In about a week, the Philippines will start welcoming athletes from around the region when it hosts the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) from November 30 to December 11. The preparations have been nothing short of dramatic, with news of delayed budget distribution hounding the event as recently as a month ago. This week, another issue is in the spotlight, and it’s all about one very overpriced cauldron.
Yesterday, the government revealed the cauldron traditionally lit during the opening ceremony. This one was designed by late National Artist for Architecture Francisco "Bobby" Mañosa and cost a whopping PHP50 million or almost $1 million.
To give you a better idea, that amount can get:
10 Brand new Model S Tesla Cars
500 annual memberships at the most luxurious gyms in New York City
And — the official symbol of wealth — over 5,000 Apple AirPods
Located just outside the New Clark Athletics Stadium, a 2-hour drive from Manila, the 50-meter high structure looks plain, even with its helical body and hexagon-shaped cauldron on top.
This one is underwhelming, and the Philippines could have used the money for far better things. I’ve even listed some of them down. $1 million could have funded:
50 Public School Classrooms
In a country that lacks proper infrastructure in schools, with classes held in gyms or rooms with dilapidated seats, this money could have gone to building approximately 50 Classrooms. It would have also been enough for a month's basic salary for over 2,000 teachers.
2,500 Hospital Beds
It could have gone to 2,500 hospital beds (they usually go for PHP20,000 or approx. $400) for public hospitals that lack resources and proper facilities, where patients have no choice but to share beds. Or even 166,666 vaccines for children, now that the country is plagued with polio again.
Over a Million Train Rides
It’s not just me who thinks this, with many Filipinos sharing their frustrations over the controversial cauldron and the SEA Games in general.
Some compared it to another massive fail of an event.
“#FyreFestival2,” Twitter user @deejfabian said.
“Imagine wasting money on a Php 55 million cauldron for SEA games while Filipinos nationwide struggle to get basic education & healthcare. There aren’t enough beds in public hospitals, no decent classrooms for kids. Imagine if they used that 50M for public services,” @MillennialOfMNL wrote.
“The Philippine SEA Games hasn’t started but is already a disaster. Unfinished venues, undelivered equipment, ill-planned logistics, lack of personnel, and worse, a project apparently ransacked from the outset. The symbolic cauldron cooked up more than it was meant to. Corruption,” @MiaMagdalena said.
Ever the controversial one, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has come to the defense of the million-dollar cauldron.
“There can never be corruption in that situation because you commissioned a national artist," he said.
He then claimed it was impossible to estimate what an "appropriate" cost would be since it was a "product of the mind."
Couldn’t they have thought up something cheaper?
Conversion rate: PHP 1 = $ 0.02