The Vikings. Were they ‘literate’?

AY4013+Poster+ edited

This is the academic poster I made for my Viking class. Let me know what you think! Is it good enough or confusing due to many words or photos? The description is less than 500 words and got a 16/22.

My professor said, “The poster has an appealing layout when you first see it, and the images chosen are very effective. On closer examination however, it appears a little ‘messy’. There is a lack of natural connection or progression between the different text boxes, giving a disjointed impression. It is also hard to differentiate between image captions and informative texts. Why is the conclusion not in a text box? It is hard to see when given a different style then the rest of the text.” Do you agree with her comments? I think that the conclusion is rather fine, short and concise. Whether it is in a text box or not is a subjective view. Do you think this deserves a 16?

In my opinion, this is actually quite good. I could not believe myself that I was able to produce something like this when, in all honesty, I do not know how to create posters! It was such a scary task especially learning a new skill and seeing the rubric and how you can meet it and graduate with honours! But its worth it. 🙂

I think if professors know where a student have come from (not nationality but personal experience I guess) and improved then they would appreciate their input and hard work. Not implying that they don’t already. Generally, since different courses have different co-ordinators who assess the students’ assignments and projects, professors do not get to know their students on a deeper relational level. Well at least for the University of Aberdeen at the time when I was an undergraduate. However, it would be beneficial if professors handle students for a longer period for them to be able to see how their students have progressed throughout the years. Any thoughts?

Bodies in Museums: The Moral Standing and Displaying of the Dead

cambodia genocide museum

Cover Photo: A photograph of the victims of Pol Pot’s totalitarian regime at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields memorial park, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Taken on a visit in 2007.



Archaeologists frequently come into contact with human remains. However, issues regarding the treatment of the dead, whether it is through scientific investigation or displaying, remain a contentious topic. In this essay, I will attempt to summarise the broad theoretical discourse on the moral standing of the dead and the displaying of human remains in museums. I will first address the different worldviews that affects how various groups interpret the dead, identifying two opposing sides of the argument: Dualistic and Materialistic scientific community and Animistic indigenous communities and Pagan groups. Different interpretations of ‘respect’ for the dead are apparent throughout these two opposing ideologies. These groups often have strong views due to the sensitive nature of the subject. In my reflection of the topic, I shall discuss two other issues concerning the dead: the photograph and circulation of their images online and in the media and the relationship of displaying of human remains, which are victims of recent genocide, to tourism.



More than a hundred and thirty museums in Britain hold in their care large quantities of human remains, for instance, the Natural History Museum, London has over 20,000 remains (Brooks and Rumsey 2007). In 1998, the Museum of London held the exhibition London Bodies, showcasing a large collection of more than eighteen thousand human skeletal remains from the Museum’s archaeology division (Swain 2002: 98). The purpose was to prove how Londoners have changed appearance through time with evidence from the archaeological record (ibid). Similarly, in 2007, the Manchester Museum hosted an exhibition, Lindow Man: A Bog Body Mystery, for the third time, attracting large number of visitors and being the most popular exhibition the Museum had (Alberti et al. 2009).

Do archaeologists have moral duties towards the dead they encounter? How are the dead wronged? How should museums store, handle and display human remains? Are archaeologists respecting the dead even with ethical and moral codes guiding their standard practices? How should archaeologists and researchers respectfully treat the dead? These are a few of the many moral and ethical questions researchers and museum staff deal with in their everyday encounters with the dead.

How do we respect the dead? There’s two stand points in this: some of the communities from which remains are said to have originated argue for their repatriation and reburial instead of being in display cases in institutions. Archaeologists, on the other hand, argue the importance of analysis of human remains but with a degree of ‘respect’ guided by their code of ethics. We see that respect is a matter of relativity in this case. There is not one correct answer as both cases are valid.

Beinkowski (2006: 8) sees it essential to dig deeper in the various attitudes we hold towards mind, body and consciousness because ‘the relationship between Body and Mind lies at the core of different world-views’ (ibid: 2). There are four worldviews: (1) Dualism: French philosopher Rene Descartes explicate that human beings have two separate substances, Mind and Body. This view ‘came to be the philosophical foundation of Enlightenment knowledge and of the practice of ‘Science’ from the seventeenth century onwards’, guiding the disciplines of archaeology and museology; (2) Materialism: only Body or Matter exists. ‘Philosophy and science had become largely materialist and continue to do so today’; (3) Idealism: Only Mind or spirit exists, everything else is an illusion. ‘Although idealism is largely ignored by contemporary western philosophy and science it is a world-view found in many eastern religious traditions’; and (4) Animism: Mind and Matter always go together and that everything is simply part of Nature (ibid: 2-4). Indigenous cultures and Pagan groups fall in this category (Alberti et al 2009; Bain and Wallis 2006). Pagans are coined as ‘new indigenes’ by Bain and Wallis (2006: 4) due to their shared worldviews with indigenous peoples, ‘whose re-enchantment practices involve engaging with nature as alive with spirits… multiple deities and other beings’.

The idea of personhood and the lack of it are also quite important. Philosopher Immanuel Kant argues that personhood exists with conscience and capability to make choices (Beinkowski 2006). With this comes rationality, dignity, respect and rights (ibid). In the Dualistic and Materialistic worldview, the dead are separated from the living resulting in human remains being viewed as ‘things’. ‘Things can legitimately be used as means to human ends in a way in which ‘persons’ cannot’ (ibid: 6). For Kant, because things have no autonomy on their own, they are objects rather than subjects (ibid). Because of this, ‘archaeology, as an archetypal dualistic/materialistic practice, treats dead bodies as ‘things’, for its own ends. And so, on the whole, do museums’ (Bienkowski 2006: 7). At the opposite end of the extreme, Animism shows no contrast between the mind and the body rather they are one, in unison and in harmony. ‘Sentience, or consciousness, is everywhere: within Nature, within individual cohesive humans and even human cells communicate with each other…we call this ‘the integrated body’ (ibid: 2006: 6). As a consequence, death cannot separate the body from consciousness. The dead are still integrated within the community and are still considered as persons (ibid: 7). Their presence is felt in the landscape and the environment.

Why are discussions on personhood and the moral standing of the dead important? It is through these discussions that we understand the different sides of the arguments on how archaeologists and the scientific community treat human remains in comparison to how indigenous and Pagan communities view the dead.

The scientific community as well as academia has been accused of treating human remains as products, things of sorts and as objects on which conducting analyses are justified and reasonable (Alberti et al. 2009; Bain and Wallis 2006; Orr 2006). Human remains are studied in order to understand past health and diseases, cause of death, nature of the surrounding environment, what their diets were, glimpse of the climate, etc. (ibid: 135). In medical and scientific terms, the study of medieval, historic and pre-historic skeletal remains can help us prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases today and may even assist us in finding cures to some diseases (ibid).

On the other hand, Native Americans, Australian Aborigines and British Pagans insist that we treat human remains with respect by repatriating them and their grave goods to their original communities to rebury them (Bain and Wallis 2006; Davis 1998/9). Orr (2006) argues that the remains of British Druids in the care of museums should be returned to them and be interred in their original contexts or as close possible to their original conditions. She believes that they are the ancestors of ‘this land’ (Britain), ‘we are the same tribe’ and they should not belong to a museum case or stored in basements where they are ‘forgotten,’ ‘less honoured’, and ‘abandoned’ (ibid: 3, 5). Some people believe, when their ancient ancestors’ remains are removed, that their tribe is torn apart and feel ‘the disconnection’ (ibid: 3, 7). When human remains are displayed they are usually shown in secular museum based perspectives (ibid). Hence, she argues that archaeologists should go outside their own materialistic and dualistic worldviews and to understand other rationales (ibid: 6).

Scarre (2003) argues that we do not need to share the spiritual and religious beliefs of ancient peoples in order to treat remains with respect. However, some of the ways in which we treat remains breaches their wishes. Scarre (2003: 242) puts it, ‘it is fairly certain that an Egyptian pharaoh would not have wished to be translated from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings to a glass case in the British Museum… Ancient Egyptians took very seriously the issue of their welfare after death. For Egyptians of all ranks, one of the main tasks of this life was to make suitable preparations for the prosperity in the next….’ Some people believe tomb robbers may have disrupted their journey to the afterlife. Archaeologists however have scientific and academic intentions, which are deemed beneficial but the exhumation of remains and grave goods and their transportation to institutions out of Egypt are still as objectionable from the viewpoint of ancient Egyptians (ibid: 242). Therefore, in this case, respect is in terms of granting the wishes of the dead as opposed to serving the purposes of the living and future generations.

In the words of Davis (1997: 12-13), a member of the Council of British Druid Orders (CBDO), ‘everyday in Britain, sacred Druid sites are surveyed and excavated, with associated finds being catalogued and stored for the archaeological record. Many of these sites include the sacred burials of our ancestors. Their places of rest are opened during the excavation, their bones removed and placed in museums for the voyeur to gaze upon, or stored in cardboard boxes in archaeological archives… these actions are disrespectful to our ancestors. When archaeologists desecrate a site through excavation and steal our ancestors and their guardians…it is a theft… we should assert our authority and reclaim our past’.

On the other hand, osteo-archaeologists refute this by stating that Pagan interests are a ‘threat’ to their research (Bain and Wallis 2006: 11). Human remains are said to be safer in museums than in other grounds and that ‘it is irritating to be told how to do one’s job by people who know little about it’ (ibid: 12). By excavating and analysing human remains, we give them back their identities and immortality in which they and their stories are remembered by future generations. For Davis (2006: 3), speaking on bog bodies of Iron Age Britain and northern Europe who were subjected to brutal human sacrifice, excavation and analyses is an opportunity to give voice to the past, to those ‘who can no longer speak’. It is through ‘examining the actual materials from the period that expands our knowledge’ of the past which cannot be deduced from documents and archives (ibid). But he argues that we can do this with a degree of respect towards the dead. To rebury human remains, such as bog bodies, without having been allowed to extract information is to lose a part of history that we can never get back (Giles 2006).

Because of the pressure from native communities, archaeologists and investigators dealing with human remains now have a set of ethical and moral codes governing their practices, spanning from governmental legislations to archaeological and forensic governing bodies. For instance, the Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS 2005) is to provide a framework for the legal acquisition and care of human remains by museums and institutions, the curation and use of human remains (including storage, public display, and access to research and education) and repatriation (including the process of returning remains). This provided basis for the creation of legal bodies on specific interests concerning human remains.

In 2013, the Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England (APABE) published guidelines for institutions wishing to carry out scientific studies on human skeletal remains. It provides a framework for the destructive analyses researchers carry out. These destructive and irreversible procedures include extraction of samples from human bones and teeth for carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses, for purposes of understanding diets; strontium and oxygen isotope analyses for tracing geographic origins; DNA analyses to shed light on ancient diseases and radiocarbon dating. The APABE believes that studying human remains is beneficial to gain new insight to human history, however analyses on bones causes irreparable damage.

Therefore archaeologists need to evaluate if their research will have positive results, ‘whether that knowledge could be obtained by non-destructive analyses [if possible], the experience and competence of those who intend to undertake the work’, ‘the feasibility of the techniques’, etc. are few amongst the many considerations researchers are made aware of (APABE 2013: 2, 5). If the sampling is approved then the processes should be ‘properly documented’ for future researchers (ibid: 2, 6). In short, as long as the results are positive and outweigh the destructive sampling techniques then we could conduct scientific research on human remains provided that we treat them with appropriate respect.

