- Business Life

Feb 142016

Bacolod City Bacolaudiat festival organizers Alfredo Barcelona, Mark Gomez and Jennifer Ong thank guest speaker, author Wilson Lee Flores.

Culture has huge potential to add vigor to tourism and the economic vitality of a place. Bacolod City, for instance, recently celebrated the 11th anniversary of its now popular “Bacolaudiat” Chinese New Year festivity, which included a grand street parade, citywide decors and lanterns, last Feb. 8. Two years ago, their guest speaker was JG Summit Holdings founder John Gokongwei Jr. A few years ago it was LT Group and Philippine Airlines chairman Lucio C. Tan. This year, they invited me as a writer and history/culture enthusiast.

In this multi-sectoral Chinese New Year celebration of Bacolod’s Chinese community and local government, the government officials were led by political rivals Congressman Evelio “Bing” Leonardia, Mayor Monico Puentebella, and Vice Mayor Greg Gasataya. The organizers of Bacolaudiat were led by the Bacolod Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce under president Alfredo Barcelona, the Bacolod Filipino Chinese Junior Chamber of Commerce led by past president Mark Gomez, and incumbent president Honey Lopue, the 11 clan associations, plus other business, cultural, and civic organizations.

I gave a talk at the Bacolaudiat Spring Festival Gala dinner reception for 1,200 people at Bacolod’s SMX Convention Center. I have recreated the text of my short, extemporaneous speech below, which I delivered in both English and Hokkien:

Congratulations to Bacolod City, to your dynamic Chinese community and to your local government for this successful 11th Bacolaudiat celebration. This wonderful festival has not only become your new tourist attraction, but it highlights the paramount importance of culture as the X factor behind the socio-economic success of any society, any community, of any nation.

In the minds of the public and even among us who are part of the ethnic Chinese community, not a few of us have this misconception that doing business well, the efficient economic activities and business enterprises, malls like this or SMX Bacolod are the greatest contributions of our ethnic Chinese minority to the Philippines. I disagree. That is not accurate.

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I believe the greatest contribution of our ethnic Chinese minority to the Philippines has been culture, from traditions like this Chinese New Year holiday, Hokkien words which have become part of Tagalog, Ilonggo or other dialects, to the many foods, to our Confucian values. Let us continue to do more to help enrich the multi-faceted and vibrant culture of the Philippines.

To us ethnic Chinese of this 21st century, many of whom enjoy better lives and socio-economic status in the Philippines compared to our forebears, such as my paternal ancestors who sailed here in circa 1790 under the dark era of Spanish colonial rule, let us never forget our immigrant forebears, their heroic struggles. Let us remember and exemplify their traditional Confucian values.

Based on my research, my paternal forebears were uneducated poor peasants who couldn’t even write their names in the Chinese language, but they struggled and flourished. Why? Despite their humble backgrounds from the rural village of Chiochun in Fujian province without formal education, they still embodied the traditional Confucian culture and values that gave them that inner self-confidence, grit, fortitude of character, those habits of thrift and delayed self-gratification, discipline, filial piety and a nonstop quest for education.

Let us not lose that X factor of our traditional culture. If we in the 21st century enjoy better socio-economic status, so much better formal education, yet if we lose our culture and traditional Confucian values, I believe we shall amount to nothing compared to our penniless and unlettered but great immigrant forebears.

Let me cite some more examples of why I strongly believe investments in culture are important, that culture is the X factor to true and enduring success. Look at Singapore and Hong Kong: these two cities are not only very small, they are unique for lacking natural resources. Even the water that they need has to be imported. The only thing they really have is their people, who embody traditional Confucian culture and values. Those two societies are among the wealthiest and most progressive in all of Asia, with among the highest per-capita incomes.

Another example I wish to cite on the importance of culture as the X factor for success is the Jewish people. They have been scattered for over 2,000 years worldwide in diaspora and have suffered persecutions, but they have preserved their culture, their traditional values. In 1948, the Jews reclaimed their ancient homeland as Israel, a small country in the Middle East with no rich oil or natural gas resources, unlike its many bigger neighbors with the world’s richest oil and gas wealth. However, due to their culture as X factor, the Jews have built up the small state of Israel as one of the region’s most progressive societies and also a global technological superpower.

It is culture as the X factor that is most important for the socio-economic success of communities and nations, which we should nurture and invest in.

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Oct 112015
The cruel business of sports

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Sep 062015
Now, an Investor in People

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Aug 092015
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Apr 072015
Uber's popularity surges; business travelers avoiding taxis

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Apr 052015
Servant Leader or Self-Serving Leader?

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Mar 222015
‘Fire walk’ your way to success

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Mar 152015
Turf Company demos power of the mower

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Feb 222015
Tesoro’s and the business of Filipino folk craft

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Feb 152015
Cola-maker welcomes 2015 leadership camp delegates

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