I like to travel light, so whether I’m in the field three days or two weeks I throw in everything – clothes, beauty packs (we women are complicated that way), documents, laptop – into just one bag, a backpack, usually. Everyday, in the evening, my colleagues and I wash our clothes and hang them out to dry the following morning. In the afternoon, we’d each have a pile of freshly- laundered clothes that we use again the next day, and so forth. That’s what I like best in the lowlands. Clothes dry overnight even when they’re not run through the spinner whereas in Baguio good luck if clothes will naturally dry in three days.
But when I’m in the lowlands for long periods, the offensive heat and consequently the constant sweating get to me. My movements especially in the hours after noon are sluggish like I’m going through mud a mile thick. That’s when I pine for Baguio and it’s weather, if not, air-conditioning and a bed.
In the Mideast, work resumes late afternoon. Yet, this work schedule does not make them poor, economically, as a country. In the Philippines, many slave off the entire day but still their economic status remain the same, five, 10, 20 years hence.
Work that’s transformative therefore is not about heroically dragging oneself to work through the heat or working until you’re dead from exhaustion but rather about productivity. In short, working smarter to earn more. Adam Smith first introduced the concept in The Wealth of Nations in which he said differences in labor force productivity explain the differences in the wealth of nations as measured by national gross domestic product per capita. For one to be able to make the choice to work smarter, however, requires initial opportunities to be made available. For local economies this implies opening themselves to competition at the same time investing internally in order to become competitive.
The regions are distinguishable, economically, by their comparative advantages. These are described in detail in the Regional Development Plans. In temperate areas, obviously, killing the forests is the same as depriving a patient of oxygen support which translates to taking away the “life” of that area. Imagine for example Baguio City with a lowland-like weather. For regions blessed with the glare of the sun for most of the day, one strategy perhaps that could increase productivity of their labor force is to arrange work around the optimal fit between weather and worker’s physical limitations (like in the Mideast’ as I mentioned) and make this a local policy. This may be a crazy idea but my point is we need to think beyond traditional and “proven” means relative to the changing contexts of the times.
We need to think about creating our own “blue oceans” of opportunities. We need to be smarter at risk taking. We need to seriously think about becoming an ASEAN tiger once again.