Why should museums display the dead and is this necessary? To display human remains in museums and temporary exhibitions inspires young people in science and creates interest in the study of human bodies. Alberti et al (2009: 135) puts it, ‘when small children and younger adults actually experience captivating displays, their interest is piqued, their intellect stirred, perhaps a life-long exploration begins. Remains should not be relegated solely to the scholar…by the time a young person is in higher education, their interests are established and academic choices have been made. Such displays therefore act as ‘advertisement’ for the next generation of eminent physicians and anti-cancer researchers.’

Giles (2006: 2-3) argues that ‘it is the experience of coming ‘face-to-face’ with the past, which museum displays…attempt to capture’ and it is for the most reason that many visit museums. As with bog bodies, they cannot be easily interred because their original contexts have been taken away through destruction. Since their possible living descendants could be traced narrowly, Giles suggests that they be displayed in museums ‘with sufficient respect present with various interpretations’ (ibid: 11). As archaeologists, our task is to foster greater understanding of the past and telling the stories of bog victims is one of them.

It is argued that as well as conducting scientific analyses on human remains, displaying the dead is also treating them as things. ‘We put them into a particular context, with restricted information that is carefully chosen to interpret the dead body for our own contingent purposes’ (ibid: 137). Brooks and Rumsey (2007: 261) argue that human remains are ‘recontextualised’ in museums as they are exhumed from their graves and into another context for a ‘different function’. The dead merely serve the interest of the present. We use the dead for our educational efforts, scientific interest and to further our knowledge of human past. The Human Tissue Act (2004) states that human remains be ‘treated with appropriate respect and dignity’ but how can we achieve this when we use them as ‘objects, for our own purposes and needs, irrespective of the wishes of the dead?’ (Alberti et al. 2009: 138). Cole (2000: 169) contends that human remains are ‘relics of once vital individuals, which do not belong in a museum setting but rather in a memorial setting’, displaying them runs ‘the very real risk of creating a cabinet of horrible curiosities’.

Although the public have gained new insight from viewing human remains in museums, it is not necessary to showcase them (Alberti et al. 2009: 138). Tarlow (2006) argues that a degree of privacy should be afforded to them, especially considering where naked bodies are on public display open to criticism. Whether we decide to showcase them or not, the decision is technically based on the judgements of the living, or Dualistic and Materialistic institutions and scientific communities. As an example, Charles Byrne (O’Brien) ‘The Irish Giant’ wishes his body to be buried in the sea but the Hunterian Museum continues to display his remains, refuting that his will was not written in paper and that he serves to educate present and future generations about the conditions of giant peoples (Alberti et al. 2009: 140).



What is the difference between displaying human remains in museums and publishing their photographs, usually in close-ups in newspapers, journals, etc. and in online platforms? Should skeletal remains of those who died violent deaths be treated like other archaeological and historical human remains? Should they be displayed in museums? For instance, skeletal remains of more than eight thousand people, who died in the recent Cambodian genocide from 1974-1979 under the Khmer Rouge regime, are displayed in the Choeng Ek memorial in the middle of the killing fields.

Most of the readings on archaeological treatment of human remains have to do with the actual ethical and moral issues regarding their display in museums. However, many of their images circulate on the web and are present in archaeological and historical journals and magazines as well as in newspapers, which tend to reach out to many people than visiting museums alone. Media coverage is more widespread in our society and more influential than museums. Should we also be concerned with the circulation of images of the dead in the media? I believe this is a very important issue. More people can view human remains online and in newspapers, magazines and journals than can go to museums to view them. I think we have to consider the same ethical and moral elements as displaying the dead in institutions. Foremost, the dead would probably not consent for their remains to be photographed and viewed across so many platforms open for wider public opinion, given many people viewing these images would make disrespectful comments.

On 10th April 2015, the Archaeology Magazine posted a photo of a Hungarian mummy, indicating that it was a victim of tuberculosis (see fig. 1). At the time of writing, there are over nine thousand ‘likes’ and over a thousand ‘shares’. Nine days later a photo of ‘Red Franz’, a bog body from Germany, was posted in their facebook page (see fig. 2). There are currently 14,019 ‘likes’ and 2,956 ‘shares’. A link to the original article on the web called Bog Bodies Rediscovered was provided with the photo of ‘Red Franz’, which showcases some of the most striking images of bog bodies discovered in northern Europe (Lobell and Patel 2010). These sensitive images often end up in the layperson’s facebook ‘newsfeeds’ across the world in various contexts. Some facebook users have already posted inappropriate comments online such as ‘that’s the Ghost Rider, right?’ by Mark Cardwell with 212 likes, ‘I SWEAR I saw this guy in the parking lot of a Greatful Dead concert’ by Tyler Gazecki with 67 likes and ‘this is how the zombie apocalypse starts’ by Noah Stein with 13 likes (Archaeology Magazine 2015a; ibid: b).


Fig. 1: Photo image of a two hundred year old Hungarian mummy (Archaeology Magazine 2015a).


Fig. 2: Photo image of ‘Red Franz’ (Archaeology Magazine 2015b).

The Archaeology Magazine, a reputable source of information for updates on archaeological developments throughout the world, publicised by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), has over a million facebook ‘likes’, given the easy access to archaeology news, which is automatically updated in their newsfeed. The ordinary person is possibly not aware of ethical issues surrounding human remains and thus are quick to comment with disrespectful jokes or humour. Many believe this is highly insulting to the dead. Though social media can inform people about human history, circulating graphic images of the dead, especially close-ups, is very disrespectful.

Most ethical and moral debates centre on archaeological human remains. Remains from recent atrocities and genocide are not taken into consideration but are of great historical significance. I am particularly concerned with places which hold and display multiple human skeletal remains. For instance, the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre holds more than eight thousand skulls on eight different levels, indicating the type of death they received. Partially excavated by archaeologists in the 1980s, the site is a major tourist destination in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, being visited by thousands of foreign and domestic travellers (CEGC 2012). Many skeletal remains are still scattered across the site and can be stepped on and freely touched by visitors. Foreigners are charged $6, which includes an audio tour or a local guide tour. The experience takes many visitors back through time and is very informative, having been there myself.

When my family and I visited Cambodia, I particularly looked forward to our visit to Choeung Ek. This was because I had just finished my history module on South-East Asia during the Cold War in my school, thus I was aware of the history of site and the atrocities committed. Many visit Choeng Ek for various reasons but I’m concerned that many also visit to experience a different kind of dark, ‘fear-related’ tourism, such as going to scary themed parks. Many would argue that paying a visit to Choeung Ek have opened their eyes and made them respectful of the Cambodian people however some are not so respectful in their visit by taking ‘selfies’ and other of photos on site. In TripAdvisor (2015), there are over a thousand photos posted by foreign visitors with a couple of ‘selfies’ with the skeletal remains. These images could be posted online in their social media profiles, exposing the remains to further ridicule.

It is a human nature to be curious and to have interest in things of the past but I believe these act does not show respect to the dead but exposes the victims of horrendous crimes to unhealthy fascination. I believe that displaying the dead in this way is ethically and morally wrong, considering they died at the hands of a terrible regime. Their story should not be exploited by ‘morbid’ tourism. Over five thousand people reviewed the site and although most comments contain the word ‘sad’ many recommend the ‘attraction’ (TripAdvisor 2015). Tourists who visit Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre also stopover at the Killing Fields Museum of Cambodia, located at the S-21 Prison, where people were interrogated and tortured before being massacred in masses at Choeung Ek. It could be argued that the victims of Pol Pot’s genocide have merely been reduced to an activity for those seeking an emotional experience.

Although, I feel affected when I see images of any human remains, whether a complete body or just body parts as images of the dead evokes empathy, I think, archaeologists have a duty to help us understand humanity’s past and where we could be heading in the future. However, to display bodies in museums carries many ethical and moral issues as does displaying photographs of human remains. Who authorises such decisions? Who has a say in which human remains should be exposed to public light and criticism? By displaying human remains, the dead are merely becoming commodities to sell archaeology. We deny them humanity and privacy.



Though an exhaustive topic, I have highlighted important debates regarding human remains and their display, including the various stances on respectful treatment of the dead. I have drawn various examples in the exhumation of human remains as well as arguments for their reburial and repatriation. I have given my view and reflected on other issues arising from the debates such as circulation of images of the dead both online and in the media and the relationship with displaying victims of atrocities and tourism.

With regards to the scientific analyses of human remains, I am personally against this. I believe that it is indeed disrespecting the right of the dead to rest, for instance, the victims of the Cambodian genocide. However, as an archaeologist, our goal is to foster greater understanding of the human past, this is the nature of our discipline. Sampling techniques extract portions of bones, teeth and burial materials that are irreplaceable. Even though these will give us a better understanding of whom the person was, some would argue that removing parts of the bone are disrespectful. The wishes of the dead and their peaceful reburial should therefore be afforded to them. As archaeologists, we are forcing our post-modernistic values on our subjects when we analyse them. In this regard, based on the debates mentioned, I agree that the dead are merely objects for the researcher than a person with the right to be left alone to rest. The display of human remains is a contentious issue but different groups should accept a healthy dialogue to move forward.



Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England (2013) Science and the Dead. A Guideline for the Destructive Sampling of Archaeological Human Remains for Scientific Analysis. English Heritage Publishing

Alberti, S.J.M.M., Bienkowski, P., Chapman, M.J. and Drew, R. (2009) ‘Should we Display the Dead?’ in Museum and Society Vol.7(3): 133-149

Brooks, M.M. and Rumsey, C. (2007) ‘The Body in the Museum’ in Human Remains: Guide for Museums and Academic Institutions (eds.) Cassman, V., Odegaard, N. and Powell, J. Oxford: AltaMira Press

Cole, T. (2000) Selling the Holocaust: From Auschwitz to Schindler, How History is Bought, Packaged and Sold. London: Routledge

Davis, P. (1997) ‘Respect and Reburial’ in The Druid’s Voice: The Magazine of Contemporary Druidry Vol. 8 (summer): 12-13

Davis, P. (1998/9) ‘Speaking for the Ancestors: The Reburial Issue in Britain and Ireland in The Druid’s Voice: The Magazine of Contemporary Druidry Vol.9 (winter): 10-12

Department of Culture, Media and Sport (2005) Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums London: DCMS

Scarre, G. (2003) ‘Archaeology and Respect for the Dead’ in Journal of Applied Philosophy Vol. 20: 237-249

Swain, H. (2002) ‘The Ethics of Displaying Human Remains From British Archaeological Sites’ in Public Archaeology Vol. 2: 95-100.

