In the Philippines, bananas are not only tasty treats for many residents, but these fruits also provide significant support to the local economy. In fact, banana plantations around the Philippines have noticeably impacted the republic for years and will continue to deliver substantial assistance to several of its businesses and residents.
According to BusinessWorld Online, AgriNurture, an importer of various fruits, will invest up to $24 million in Filipino banana plantations. AgriNurture's announcement came at the International Food Expo Philippines in May 2013, and the investment could help the company increase its profits. Additionally, AgriNurture president Antonio Tiu said that his firm takes an aggressive approach in its operations and expects a significant return on its Filipino banana plantation investment.
More Filipino banana shipments are coming to the U.S.
Filipino residents who live in the U.S. and send money to family members back home may soon have plenty of opportunities to enjoy Filipino bananas. BusinessMirror reports that more Cavendish bananas are expected to be shipped to the U.S. in 2013, which could significantly impact the Philippines and its citizens. By sending more bananas overseas, the Philippines may increase its revenue and attract additional investors from around the globe.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) representatives noted that sending Cavendish bananas to the U.S. may help the republic's economy for the next few years. Emmanuel Esguerra, NEDA deputy director general, stated that Filipino officials are also exploring opportunities to export sugar to more nations as well.
Overall, Filipino exports totaled $343.9 million in February 2013, up 43.7 percent on a year-over-year basis.
Filipino leaders consider myriad ways to manage expenses
Esguerra told Malaya that new processes and policies are necessary to help the Filipino economy, particularly for banana and sugar exporters.
"Exporters have been affected negatively by the strong peso," Esguerra told the news source. "This can be overcome by better infrastructure, efficient logistics, lower power costs and other measures to reduce the cost of doing business."
The Philippines Bureau of Plant Industry noted that 3 million kilograms of bananas were scheduled to be shipped to the U.S. in April. Between February 2012 and February 2013, Filipino banana exports rose 96 percent, and refined sugar exports also increased 27 percent. By providing new exports to the U.S., the Filipino economy could further boost its profits.
The Philippines' economy is on the rise, and several financial experts have recognized the republic's recovery from the economic downturn of the late 2000s. According to Bloomberg, Philippine stocks recently earned an investment grade from Standard & Poor's, a positive sign for the republic's economy.
S&P officials said that the Philippines' economy appears stable, which bodes well for the republic over the next several years. As many Filipinos accept jobs in the United States and send money to their families back home, the republic could watch its economy grow in the near future.
Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said that republic leaders are frequently searching for ways to improve the area's economy. S&P's investment grade could have long-term effects on the Philippines, and Purisima noted that numerous opportunities are being explored to further assist the republic and its residents.
"We're continuing to address constraints to growth," Purisima told the news source. "We're fast tracking our infrastructure projects. We're looking at areas we can open up to foreign investors."
Benigno Aquino, the Philippines' President, has significantly assisted many republic citizens by launching a variety of economic improvement campaigns in the past. With S&P's investment grade, Philippine officials could lay the foundation for future economic growth that may help the republic enhance its global reputation.
"For the Philippines, this is yet another confirmation that Aquino's reforms have borne fruit, which would help in attracting not just short-term flows, but long-term direct investments," Santitarn Sathirathai, a Singapore-based economist at Credit Suisse Group AG, told the news source.
Philippine leaders help reduce the republic's total debt
While economic recovery from the global downturn has been slow in many areas of the world, ambitious initiatives from Aquino and other Philippine leaders have helped the republic's economy improve in a short period of time.
BusinessWorld Online reports that Philippine officials have lowered the republic's total debt by 14 percent over the past 10 years. However, Philippine administrators stated that plenty of work lies ahead, and these leaders will review various options to help republic residents.
Purisima said that S&P's investment grade is a vote of confidence for the republic, but there are many areas where the republic could improve. Thankfully, Philippine officials are dedicated to supporting the local economy and will invest the necessary resources to help citizens.
For many years, people who send money to the Philippines were transferring funds to a country whose economic engine was largely represented by farmers. But as a recent article published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reveals, farmers in the country aren't nearly as prevalent as they once were.
According to the UN's news and analysis source IRIN, fewer Filipino people who are still in their younger ages or choosing to enter the agricultural market, opting instead to seek out education for jobs in the city, working in an office or in an industrial setting.
Asterio Saliot, director of the agriculture department at the Agricultural Training Institute, told the news source that the farming industry could be in a predicament over the next decade or so, mainly because so few Filipinos are choosing a career path of tending to the fields.
