscape, it just makes you think that Japan, the loser of World War II has somehow managed and emerged to bounce back in just a short 71 years and looked like they won that war.

Contrast this to the Philippines, where Manila was destroyed when US Forces took it from the Japanese occupiers and Cebu City (yes, we just launched the World War II coffee table book War in Cebu) was 90 percent destroyed by American bombs, although the Japanese soldiers opted to fight the American Division from the mountain fastness of Babag Ridge.

During the Shinkansen trip to Akita… I could see that the further we are from Tokyo; the quality of their infrastructure remained the same. If the train has to pass a mountain, they bore a tunnel instead. So four hours away from Tokyo, we are in what you would call Rural Japan. Yet, you do not see any signs of poverty, simply because the Japanese government built its infrastructure with the same passion and quality like they do in major cities like Tokyo/Yokohama or in Osaka/Kobe. This is what we call inclusivity!

When the Haneda International Airport was already beyond capacity, the Japanese built the Narita International Airport, which is an hour’s ride to downtown Tokyo. Perhaps this should be the question that each Filipino ought to ask himself. If Japan recovered from the ravages of war and transformed itself from its former warlike stigma into a major world power, there must be something that they do in Japan that is worthwhile copying.

There is no doubt that the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has supported many infrastructure projects in the Philippines, but still we are so technologically far behind Japan, there is no hope of us of catching up unless we do something drastic or even revolutionary. Hey, Japan rebuilt itself in 71 years using their people’s talent and ingenuity and it is all there for us to see and yes – copy! Yet even just to copy the best things that they have in Japan, we have failed miserably doing it!

Thanks to our people who seem to be very comfortable with the status quo, especially those corrupt politicians who want to keep Filipinos poor and uneducated so that they can maintain their stranglehold control over the lives (and tax money) of the people many of whom end up in diaspora working abroad in order to have a better life! We need to transform our nation into something better, or like Japan, or die trying!

Yes, many Filipinos are visiting Japan these days because our economy may have improved through all these years. However we are still woefully lacking in infrastructure development especially outside Metro Manila or Metro Cebu. Bogo City is a short 100 kilometers away north of Cebu City. But if the Japanese government was in charge of developing Cebu, Bogo City would only be a mere 40-minute freeway drive or a 30-minute train ride away. Doing this would declog

Cebu City of squatters like stick like leeches making our urban city ugly. I dare say that the time to change is now!!

Perhaps the best thing I noticed in this visit to Japan is the lack of security guards in all establishments in Tokyo or in Osaka for that matter. In the Philippines, everywhere you go, you will see a security guard, even in our Restaurants, Banks, Department stores, shopping malls and yes even our Churches. I dare you go to any hotel lobby in Cebu or Manila and as your car goes in the driveway, a security guard stops you for that baggage check without taking a peek whether you have a bomb inside your bag or not.

Indeed, hiring of security guards has become part and parcel of our daily lives… perhaps because many Filipinos with less education are comfortable doing this job. But in Japan where salaries and wages are high, they just can’t afford to hire security guards to do nothing but guard your door. Yes almost all stores or shops that you enter have a Closed-Circuit TV and for sure, Japanese Swat teams are always on full alert for any untoward incidents that could occur. Japan is truly a very safe and secure nation!

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For email responses to this article, write to [email protected]zcom.com or [email protected]. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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