What does it take for a country to become economically progressive?
For sure, it involves a lot factors such as good infrastructure, rich talent pool, and the political will of national leaders. Having rich natural resources used to be an advantage, but you just have to look at Singapore and Hong Kong to realize that is no longer true.
The Philippines, for instance, is figuratively sitting on a "mountain of gold" but it hasn't attained the level of development that its neighbors have achieved so far.
I'm convinced that science and technology (S&T) has a lot to do with this current predicament. It seems as if Filipinos are contented in relegating it to a gifted few, instead of embracing it collectively as a people. The newspapers bear this out: politics dominate the headlines day in and day out.
In my observations of the few countries I've been fortunate to visit, science stories share equal space, if not more prominent, in their leading publications. Also, there is that palpable appreciation for S&T with the prevalence of science museums that people actually patronize.
That's why I was a bit elated when I spotted a news article recently about a 1 billion-peso science museum that is set to rise in Taguig, one of the cities comprising Metro Manila, in 2010.
In the story written for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, reporter TJ Burgonio said the massive museum will be shaped like a flying saucer and will give visitors "a multi-sensory experience".
According to the article, the science project is being spearheaded by a foundation whose board officers include members from the wealthy Ayala and Campos families.
I'm glad the private sector, particularly big businessmen, is leading the effort to propagate an S&T culture in the Philippines by embarking on this type of initiative.
Last year, I attended the opening of the Science Discovery Center at the SM Mall of Asia, the world's third-largest shopping mall complex. In a symbolic gesture, mall owner Henry Sy personally led the inauguration even if he was in a wheelchair.
The interactive museum, according to the SM Web site, is "technology-based attraction with hands-on exhibits that allow visitors to be immersed in an interactive learning experience". "It utilizes state-of-the-art equipment using the latest in engineering, computers and digital technology to make learning more fun and exciting."
Early this year, another science-related venture--albeit a theme park type--also opened its doors to the public. The world-class Manila Ocean Park, a business undertaking of a China-backed consortium, gives local visitors a chance to learn more about marine creatures, particularly those found in Philippine waters.
I must say, however, that the oceanarium was opened pre-maturely, with only about half of the complex yet to be finished. I just hope that the construction would be completed soon so customers won't be shortchanged by the expensive tickets.