"The average age of the Filipino farmer is 57," said Saliot. "Assuming an average lifespan of 70, we might reach a critical [shortage] of farmers in just 15 years."
Kala Pulido-Constantino, who serves as the communications coordinator in the Philippines with the international confederation Oxfam, indicated that the dearth of farmers in the country may be a self-inflicted wound.
"We didn't pay enough attention to the agricultural sector because we thought that we could always import our food if we couldn't grow it ourselves," Pulido-Constantino told IRIN.
This may stem from the government putting fewer resources toward buoying the agricultural industry in the Philippines. IRIN points out that based on statistics from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, more than one-tenth of the Philippines' gross domestic product derives from farming. But in 2011, less than 5 percent of government investment went toward this sector.
Something else that's had an impact on the Philippines agricultural sector is the pace at which young people are leaving parts of the country where farming is common. IRIN notes that because certain industries bring in more money than others – such as commercial and industrial – some families are choosing to move to more urban locations where these opportunities are more available, such as in Manila.
Benefits of farming need to be emphasized
Jose Rene Gayo, president of the non-governmental organization Foundation for People Development, noted that what the Filipino people and the government need to do is make farming an industry worthy of pursuing.
"We must now change the mindset of the younger generation and make farming appealing for them," said Gayo.
This may come through promoting the fringe benefits of farm life, such as being able to work in the outdoors and generate a larger profit margin by advertising to businesses in need of fresh produce.
IRIN's report shouldn't necessarily suggest that farming is a dying industry in the Philippines. According to the Philippines' BAS, the agricultural sector expanded by nearly 3 percent in 2012, led by poultry, livestock and crop farmers. In addition, overall crop production increased by more than 4 percent last year, accounting for more than half of total agricultural yield. Some of the biggest crop yields were corn and palay producing 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively, more than in 2011. Palay is what rice is before it's been husked.
In addition to palay, some of the main crops the Philippines produce for the country and for other parts of the world include corn, sugarcane, coconut, bananas, pineapple, coffee beans and mangoes.
When the temperatures are below freezing and the snow is falling, fun in the sun may not be on the typical American's list of things to do for the day. But it's at the top of to-do lists for many vacationing and native Filipinos, especially those who are particularly skilled at surfing the open waves.
On the first weekend in February, several surfing organizations launched the Philippines' first-ever "Single and Unattached Longboard Invitational," holding the event in the Ilocano province of La Union. Described as the "surfing capital of Northern Luzon," organizers said the event went off without a hitch and was a smashing success.
"As part of the traditional longboard resurgence that took place in California during the early 1990's, it's feels really great to be a part of a similar movement in the Philippines," said Carla Rowland, owner of The Surf Institute, one of the organizations that helped sponsor and fund what's expected to be a yearly event.
He added that individuals who are familiar with surfing were hopefully reminded of the glory days of past surfing success stories, such as Miki Dora, Lance Carson and Dewey Webber.
"The event was a blast," said Jay Sueno, an entrant in the contest who indicated he's been surfing for less than a year. "To be surrounded by surfers who embody the classic and cool style of single fin longboarding was inspiring and filled with good vibes."
Officials with the Single and Unattached Longboard Invitational say that all surfers were invited to compete, which included people from all corners of the earth, including California, Japan and Korea, but participation was dominated by Filipinos.
While the large waves and seasonable temperatures no doubt made the three-day competition eminently enjoyable, Rowland indicated that the best part was how many Filipinos embraced the event and made it their own.
"We are just so happy that Filipinos are falling in love with the classic style of traditional longboarding," said Rowland. "This year was a great success and we have high hopes that next year will be even bigger and better."
A worldwide leisure pursuit
While surfing may seem like a sport that only a select few take up as a hobby, it may be surprising just how many people ride the waves whenever they can, many of whom send money to their families so they can learn how it's done. According to the International Surfing Association, there are approximately 23 million surfers worldwide, 1.7 million living in the U.S.
If surfers are good enough, they may be able to make it a career. For example, professional surfer Kelly Slater made as much as $3 million in a single year in 2009, all of which derived from the proceeds he earned in competitions.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of surfing is being able to stay on the board for a long time. And the higher the wave is, the harder it can be. However, some have been able to stay on their boards for long periods. ISA data indicates that one surfer spent nearly 40 minutes riding a wave without losing his balance – the longest time ever recorded.
Surfers are similarly upping the ante on how large of a wave they can ride. Recently, professional surfer Garrett McNamara broke his own world record by successfully surfing a 100-foot wave off the coast of Portugal. His previous best was a 78-foot wave, which he conquered in 2011.
