That Elusive Progress

That Elusive Progress

Dec 06, 2023

As I end the year 2023, I look back at the countries I visited after the lockdown and travel bans. Generally, I do not entertain envy and I genuinely feel good if someone succeeds, especially if that someone is a good person. However, I must admit that during and after each visit I made to another country this year, I really felt envious. I still felt happy for them but I also felt sad for our own country. Why is progress so elusive to us?

I am not going to say that nothing has improved in our country but I believe that we could do a lot more because every Filipino deserves more and is capable of doing more.

Back in April, our family visited four countries namely Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Netherlands. All four countries are in the top 10 happiest countries in the world. If you want to know why, click Lessons From The Happiest Countries In The World.

My next trip was with a childhood friend to celebrate our 50 years of friendship in June in Singapore. The feeling of envy was stronger here because it’s closer to home and I couldn’t help but imagine where we could be now if we were also blessed with a leader that worked for the common good back in the 1960s, or at least put our act together after we toppled the dictatorship.

My last trip was with my husband and a big group of top performers of a company he consults with. I was really looking forward to the original Holy Land Tour with Dubai as stop-over but because of the war, Holy Land was replaced with Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed the trip with a new perspective on the Arab Emirates. How I wish the Philippines could be closer to them in progress, especially after our tour guide showed us the before and after photos of these progressive cities – they were almost barren lands in 2000! I realized, “Oh my! All my kids were already born when they started their frenetic construction of the tallest, biggest, most expensive, and all the Guinness-World-Record-worthy structures they could build!”

All these countries – Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, Singapore, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi – seem to be taking care of their citizens. Their needs are provided for by the government and these are beyond the basic ones. I did not see a single mendicant in these places. Back home, we see different forms of it from outright begging to selling sampaguitas or cleaning of car windshield along EDSA. Cleanliness is the norm in public places in these seven countries. Back home, you see piles of trash along the streets and public toilets that will make you think twice before using them. And yet, I will always prefer the smiles, warmth, and kind customer service I get in the Philippines.

So what is causing our chronic poverty and very slow pace of progress? Is it our form or government? Is it our cultural mindset (puede na, bahala na)? When I checked the form of government in the seven places I visited this year, I found out that most of them have monarchies. Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi still have to this day, while Iceland got rid of it in 1944. Singapore never had.

Does democracy work in our country? We had an interesting conversation with our tour guide who attested that there’s no corruption in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Crime rate is almost zero that’s why they are considered the safest cities in the world. I am not going to the details of how corruption is defined here but it may be safe to say that since the monarchy seems to own everything, why should they “steal” from their coffers, it’s like stealing from yourself.

I am not suggesting that we should have a monarchy, but I sometimes think of the possibility that no matter how much we value the freedom of choice, we subconsciously want to be told what to do. And I think this is the reason why even if we do not have a monarchy in our country, we allow political dynasties to proliferate because of that subconscious need to be subjugated by leaders on a continuous basis.

There is also the reality that six years (although this is too long for a bad leader) is too short for a good one. The reason why Dubai and Abu Dhabi started building mega structures years ago was that they knew that they couldn’t count on just their oil as their main source of revenues. Today, they have successfully made tourism their number one earner. They could plan ahead for decades because they know that their programs will not be scrapped after six years.

So what do we do given our form of government with a presidential lifespan of six years? We have to go back to structures, to build strong ones that cannot be easily changed at the whim of the incumbent. And maybe, what we really need to cultivate and ingrain in all of us is a sense of ownership in this country. When you litter, it’s like littering in your own home. When you steal from the government or your office, you’re taking away some steps towards progress.

In our own homes, we can practice setting up structures that will make it easier for our family members to make the right choices – to save, invest, CLAYGO (Clean As You Go), have other sources of income for diversification, etc.

The year is about to end, let’s take time to assess what we can do with what is within our control and circle of influence, so that progress will not be elusive but easily attainable for everyone.


1. Join me on another insightful discussion about empowering your children to have a high FQ on FQ Mom Youtube Channel with my son Enrique Fres Fausto. Click here.

2. If you want to know where you are in your FQ journey. Click here.

3. If you want to know your FQ, buy our books. Click here.

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