Tarlow, S. (2006) ‘Archaeological Ethics and the People of the Past’ in Scarre C. and Scarre, G. (eds.) The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 199-216

Archaeology Magazine (2015a) ‘Multiple strains of TB have been detected in eight naturally mummified bodies from a 2000-year-old Hungarian crypt’ in facebook Posted in 10 April 2015.Available online: ‘ [10 April 2015]

Archaeology Magazine (2015b) ‘From the Archive: Discovered in Germany, “Red Franz” is one of dozens of bog bodies from northwestern Europe that gives us a direct look at life in the Bronze and Iron Ages’ in facebook Posted in 19th April 2015. Available online: [19 April 2015]

Bain, J. and Wallis, R.J. (2006) ‘The Sanctity of Burial: Pagan Views, Ancient and Modern’ in Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice conference proceedings at the Manchester Museum. Available online:,136200,en.pdf [3 May 2015]

Beinkowski, P. (2006) ‘Persons, Things and Archaeology: Contrasting World-Views of Minds, Bodies and Death’ in Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice conference proceedings at the Manchester Museum. Available online: [3 May 2015]

Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre (CEGC) (2012) Available online: [5 May 2015]

Human Tissue Act (2004) Office of Public Sector Information c.30 Available online: [3 May 2015]

Giles, M. (2006) ‘Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice’ in Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice conference proceedings at the Manchester Museum. Available online: [3 May 2015]

 Lobell, J.A. and Patel, S.S. (2010) ‘Bog Bodies Rediscovered. True Tales From the Peat Marshes Of Northern Europe’ in ARCHAEOLOGY Vol. 63(3) [19 April 2015]

Orr, E.R. (2006) ‘Human Remains: The Acknowledgement of Sanctity’ in Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice conference proceedings at the Manchester Museum. Available online: [3 May 2015]


This article in the Post Hole: (edited)

Why is there a ‘general’ trend amongst Filipinos to become developed like the ‘West’? Is economic and human development a form of colonialism?

*This has been submitted for my undergraduate dissertation in Anthropology. Still waiting for feedback but thought I should share the research. This is not entirely identical to the one I submitted as I changed some words. I know it’s not perfect and could have been improved but let me know what you think!*


There is a general trend amongst Third World countries to ‘progress’ and become like developed nations. Many people from developing nations wish their countries would become as ‘wealthy’ as the United States, Europe and Japan, comparing their countries to these affluent nations. This dissertation will explore this dichotomy between the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’. I will explore reasons why ‘development’ is highly favoured and why developed nations are regarded as models of development. In examining why the OECD countries and intergovernmental bodies, such as the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations promote economic and human development, I shall investigate whether development is a form of colonialism.

This paper is divided into two sections. In Part I, I will discuss why Filipinos are desperate to become developed and provide examples of development initiatives in the Philippine and the complications associated with it, introducing important points that are key to the development discourse. In Part II, I will explore the theoretical, philosophical, and ethical aspect of development referring to voluntourism as a prime tool to ‘help’ developing nations.

Key words: development, colonialism, poverty, Millennium Development Goals, the Philippines


BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, and China

CAGPL – Canadian Arctic Gas Pipeline Ltd.

CIA – Central Intelligence Agency

CMA – Centre for Migrant Advocacy

CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

DFID – Department for International Development

GDP – Gross Domestic Product

GNI – Gross National Income

GNP – Gross National Product

HIC – Highly Indebted Countries

IBRD – International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

ICS – International Citizen Service

ILO – International Labour Organisation

IOM – International Organisation for Migration

LEDCs – Less Economically Developed Countries

MEDCs – More Economically Developed Countries

MDGs – Millennium Development Goals

NEDA – National Economic and Development Authority

NGO – Non-governmental organization

NIC – Newly Industrialized Countries

OECD – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

OFW – Filipino Overseas Workers

POEA – Philippine Overseas Employment Administration

PPP – Purchasing Power Parity

SAIH – Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund

UNCTAD – United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

UNDAF – United Nations Development Assistance Framework

UNDP – United Nations Development Programme

UNGA – United Nations General Assembly

UNPD – United Nations Population Division

VSO – Voluntary Service Overseas

WB – The World Bank

WDI – World Development Indicator

WEF – World Economic Forum

WHO – World Health Organisation

WWII – World War Two




 As my flight descended into Manila in 2012, I recalled how rapidly the city has changed. Green fields have disappeared, the water has become filthy and like many megacities in industrially developing countries, Manila is becoming more congested and more polluted. About eighty percent of the city is composed of slums comprising self-built, ‘informal’ housing. Urban development has dotted the landscape with high-rise buildings constructed and infrastructure established (see fig. 1). It appears the Philippines is embracing development and it has decided not to be the last in Southeast Asia.

This paper has been inspired by my experience of growing up in both developing and developed nations, interacting with different peoples from various beliefs, backgrounds, world-views, and socio-cultural groups. Until I was thirteen, I lived in the Philippines before moving to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my family where we stayed for almost six years. Afterwards, we lived in Hanoi, Vietnam for a year prior coming to Hong Kong for a couple of months before starting my undergraduate studies in Aberdeen. Throughout these periods, I have seen the best and worst of countries. A common question arises when observing Filipinos in their conversations about their government and the global and socio-economic standing of the Philippines. Why do Filipinos think that development is good for them? Why is it that Filipinos wants to become Westernised and what does the West possess that is inherently attractive to the peoples of the Philippines?

So I selectively asked my Filipino friends certain questions in order to investigate what the layperson thought about development in general terms and to explore the Filipinos’ veracious appetite to become ‘developed’. The last question concerns the specifics of human and economic development which this paper focuses on. I included my Vietnamese friends in this endeavor to see how my research question above applies to another ‘Third World’ country. Regardless of their age, profession, and demographic background, I asked them (1) which country first comes to mind when they think of a developed nation; (2) Should the Philippines/Vietnam become developed like United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Japan, etc.? (3) Do the Philippines/Vietnam have the potential to become a developed country? (4) Should the Philippine/Vietnamese educational system follow a Westernised education system? If so why? Finally, (5) can education/foreign investment reduce ‘poverty’?

For question one, the answers are as follows: Japan, USA, Australia, Canada, UK, Europe, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Singapore, Israel, Sweden, and Norway. These are technically, according to the World Bank and the United Nations, considered as ‘developed’. The first five have been mentioned more than three times. Some answered China, the Philippines, and Qatar however these are anomalies probably due to personal preference of what ‘developed’ is and/or have been educated.

With regards to question two, majority of the Filipino informants said, ‘yes’ “the Philippines should be lined up with the world’s first class”. Why? Because, “the living conditions and the quality of life is much better in those countries” and that “these countries prioritise their people”; “Industry, agriculture, and science are beneficial” and that “we can have an opportunity to make a living”. If the Philippines is to become ‘developed’ then the country will “be more ‘organised’ in terms of infrastructure and the people would be more ‘disciplined’”. Very few said ‘no’, “because every nation is different (culture, language, government, economy, geographical location, etc.)” and that the Philippines should “simply adopt a more disciplined culture like the West” and not wholly convert to being ‘Western’ (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

As for question three, most are resolved with solid ‘yes’, arguing that “the Philippines is rich in natural resources – geothermal, mineral, natural”, that the “Filipinos are intelligent, smart, multi-talented and hardworking” and that “the population is young and well educated”. Many also agree that the economy is growing, for instance, “the Philippines has already surpassed India as a Call Center Capital of the World”. This has gained headlines in the media over the past five years (examples, Bajaj 2011; Brooks 2014; Heydarian 2014). In asserting this, one person declared that, “Filipinos are working outside the Philippines in many of these developed countries as engineers, doctors, nurses, PTs, teachers, etc. [they] are highly productive in these countries and many also hold positions in large companies, hospitals, governments and businesses. These countries use Filipinos to sustain their economy and maintain their standard of living, so why not in their own country?” As the reason for this failure, most have mentioned that the government is ‘corrupt’ and that “If the government is honest and if the Filipinos are united and co-operate with each and have the same vision for the growth of the economy” then “the country can progress” (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

In question 4, generally, Filipinos answered ‘yes’. They wanted the Philippine education system to be more “competitive with other countries”, so the “quality of education would be better”, so “the ‘backward’ Filipino mindset can be changed and improved” and so that “we can ‘develop’ as a nation”. Some have stated that international schools in the Philippines “produced world-class extraordinary pupils” so therefore Philippine educational system should follow the international or world standard of education. (How can ‘international’ standard be defined, when there are so many educational systems?) On the other hand, a good proportion of Filipinos said ‘no’ because of their pride in Filipino achievements overseas which are the “result of the Philippine educational system”, moreover “even though Philippine schools and universities are short of funding from the government, they are still able to produce good graduates who are able to compete academically abroad” (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

Regarding the response of my Vietnamese friends for the second and third questions, it is intriguing that all of them aspire to Vietnam becoming ‘developed’, however, not in the same ways as the ‘West’. As one said, “I want Vietnam to be a developed country with the Vietnamese culture, which is different from American and European culture.” Similarly, one contended that “the US, UK, Japan, etc. are not the happiest countries in the world”. Based on living in Vietnam for a year, it seems that the Vietnamese people have a more cohesive identity of which they are more proud in comparison to the Filipino population who generally aspire to become something or someone else. All my informants have said that Vietnam has the potential to improve its world economic and human ranking but is far from achieving it. As for education, they want the Vietnamese educational system to be aligned with the international standard as “it is more practical and it can help students find work easier after graduation” and “it will improve the quality of students and will make it easier for them to work abroad”.

The last question asks can ‘education’ and ‘foreign investment’ bring people out of poverty? Most thought ‘yes’. For education, “it will empower the people to decide and think what is right and not just blindly follow the few elite who are in power.” Filipino families in general tend to focus on the importance of education, which they think is the only valuable investment for their children. They believe that performing well at school and university can lead to better employment and jobs. One Filipino informant has argued that this mindset should be changed as this is the reason why the majority of Filipinos, except for the few wealthy families, are geared towards working for someone else as opposed to the Chinese who send their children to prepare them to take over their family businesses. Some believe that although education can pave the way, education alone is not the answer as there are many Filipino graduates whom are jobless and have no choice but to look towards other countries. Hence, the reason why the Philippines is the world’s top exporter of skilled, cheap labour to other countries, according to ILO, IOM, POEA, UNDP, and the World Bank (Santos 2012).

Although many agree that a boost in foreign investment can lead to a rise in employment and monetary gain, many also argue that the Filipinos and the Vietnamese should be given assistance to encourage them to invest in their own country, allowing Filipino and Vietnamese businesses to flourish and to open new job markets. This is so as not to rely heavily on foreign investment “who do not know the needs of their countrymen”. In reiterating this, many blame the government for corruption, arguing that change has to start from a ‘top to bottom’ process including improvement of educational standards “with focus on communication, mathematics, science, and technology”, “supporting new ideas and innovations in all branches of work”, encouraging Filipino and Vietnamese families to educate children to be “entrepreneurs, designers, developers, and artists”, building better infrastructures, and expanding investment.

These questions allowed us to see that many Filipinos are determined to become ‘developed’ and to ‘progress’. They see the United States, Europe, Japan, etc. as great models of this. They see that in developed nations, infrastructure and education systems are better, as are standards of living, social organisation and legal and judicial systems. We have also seen that they view the Philippines and Vietnam far more differently from developed nations in terms of wealth and world rankings. Thus, they view themselves as needing ‘development’.


The Philippines is a Southeast Asian archipelago of 7,107 islands, currently under threat by climate change and rising sea levels (CIA 2014a). Its topography consists of mountainous landscapes, dense forests, plain terrains and coastal lowlands with 18% of land as arable (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b). The country has a high percentage of flora and fauna species, being rich in biodiversity and natural resources (CIA 2014a; Davis 1987; UNDP n.b).