While virtually every industrialized nation has a rich history of famous artists who helped put their respective country on the art industry's radar screen, some parts of the world are sending shock signals today. This appears to be the case in the Philippines, as a motley crew of contemporary artists are bringing Filipino works to the forefront that are getting international recognition.
According to the Philippine Star, some of the art world's newest heavyweights include people like Ronald Ventura and Winner Jumalon, who have been able to successfully sell their pieces for prices in the high six-figures. The recognition of their names has not only caused some people to send money to the Philippines to invest in these pieces, but more people are flocking to the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
For more than 37 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila – or "the Met," as it's called for short – has played host to a variety of arts and artifacts from yesteryear. But the pace at which new artists are coming onto the scene has the museum devoting much of its real estate to contemporary works of art.
One of the latest is known as "The Philippine Contemporary: Scaling the Past and the Possible," which was developed by Patrick Flores from the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines. The exhibition has garnered so much attention that its earned a permanent spot in the museum's interior, the paper reports.
As the success of Ventura and Jumalon has shown, Filipino art is piquing the interest of a number of artistic enthusiasts around the world. The Philippines Star recently spoke with some of the leaders of the Met, asking them what's driven so many people toward this segment of the art world.
Colayco: Level of international intrigue 'remarkable'
"It has really been remarkable, the rise of the young artists in the international art stage," said Tina Colayco, who now serves as the Met's director. "I think it's due to a lot of things. Even our curators are being recognized."
She added that they are being given so much attention mainly because they are supremely talented but also because of who they are and the ability with which they're able to express themselves with a paintbrush and canvas.
"They are creating an identity that is distinctly Filipino," Colayco told the paper.
Art educator and publisher Colayco said that she has a lot to be grateful for when it comes to these artists, as museums and art institutions in the Philippines have gained a new life among the art-going public as more people are "willing to cultivate a more in-depth experience" when they go to museums like the Met.
Also displaying an assortment of art pieces that were created recently is the Ayala Museum as part of its Art Fair Philippines event. Inquirer Lifestyle reports that the event was held February 7 through February 10 and featured many of the artists that are on display at the Met.
"We're so excited about the inroads Philippine art has achieved within the worldwide contemporary arts community," said Lisa Ongpin Periquet when the AFP was first announced.
Depending on how successful organizers deem the event was, it may become an annual occasion that art enthusiasts can take part in.
Other famous Filipinos who have made inroads in the international art stage include Fabian de la Rosa, Ang Kiukok, Maningning Milat and Luis Eduardo Aute and Fernando Amorsolo. The 30-year-old Amorsolo graduated from the University of the Philippines and has a degree in Fine Arts.
Notable Filipinos like boxing great Manny Pacquiao and veteran actor Lou Diamond Phillips have helped show that the Philippines produces some of the best talents the world has to offer. And increasingly, Filipinos’ footprint on the public stage is spreading into the musical arena.
According to a recent feature published in The New York Times, tens of thousands of Filipinos have left their native countries to pursue a career in music overseas, enabling them to send money to their families back home on occasion and at the same time establish themselves in the entertainment business. In fact, in 2002 and 2004, more than 40,000 Filipinos in each year went overseas searching for the break they needed to make it big, with most of these individuals moving to Japan.
U.S., Philippines musical preferences similar
Since then, Filipinos have been bringing the world the sounds that are favored by locals, including hard rock, reggae, jazz and the blues. Some have gone on to make it big, while others decided to walk away from their aspirations because they needed money quickly.
Domingo Mercado, Jr., told the paper that he was one of those people who may have been able to make it in the entertainment industry, but economic realities forced his hand, taking a job that paid him the money he needed to support his family.
“I resigned from the band and took a job in Korea,” Mercado told the Times. “I gave up on my dream.”
He added that he hasn’t given up on his musical career entirely, though, as he has performed in public settings for nearly 20 years, primarily in Asia.
As difficult as it may be for Americans to make it into the entertainment world, the same is true for Filipinos – whether they display their talents in distant corners of the earth or in the U.S. POEA notes that 1.6 million people left the Philippines in 2011 to live and work overseas, with most of those leaving pursuing careers in household services.
“A hotel might need many waiters, cooks and housekeepers,” Ceslo Hernandez, head of the POEA’s operation division, told The New York Times. “But they only need one or two musicians.”
A combination of luck and skill may help explain how some Filipinos have been able to successfully break into the entertainment business. People like Charice Pempengco. According to her official website, Pempengco got her break in 2007, after posting a variety of web videos of her singing. Her talent got her noticed almost immediately among the Hollywood elite, earning appearances on television talk shows like “Ellen” and “Oprah.”
