Crossroads (Toward Philippine economic and social progress)
Philippine Star, 28 December 2011


The discussion of pleasurable aspects of living continues with a general comparison of conditions of 20 or even 30 years ago with today. The topic shifts from food on the table to conveniences that permit us to be personally productive or more satisfied with consumption that we enjoy.

As the standard of living rises with income, our willingness and capability to apply new conveniences enable us to relish life all the more. In all situations, a little learning process is involved. As we age we sometimes refuse to learn new things or are simply hampered by old habits and old conveniences to be bothered with new ones.

This statement is probably a truism. Young minds learn new things faster than adults. Perhaps I speak for many when I say that older people have more resistance to use the cell phone, to learn to text, to unravel the mysteries of the personal computer or its many useful software applications, or even to solve jigsaw puzzles.

Productivity at the home level. Many inventions have been applied to make life easier in the home. New technologies in materials such as those used in packaging and in food preparations have made food more convenient to prepare in the kitchen.

Food packaging techniques have advanced from canning to more sophisticated and cheaper packaging using lighter metal alloys, plastics, paper, tetrapaks and other things. On the other hand, space age advances in food preparations have reached the simple consumer. There are today many sophisticated or standard foods that are available in ready form at cheap prices without having to go through the steps in making them.

This applies to dried instant foods – all we need is the addition of water and boiling processes to get us to our favorite flavors of native foods, foreign sauces, instant gratification to quench hunger through noodles and other foods. Our parents taught us that opening canned goods was one convenience of decades ago, but today our choices are so much more.

Machine inventions in the kitchen. Those of us who browsed if not shopped during the holidays at the kitchen sections of big department stores will recognize how different are the implements of the kitchens of today compared to those of a few decades ago.

Many of these tools have been around in the kitchens of affluent countries for years. They have reached us because our markets for imports have opened up – thanks to changing economic policies. These conveniences are now widely available to be bought in the shops.

The traditional kitchen tools are also available with new twists to their uses. The electronics revolution has changed some of their traditional uses through mechanization or miniaturization. As a result, they have become more portable or flexible in their uses.

I suppose this applies to refrigerators, stoves and ovens, microwave ovens, toasters and grills, pots and pans, can openers, blenders, and many more.

Home carpentry and repairs. Those of us who are bothered with home maintenance and home carpentry have learned what a great invention the handy power drill has been. Many of the advances in the construction industry had reached the home by virtue of inventions of implements for the common carpenter to raise his productivity.

The power drill has so many uses and it has become affordable for the home. Its practical uses can help to displace what we often do with the hammer and nails combination. Drill bits are of many sizes and strength. There are some for wood and some for cement and metals. The power drill also helps to drive in screws of different sizes.

As an example, there was a time in the past when simply hanging a frame on a concrete wall could damage the wall finish. With masonry drills, the proper sized hole can be drilled, then a plastic piece is inserted tight against the concrete hole into which the screw can be fitted to hang the frame.

The power drill has many cousins with specific uses for home maintenance and enables quicker and sturdier repairs whether a carpenter does it for you or you do it yourself. In addition, so many new materials for the home with varied uses that were difficult to find before can now be bought in hardware stores.

Computer and communications revolution in the home. The revolution in computers and communications has led to the availability of electronics and communication gadgets that serve all sorts of personal needs for the home or for accompanying us at leisure and work.

Just recently this year, the passing of Steve Jobs was highly mourned. He helped to revolutionize consumer and industrial electronics. He helped to integrate many gadgets into simpler machines that could easily be manipulated and linked in usage at the whim of the consumer. He thus destroyed application gadgets monopolized by diverse companies.

That kind of genius rendered the old reliable gadgets of older generations – the radio, the telephone, the movies, the television, and many more inventions in mechanics and optics – into machines of great simplicity and usage. Need I say more on this?

Convenience banking. The computer and communications revolution has made banking even more convenient today.

In our country, the significance of this can be widely appreciated when we remember that thousands, nay millions of remittances are made in quick fashion to many parts of our country from around the world because of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). This ultimately means that banking helps to connect many Filipinos wherever they are.

But this is only one example. For years, and it seems for hundreds of years since banking begun, payments of sums of moneys for business and personal transactions was the dominant feature of modernizing commercial transfer of money. Cash transaction has always been a major part of personal commercial practice. Today, however, more Filipinos use convenient payment schemes.

Credit cards, debit or expense cards, and even travelers checks, have been in use for some decades in many countries. But commerce through credit cards is relatively more recent in the Philippines. The advance in credit card commerce has been inching forward in larger volumes from year to year.

Credit cards of course also utilize banks, meaning one has to have an account with a bank to transact more debt. But cumulation of credit card billings (or the billings of public utilities) can be paid through different methods nowadays.

Aside from the traditional method (which is by personal check), it is now possible to pay by telephone, by internet, or by cellphone. All these communications equipments and the banks are linked and controlled by computers that track down the details of the transactions so that all parties are protected together and separately.

More easily, the internet has created further means by which to transact more banking businesses. For instance, not only is it possible to transfer money through the internet, the telephone, and the cellphone (a new feature that is further advancing the frontiers of banking). It is possible to transfer for deposit or for withdrawal moneys from one account to an account that is maintained in another bank branch or even another bank.

The convenience of making payments even at home is also possible in the business of personal investing in the stock market. Some banks have set up investment accounts for clients who bank with them. And investing in stocks in the Philippine stock exchange therefore is possible wherever one is located – at home, at play, or anywhere there is an internet connection.