The country however is prone to natural disasters including a earthquakes, tsunamis and experiences fifteen to twenty destructive typhoons each year. There have also been a large number of environmental issues including landslides (due to uncontrolled deforestation, urbanisation, and land conversion to agriculture), air and water pollution in urban areas, and degradation of coral reefs and mangrove forests (CIA 2014a; Global Footprint Network 2012). Along with long-term armed conflict in the south (Mindanao), government ‘corruption’ and population growth, these natural disasters make it difficult to establish lasting infrastructure and reduce the rate of poverty, impeding sustainable development, and increasing food and energy crises (Global Footprint Network 2012; NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014; UNDP n.b.).

The Philippines has a population of about 107,668,231, (July 2014 estimate), a considerable rise from twenty seven million in the 1960s making it the thirteenth most populated country in the world (CIA 2014b; Global Footprint Network 2012). About 48.8% of the population lives in urban cities, which are exponentially increasing in population every year (World Bank 2014). The capital, Manila, is home to about 20 million residents and counting (ibid). The nation had an active working population of 37% aged 25-54, followed by 33.7% aged 0-14 years, then 19% aged 15-24 years in 2013. This equates to a total of forty-one million people in the workforce, of which 53% work in the services sector, 32% in the agriculture sector, and 15% in the industry sector (CIA 2014a). Its world ranking in economic performance is improving; the country’s GDP (PPP) was $454.3 billion in 2013, ranking it 32nd in the world; it’s GDP (real growth rate) was 6.8% in 2013 ranking it 27th in the world and its industrial production growth rate is 9% in 2013, ranking it nineteenth in the world (ibid).

In 2000, following the United Nations Millennium Summit, eight international goals were set by more than 180 UN member states and the NGO and business sectors, to be achieved by 2015 with set targets and indicators to measure the progress (IBRD and WB 2013). These goals are to eradicate extreme ‘poverty’ and ‘hunger’, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability, and to develop a global partnership for development (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and The World Bank 2013; United Nations 2014).

Some of the goals have been met well ahead of the deadline. According to United Nation’s MDGs report last year, the world has reduced extreme poverty by half, “in 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate dropped to 22 per cent by 2010” (ibid: 4). Gender parity in primary education has been reduced by all developing nations in 2012 and access to drinking water became a reality for 2.3 billion people since the ratification of the MDGs, “halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source by 2010, five years ahead of schedule” (ibid). On the other hand, some were slow to reach the targets. Although there is an improvement in the rate of primary school enrolment, this has stagnated. “In 2012, 50 million children were out of school. High dropout rates remain a major impediment to universal primary education. An estimated 50 per cent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.” (ibid: 5). Chronic hunger, child and maternal mortality continue to decline but more assistance is needed to ensure the needs of the hundreds of millions of people are met.

How does the Philippines stand in this? For human development, the country has halved the proportion of people with no access to basic sanitation, raising the percentage to 74.3% (both urban and rural statistics). Access to safe drinking water has improved to 91.8% of the population in 2012 (CIA 2014; World Bank n.b). Poverty has been reduced significantly from 34.4% in 1991 to 25.2% in 2012 (NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014: 2, 4, 6; World Bank n.b). Literacy rate (defined by persons over 15 years who can read and write) has increased from 81% in 1990 to 95.4% in 2014 with males being 95% and females 95.8% (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b). Consequently, the WEF (2014a,b) ranks the Philippines as first in Asia in terms of gender equality on health, education, economic participation, and political empowerment and ninth in the world out of 142 economies, scoring 0.7814 (0=inequality; 1=equality).

Although some targets have been met, the country still has to improve in many aspects scoring only 0.654 in the Human Development Index. According to Arsenio Balisacan, Economic Planning Secretary of the UNDP country team, the country is behind schedule in completion of secondary education (although there’s a high enrolment rate), equal distribution of income (there’s unequal flow of income between the rich and poor related with education completion), slow decline of poverty reduction, and decreasing maternal mortality, amongst the few (NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014).

As for economic development, the Philippines has been described by the UN, the World Bank and other inter-governmental agencies as a ‘resilient economy’ because it “withstood the recent global food, fuel, and financial crises and graduated to middle-income status at the end of 2009” (United Nations Philippines 2011: 2; UNDAF). This is due to “minimal exposure to troubled international securities, lower dependence on exports, relatively resilient domestic consumption, large remittances from four to five million OFW, and a rapidly expanding business process outsourcing industry” (CIA 2014a). For instance in 2012, the Philippine stock market was operating the second best in Asia (ibid). This means that the country is now depending less on international development aid and shaping its own course of development (UNDP n.b.).

In the first quarter of 2012, according to the Philippine Office, the economy grew by 5.9% out running other Asian economies (Poquiz n.b.). GDP grew from 4.9 in 2012 to 6.5% in 2014 and remittances from OFWs raised GNI from 2.4% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2013 (Poquiz n.b.; World Bank 2014). Economic growth became possible due a buoyant services sector, increasing public sector spending, household consumption, external trade, tourism and manufacturing (Poquiz n.b; Castro 2012; NEDA and UNDP Philippines 2014). The government, according to Balisacan, will therefore continue to increase spending to support capital formation or investment spending (Poquiz n.b).


In this section, I will address three problems in Philippine economic and human development and will introduce key points that will be discussed further in Part II.

  1. Many of the working adult population are emigrating to developed nations, making the Philippines the world’s third largest labour exporter, supplying First world countries with cheap labour (CMA 2009: 5). This results in ‘brain drain’, defined by ILO as when “emigration of tertiary educated persons for permanent or long stays abroad reaches significant levels” (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 7). As with the case of the Philippines, the “best and the brightest dominate the permanent outflow, leaving behind less-qualified workers” (ibid: 12). Due to the ability of Filipinos to converse in English well, “there are more Filipinos in foreign lands than any other nationality percentagewise” (Gripaldo 2006). China has 35 million abroad (2.6% of total population), India has 22 million (1.5% of total population) and the Philippines has 12 million, that is 13.95% of total population (ibid).

Instead of protecting their own resources and contributing to their own society, the lack of jobs and particularly well-paid posts as well as the global need for cheap labour, pushes Filipinos to work abroad. As mentioned above, loss of professional workers “due to continuous demand for nurses overseas, former Depart of Health Secretary Doctor Jaime Galvez-Tan said that the number of doctors who have downgraded themselves into nurses has reached 9,000. Almost 6,000 of them had left for the United States. More disturbing is that 80% of these doctors-turned-nurses were government doctors…. Many teachers have opted to seek alternative employment abroad, agreeing to work as domestic workers and caretakers. These jobs are well below their academic training but nevertheless pay much better than being teachers in the Philippines” (CMA 2009: 28).

Most OFWs are also vulnerable to abuse and violence abroad where labour migration laws are not strict, even risking their lives to feed their families back home and to give their children better lives. For instance, many employers in Hong Kong and the Middle East confiscate the passports and legal documents of their workers to manipulate them into working long hours and subjecting them to sexual harassment. Many immigrants also fall into difficult situations such as being stuck penniless in the host country because of rogue employment agencies, which sent them there. Although the Philippine government is working to curb this problem, the system itself is slow to change as many politicians are corrupt, robbing millions from public funds and murdering their opponents.

Another problem is that multinationals in developing countries often bring in their own managers and skilled workers making it slow for them to employ locals in senior or better-paid positions (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 9). As a result, high percentages of local employees working in corporations are in difficult positions to pull themselves out of ‘poverty’. With their low-income salaries they cannot feed or provide adequate shelters for their families. In addition, lack of employment opportunities are an issue when there are mass migrations from rural areas to cities like Manila. As a result, slums build up and when natural disasters such as typhoons occur, they are usually the worse affected, keeping the poverty cycle going (NEDA and UNDP Philippines (2014). When the vast majority of land is being bought by wealthy families or foreign corporations, many farmers and low-skilled people are pushed into dangerous jobs such as gold mining, risking their lives.

  1. The United Nations and its inter-agencies agree in all their global development reports, that all children have to stay in school and attend primary and secondary education. There is the Filipino belief that education can alleviate people out of poverty. NEDA and UNDP’s 2014 MDG report of the Philippines shows that “the average daily wage of a worker who has a college degree is more than three times the daily wage of one who is an elementary graduate and more than double that of a high school graduate” (ibid: 8). By merely educating people, can graduates pull themselves out of poverty? Is formal education really a necessity?

As with the previous question, lack of job opportunities in the Philippines makes highly qualified graduates take ‘lesser’ jobs in response to global shocks and demand (Lowell and Findlay 2001: 14). For instance, an electronics engineer will become a seafarer or an IT graduate into a maid (ibid). Education can be a means to landing in a better life but it’s not the only option. As Ferguson (1994: 12) reiterates, “Schools, the Marxists argue, were established by the capitalist state in order to reproduce labour power for an industrial order whose jobs were organized hierarchically. They are not tools of engineering social equality – they are by nature mechanisms for reproducing labour power for a class society”. Putting children in schools encourages a society of monetary division of labour which is different from traditional life where they learn on-hand practical things with their families and where social relations are centre in their subsistence economic system (Doeppers 1984; Larkin 1972; Reed 1978). This kind of education where people are prepared for a specialised roles as opposed to teaching sustainable options such as self-reliance does not help people as many sell their land to earn the extra money for their children’s education.

Another problem I have with education is that due to the value placed on it within the society there are many who fall into deep debts when parents send their children to higher education, especially to universities that has good reputation including University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University. However, the Philippines face high rates of unemployment even today hence the reason why many go abroad and change their career paths (Lowell and Findlay 2001). Even when graduates apply for jobs, employers usually discriminate based on educational background, favouring those who have studied in exclusive schools and high ranking universities which tuition fees are not affordable by the bread-winner in the family with no stable job. Therefore, in this case, education does not alleviate the poor from their conditions.

  1. The Philippine economy is growing however, what does this mean when ‘poverty’ is still widespread? How is economic growth defined when there is still poverty? According to NEDA and UNDP Philippines (2014: 2, 4, 6; also World Bank n.b), “despite the high economic growth in recent years, progress in reducing poverty has been slow. While income poverty has declined from 34.4% in 1991 to 25.2% in 2012, this is still far from the MDC target of 17.2% by [this year].” In 2013, Unemployment is 7.1%, 2.9 million unemployed persons, which is an improvement from 27.9%, 11 million unemployed persons, in 2008 (CIA 2014a; CMA 2013; Lowell and Findlay 2001; NEDA and UNDP Philippines; World Bank 2014)… [However] having a job does not guarantee living above the poverty line. The average income of the households belonging to the richest is about eighteen times that of the average income of the households belonging to the poorest.”

The UN and other inter-governmental agencies currently define the global poverty rate as living on $1.25 a day (Kweifio-Okal 2014; Legrain 2002: 50; United Nations 2013; United Nations 2014; World Bank 2014). According to Rist (2008) poverty is usually measured by what you have financially, if you have less money, then you are poor. The industrialised world places emphasis on commodity (goods and services) the idea is, the more we have or accumulate the better life is (Rist 2008:16). However, there are certainly many conceivable ways of being ‘affluent’ and ‘poverty’ (Sahlins 1972). I will expand on this in the next section.

