OBLIQUE OBSERVATIONS

By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

“In the places I go there are things that I see that I never could spell if I stopped with a Z. I'm telling you this because you're one of my friends. My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends.” – Dr. Seuss

In the book “On Beyond Zebra!” by Dr. Seuss, one of the main characters proudly states that he knows everything that there is to know since he knows all the letters of the alphabet from A to Z and that Z is as far as the alphabet goes. The alphabet, he says, was sufficient to let him identify all the known things in the world. The narrator replies that he could stop with a Z as most people do but then states that one can go beyond the letter Z. He then draws additional strange letters and gives the quote you see on top.

We often set limits on what we want to learn or consider because that is our comfort zone. We want to limit our stress by sticking to the familiar or the so-called “conventional wisdom.” This aversion to looking beyond our safe spaces shackles our ability to look for answers and opportunities that can be found beyond the borders we have placed.

I remembered Dr. Seuss’ quote when a friend of mine recently observed that we Filipinos often look to the “big” or established nations for new opportunities, ideas, and solutions to our country’s problems. We study their technology and their applications. We send delegations to these countries on a regular basis.

Since we are focused on them, we sometimes overlook the things and knowledge our neighbors can offer us. Worse, some of us do not even accept the fact that we could learn a thing or two from them.

To the south of our country lies Indonesia. Despite this country’s proximity to the Philippines, many Filipinos know little of our Asean neighbor. This is unfortunate because for all intents and purposes Indonesians are our brothers and sisters. We look so much alike that we are often mistaken for one another when we are in another country. There are even many words in the Indonesian Bahasa and Tagalog that are similar like “kami”, “kita”,”lima” and “anak”. In the past, there was even a proposal to form a Malay Confederation with Indonesia and Malaysia and the Philippines. Philippine embassies across the world often count on Indonesia and other Asean nations to support our efforts. Despite this deep connection, we have rarely considered partnerships with them in various fields.

Indonesia has been the top 16th economy in the world (GDP rankings) for the past two years. Many economic analysts opine that before the end of this century, the country is expected to become the fourth-largest economy in the world, just behind China, India and the United States. These facts alone should encourage Filipinos in the private sector to consider looking into working with counterparts in Indonesia.

Lately, there has been an uptick in interest in joint venture engagements with both the public and private sectors of Indonesia. There is now a large group of Filipinos and Indonesians whose sole purpose is to encourage and expand these efforts. Communications, manufacturing, renewable energy, coal exports, rail and other forms of public transportation, and agriculture are some of the areas of interest for these groups.

Our country faces various problems. Perhaps, instead of looking far and sticking to the normal places for answers, we can go beyond the alphabet of known answers, beyond the extent of standard solutions, and beyond the letter “Z”. Perhaps we can consider Indonesia.

This is just my oblique observation.

It must be noted that the book I mentioned “On Beyond Zebra!” contains several quotable quotes and inspired wisdom. It is unfortunate that this book is no longer published because of one illustration that the western “woke” found problematic and “hurtful”. As such, it has joined several works of art that have been canceled needlessly. This, however, is a matter best discussed another day.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.

About the Columnist

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ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.