“You are a force to be reckoned with,” Oprah once said of Pempengco. “That voice comes from something bigger than yourself.”
Then there’s Lea Salonga, a singer and actress that may be best known for her work in the Broadway musical “Miss Saigon” and for serving as the voice of Jasmine in the 1994 animated film Aladdin. Salonga recently released a studio-produced album, “The Journey So Far,” and her website is constantly updated with details on where she will be appearing next to sing or perform on-stage.
Prior to devoting much of their earnings to their families through an international transfer, there was a time in many Filipinos’ lives when they spent a lot of their money attending sporting events and purchasing gear representing their favorite teams. In a way, this was to give thanks to the professional athletes who performed at their peak and provided millions of Filipinos with entertainment and fun.
Today, the Filipino government is providing past sports heroes with their fellow countrymen’s appreciation in a more direct way.
According to the Philippines Inquirer, the senate has passed a piece of legislation - Senate Bill 3322 – that would provide government-sponsored health insurance benefits to professional Filipino athletes who have retired.
Aquilino Pimentel III, one of the main senators who supported the bill, indicated that many of today’s sports legends are facing serious health issues because of the sacrifices they made, stretching their physical exertion abilities to the limit.
“Many professional athletes have risked their health and sometimes their very lives for the nation,” said Pimentel III. “Their achievements have put the Philippines in the map. But our memories are short.”
He added that while these men and women were idolized when they were playing professionally, many have been forgotten since then and have few they can turn to for help when they need it most.
“This bill seeks to provide more than lip service to professional athletes who have dedicated their careers to the nation and who have brought prestige to our country,” he stated, according to the Inquirer.
Should SB 3322 gather enough votes to be signed into law, all Filipino professional athletes older than 50 years of age would be given a lifelong stipend that could be put toward healthcare services. Much of what they earn will depend on their level of achievement. For example, the paper notes that each member of a team that wins a championship after defeating another Filipino athletic team will get 10,000 pesos while championship team members will be awarded 15,000 pesos for winning an international crown.
2012 notable performances
Many of today’s Filipino coaches and athletes know what it’s like to be a champion. The Philippine Star recently put together a list of the world’s most-successful athletes, originating from the Philippines, who will long remember 2012.
Perhaps no athlete is better known among Filipinos – or more revered – than boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. The Fighting Congressman has experienced few losses and setbacks over his professional boxing career, but 2012 was not a year that will likely go down as one of his best. In June, Pacquiao lost in a split decision to Timothy Bradley, though many ringside experts as well as viewers watching from home thought Pac-Man had the better performance.
Six months later, Pacquiao return to the ring, only this time facing Juan Manuel Marquez. In a stunning upset, the 34-year-old was knocked out in the sixth round, giving Marquez the match and sending Pacquiao to his fifth defeat.
Faring better performance wise was Erik Spoelstra, head coach for the NBA Champion Miami Heat. Spoelstra led the Heat to their first NBA title since 2005 after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in a best-of-seven series.
Another headliner cited by The Philippine Star was the entire Philippine Volcanoes Rugby Team. Their respective performances in the Philippine Rugby Football Union were so impressive, they earned the attention of some of the game’s most respected experts. Many say the Volcanoes are among the best in all of Asia.
When immigrants leave their native countries so they can pursue their careers in the U.S. – and in the process, send money back home to their loved ones – family is almost certainly the component of life they missed the most about the comforts of home.
But in the conversation for the joys of life that immigrants long for the most is home cooking, be it Mexican, Indian, Thai or Chinese.
While many of these options are available in the U.S., some are less popular than others, such as Filipino fare. But according to various news outlets, Filipino cuisine is all the rage in 2013.
As noted recently by the website The Food Channel, “Today” show contributor and Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern recently penned a blog posting about Filipino food becoming more commonplace in the U.S., both among individual consumers and in restaurants.
“It’s just starting,” said Zimmern. “I think it’s going to take another year and a half to get up to critical mass, but everybody loves Chinese food, Thai food, Japanese food, and it’s all been exploited. The Filipinos combined the best of all of that with Spanish technique.”
He added that between now and 2015, he wouldn’t be surprised if Filipino food earns the distinction as the country’s “next big thing.”
Filipinos attempt to make cuisine more easily recognizable
BBC News reports that there’s been a concerted effort among Filipinos, both in the U.S. and abroad, to make Filipino cuisine more mainstream.
