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Recession and the 5Rs

The big major R to watch out for in 2023, the year of the Rabbit, is RECESSION. All aboard, everyone!

Last Saturday, over at DWNX-RMN, anchor Kasamang Elmer Abad asked for my New Year message as the board chair of the Mariners schools in Canaman and Naga, as well as the board chair of the Tabang Bikol Movement. He also solicited my “fearless forecast” for the coming year 2023. Of course, I get the same question every yearend, coming from a political policy center called CenPEG, known for its critical no-holds-barred views on governance and development. How do we assess the events of the past year - local and geopolitical-- to guide our actions for the following year?

I thought that with multiple crises pounding on every Juan and Maria these days, can one dare go fearless when everything we see around is dreadful and fearful? Pandemic, incessant rains, floods, earthquakes, climate change, Ukraine-Russia war, other hegemonic wars, economic and aero-spatial conflicts, insurgency, corruption, drugs, dynastic and syndicated, and widespread poverty. That day was also December 30, a reminder of the execution of Jose Rizal, who fell to his death instantly from multiple fire shots when the Spanish squad commander shouted, “Fuego!” (Fire!) to execute him for the crime of rebellion! Sabi ko, kahit si Rizal, tumumba!

How can you face so many enemies from outside? I am a mere volunteer, an NGO or LGU development worker, teacher, doctor or nurse, OFW, a mother, father, sister and brother, farmer and laborer, an entrepreneur, and just an ordinary citizen of a poor barangay waiting for the Mandanas ruling to take full effect. I cannot bring the whole world to bear upon me.

A famous African proverb cautioned, “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.” However, the warfront looks like for each of us, take everything, step by step, one moment in time, as a song lyric goes. In facing a common enemy, there is a need for a conscious, organized collective action with practical tools and strategies.


Global economic experts agree that the Recession is today’s common enemy in the capitalist-dominated financial world order. Like the Pandemic, the problem is worldwide, and the impact is immediate and painful. Last year, the IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva warned that business conditions have “darkened significantly.” As the clock ticked to the first minute of 2023, she announced the fearless and alarming forecast: Global Recession in 2023, affecting the most developed countries where “economists predict the worst.” The world economy is bleak. Major world economies are going slow, with America teetering on the verge.

Last month, the OCTA survey highlighted rising prices as the people’s top concern among the 1,200 Filipinos surveyed, followed by lagging wage increase, access to affordable food, job creation, free quality education, reducing poverty, corruption, peace and order, criminality, and COVID-19. There is a decline in business, and prices keep on soaring.

Today, as I write my column, I keep an onion in front of me to remind me it’s the last piece from a bunch I bought for a holiday at 500 pesos a kilo from the market. Outside my window, the dark skies warn of more rains to pour, threatening more flooding in communities left behind by development. Over the phone the other day, I talked to a top government official who admitted, to his dismay, that the greatest enemy to face is within, right inside the bureaucracy, the government itself. It is the central machinery to initiate change but, sad to say; it can also become its downfall.

The 5 Rs as a collective response

From my humble abode, I volunteer the 5Rs, which keep me grounded in facing life’s challenges. Everything in life is not only a journey. It is a battle to engage in and to win. In waging war, a most researched and consulted strategist is Sun Tzu, whose book “The Art of War” promotes a philosophy with practical tools on how to engage in conflict and battle without confrontation successfully. It preaches “going along the natural flow of matter” and not against it. So, for example, the practice of Pagheras or sharing is naturally against the logic of greed and capitalist accumulation. Apply it, and we help reduce poverty. Economies that reject this are in big trouble.

1. Resilience. Adopt a mindset of resilience. It is the primary tool to develop the strength innate in every organic human being to withstand a problem and spring back quickly from difficulties. It requires some toughness (oragon in Bicol) to respond to change or adversity proactively and resourcefully. A person who always seeks solutions and for people to recover is resilient.

2. Reconnect with people and communities from a life or culture of individualism, isolation, and ivory tower mentality. It encourages social connection after long absences or separation, the opposite of being remote and detached, and being a collective and team member.

3. Reintegrate or join up as one, network building, partnerships, consortiums, integrate with the more extensive community or associations, getting organized with similarly situated sectors into people’s organizations, alliances, and joining up in collaboration with agencies. Social Enterprises are the way to go.

4. Return to Nature, a philosophy to fight climate change, emphasizes closeness to nature rather than superficialities, commercialism, artificial preservatives, and chemical-based existence. Relatedly, it promotes renewable energy derived from natural sources like sunlight, wind, ocean current, and volcanic that are constantly naturally replenished and the opposite of fossil fuels, coal, and gas, which are finite energy sources. It is also about giving value to one’s innate culture of pagtarabangan, cooperation, empathy, and simplicity.

5. Resistance to the temptation of greed, corruption, especially government coffers, and everything that brings injustice to our neighbors and for the aggrandizement of a few and the privileged.

A recession occurs when people cannot buy and consume with an excessive supply of goods and services on the market. As a result of the loss of purchasing power and consumption, companies are downsizing, and the failure of jobs, and the cycle continues. The Pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war are two factors that aggravate and continue to hit hard the global economy that is dependent on profit accumulation.

We need a paradigm shift. To reinvigorate and to indeed rebound the economy, we need the 5Rs.


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