THE recent exploits of Yuka Saso, a teener who won the golf majors will surely get a lot of coverage in the news for it represents a first for the Philippines. But it validates what we all know from our army of overseas Filipino workers. We may be a small nation but in the global stage, we are a people who can compete and perform in the highest level.
In order to do so, we need to support those with the potential. Yuka was lucky to have a private company, ICTSI, that backed her up at the start. There’s a running joke in one of my Viber groups that lauded the private sector’s support and hoped the government wouldn’t step in as it might jinx the winning streak. Levity aside, young athletes like Yuka should get support from all sides if the Philippines is to showcase its talent.
The support need not be totally financial. It can be seen in other forms. Look at the case of Kiefer Ravena, the local basketball phenomenon trying to get into a Japanese league. A column by sportswriter Homer Sayson says it all in its title, “As basketball goes global, PBA sets clock back a hundred years.” Of course, the PBA has legal ground as it has contract stipulations that apparently prevent the move. But as Sayson argues, the PBA needs to be open-minded to provide “a free-flowing bridge that allows our homegrown talents to spread their wings overseas.”
Consider the case of chess wiz Wesley So. A full-blooded Filipino, Wesley was the youngest Filipino International Master at age 12 and his world ranking skyrocketed to number 2 in 2017. Yet sometime in 2014, So joined the United States chess federation after becoming disenchanted with local sports politics. Apparently, he was denied a P1 million incentive from winning the gold medal in the World Universiade Games. Today, he competes for the USA and no longer for our country.
It is sad that the prevailing trend in many economies these days is to be protectionist, a move borne out of a defensive, politically motivated policy meant to shield domestic businesses. In the long run, such acts are ultimately harmful to consumers as protectionism weakens domestic industries. Competition is the ultimate vehicle that fosters creativity, innovation and improvement. And, as in sports, to really do well, we must check the quality and standards at the international scene. That’s what Saso has done, what Kiefer hopes to achieve, and what So has demonstrated. Our thinking should go beyond the limits of our geo-physical boundary.
Dr. Gary Ranker defined a global mindset as the ability to step outside one’s base culture and to understand there is no universally correct way to do things. The definition calls for a willingness to take risks, to explore, to learn and to adapt. This means having an inclusive and learning mindset and going out of your comfort zone to proactively explore opportunities. It presumes learning and understanding common patterns across cultures, countries and markets. Decisions will then be culturally sensitive and will take advantage of opportunities the differences bring. The global mindset is situational and diverse. It makes no presumptive judgment that differences and similarities are neither positive nor negative.
Given the pandemic, it is understandable that countries look inward to save themselves first before opening to the world. Unfortunately, this type of thinking has also led to irrational behavior like the hoarding of the vaccines by developed countries and an exclusion mentality. Yes, there is a need to be open, to step outside one’s base and to remember that ultimately, we are all interconnected.
In many economies, the “buy local” campaign has become a major initiative. In one such blurb, subscribers are exhorted to “keep your money where your heart lives, support an economy of friends and neighbors, and build a community that thrives by thinking local first.” It makes good sense for products and services that are best sourced locally for so many reasons — reducing environmental impacts, creating local jobs, building unilateral resilience. Such initiatives deserve support but only up to what can be sourced locally. To extend it further is irrational. The local economy must specialize on what they do best and surely it is not designed to produce everything its people need and want. Go local but think globally.
Philippine Independence Day is just around the corner. We have to let the nationalistic fervor burn. But we have to realize we cannot be myopic and we should allow opportunities for the country and our people to shine in the international arena when we can. We should defend what we have while we keep an open view on what we can achieve or do elsewhere. The best in the world should be our standard if we want to break out of our laggard position in this part of the globe. We cannot have a parochial mentality. What works at the city level need not work at the country level. What works at the country level must be benchmarked against the best in the world. We need to embrace a global mindset.
Benel Dela Paz Lagua was previously Executive Vice-President and Chief Development Officer at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and an advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as FINEX.