Friday, August 27, 2004

“Murder, made in Switzerland”

26 August 2004
8:05 p.m.

“Murder, made in Switzerland”

This was a line I used to answer a friend in the Philippines who wanted a Swiss knife as a gift and I jokingly retorted, “You want to kill someone?” It was the one of the rarest times that Hazel and I actually chatted online. I thought I’d be funny to insert that little bit of humor into the conversation. We had been so incommunicado due to the distances of our houses. But what was text for? Right? I have no excuses for that.

Well, moving on…(lest we get derailed on our discovery of the Swiss knife.)

It is so funny how the Swiss people themselves don’t own Swiss knives themselves and maybe half the world own one.

I guess “Made in Switzerland” is such a catchy tag that it even elicits a silent “Wow” from the buyers of Swiss products. Little did they know that Switzerland, like Singapore, has no real natural resources to speak of. Everything is imported. But “Made in Switzerland” still stands for “efficiency, durability and quality” for some people. I’d like to agree with that since I am a proud owner of a Swiss knife (I think it’s made here).

One of the most common things I do when I travel is to shop. It’s natural for most of us to just go to the mall or a store and get something unique to that place, a souvenir perhaps. But what we are most fond of when traveling abroad is the inexpensive clothes found at the duty free shops or the nearest mall.

The most shocking purchase I ever made was in the U.S. I was buying a nice green sleeveless blouse. I thought it looked marvelous. It was actually. Then…I looked at the “made in” tag and the last word was “Philippines.” I was only 13 then and didn’t really grasp the concept of imports and exports. I was shocked that the Philippines could make such good products and it was being exported, and I was buying it. Let me borrow Alanis’ “Isn’t it ironic?” It was indeed. Raw materials cost much less in the Philippines. Labor is also cheap, which makes it one of the biggest targets of outsourced labor in the world. But the irony comes in the export and that Filipinos have to buy them at a higher price than their production cost. Hmm…Anti-capitalist sentiment? Perhaps.

One thing I also learned is that the Philippines makes really good products, from food to clothes, to handicrafts, you name it! And you can always buy the latest in trend fashion at Barclays (read Baclaran) and House of Debby’s (read Divisoria). Interesting fact: we invented the Nata de Coco product that Japan has a patent for. Japan doesn’t even have coconuts.

But even if we can boast of these goods, how come the “made in the Philippines” is not of the same world-renown as the “made in Switzerland”? Is it packaging? Or is it the discriminatory view that maybe more developed countries can produce better stuff? Perhaps…But isn’t it all “made in China”?

Most denizens of the developing countries have colonial mentalities ingrained in the fiber of their being. I read an article in Time (I think) on how a Japanese journalist got so fed up with the “foreigner’s take” on Japan that he wrote a thought-piece on why Japan should talk about itself by itself and not be so dependent on the Western perception of their island-country. He asked very relevant questions as to why their culture prizes the thought of Westerners when they themselves are a developed country and they were once an imperial power too.

So many years of imperialism, colonization, and other forms of domination has eschewed our views on what is “good, quality and efficient.” If it weren’t for the likes of Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammad, Malaysia would be another Philippines.

And perhaps, if we can’t break the cycle of colonialism, let’s order a quality murder, a murder made in Switzerland.

No comments: