Philippines 2015
Glimpses of the Future

The Philippines a decade hence

The Philippines in the next decade will face tremendous social and economic challenges.

Illustration by Chong Ardivilla

THE ONLY thing we know about the future is that we cannot predict it. But we can try. At least that is what we asked 10 people to do in this issue of i. As 2004 ends in a cloud of uncertainty, these 10 individuals look at their crystal balls and give us a glimpse of the Philippine future.

This may not be the best moment for such a future-gazing exercise. Times are hard. More Filipinos are going hungry now than ever before. While many others manage to survive, they feel the pinch. Many are pessimistic about the country’s prospects and think that the future, if there is one, is elsewhere, not here.

Nonetheless, we asked our 10 contributors to imagine what the Philippines would be like in 2015. For some, the prospects for the country a decade hence are grim. For others, the future looks promising. Whatever point of view they take, however, whether they see the glass as half-empty or half-full, all our contributors agree that the future is in our hands.

In this issue, we focus on the quality of people’s lives-and also that of their distractions. That is why our contributors zoom in on such areas as education, health, and crime as well as television and the movies. One tries to imagine a better Metro Manila while another conjures up an image of what the Filipino family would be like in 10 years.

The variety of voices and vocations brought together in this issue makes it a fascinating read. Media critic and television executive David Celdran sees a generation of screenagers — those born in the late 1980s and after and who grew up in front of television, computer, and arcade screens — coming into adulthood. By 2015, they will make up the bulk of the consumer market, and the world they will inhabit will be one of personalized and interactive news and entertainment. This has profound implications for the current dominance of nationwide, free TV and for the news and media industries. It also raises serious questions about the nature of citizenship, democracy, and public discourse.

Urban planning expert Paulo Alcazaren resists the temptation to lapse into a dim scenario describing Metro Manila’s future and provides us instead with a blueprint for re-imaging the city and reconfiguring it. His vision for a Metro Manila that is not only environment- and commuter-friendly but also rationally planned and aesthetically pleasing has left us muttering, “We wish, we wish.”

Sociologist Maruja Asis, meanwhile, sees the family — although pressured by migration, economic difficulties, and the fraying of community ties — still being as strong as ever. She, however, envisions a redefinition of the nuclear family as we know it today (mother, father, and children) as well as shifting gender roles, as more and more women take on the task of being the main breadwinner. There will also be a shift in communication patterns as families use new technologies (e.g. texting and email) in place of face-to-face encounters.

Educator Queena Lee-Chua is perhaps the most optimistic of our contributors as she predicts quantum improvements in the quality of Philippine education and a generation that will be schooled differently and in a multidisciplinary way to meet the demands of the new millennium. Health policy expert Jonathan Flavier, for his part, forecasts more do-it-yourselfing in the field of medicine, as people no longer seek professional help but medicate on their own. He sees the poor being disadvantaged in the age of DIY health care and foresees that the health gap that separates rich and poor will widen.

Criminality has been Teresita Ang-See’s concern since the early 1990s, when the Chinoy community began reeling from a series of daredevil kidnappings. In this issue, she looks closely at what happened in the criminal justice system in the last 10 years and concludes that the outlook for the next 10 years is not rosy as far as arresting crime is concerned. The prospects for the movies, says director and fictionist Uro de la Cruz, are similarly dim. De la Cruz looks back nostalgically at the cinema of his childhood and adolescence and concludes that given the current crisis in the film industry, the future of the movies is television.

Columnist and presidential historian Manuel Quezon III does not write about a specific sector. Instead, he takes us back to the past and forward to the future in a provocative essay on the circles of history. He looks at how one circle is broken to make way for the next and how, for the generation that will reach adulthood in 2015, the whole meaning of country and homeland would have drastically changed.

We end with two personal essays. We asked two journalists — Howie G. Severino and Danilova Molintas — to imagine what future waits their young children. Severino worries about environmental destruction and a world where the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will all be toxic. He asks whether he can delay the environmental doomsday that awaits his son. Molintas, on the other hand, remembers her mother and the constrained life that women were fated for then. She foresees a future where her own daughter would have the resources to make true her dreams.