The Inbox

Proudly Philippine-made

A Yabang Pinoy abaca wrist band

By Norman Sison, VERA Files

A man is injured and the doctor prescribes a local anesthetic. "Please, doc," the patient asks. "Can't I have an imported one?"

Filipinos satirize their own foibles and the anesthetic joke pokes fun at the penchant for imports. The joke became popular during the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s and the much-sought-after label then was "made in the USA" — a legacy of the 50-year US colonial era that ended in 1946. The PX store was the place to go to for Filipinos visiting the then-US military bases at Clark in Pampanga and Subic Bay in Zambales provinces.

The Filipino appetite for things foreign is as durable as ever and it is a mindset that one group of volunteers is trying to change. "What we really want is to effect positive behavioral change within our own social circle such as our family and friends, where we can actually change minds," says volunteer Maricris Sarino.

At ages 19 to 30, the people behind Yabang Pinoy ("Filipino Pride" in Filipino) look more like artists than nationalists. But patriots indeed they are. At their monthly potluck get-together, it's Filipino food only. Members take it upon themselves to wear clothes that either have local labels or have Filipino-inspired designs. You will not hear music by foreign bands.

When the group started in 2005, the mission was simply to encourage Filipinos to "buy Filipino" and, eventually, help prop up the fragile Philippine economy. Good business meant jobs.

"In Yabang Pinoy, we believe that true progress and development starts when every Filipino believes in being a Filipino," says Sarino.

Yabang Pinoy volunteers get togetherPublicist Mark Tan joined Yabang Pinoy in 2007 and volunteers his time as a spokesperson. He points out the dormant economic power in the hands of each Filipino. "With our 100 million citizens and abundant natural resources — this potential can be unlocked if only Filipinos realize that each has his own way to contribute to real progressive change in the country through patronage of Filipino brands, products, goods, and services."

They don't just tell people to "buy Filipino". They also tell people what Filipino-made products are out there because there are some brands that many people don't know are Filipino because they sound foreign like clothing labels Penshoppe and Bayo.

On their Web site ( Facebook page and other social networks, Yabang Pinoy freely pushes local brands, big and small. It organizes an annual bazaar showcasing Filipiniana, consistently staged since November 2005.

Earlier this year, they launched their "PHmade" campaign to further crystallize their cause. Their slogan, "the Filipino is worth buying for", is a pun from a quote made famous by slain political opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., whose belief that "the Filipino is worth dying for" steeled his resolve to return to Manila from self-exile in 1983 despite the threat of assassination.

At times, Yabang Pinoy also has to encourage local businesses to dream bigger and bolder. "For local entrepreneurs to continually improve their products and services, they have to start thinking of themselves as Filipino entrepreneurs poised to compete globally," says Tan.

But the real work, as Yabang Pinoy quickly realized, was social engineering — changing the way Filipinos see the "made in the Philippines" label.

Proudly PH-madeYabang Pinoy volunteers learned from their own experience. To believe in their own message, they have to live it. They wear wrist bands made of abaca or Manila hemp — their version of the popular baller bands — to remind themselves of their cause every day. Over 80,000 abaca bands have been sold since 2005.

The habit change, Yabang Pinoy volunteers acknowledge, takes time. "Through the years, if you keep on advocating Pinoy pride, it constantly changes you and you don't even know how it happened," says Sarino.

The ongoing territorial spat with China has given the "buy Filipino" cause an unexpected boost. Nationalists were angered months ago when the Philippine National Police awarded a contract for 60,000 pistols to a supplier that imports the Austrian-made Glock. They said the contract should have been bid out to local gun makers only to give the local defense industry a boost.

However, Yabang Pinoy refuses to adopt a combative tone. "Yabang Pinoy's campaigns have always been towards real progressive change, borne out of a spirit of pride as Filipinos, and not as a movement against something," explains Tan.

The "buy Filipino" campaign is nothing new. On August 19, 1939, President Manuel Quezon, in efforts to prepare a country for independence from the United States, issued Executive Order No. 217 to instill values among Filipinos that included buying local. "Cultivate the habit of using goods made in the Philippines. Patronize the products and trades of your countrymen."

