How to Fix the Philippines (First World Manila Vlog #1)

A quick primer on the issues we need to tackle in the Philippines to ensure a higher standard of living for its citizens.

First World Manila – the brand that educates the Philippine public on economic, cultural and urban development issues! Mabuhay! ¡Viva!

First World Manila website:

Video and sound editing: Jocel Angie Ulaye

Music: Russell Cox – Chrono Trigger “Molding of Destinies”
MkVaff – Final Fantasy VI “Back to Towne (Arranged)”


Welcome to Manila, the heart of our national culture. Beneath all the toxic pollution and grinding poverty, some of its soul still shines through. Remnants of a past of seeming cultural and economic achievement.

Seeing fragments of what we once were amid the urban decay often strikes at the heart of the Filipino, and may lead him or her to ask the question: How did this happen to us? What can we do stop it? What can we do to fix all the hurt in our city and country?

Welcome to the First World Manila Vlog. First World Manila is a brand that uses art, vlogging, and other mediums to get Filipinos interested in long-term economic and urban planning policies that would benefit the lives of the average Manileño, and, by extension, the average Filipino. Increase our standard of living. Create more jobs and job options. Alleviate poverty.

Why is knowing about this seemingly complex stuff important? Because if the right economic policies become popular across the voting population, these policies have the chance to be implemented and completed regardless of who becomes President.

But it’s not enough for me to tell you what needs to be done to fix Manila and the Philippines. I want to SHOW you what we could be as well. Culture and identity matter. Without a strong sense of who we are and a vision of what we could be, how can Filipinos from all social classes, ethnicities, and religions work together toward a common goal?

So this vlog combines art, lifestyle, and travel to give you, the viewer, a sense of who we really are and what we really could be, and how we can get there.

I’m a former equity research analyst with an undergraduate focus in international political economy, including economic development. So, my professional and academic backgrounds have involved analyzing economies and understanding the impact of policies.

My goal is to make the complex solutions to our problems understandable to the broader public, streamlining it so that people can easily understand what’s going on with our economy and infrastructure and make educated decisions when they vote.

In my view, the best way to sort our problems into a few bullet points is to look at the top three most problematic factors for doing business in the Philippines, as per the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index.

Why these factors? Because strong economic competitiveness is the product of a government that can provide a high standard of living for its citizens.

Surprisingly, corruption is not the biggest hurdle in the development of the Philippines. A more pressing concern is infrastructure, and the biggest challenge of all is government bureaucracy, which implies a problem with the government getting things done efficiently. So it’s not for lack of good ideas. There are a lot of well-meaning people inside and outside of government with tons of great ideas. It’s the execution that’s the problem.

So, to summarize, that is how we fix Manila and the Philippines as a whole. Execution. A focus on getting things done.

But remember that my goal is to also make economic development engaging to the public through the portrayal of our culture through art and vlogging. So let’s go back to Manila, the heart of our national culture, and in particular to Escolta, where I took my footage, to see what’s been happening there, and what could happen in the future, if we get the right things done.

Actually, Escolta has been fixed up in recent years. The streets are cleaner and there’s a burgeoning creative community here. For example, HUB: Make Lab is a center for artists and artisans, and boasts a local, independent café known as The Den. Here you can even find local products, like this butterbeer from Stanford Shaw, which literally tastes like butter combined with root beer.

You also have historical buildings, some of which preserve aspects of our national culture. You have thriving small businesses, and even creative projects making use of the property here.

So, there’s been a lot of stuff being done in Escolta. Now, imagine if Escolta, and Manila in general, was accessible. If it was easy to get to via car or train. If there was planned development, with businesses and jobs, but also with a respect to culture and the environment.

In such a scenario, Manila might appear similar to cities like Madrid. In fact, even in its current state, can you see the resemblance? Can you tell which of the footage here is from Escolta, and which is from Madrid?

Why don’t we take this even further, and add our unique Filipino culture into the mix? Here are some visions I’ve painted of this First World version of Manila. Expect more interpretations of what Manila could be, along with lessons on how we can develop our city and country, in upcoming vlogs. In the meantime, see you next week in my first live recording. Maraming salamat po y muchas gracias.

Ramon Rodrigo Kalaw Cuenca, CFA

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