Why, with ample resources, “a fertile country rich in natural resources… flora and fauna abound… and the widest possible varieties of fruits and vegetables are to be found” is the Philippines labelled a ‘poor’ country? (Davis 1987: 1). Are poor countries really ‘poor’? When we consider that Philippine resources such as timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper, and natural produce are exploited mainly for export and not for local and national use and that multinational companies are benefiting from this resource extraction as opposed to locals. Hence, developing nations provide the developed world with raw materials needed for production and manufacturing. It seems plausible to say that economic expansion and foreign investment does not alleviate people from ‘poor conditions’ (CIA 2014a; UNDP n.b.). There is sustainable development as an alternative to mainstream development, however it still means venturing into the capitalist system and adopting a consumerist and materialistic lifestyle, which is not sustainable.

The UN and other inter-government organisations express the need “for developing countries to concentrate all their resources for the cause of development” (UNGA 1974: 3). This means two things: (1) resource exploitation and environmental degradation and (2) increase of inequality (Rist 2008: 13-16). Resource extraction for commercial profit can be seen everywhere. It is usually attributed to the destructive forces of the capitalist economy (Mosse 2013: 229). While the effects of development and globalisation are being recognised, it is also required that all nations need “to put an end to the waste of natural resources” which is an oxymoron (UNGA 1974: 4).

Economic exponential growth is not realistic ineffective (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998). Rather it stagnates when it reaches its ‘carrying capacity’ (ibid). We live in a finite world in which primary sources are being depleted and are already running out despite our technological advances (Meadows et al 2005). Capital and wealth accumulation on the national scale does not mean poverty reduction (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998). The root causes of poverty must be considered.

According to James Ferguson, an American anthropologist, neo-liberal capitalism furthers the divide between rich and poor. “It appears self-evident that debtor Third World nation-states and starving peasants share a common ‘problem’, that both lack a single ‘thing’: development. If capitalism is not a progressive force but a reactionary one in the Third World – not the cause of development but the obstacle to it, not the cure for poverty but the cause of it – then a capitalist-run development project is a fundamentally contradictory endeavor. If it is meant to promote imperial capitalism (and why else would capitalist institutions like the World Bank, USAID, etc. do it?) then it cannot at the same time be an instrument for development, at least not for ‘real’ development” (Ferguson 1994: 11). Growth in numbers without real difference in the lives of people is ineffective (Seligson and Passé-Smith 1998)

As Katy Gardner (2012: 23) puts it in her book about the consequences of extractive multinational industries in Bangladesh, “while DFID and the World Bank clearly believe that the exploitation of the country’s gas and coal reserves by multinationals will lead to growth, and hence contribute to a reduction in poverty, [this is however far from guaranteed] for resource extraction invariably involves dispossessing large numbers of people from the land and profits are accumulated by the elite. Indeed, there is ample evidence that global capitalism has a habit of increasing inequality and hence exacerbating poverty.”



 Even though European imperialism has been a thing of the past and most countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas have already gained independence, could current discussion on who is rich and who is poor, which countries are prosperous and which we should help develop, re-surface the colonial heritage of power and domination but in a different form? Why are developed nations and inter-governmental agencies such as the United Nations, pro-development? Are there alternative forms of development?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, development is “the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc.” (Hornby 2005:418). Development as a word in itself is a relatively recent addition to the English language. However, the idea of ‘progression’ is not a contemporary phenomenon. It has ancient roots (Rist 2008; Latouche 1996). For instance, in antiquity, the Romans, the Greeks, and their easternmost counterparts reflected on the advancement of their societies.

For some, the idea of development stemmed from the Enlightenment Period because during this era there were advances in scientific research and industrial production of materials. This led to a greater emphasis on scientific rational as opposed to religious and spiritual beliefs (Lewis 2005; Edelman and Haugerud 2005). Others would argue that modern development stemmed from WWII when European states lay in ruins, their governments with the help of America, pledged to “improve the material circumstances of their citizens” (Edelman and Haugerud 2005: 6). After the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, the role of development was to reduce world poverty. When U.S. President Harry S. Truman took office in 1945, he promised that the US would help reconstruct the ‘underdeveloped’ areas of the world, which included Asia, Africa, and Latin America by providing financial assistance as well as technological and scientific enterprise opportunities (Edelman and Haugerud 2005; Lewis 2005).

A consequence of development is social evolution and socio-cultural change. The Enlightenment gave birth to the idea that there is only one path to human progression. Social evolutionists at the height of the colonial period applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to human societies, arguing that the Africans, Asians, and the natives of the Americas, were ‘backward’. Hence, development is favoured. If a society is to develop, it has to leave ‘primitive’ practices, characterised by ‘impoverished’ traditional subsistence economy and tribal kinship rule in order to adapt the ‘modern’, ‘civilised’ and ‘advanced’ life, characterised by industry, capitalism, science, technology, and bureaucratic rule (Edelman and Haugerud 2005: 2; Ferguson 1994: 15). The hope is that societies shall transform from one end of the spectrum of human evolution to the other. Those who have not yet achieved this transition have to catch up with the industrially developed countries (Rist 2008: 9).

A primary reason for this is their subsistence, believed to be intrinsically linked to intellectual capacities. Agriculture is seen as a driver of civilisation and those whose subsistence does not depend on this – hunting-gathering-fishing and nomadism – are merely ‘starving’ as with the plight of the First Nations people in America to land claims and continuance of traditional life against the wider government and development companies (Asch and Wishart 2004; Diamond 1999; Murphy and Steward 1956). The barbarous ‘other’ was seen as still living under the mercy of nature. They were seen as incapable of managing or taming their own environments though it is not inherently true as, for instance, the aborigines of Australia burn forests to cultivate resources thereby investing in their labour (Diamond 1990; Pyne 1997). Colonialists thought that by mastering nature and environment, people could control it to their advantage hence becoming ‘civilised’. Social and environmental improvement is seen to improve and transform the people’s capabilities hence is considered the way forward.

Another aspect of development discourse is the idea that non-agricultural societies are on the verge of hunger, are living lazy lives and are ‘poor’. In his book, Stone Age Economics 1972, Sahlins, has put the food quest to the test. By doing fieldwork amongst the Bushmen of Africa, Sahlins noticed that the hunters were in fact intelligent, highly skilled and were not living on the edge of survival. They hunted what they needed and did not overkill. They did not place value on material possessions this was key to their affluence. On the constant move through seasons, accumulated ‘wealth’ was not necessary. They were in themselves not ‘poor’. Such people focus their energy on complex formations of their religion and kinship relationships. They have more leisure time attributed to spending more time with their families, forming bonds, and socialising. All needs are easily met, in contrast with a materialistic culture in which one accumulates more things but is not satisfied. This economic system and lifestyle was a problem for colonialists as it was anti-imperial. It was hard to subdue such peoples when tribes are living their own economic lives.

Who declares that a country is either ‘under-developed’ or ‘developed’? Who has the power to place countries into categories such as HICs, LEDCs? How is it decided when a country should graduate from ‘poor’ to ‘rich’ status? The economies of developed nations generally fluctuate, especially in the 21st century where economies are inter-connected. When the global economy crashed in 2008, developed nations were greatly affected. Governments had to cut expenditure and come up with legislation to boost economic development. Even though the developed world “declare [themselves] to be [as they are], they are [however] far from lacking interest in their own ‘development’” (Rist 2008: 4) they always want to advance themselves. Hence, if these categories signify something that is unsteady, unstable and dynamic, how do we best categorise nations? If these terminologies are so ambiguous having different implications, then why do we even use them?

In his book Orientalism (1978) Edward Said argues that the Orient was placed within the European experience of it, structuring the Occident within the myths of the Orient (ibid: 1). By attributing that the Orient is something that the West is not – geographically, religiously, and rationally – the subordination of the other was justified. This process is called ‘othering’ where societies exclude the different ‘other’ whom they want to subjugate. As Said wrote, “Europe is a collective notion identifying ‘us’ Europeans against all ‘those’ non Europeans… The hegemony of European ideas about the Orient reiterates European superiority over Oriental backwardness” (ibid: 7). The Orient was depicted as an inferior world, a place of backwardness, irrationality and wilderness. The West, however, identifies themselves as the opposite of such characteristics – progressive, rational, and civil. This stereotyping creates a binary division of the world between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Said 1978). Although this process of ‘othering’ has been since antiquity in many forms, this is most relevant in development.

The process of ‘othering’ is central in development discourses. By defining affluent ‘us’ from poor ‘them’, we are reinforcing the disparity between cultures and societies. In discussions about global development, the United Nations, the World Bank, and other inter-governmental organisations defined the world into two categories. You are either in the ‘advance economy’ [also called ‘affluent nation, rich, Industrialised, developed, core, the North, the West, MEDC, and the First World’] or you are in a ‘less prosperous’ nation [also called ‘poor, Industrialising, developing, periphery, the South, the East, LEDC, and the Third World’]. According to Latouche (1996), these categories are convenient for one writing about the other.

“People struggle with categories. Categories make us feel comfortable because it’s how we make sense of things in our minds” – Grammy award winner Lecrae Moore (Reach Records n.b)

Methods of indicating the amount of progress nations achieve, rank countries of the world. Human development indicators are measured by standards of living (such as access to basic needs i.e. water, food, and shelter), life expectancy (health), education, and gender equality. These are to identify rates of child malnutrition and youth literacy for instance (Edelman and Haugerud 2005; Lewis 2005; Rist 2008; UNDP 2014; World Bank 2014). Economic growth is measured by the volume of a country’s output and household income (World Bank 2014). Its indicators are GDP, GNP, GNI, gross savings, government debt, inflation rate, etc. (ibid).

What this entails is that only one side of the story being told. Literacy was a tool to extend the sphere of influence and dominance during the colonial period. The literate were in control where written legislation was necessary in order for development projects to be carried out. In 1929, the British government issued a document to legalise British interest in their colonies. It aimed to promote, assist, authorise and encourage the improvement of “agriculture, [irrigation, cultivation] and industry” (ibid: 1). To achieve this, Britain provided advanced technologies. In 1974, a number of developing nations proposed a new economic trade agreement to promote their interests through the UNCTAD. It replaced the Bretton Woods system, which benefitted the leading countries whom introduced it. This document is called the Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order aimed at, supposedly, to give developing nations more freedom to control their natural resources, to improve terms of trade between developing and developed nations, to reduce export costs from developed countries, to enable developed nations to extend “assistance to developing countries” and promoting “the development of developing countries and the adequate flow of ‘real’ resources to them” (United Nations General Assembly 1974: 3).

In short, “Asia, Africa and Latin America can be defined as underdeveloped and that their communities are ineluctably in need of ‘development’” (Escobar 1997: 502). The way development aid is carried out is usually a one-way flow from North to South (see fig. 2). Whose history are we looking at? Are we looking through lens of the dominant power or the voiceless? With literacy being linked to power and authority, information is controlled. As treaties and contracts are made, people who are illiterate are often victims of exploitation. For example, people who cannot read or write would find it difficult to contest legal challenges such as land grabs.

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Fig. 2: One-way cultural flow of ideas in development projects adopted from the 1929 Colonial Development Act and the UN’s 1874 Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order. This suggests that the relationship is non-mutual where one benefits at the expense of the other.

