[On the CNN comment that went viral….] Is Filipino resilience a good thing?

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One of the few things I’m proud of my people is we keep each other’s spirits up in times of catastrophes. At the height of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and news of devastation streamed in, we keep on saying that  “Filipino Spirit is waterproof” or “Bagyo ka lang, Pilipino Kami” just to cope with our fear and anxiety. One of the trending posts that was also widely shared in Facebook  is about a CNN comment posted by a CNN reader (which had been initially believed as posted by CNN itself) about that amazing resilience of ours.

The message read as follows:

“Time to get to know the Filipino people….unbelievably resilient….long suffering…good natured, uber friendly, loyal, ingenius (?) and a bunch of survivors.

At the end of the day, the Filipinos will just shake off the dirt from their clothes and go about their business…and SMILE.They do not complain much, they will bear as long as they can.

Maybe this is why they were given the “privilege” of bearing the burden of the strongest typhoon ever recorded

The indomitable human spirit at its finest”

When I first saw this, I thought the writer is being sarcastic (or downright offensive, I mean, why would you consider being hit by the world’s strongest typhoon as a privilege?) but many netizens thought otherwise and they used it to uplift the spirits of each other. I appreciate the intention and the effect it stirred on my fellow Filipinos but this comment raised a few points to nail my mixed feelings on our so-called ‘indomitable human spirit’

For me, resilience is a dandy tool to arm ourselves especially  with in times of crisis like this. It’s like a shield, powered by our desire to survive and rise up once again. But like a shield, it keeps us inside. We learned to cope instead to demand. And as long as we remain passive, it’s literally killing us.

How many typhoons, including major category ones, arrived in this country? How many people did Sendong (Intl name: Washi) killed? What about the 1990s major ones like Reming or Yoling? What have we learned from them? From the major earthquakes that struck? Is there any improvement in our part? In the government’s part?

Haiyan is different, you would say. It’s categorized as a super typhoon. High death toll is expected, even rich countries are trembling with fear over Haiyan. For the government’s part, preemptive evacuations were undertaken and LGUs did a good part of spreading the news to their areas….only that our efforts are not enough. LGUs are poorly equipped with communication and transportation devices. Selection of evacuation areas was poorly miscalculated as some of them became heavily damaged by the typhoon. There were no dikes/major structure to stop the storm surge. Some areas cannot be reached even until now because the lines were down and the clearing operations on roads and bridges are slow.

If there’s one thing Haiyan showed us is, at the end of the day, pride in our resiliency wouldn’t change the blatant truth about the high casualties or damages incurred. Haiyan made history in the hall of fame of disasters yesterday, and she sure as hell wouldn’t be the last.

Philippines sits in a hotbed of natural calamities. We are a sitting duck on an active Pacific fault line system, exposed to powerful typhoons which kept getting stronger year after year. One international news site listed us as the “most dangerous place to live on Earth”. Crime and poverty aside, Dan Brown’s metaphor couldn’t get any better: The Gates of Hell are here.

And I think one of our problems is this: They do not complain much, they will bear as long as they can.

As long as they can, in Filipinos’ dictionary, may mean ‘forever’.

It’s because we couldn’t complain. We couldn’t demand long-term reforms from our government. We couldn’t demand of higher disaster protection or sophisticated technology we desperately need in times of disaster. We suffer terribly and mull over the loss. And after the storm passed, we go on our way and move on because we have no choice but to continue our lives…yet we are doing nothing to change it. Our national disaster preparedness plan is still mediocre at its best. When the next storm arrives, we suffer again. It’s a sick cycle we Filipinos are seemed to be content with.

I have nothing against resilience. It is a powerful weapon and I believe nothing in the world can beat the resilience of Filipinos. But it would be as twice as powerful if we go beyond that and actively participate in the solution. Part of it is critically assessing our government’s plans and what our respective cites need before it gets hit by a major disaster. That ningas-cogon attitude should definitely be scrapped. The desire to prevent many deaths and having to use of what we learned from the past disasters to participate in finding a radical, bold solution…Now, That is the indomitable human spirit at its finest.

Now, can you imagine what will happen in the Philippines if we live by that?

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Help us recover from this tragedy through the Philippine Red Cross. Volunteer: http://www.redcross.org.ph/143  For Donations: http://www.redcross.org.ph/donatenow  Thank you! 

About sentimentalfreak

Consistently inconsistent. Forever searching and wandering. 'Tis only writing that calms down her restless little soul.

Posted on November 9, 2013, in Filipino, My country, reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I did not realize that until reading this. That one of our problems is that “we don’t complain much and we’ll bear as long as we can.” This opened my mind, thank you. God bless our country. (-/|\-)

  2. Let’s continue praying for the recovery of our country and for long-term changes we desperately need!

  3. After being a victim of one of these disasters in the early 2000s, I have been a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) practitioner for almost ten years now and I can say with certainty that much has been done already. We now have a law (RA10121) that addresses the needs before, during and after these calamities. We have Project NOAH that is useful in predicting rainfall and flooding. It may not be enough but the government is doing much already, much more than other countries with “better” governments and technology capabilities.

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, areas affected were paralyzed much longer than than with Yolanda’s. This is where our resiliency shines through – life goes on despite our losses.

    Unless you were a victim yourself, sharing inspiring stories (volunteering in Tacloban like most of us did would be much preferred) would be an improvement rather than rub salt to our wounds.

  4. Hello, sorry for the late reply.

    My family and I were also victims of Ondoy in Marikina and most of my relatives were greatly affected by the flooding of the Marikina River during tha Habagat. Yes, I’ve also seen a big leap of improvement in our weather forecast and monitoring system but from my opinion and observation kasi, we’re not yet on that stage where follow-ups of disaster management projects should be prioritized. I understand your sentiments because you have been working for that sector for so many years and I can’t disagree with your opinion that the government has already did its best. But a vision for a nation-wide disaster reduction and rehabilitation? I still fail to see it (you can enlighten me if you want)

    And for the record, I also did my part for the relief operations of those affected in our office. My job prevented me from going to Tacloban myself, but I donated my piece and prayed for their recovery. We did follow-up reports on small, overlooked areas which were just as damaged as Tacloban. My mom’s family came from there, so we were just as affected emotionally and financially.

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