The tingi mentality allows us to think small and build small. Anything that crosses the imagination is a wild tale, and a project that goes beyond a billion is mind boggling for others. Immediately, we attach our tingi mindset, “Sinong yumaman? Ilan sa korapsyon?” Is this the reason we continually fail to rise?

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on November 26, 2019.

Filipinos of a certain era seem unable to think big. We think in terms of small things such as tingi.

The word refers to the “practice of selling and buying goods in amounts less than the smallest retail packaging.” Name it, from cooking oil to a piece of cigarette, to sugar, coffee, a piece of garlic, onion, tomato and egg, among others. The tingi can be packaged in a transparent plastic or via commercial sachets. We love sachets because they are cheap, handy and disposable.

The sachet was invented by the late Chinni Krishnan in the late 1970s. The sachet has today become integral to retail packaging. Krishnan used to say, “Whatever a rich man enjoys, the common man has to be able to afford it.” One of the products packaged in sachets by Krishnan was shampoo, which firmly etched its place not only in our day-to-day life, but has also “become a packaging strategy of multinational FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) giants.”

Sachet packaging, normally made of a “thin film of plastic and aluminum in a sandwich laminate form, has captured many of the poor market segments and has allowed giants such as Unilever and P&G to gain market share and profit.” The problem is, these multilayer flexible sachets cannot be recycled and have little or no economic value, so they leak into our environment.

The use of sachets has also given rise to what is known as the sachet economy. This is the practice, especially in poorer communities, of buying consumer products — such as detergent, shampoo, powdered milk or beverages — in single-use packages. The products are packaged in small, disposable plastic bags. These single-use plastic sachets allow low-income consumers in developing countries to buy small amounts of quality products that would otherwise be unaffordable to them. These products tend to provide hygiene or nutrition benefits.

Behind the sachet economy is the profile of an individual with an average income, which is low and a majority of the people who budget carefully. While it may be cheaper in the long run to buy in bulk, the need of the moment, plus the limited means, dictate this consumption pattern. It can also mean survival for some. The irony of it all is that the “tingi packaging raises the price of the goods by as much as a hundred percent. While the lower-priced small package may be more affordable for the masses, in effect, they are paying so much more.”

National artist Nick Joaquin in his essay titled “A Heritage of Smallness,” said: “Society for the Filipino is a small rowboat: the barangay. Geography for the Filipino is a small locality: the barrio. History for the Filipino is a small vague saying: matanda pa kay mahoma; noong peacetime.” He added, “Enterprise for the Filipino is a small stall: the sari-sari. Industry and production for the Filipino are the small immediate searchings of each day: isang kahig, isang tuka. And commerce for the Filipino is the smallest degree of retail: the tingi.”

And that is why we have a false sense of belief that we cannot spend tax payers’ money to improve our nation. Anything in the billions is bad governance. The argument that development will soon be white elephant is seen as certainty. The infrastructure development of the country stopped when Marcos was removed. The approach has been incremental, tingi-tingi. The first order of the day was to halt anything to do with the Marcoses, from the nuclear plant to roads and bridges; all of the blueprints were already there in Malacañang. No replacement was made. Mothballing was all right because the project was mired in corruption.

Then came the period of tingi-tingi, and we had the flyovers, the Metro Rail Transit, the farm-to-market roads, bridges, bit-by-bit expressways. The only wholistic one was the nautical highway, which was stopped because the next administration didn’t want to continue it.

No new townships created, hence everyone flocked to Metro Manila for opportunities. And because land is a limited resource, growth corridors had to be extended leading to Mega Manila, thereby expanding spatial development to Region 3 (Central Luzon) and Region 4-A (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon or Calabarzon), while the rest waited excruciatingly for the center to look kindly at the peripheries. Today, Mindanao is developing at a fast clip, a development that has never been seen before from the lanes of highway connecting provinces to airports being refurbished and ports being improved. Region 3 is also getting a huge rollout with the new government center being pushed, and if this radial development can be achieved, we can push it further to Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), Calabarzon and Northern Luzon. Luzon and Mindanao are landlocked. The system of bridges for the Visayas has to gain a foothold to interconnect the islands.

Some of the biggest infrastructures that connects Metropolitan Manila to various points are the STAR Toll, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, Skyway and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway to name a few. These will be complemented by a system of circumferential and radial roads enhanced by connectors and feeders to break the volume of traffic traversing EDSA. There are other items in the revised Build, Build, Build, which will be made public next month as the Duterte administration further tweaks the plans based on remaining timelines. Thinking big and the can-do spirit are alive.

The tingi mentality allows us to think small and build small. Anything that crosses the imagination is a wild tale, and a project that goes beyond a billion is mind boggling for others. Immediately, we attach our tingi mindset, “Sinong yumaman? Ilan sa korapsyon?” Is this the reason we continually fail to rise?

And when so-called academics battle it out on who should get what for the sale of school supplies, uniforms, t-shirts, xerox, a patently illegal collection for what can turn an institution into a diploma mill, one wonders if the pea-sized brain is likewise a byproduct of tingi culture.

You would have asked yourself, where are we? When in fact, “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”


About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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