When we consider the process of ‘othering’ in development discourse, according to anthropologists of international development such as David Mosse, Katy Gardner, James Ferguson, and Arturo Escobar, it sometimes implies the dichotomy between the exploiters versus the exploited.

As mentioned from Part I, development initiatives to increase economic growth, including extraction of natural resources and altering the environment, does not in the long term benefit the people whose resources are bound for generations. In Lesotho, farmers view livestock as ‘retirement fund’ and source of wealth and income when money is short. The World Bank, USAID, and the Lesotho government however viewed this as backward economic system, implementing schemes to increase livestock production and export to the world market. In this case, the development agencies used ‘poverty’ as a way to expand bureaucratic rule as opposed to alleviating their poverty conditions. “The purpose of a development project is to aid capitalist exploitation in a given country…by incorporating new territories into the world system, or working against radical social change, or bribing national elites… the implication is that any concrete aid program, be it any early 1960s ‘big dam’ project, late 1970s ‘basic needs’, or whatever, is explained almost by definition, by the ‘logic of capital’” (Ferguson 1994: 11).


An example of development in action is ‘voluntourism’. This is when people from developed countries carry out voluntary work in developing countries. This has gained popularity especially among young people and carries a wide range of benefits for the volunteer such as cultural awareness and understanding of global diversity.

There are many organisations that specialise in this type of activity, both government-funded and not-for-profit. These include VSO, Progressio, Restless Development, DFID funded ICS and many charities. Activities range from tree planting and supporting community tourism projects in El Salvador to improving primary education materials for nomadic children in Nigeria, addressing gender inequality in India to promoting recycling and protecting the jungles of the Philippines. Strong marketing initiatives are used to generate interest in this industry. Eye catching advertising including phrases such as ‘challenge yourself to change your world’, ‘boost your resume or enhance your CV’, ‘help fight poverty abroad’, ‘work and travel in an exciting new country’, along side graphics which imply the experience is fun for the volunteer.

Although the intention is to assist ‘poverty stricken nations’, voluntourism has been widely criticised. Our portrayal of the ‘other’ is ethically and morally distorted. A Swedish group SAIH (2014) recently released a video on the Youtube website which voices concern at the stereotyping of people in developing countries for fundraising campaigns and charity marketing. In the video, after teaching children how to read in English, a Caucasian female is filmed taking ‘selfies’ (self portrait taken with a digital camera, smartphone, tablet, laptop or other electronic device to be posted on social networking sites) with the children.

A journalist writing on U.S. foreign policy, is one of the first critics to respond, (Jose 2014) wrote, “a white, blond girl jumps out with high-calorie food in hand, dressed in a white tank top, shorts and a stylish bandanna. She runs toward an unknown destination and does what every good volunteer does: starts hurling food at hungry mouths. There is nothing wrong with the humanitarian impulse…. But as the SAIH video shows, this aid often comes in the form of activities that make little difference or misunderstands the cultural context in which it operates. There are ways to make a difference abroad. But snapping selfies with orphans isn’t one of them.”

Many undertake voluntourim because they are awarded “with a sociocultural badge of honour” (Jose 2014). Voluntourists are usually commended and are regarded highly in their own society because “they have chosen hardship and have survived”, according to Zakira (2014), a political philosopher. “There is a sense of glorification and sense of heroism… whereas working in community projects locally, people are not as enthusiastic” (cited in Herrman 2015, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker). Moreover, the experience gained gives them advantage over other job applicants. Therefore, the volunteer is benefiting, “as opposed to the recipient community’s actual needs” (Zakira 2014). Also, “other people’s problems seem simpler, uncomplicated and easier to solve than those of one’s own society. In this context, the decontextualized hunger and homelessness in Haiti, Cambodia or Vietnam is an easy moral choice. In simple terms, the lack of knowledge of other cultures makes them easier to help.”(ibid).

In her documentary film Framed (pending release date), Herrman sets out on a quest to find the motivations behind the West’s fascination with saving Africa and the rest of the developing world. America is the biggest exporter of voluntourists to Africa. About a million Americans volunteer abroad every year and this “has become almost a rite of passage for Americans, particularly students” Herrman (2015). But why look to far-flung places when problems closer to home are similar to that in Africa? Issues like racism, hunger, child poverty, and homelessness can be found in America. In the short extract of the video, Kenyan photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi asks ‘why help us when your own country needs help’ (paraphrased) to high school and university students alike who are enrolled in international volunteer programs elsewhere in the world in order to challenge established images and myths of developing nations. ‘Start local before going international’ (paraphrased) (ibid).

SAIH produced other videos regarding development aid. In one satirical video, Radi-Aid Warmth for Xmas (2014), the tables have been turned around. Here, instead of an affluent country generating public empathy on starving Africans, they portrayed Norwegians as living in poverty. At the end of the video, we see an African ambassador giving aid to the Norwegians. “Imagine if every person in Africa saw [the video] and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?“ (Africa for Norway n.b.) (see fig. ).

Western charities and NGOs use professional filmography, photography, and the media to win people’s support for an unquestionably good cause. However, in doing so, we produce generalisations thereby promoting prejudicial stereotypes (Zakira 2014). Going back the film Framed, Western portrayal of the ‘other’ unfortunately creates difference and divides people. We are fabricating power construction in which a people is perceived better off over weaker others (Herrman and Mathers 2014). This is referred to as ‘poverty porn’, ‘famine porn’, or ‘development porn’ coined by Matt (2009), a research fellow at the Centre for Global Development Europe and Centre for African Economies at the University of Oxford. In his blog Aid Thoughts, he defines this as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause…” (ibid). We are thus ‘exploiting’ them to achieve universal ideals of basic human rights.

Matt (2009) states, “the argument that the poor are completely incapable of rescuing themselves, either at the micro or at the country-level, removes all respect for their own agency and cultivates a culture of paternalism”. This ‘culture of paternalism’ is what Cole (2010), a writer and historian, describes as the ‘White-Saviour Industrial Complex’ in which the people of Europe consider themselves able to effect good change for the rest. A Ugandan journalist argues, in response to a worldwide campaign to overthrow a rebel leader in Uganda, it seems “the power lies in America and it does not lie with my government, it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground. I have a problem with that because it is the same narrative we have seen about Africa for centuries” (Kagumire 2012). Advocacy and humanitarian impulse has been turned into something that reinforces geo-political power structures and establishes a relationship of that of a ‘saviour and a victim’ rather than as of human compatriots, according to associate sociology professor Zine Magubane from Harvard University (Herrman and Mathers 2014).

In his book The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2006) Easterly argues that sending billions of dollars of aid to developing nations does not simply make poverty disappear or make situations better. The ‘planners’ “try to design the ideal aid agencies, administrative plans, and financial resources that will do the job… they keep pouring resources into a fixed objective, despite many previous failures at reaching that objective…. They escalate the scope of intervention when previous intervention fails. They fail to search for what does work to help the poor” (ibid: 10-11). Developed nations may not take it into consideration that that developing nations are capable of helping themselves and that they are not waiting passively for the West to save them (ibid: 23). In short, development aid does not always consider the local context and situational needs of its recipients.

No matter how much development aid affluent nations pump into other countries, poverty cannot be eliminated and ‘development’ cannot be achieved (Rogoff 2014). We can’t make a lasting difference in poverty reduction and economic and human development because our aid efforts do get to the source of the problem – internal conflict, despotism and the effects of Western imperialism on the people, the environment, and their economies (ibid). Bolton (2007), a diplomat and aid worker working in Africa for DFID, argues that the West sometimes does not consider that it took themselves a gradual process of social change through years of civil unrest, Enlightenment, and two World Wars to reach their development. By telling the ‘rest’ to comply with United Nations standards of human rights and development, we are imposing our values again as we did centuries ago. This ‘interventionist attitude’ causes further inequality in our world as we actually make the rest dependent on us (Easterly 2006).

Institutions such as the UN and governments of developed nations, are inherently grooming the Third World to think themselves inferior. Most people in the Third World, desire the power of ex-colonisers because of the perceived ‘greatness’ of the European entity. “This attack on self-image furthers exploitation” (Latouche 1996: 19). The presence of European volunteers in these places re-emphasise this ‘greatness’. As a result, locals admire the knowledge and technology that the West brings to their country. Foucault (1977) reveals how institutions condition the mentalities of people to follow institutional guidelines. In development, this is effective in keeping former colonies in line with the West. This negative manipulation imposes fear on people to make them adopt international economic guidelines and human rights. Fear of the West’s power triggers others to obey the rules of the dominant power.

In addition to the questions I sent out to my Filipino friends, I sent another batch of questions to find out if the ordinary person is aware of ethnocentrism in development. I chose a few people who specifically pointed out that Philippines should become like the West in many aspects. The questions are as follows: (1) why are developed nations models of ‘progress’? (2) What is ‘progress’? (3) Are you aware that there may be ethnocentrism or Eurocentrism in modern human and economic development? (4) If development is defined in ethnocentric terms such as linear progression in human evolution, then would you say this is neo-colonialism? (5) What is ‘poverty’? (6) What is important in life? Do you agree with the MDGs?

The responses are as follows: (1) ‘developed countries have a function model that is successful. Are people in developing countries going to learn this?’, ‘developed countries all started from scratch but they have the right mind-set, attitude, culture, and philosophy to bring them forward’, ‘they are the only available model of progress as the opposite of this is under-developed or undeveloped. You don’t want a Third World country to be a model of development’. (2) Most responded in a way that indicated progress is a linear evolution, arguing that ‘progress measures the difference between the beginning and the end product’, ‘it means improvement’, it means ‘a movement forward not backward’ and it means ‘higher GNP, more job opportunities, less unemployment rate’. (3) Most left this blank, one person said ‘yes’, one uttered ‘nope, I have never heard of it’, and one argued that human and economic development is not race related but that it is influenced by ideology and religion. (But whose ideology are we talking about? Cultural ideologies?) (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

(4) Most argued that colonialism is non existent today not knowing the arguments put forward on this paper about the ‘othering’, homogenized idea of ‘poverty’ and ‘affluence’, and unequal power relations partly driven by the literate, educated elite. One argues, ‘what is colonialism anyway? Influence from a developed country does not equal colonialism’, ‘at this era of World History, the thought of western domination is an antiquated idea’ and one person said ‘this is not new’. (5) Most conceded to the universal idea of what ‘poor’ is and that is ‘living below the minimum wage and who are not making a good living’, ‘it means lack of many things including money and resources’, it means ‘living below the standard where one does not enjoy basic needs’, people who live a ‘lifestyle of laziness’ and ‘improper use of finances’. (6) Most argued that the most important things in life are food, shelter, health, and family and the other two are finances and education. (selected answers, some are paraphrased, personal communications).

