When I left Italy to pursue studies in the United States, I befriended many Filipinos, some of whom would later lead me to visit, and then live and work in the Philippines. Among them, I would hear conversation about family ties, circles of friends, and planned visits home.
One thing that struck me then was the verbal habit of using the name “Manila” somewhat widely, as though using the name of the city when perhaps intending to refer to the country more generally. In a conversation about culture or society for example, the speaker might say, “…like in Manila,” or “…nowadays in Manila.” Or perhaps the specificity was intentional, referring to the big city on one hand, and “everywhere else” on the other.
What began as an observation about the informal speech of new friends arose again in my work as a designer and developer in the Philippines.
The relationship between capital and periphery is now relevant to my work with Italpinas Development Corp. Our innovation is not only in architectural design, but also in its sentience and reactivity to highly prospective demographic niches. As a result, we focus ourselves on second and third tier cities outside the main metropolises. We believe that many of these cities represent individual booms within the broader story of Philippine growth.
Why have we always focused on these areas? Because the Philippines is becoming a more multipolar country, with regional centers developing into their own financial, commercial, and lifestyle hubs. Population centers throughout the country are advancing progressively, and will create new local demand for quality goods and services.
Many cultures have their own unique dynamics in the relationship between the capital and the rest of the country. Some of these can be perceived through manners of speech. In the U.S., Americans refer to their Pacific coast as “Out” West and their Atlantic Coast as “Back” East, as though the origin were also the epicenter. Of course, there is the saying, “All roads lead to Rome,” which suggests the Italian peninsula, although it has now entered common usage in English and can refer to any metropole, whether literally or figuratively.
In the Philippines, the word “province” is often used to refer to any place outside Metro Manila. Such usage, though, can be vague, as many communities outside Manila are far from “provincial” in the sense of being rural.
Cagayan de Oro City, for example, where IDC developed its first projects, is a vibrant and progressive place that forges its own path. Cities like Cagayan de Oro are the places that will make the Philippines a more multipolar country and multifaceted economy, offering opportunity and advancement throughout.
Our upcoming project, Miramonti, will be similarly located. To be built in Santo Tomas, Batangas, at the heart of the aggressively developing Manila-Batangas corridor, Miramonti again represents our belief in the great potential of regional centers.
In this, I see a parallel between the Philippines, my adoptive country, and Italy, my country of birth. In Italy, several cities throughout the country have also undergone their own development trajectories over time. The result is that there are now several commercial, industrial, and tourism centers, like Milan, Turin, Genoa, Florence, and not only the capital, Rome. As a result, it is not a foregone conclusion that people must gravitate towards the capital or largest city in order to capture opportunity for education, lifestyle, or career
. In the course of this development, Italy experienced what is now known to Italian historians and economists as il Miracolo Economico, or the Italian Economic Miracle. This was a period in Italian development from the 1950s to the 1960s when significant economic growth transformed the country to become more modern and more prosperous than it had ever been. Interestingly, the quantitative parameters for the Italian Economic Miracle are suggestive of those that we see in the Philippines today. According to Nicholas Crafts and Gianni Toniolo, in their work Economic Growth in Europe Since 1945, Italy’s GDP growth was at an average of 5.8 percent per year from 1951 to 1963, which was the period that would later be known as the Italian Economic Miracle. In the Philippines, more recently, GDP growth rates have been above 6.0 percent since 2012.
We are now living through a transformative period in the Philippines, just as Italy did in the 1950s. The transformation is proving to be not only economic, but also demographic, and the ongoing development of key cities throughout the country will be one effect. With growth will come the complexities of new demands in new locales. The story of the Philippines’ own transformative periods will play out across the archipelago, highlighting and activating potential wherever it lies.