Is Manila really the future?

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Because of the political and economic issues that plague the Philippines, there can be value in highlighting the progress and achievements made by Filipinos despite our circumstance — if only to give us hope. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In the first quarter of 2018, a Social Weather Stations survey showed that less Filipinos see a brighter future ahead of them largely due to economic reasons. At the time of the survey, TRAIN law was already implemented, which has significantly affected the prices of goods. The country has since experienced a nine-year high inflation mark in August, all the more increasing the costs of commodities.

With this in mind, it may be hard to see how the Philippines is the future. But it is also in times like this that it becomes important to highlight the progress and achievements made by Filipinos despite our circumstance — if only to give us hope.

“No matter what troubles [thrown] your way … the people of Manila, the people of the Philippines are eternally optimistic,” says John C. Jay, the president of global creative of Fast Retailing Inc., the mother company of Japanese retail giant Uniqlo. “I just think that there's a certain joy in your culture that is absolutely infectious.”

It is this “energizing culture” that prompted Uniqlo to open the biggest global flagship store in Southeast Asia on Oct. 5. This is, of course, on top of a simple business decision: Uniqlo stores are ever-expanding in the Philippines, with 52 stores in operation across the islands since coming to our shores in 2012.

Ahead of the brand’s opening of the flagship store, they rounded up “Future Heroes” or Filipinos who have moved and shaped the culture in our country — whether it be in the arts, sports, entrepreneurship, or social good. “Those people that we chose as our ambassadors for this effort represent an energy that is truly there,” adds Jay.

Arts Serrano (left), lead architect of architecture studio One Zero Design Collective, and Aya Fernandez, student and social entrepreneur, both believe that they have a role to play in shaping the culture of future generations. Photos courtesy of UNIQLO

Arts Serrano, one of the “Future Heroes” and the lead architect of architecture studio One/Zero Design Collective, says that while Manila is an exciting place to be in particularly because of the stories the city can tell, being “the future,” so to speak, is a long way to go.

“It is misguided to work our way towards being ‘the Future of Southeast Asia’ for the sake of being labeled as that,” he says. “We should work towards understanding who we are first, do our best to enrich that identity for future generations, and be authentic in designing a Manila for Manileños.”

Since their architectural studio started four years ago, Serrano says that they’ve been actively providing design solutions for better cities and that they feel an obligation to help define Manila for the coming generations. Through being part of a campaign such as Uniqlo’s, he also says that it can inspire other studios to do the same.

“We believe this campaign has a positive impact in encouraging other young creative studios or entrepreneurs to continue doing what they love,” he says. “If we inspire at least one studio to do so I would say working with Uniqlo on the campaign was worth it.”

It is this same zest for creating change commonly found in the youth of today that fuels Aya Fernandez, another “Future Hero.” Fernandez, a student and a dancer, says that she’s part of a generation that has become so involved with addressing issues that plague our nation.

“It’s very important that this campaign includes the youth because our population is dominated by the youth,” she says.

Cecile Dominguez-Yujuico (left), founder of Evident Communications who is passionate about social advocacies, and CRWN, a music producer, may be in completely different industries but they have the same vision of moving the Philippines forward through their work. Photos courtesy of UNIQLO

Besides juggling school work and her passion for dance, Fernandez also started Project Lily PH, a social enterprise that provides livelihood to persons with disabilities by making eco-friendly charcoals made from water lilies, coconut husk, and other agricultural wastes. Through the campaign, she also hopes that it can become a platform for her to connect to other youths who are just as willing to help Filipinos.

The common denominator among the “Future Heroes” certainly is their desire to create a positive change within their industries. For Cecile Dominguez-Yujuico — the founder of Evident Communications who is passionate about NGOs, CSRs, and social causes — she’s seen many people who have been driven to move the Philippines forward.

“It’s great to see that there are many people who are focused on creating value and increasing the positive social impact of their companies — defining success as more than just the bottom line,” she says.

King Puentespina (CRWN), also an ambassador, says that there is a breadth of Filipinos, as evidenced by the “Future Heroes,” who want to move the Philippines forward despite the difficulties that we currently face. “The rest of the world has always had a somewhat negative outlook on the Philippines recently, which I don’t blame them for having,” he says.

“As a country with a lot of problems that are too out of control to personally handle, there’s always someone willing to go against all that despite the challenges and make something golden with it. I personally know a lot of the people from the campaign and I’m pretty sure we all want to make the most out of our environment and thrive from it.”