Fast forward to 1998. That year, businessman Raul Concepcion of Concepcion Industries, maker of the Carrier air conditioner brand, launched Buy Philippine-Made Movement, complete with a "proudly Philippine-made" seal of excellence to help buyers know what to buy. But the campaign eventually fizzled out.

If Yabang Pinoy is to succeed, its volunteers say, they need to change the pervading view that "made in the Philippines" is synonymous with poor quality. Sarino points to the endurance of abaca, the world's strongest natural fiber, and she brandishes her wrist band readily: "I'm a Filipino. I have something to be proud of."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino
    Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino

    Philippine military and commercial aircraft will keep flying over disputed areas in the South China Sea despite Chinese warnings over the airspace, President Benigno Aquino said on Monday. "We will still fly the routes that we fly based on the international law from the various conventions we entered into," Aquino told reporters when asked whether the Philippines accepted China's position. The Chinese military last week ordered a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane away from airspace …

  • ‘Kentex owners still in Phl’
    ‘Kentex owners still in Phl’

    The daughter of one of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. owners has assured the government that the businessmen are still in the Philippines, contrary to some reports that they have fled the country. Barbara Ang, daughter of Kentex shareholder Veato Ang, said her father and his business partners have no plans of leaving the country despite the razing of the Valenzuela slipper factory, which killed 72 workers on May 13. Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian also stood by his promise to punish any local …

  • Gasoline prices up, diesel down
    Gasoline prices up, diesel down

    Oil companies announced yesterday a price hike of 50 centavos per liter for gasoline and a rollback of 50 centavos per liter for diesel effective at 6 a.m. today. Independent oil firms were among the first to announce the price adjustment. In an advisory, PTT Philippines, the local subsidiary of Thailand’s biggest oil firm said it cut diesel prices by 50 centavos per liter and increased gasoline prices by 50 centavos per liter. …

  • Lawmakers to review building code provisions
    Lawmakers to review building code provisions

    Lawmakers are set to review provisions of the National Building Code and Republic Act 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, to strengthen contingencies and policies to prepare the country for possible major earthquakes. The move came following proposals from Reps. Winston Castelo of Quezon City and Lito Atienza of the Buhay party-list to review the two laws and other regulations during a hearing of the House committee on Metro Manila development on the …

  • Noy: Phl may attain first world status with continued reforms
    Noy: Phl may attain first world status with continued reforms

    The Philippines’ attaining first world status may soon be imminent if significant reforms initiated by the current administration would be consistently pursued, President Aquino suggested yesterday. “Kung madidiligan ang ating mga pinunla, at makaka-graduate ang mga pinag-aaral natin upang makapasok sa maaayos na trabaho, baka po tuluyan nang nasa first world status tayo sa panahong iyon (If we water the seeds sown and those we sent to school will find better jobs, then time will come that …

  • Phl won’t recognize China air restrictions
    Phl won’t recognize China air restrictions

    The Philippines will not recognize restrictions on air and sea travel set by China in the West Philippine Sea, President Aquino said yesterday. “We will still fly the routes that we fly based on international law and the various conventions, agreements that have been entered into through various decades,” Aquino told reporters in an ambush interview after inspecting the Marikina Elementary School in preparation for the opening of classes in June. “Maybe we should not think about getting …

  • Rainy season likely in 2nd week of June
    Rainy season likely in 2nd week of June

    Filipinos may have to wait until the second or third week of June for rain, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said yesterday. Rene Paciente, chief of PAGASA’s marine meteorological services section, said they expect the rainy season to start in the second or third week of June. The criteria for declaring the onset of the rainy season include the prevalence of the southwest monsoon and the 25-millimeter rainfall recorded in at least five …

  • UN urged to probe torture cases under Noy’s term
    UN urged to probe torture cases under Noy’s term

    The United Nations has been asked to look into   110 cases of torture and numerous cases of illegal arrests during the Aquino administration. Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, yesterday said the matter could be looked into when the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) visits from May 25 to June 3 to monitor the  implementation of the Optional protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OpCAT), which the Philippines ratified in 2012. “We enjoin the UN SPT to …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options