The question I want to leave with you is, in a capitalist system where everything is commoditised and in a world that emphasises on accumulation of wealth and consumerism, how can we put these important aspects first? Money has been central to our social and economic activities affecting our relations with each other and with our planet. According to Jondai, a farmer and founder of an organic farm in Northeast Thailand ‘Pun Pun Centre for Self-reliance’, we make life very difficult though it should be easy (Tedx Talks 2011). We make everyone work hard, to be more educated so that we can get jobs yet we eat poorly, disregarding our health for monetary gains. “The birds make a nest in one or two days, the rats dig a hole in one night but the clever humans like us spend thirty years to have a house. Why do we destroy our strength, why do we destroy our ability that much?” (ibid). Farmers are being told that they are ‘poor’ so they can move to cities working and studying for many hours. “I start to look at the subjects and every faculty has destructive knowledge. There’s no productive knowledge in university for me [at least for rural farmers]. To be an engineer and agriculturalist is to destroy the environment. The good land and mountains will be covered in concrete more and more. You learn how to poison the land, the water, and learn to destroy everything” (ibid).

Jondai argues that 30-40 years ago, “everybody worked only two months a year. Planting rice in one month and harvesting rice in another. The rest is free time, ten months of free time. During the day everyone can take a nap. Because of this, they have a lot of time to be with themselves, and when they have time to be with themselves they have time to understand themselves. When they understand themselves they can see what they want in their lives. As a consequence, people see beauty and love in life. They express this by carving the handle of their knife and weaving baskets nicely. But now, nobody can do this. People use plastic everywhere… we are so reliant on money, for food, for health, etc. But to make life easy, we need to come back to ourselves, to connect to ourselves again and to connect to other people. Food, housing, clothes and medicine must be accessible for people. That’s civilisation. But if you make things hard for people to get these four basic needs, that’s uncivilised. I feel like now is the most uncivilised era of humans on this Earth. We have so many people who finish university, have so many universities on the earth, have so many clever people but our life is harder and harder. In schools, we were taught to make life complicated. We make it hard for whom? We work hard for whom right now? This is not normal. Let’s come back to our senses and be inspired by the animals around us. So I stopped living in the abnormal way and start living normally but people look at me as abnormal” (TedxTalks 2011).

This is a voice that many from marginalised communities, including indigenous groups in developing nations are cohesive with. Examples are Michael Tausig (1977)’s fieldwork amongst South American peasantry and Aihwa Ong (1988)’s fieldwork amongst the orang-asli of Malaysia during the advent of the capitalist system in the 1970s and 1980s and Ash and Wishart (2004)’s ethno-historical study of the plight of Slavey Indians against the construction of a pipeline by CAGPL.

Colonialism is the process of establishing, maintaining and expanding influence over another place or people. New territories are claimed by sovereign powers through mercantilism and missionary actions. Colonialism is partly driven by economics in that Europeans who need raw materials set out to discover places rich in resources. Through their ‘advanced technologies’ and ‘rational ideals’ they took advantage of the environment and people. Those who lived in the land for many generations, centuries, or thousands of years were forced to leave or be killed as they were considered to be hindering civilisation. Their version of history is often ignored and denied. Is development any different?

For Serge Latouche (1996:20), a French emeritus professor in political science and economy, “development meant aspiring to the Western model of consumption, the magical power of the whiteman, [to develop is to be] in communication with the religion of science and revering technology – but also demanding Westernisation on one’s own account, so as to become more Westernised (Latouche 1996: 20). The West has already taken over the world in so many different aspects making its mark in world history permanently. For instance, adoption to a unified time-zone system, the Gregorian calendric system, constructing infrastructure, exporting and importing resources on an industrial scale, “forests exploited, deserts re-afforested, high-yield plants, use of technology, establishment of factories, and wage-jobs.” (Rist 2008: 11).

“It seems that in both theory and practice, development is nothing but the sequel of colonisation, a new and more radical kind of Westernisation.” (Latouche 1996)



This paper has set out to understand why many in the Third World want to become like the West in many aspects with particular focus on the Filipino story. I found that not many is aware of ethnocentricism in development, arguing that colonialism is a thing of the past and that we are all ‘civilised’ in today’s world. They perceive economic growth and human development as ‘progress’. Surely there is not a sole way to progress, certainly not a linear one in human evolution. Their responses are in geared towards a Westernisation of the Philippines. They do not know that ‘poverty’ and ‘affluence’ is culturally relevant and that one can have less or live in so called ‘poor’ conditions but still live a happy and satisfied life. Poverty and affluence has been universally measured through financial means but this is not usually the case for minorities and indigenous communities throughout the world whose satisfaction lay in their own life-ways and world-views.

We have seen that inequality between the rich and the poor increase with international development. The Philippines is an example of a developing nation struggling to meet the expectation of developed nations and the international standard set by the United Nations, the World Bank, etc. The lack of employment opportunities despite many graduate with exceptional grades keeps poverty going as opposed to curing it. Education, foreign investment, and businesses are not the only paths to a successful life. As Jondai has proven, it makes life so hard when it shouldn’t be. Mainstream education breed people to be dependent on monetary terms for food, shelter, and health as opposed to training people to be self-reliant, including growing their own foods and building their houses with neighbours or close relatives. Everything has been centralised and basic needs are controlled in the industrial society. Even though factory farming is supposedly to feed large-scale societies, lack of money meant starvation, driving people to commit atrocious actions.

Escobar, Gardner, Ferguson, and Latouche contend that extending the capitalist economic system to the rest is committing cultural genocide hence, this is no different from previous colonialism but an extension of it. The United Nations and developed countries are forefront to global development however their ethnocentric and Eurocentric ideals are not the means on its end. They are regarded as models of progress because of hundreds of years in grooming the rest to think that way. This process of ‘othering’ is significant in understanding unequal power relations and geo-political power structures in our world where it may be invisible for the layman. Can we allow other people to develop in their own terms? If not then we are embarking in a world that is becoming more homogenised and Europeanised ideologically (scientific rationale and universal human rights) and technologically.



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Indigestion with insight from John 15 (NLT)

I had a really bad indigestion on April 29. I ate food every one or two hours from 6am-8pm. I do not know if the food I ate was the cause of why there was pain on stomach and abdomen or if it was the amount of food. But here is the story…

6am – breakfast with rice, hotdog, and scrambled egg

8am – camomile tea

11am – lunch with the famous beef bowl of Yoshinoya

1pm – Cheese fries

2pm – Vietnamese food called “Bún Chả Cá” at a Vietnamese restaurant (however, the food was far from original. I know this for sure because I have lived in Hanoi and most Vietnamese food served outside Vietnam taste so different because they are either an adoption from the original version or taste weird due to different ingredients used.)

4pm – milk green tea at Gong Cha with a friend and finally,

7:30pm – tempura at Yoshinoya.

So…. what was wrong with the food I ate?!? I cannot find any solid reason because I have eaten more food in a day than that time.

I felt pain on my stomach and abdomen at 7:30pm after reading for two hours at a bookstore. It became worse after having eaten dinner. After the final meal of the day, my stomach was already hard and I could not bend down. Every time I stood up, it hurt even more. I was dizzy and felt like vomiting so I told my aunt that we should go to a nearby cafe to drink tea to hopefully help my digestive system work properly. I resulted to drinking tea because I have heard that  tea helps the digestive system.

I cannot pinpoint if the ginseng peppermint tea helped reduce the pain for awhile or if it was the prayer my parents had uttered on the phone but I believe it was the prayer that reduced the pain for about 30 minutes but  why does it have to came back after 30 minutes? Does God have a reason or was it just a natural occurrence? I am saying this because sometimes God let things happen to protect his children from what is  about to happen. For instance, I have heard a testimony from a person who shared that his life was spared due to minutes of delay, with no actually reason, from eating breakfast in the lobby of Marriott Hotel when it was bombed in 2003, Jakarta, Indonesia.

When my aunt went to buy medicine for me, I called up my parents and forced them to stop doing what they were occupied with to let them pray over me. After praying, my father asked me to stand up to check if it is still painful. Apparently, the pain was gone! I was so surprised of course because I was suffering from it in a not so private place and suddenly, it was gone. I told my father over the phone, “I was praying desperately before I called you but the pain never died down”. Then my father asked me, “why, why do you think God listens to my prayer over yours when it’s the same?”. I replied, “Maybe because you are closer to him than I am? Maybe because you read the Bible everyday and spend time to understand and hear His voice than I do? Maybe because you chose righteousness over wickedness?”

This incident is interesting because my devotion two days later is related to it. I read John 15 (New Living Translation) and the following is what I have got from my devotion:

Message: Jesus is the grapevine and God is the gardener. God prunes everything that does not produce fruit and prunes the branches that produce fruit to produce more (15:1-2)

  • When we obey God we remain in His love (15:10)
  • Our Joy will overflow as we remain in God’s love (15: 10-11)
  • Anyone who hates Him also hates God (15: 23)

Promise: If we remain in Him and His words remain in us, we can ask anything we want and it will be granted! (15:7)

Command: Remain in Him and He will remain in you. One cannot produce fruit and be fruitful without remaining in Him (15:4)

Warning: The world will persecute us because they persecuted and hated Christ first (15: 18-21)

Application: Remain in His love because we would be joyful, and we may ask Him for anything that He grant.

John 15 instruct us to remain in God so that He will remain in us. So if we ask of anything from Him, it will be granted because we are close to Him. The discussion about prayer is a lot more than this simple verse, such as,  the answer to our prayer depend on whether or not what we are praying for will benefit us in the long term, which I will not look into it further. I believe, ‘remain’ means taking time to be with Him to seek God in everything we do, to read His word, and to understand Him. What else can we do in order to remain in Him?  It does not mean that if we do not do this then God will not remain in us. Our relationship with God is similar with our affair with people, which is based on mutual relationship. God seeks to have relationship with each and everyone but it’s up to us to accept Him and remain in Him.

In conclusion, I never want to think again that any horrible experience I face is because of me not having a personal relationship with God. I shall try my best to take time to remain in God because I have not done so for years.

What about you? Are you going to try to remain in God? Why and why not?

Preference of communication: e-mail or sms over talking on the fone?

Are you a kind of person that prefers to send e-mail or sms as the main means of communication?

I would just like to ask if there are people who are such. This is because I confidently and formally communicate to people via e-mail or sms whether they be professors, fellow group mates/workmates, or anyone I need to contact for certain reasons. This is so I could explain and elaborate things further as I personally am not the kind who speaks on the spot with confidence.

For instance, if I have questions concerning a subject matter in a lecture, I do not inquire during the lecture or tutorial because I had some experience in which I get embarassed when the answer asks me back or when the answer is logical to which I have not thought of which makes me feel stupid. My mind goes blank or I speak with less self-confidence when I open my mouth in the lecture hall without practicing in advance. Another case was when I was the secretary at UNICEF on Campus at the university, I tend to contribute to the group and the group understand me much more when I e-mail them rather than speaking during committee meetings because of the same reason above that I speak unconfidently when I have not practiced enough of what I was going to say.

I believe, as a person, I am learning to speak with confidence on the spot and know what I will say or argue about as the time goes by.  It is part of the maturity stage to improve such character or trait because I am sure, after graduation, I do have to work with people in an NGO, charity based, or international environment to which communication skills must be excellent.