Rolando Laudico, a chef based in Manila, told the international news source that he and his wife are determined to take food that’s typically only found in the Philippines to a wider audience.
“We base our flavors on traditional Philippine flavors, and we get inspired by them,” said Laudico. “We innovate, we do our own style, and we make it accessible for foreigners.”
He added that because Filipino food is among the most flavorful varieties of food in the world, clearly taste is not the reason it’s not more popular than it could be. He suggests that its unpopularity may derive from Filipinos not giving it the respect that it deserves. As such, dinner hosts should not apologize to their guests when dishes like adobo, sinigang, lumpia and pancit on the menu, which people have been given to do for many years.
Perhaps one of the best U.S. cities to frequent for fine Filipino cuisine is Chicago. Recently, USA Today did a feature on Filipino restaurants in the Windy City, which is increasingly becoming a major metropolitan area for residents native to the Philippines. Restaurants like Meral’s Kitchen, Isla Filipino Restaurant, Little Quiapo Restaurant and Ruby’s Fast Food are all located within the city’s borders and feature dishes that exemplify Filipino cooking, including empanadas, barbeque pork and various chicken dishes.
The paper further notes that the many of these dishes are extremely affordable. For instance, at one restaurant located near Chicago’s historic Lincoln Square, lunch plates are no more than $5.99 on weekdays during the traditional lunch-dining hours.
How quickly Filipino food becomes synonymous with Chinese food in terms of its pervasiveness is anyone’s guess, but if it bears any resemblance to the rate at which the Filipino population has increased in the U.S., it could be soon. According to the Census Bureau, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian group in the country, totaling 3.4 million people based on 2010 estimates.
Millions of people who send money to their families back home originate from China or live in a different country but have Chinese heritage, like the Philippines. Some of these people may have come to the U.S. so they can earn a living and perform an online money transfer. Due to a variety of circumstances, though, they may encounter issues in which they would like to bring a family member of theirs to the U.S. as well. This may be difficult, though, for people who are fluent in Chinese and have a limited understanding of English.
Fortunately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will soon conduct a national Chinese-language engagement on how people who live in the U.S. can petition on behalf of a family member.
On October 18 from 2 to 3 p.m., Eastern Time, USCIS will host a question and answer session for people with a Chinese background, focusing on how they can petition for an immediate relative. People can participate either through the web, or if they live in the New York City area, in person.
Previously, USCIS has conducted similar engagements with people who have Hispanic heritage, through the quarterly Spanish-language program called "Enlaces." Due to the high demand among people with Asian heritage, though, the government agency will host "Jiao Liu" – which is the Chinese equivalent of the word "engagement."
Taking part in the program will surely be of great benefit to those who may be trying to learn English but are still working on it.
While being fluent in English may be one of the best ways to secure a job so you can send money to your family back home, being able to speak multiple languages is a supremely marketable skill that may give you an advantage in the interview process. And though there may be many thousands of languages spoken, few could argue that Chinese may be one of the best ones to know.
One in every five people in the world are Chinese
That's because China is the most populous country in the world. In fact, one in every five people in the world are Chinese, meaning that individuals are likely to encounter someone whose family originates from there every day.
This may explain why Chinese is spoken in so many places, as statistics indicate that Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, used not only in the U.S. and China, but also in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Specific to the U.S., though, according to a Newsweek article, Chinese is the third most commonly spoken language in American homes, beaten out by only English and Spanish.
And more people are realizing the advantages that come with being multilingual. According to a recent survey from the Modern Language Association, enrollment is up in many different language courses offered at American Universities. Since 2002, enrollment in Chinese languages courses have jumped 51 percent, making it among the top 10 language courses studied at U.S. universities.
Many Filipinos send money to their loved ones with Xoom’s cash pick-up service. Xoom has literally thousands of pickup locations in the Philippines. From M.Lhuillier to Metrobank, BPI to BDO, there are close to 10,000 banks, retail locations and financial service institutions ready and willing to give what your relatives have waiting for them.
But “waiting” may not be the best term to use, as once you complete your online money transfer, your recipient’s money will often be ready in 15 minutes. In other words, in the time it takes for some to walk to their nearest pickup location, there’s a pretty good chance that their money will be waiting for them instead of the reverse.
Another perk that comes with picking up money sent through Xoom is the availability of the banks your recipient will be going to. It seems that everyone has a hectic schedule – no matter where they live – so many locations, such as retailers such as Cebuana Lhuillier and M.Lhuillier are open round the clock – 24 hours a day, seven days per week. This benefits both your recipient and you, as you won’t have to worry about sending something too late and your family member can go pick it up at their convenience.
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