I would just like to share something that cost me £200 in a week. I spent £200 calling the US embassy based in London last year concerning my purpose of visit to Alaska. This is because my sim card is ‘pay as you go’ type and is not with contract. I remember had to practice what I was going to say and what kind of questions I was to ask so that I will not get a blank mind or speak nervously with lots of halt. Unknowingly this increased my blood pressure due to the stress this kind of communication brought. I had to call the embassy because it is required for visa enquiries. Sending e-mails is by selection on a case that the officer cannot answer himself.  It was stressful because I did not know what kind of english accent I need to prepare myself in order to understand carefully and I also do not want the person I was speaking with to repeat more than twice what he/she was saying. I would like to share something I have learned over the years living in different countries – and that is encountering various accents and ways of speaking english. For example, when I first came to Aberdeen, Scotland, It was hard for me to comprehend what people are saying due to the accent which was very new to me. But as the time goes by, I am able to  understand Aberdonians. Similarly, when I first came to Vietnam and Malaysia, it was hard to understand people when they speak english probably due to their own languages having influence on the pronunciation of english words.

Therefore, there is stress attached to speaking on the phone on my part because I had some experience in which it was extremely hard to understand the person on the other line resulting in irritation at times. In the same way, I get stressed out when it comes to speaking to someone personally or in a group due to the fact that I need to defend my argument in the spot without much preparation in hand. On the contrary, executing a speech, talk or presenting something is quite easy for me as it implies preparing what to say ahead in time and potential questions.

What is your reason to why you prefer to send e-mail or sms rather than speaking on the phone, to someone or to a group?

What is your main means of communication to people and why?

Be Lifted High by Brian Johnson is a wonderful song

Have you heard this song? This is the live version, feel free to search for the recorded version as it is quite good too.

I first heard this song 3 months ago at New Life Christian Fellowship one Sunday morning during worship. Today, my heart, mind, and soul want to keep singing this song because God had convicted me from selfishly pursuing my own plans leaving God’s plan and purpose for me stranded somewhere. I am aware that my own design for my life is nothing compared to when I set my eyes back to Jesus Christ and see things in his perspective for my life.

I am human, and I am not perfect. I must admit, majority of the times I plan my life without coming to God and consulting him first, which unconsciously make me feel boastful and egoistic of my deeds and achievements and also feel worry and anxiety at most times in the process. But this song takes me back to the real purpose of life – and that is to give glory to God and not to devote one’s life for one’s own passions, wants, and goals and not to put much emphasis in one’s welfare.

Whenever I feel that I am walking ahead from God when planning for the future and make decisions, I stop and my whole self sing songs that glorifies God. By doing so, I let God be the first in my life, in my decision making, and in my life plans.

I picture myself in the position of my dog. Whenever I walk him and at times when he walks fast in front pulling me, I shout his name so he will slow down and wait for me. There are also times in which he slows down to stop and to look at me in order to wait or check whether he is going the right pace. Any time I sing songs like this, I slow down my adrenalin and wait on God’s timing and words, after all, His plans and purposes are higher than ours. Though we may not like and appreciate it and though we experience hurt or bad things we think we should not deserve, God’s decisions always bring benefit in the long run and not just for us but also to others. This is because we may be a blessing to or learn from others or others would be a blessing to or would learn from us. I realise this from years of being a Christ follower because God is not all about one person itinerary, he is about changing lives and making an impact people, especially to non Christian believers.

This song is simple but it stresses out lifting up Jesus Christ in our lives.

Be lifted high….

For Your Glory, Be lifted high…


He is the King of all the ages

He is the Author of Salvation

He is the reason why we’re singing, for [His] Glory

He is the everlasting Father 

He is the all consuming fire

What makes a ‘good’ photo?

For the past 2 years since I have first started to use a DLSR camera, I have taken thousands of photos from people to places, to almost anything. I love the photos I have taken, I am quite satisfied with them, however, when I see exceptional photos taken by professional or more experienced photographers, I ask, “that is very good, how do they do that?”Do photographers edit their photos for it to become ‘WOW’ or are the pictures un-edited?

There are people who would argue for editing because it enhances the photo to which it could not achieve originally. Others argue for the original shot for a wide range of reasons.

I have noticed that when I edit the photos I took to enhance the colors or put effects in it, the photos become ‘WOW!’, hence, I will like the picture but to a certain extent if editing ruins the natural beauty of the subject and surroundings of the photo.

So below, I will show you 4 pictures in 3 formats – that is; original, color enhanced and effects from which I have attained using iPhoto.

I would like to ask you, which pictures in what format (original, enhance, or effects) are considered ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’ for you and why. I want to know if people would choose the original version over enhance or effects versions or vice versa.

I apologise in advance due to the spider not being so well focused, rather, the spider web instead to which I am quite amazed as my macro lense (Canon 100mm f/2.8 L IS) was very new when I took the photos. I am not a professional photographer but taking photos has been my passion. Therefore, I hope you will not criticise the photos as if they were taken by a professional or more experienced photographer. Do leave a constructive comment if you please.

I realize that it is hard to compare the three versions. I recommend going into my flickr link below and compare each pictures into tabs according to the sets. Another way is to press the pictures in this blog and compare using tabs.

Original Photos 

IMG_9741 or.t.

IMG_9745 or.t.

IMG_9746 or.t.

IMG_9757 or.t.

The others can be viewed in the following link:

Color Enhanced Version 

IMG_9741 en.t.

IMG_9745 en.t.

IMG_9746 enhance taa

IMG_9757 en.t.

The others can be viewed here:

Effects Version  

IMG_9741 ef.t.

IMG_9745 ef.t.

IMG_9746 ef.t.

There is no effects version for the ant photo because I thought it just ruins the natural beauty of the scene.

Other photos can be viewed in here:

One last thing, is this photo better when it is cropped as compared to the original?

IMG_9768 cr.t.   IMG_9768 or.t.

First time photographing break dancers

I took some photos of break-dancers while I was visiting my friend’s restaurant at Calamba, Laguna on Nov. 6 and 10. It was pretty much the first time took photos of break dancers which I just met. Was quite nervous that I might mess up.. However, I had to overcome my nervousness because, before I approached them, I have been watching them for 2 hours to which I was impressed with their skills and fell in love with their dance moves!

Here are two of the best shots taken. The rest can be viewed in the following link:



Here are the 3 chosen other shots. The rest can be viewed here: Likewise, the blur pictures can be viewed here:

IMG_1259 taa 25%



I realized that the best photos have either one of the hands or legs cut off. Sorry about that. I am quite  satisfied with the photos because the quality turned out quite good and I have taken photos of them smiling and enjoying what they are doing, which is to me very refreshing and uplifting ^-^

I quite like the fact that they were practicing outside, not in a studio, because it exposes them to get use to the public viewers. I remember, when figure skating was my sport years ago, I get conscious of people looking at when I practice for an upcoming competition or learn new moves. I should not have mind what other people would have thought about me. Oh well, next time when I pick up figure skating again.

What an awesome experience. They were quite patient with me, especially with my flashes. Thank you very much for allowing me to take photos of you guys!

I wish to try this in the future: Photographing dance moves with LEDs attached to the shoes of the break dancers combined with long exposure shots seems to be exciting. Don’t you think so?

Shaved head: Day 1

Will put up the link to the video I made soon.

My experiences of being bald had started! It is once in a lifetime opportunity so I will document each experiences, if not everyday, every time I discover something. So far, since I left the salon at around 11:30am yesterday to right now, in terms of what I physically feel, I feel very super refreshed! My head is lighter. When the wind blows, my head feels like I just dipped it in the water. Though I feet as if I have my hair is in ponytail, I feel very refreshed!

After shaving my head and watched Little Princess Trust’s video, since my friend suggested me to donate my hair to an NGO that makes wigs for children suffering from hair loss, I realised that I have said “I think she should shave her hair and donate it toa charity” to every woman I see and come across with.

I did receive negative comments and criticism from my little cousins and those people who know me but when I stated the reason why I did it, they supported and accepted me for what I have done. On the other hand, my parents and my fiance, until now, cannot accept the fact that I have shaved my head. I thought my fiance was already slowly accepting it however for the past 2 hours, our conversation did not get far. He stated that I have hurt him by shaving my off hair but I argued that I want to do so and that he should not get angry so much that it is affecting our relationship. I feel limited again to what my fiance and my parents dictate to me however, shaved head is what I want. I want to post the video of my head being shaved and make a blog to why I did it. I did not cheat on him, I did not kiss or have sex with another guy. I still love him. I am still the same person, however, with a different kind of experience now that alot of people will get curious why my hair is gone.

After shaving my head, I went to a shopping mall. It was unbelievable that I was able to face the outside world after doing something socially unbelievable. I did not care about what other people thought about me yesterday, I just went on with my business as it is normal. I think being normal helped me in a way that I did not get conscious about other people and their thoughts when they stared me. In fact, I did not even realise people were staring at me until my little cousin disturbingly had told me about it as she was more consciousof my head than myself.

My little cousin was quite funny as she was hurling insulting words like “oh you look ugly now!”, “You look like a boy!”, “can you please put on a hat?”, “Why did you have to do it?!” and many more. I found it quite funny that she was the first one to test my patience and how long I can take such mental distress. On the other hand, she unknowingly made me stronger. While she kept hurling words at me in front of other people and especially while my hair was being shaved, I kept reminding her, “do not worry, I shaved it for a good cause”. I have no regrets, in fact I feel very refreshed! I love the fact that I am able to tell people so publicly about human trafficking, what it is, and what we can do to combat it. I like the fact that when people stare at me  for so long, I am able to go to them and speak about the cause. In essence, I am satisfied with my shaved hair because not only I stood up for a good cause, it also made me  mentally stronger.

Would I suggest other women to follow? One of my friends has told me that he greatly supports me because he thinks that every girl should have gone through like this for life changing experience. I agree with him. However, on the basis that she would mentally prepare herself for what is to come after shaving. My fiance has told me if I have foreseen that we would argue about this. I told him, no because there is no need to since I still love him the same. I understand that he very much disagree to me doing such a thing and has taken our argument into a further depressing level. I hope that we would come back to each other again after a few days or weeks of break 😦

Do you agree with my friend? Do you think you would ever shave your hair in your life for a cause or personal reasons? If not, why so?

This is a photo of my hair before shaving

This is the aftermath

Singing songs of a language you do not speak

A few days after arriving in Hong Kong, my little brother has been playing Gangnam Style by PSY ( I first watched a parody of it called “KL Style” shot by Malaysian Youtuber JinnyboyTV ( After then, I watched the original song which is Gangnam Style and I really do not know why but, I kept playing the song over and over again. Even when I am sleeping, I hear the song and even see people dancing to it (in my dreams). After I introduced Gangnam Style to my fiance, he sent me this link: because we tend to share amazing music to each other. The song is called The Beginning by the Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK. Likewise, I have been playing it many times. I got so hooked up into these awesome songs even if I do not understand what they are saying! I have been playing other non english music from 2008 ranging from Japanese, Malaysian, Spanish, Filipino, Chinese and many more…but I have not been so in love with such songs which I do not understand until I heard Gangnam Style and The Beginning.

Do you also listen to songs to which you do not comprehend because you do not speak the language? If so, what do you feel? Do you feel weird and are conscious because you might be singing foul, offensive, and/or sexual words? Of course I do seek out for the translation of the songs and select which ones are not too sexual or not too depressing… but to be very honest, now I really love songs of a language which I do not speak because it keeps the fire going and it takes away the consciousness that I am singing something of wanting to have sex or want to do suicide or something like that. I basically play and sing a song that I do not criticise 100% all the time. Do you also share my thoughts?