Art by Kelly Ronveaux
“When there is unity between the leader and the people, the resilience of the Filipino emerges,” said Senator Richard J. Gordon last June 15. While this is true in the purest sense of the words and the intention of the message, the “resilience” of the Filipino became the language of incompetent leaders.
The Philippines have endured natural disasters since this archipelago took its form. An average of 20 tropical cyclones enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility each year, with at least 8 or 9 crossing the country. November of this year alone, the country is still braving the consequences of super typhoon Rolly and typhoon Ulysses (to name a few), all in the midst of a global pandemic.
Now as typhoon Ulysses leaves its mark of distraction and the pandemic still sweeping the remains of our resolve as a nation, some people may minimize the demand for accountability with the arguments: “Inaasa na lang lahat sa gobyerno” or “kayo kaya ang maging Presidente?”
Perhaps if the government did not collect taxes and public officials did not run for their seats, the people wouldn’t have to ask for help from its institutions.
Just when Filipinos ask valid questions (as we are entitled to do) — some people, especially politicians, are quick to dismiss it with a premeditated response about how our resilience can get us through tough times.
Again, it is true and therefore acknowledged. But Filipino resilience is not a disaster preparedness plan nor is it a blueprint for a national disaster emergency response system. It is a character that can only endure so much.
In the onslaught of storms, people took to Twitter the dismay they felt for the lack of disaster preparedness. The #ClimateJusticeNow, #NasaanAngPangulo, “DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY” and various other related hashtags trended with the context of demand for accountability on disaster response and climate action.
People also took to social media their calls for relief and rescue inquiries as government help lines were already overwhelmed. Local Government Units (LGUs) also called for help from the private sectors which says a lot about the intricacies of getting help from the national government.
It seems like the Filipinos are done hearing the preaches about our resilience. It resides in us but it is not our whole reality. Our reality is that some of our leaders ignored our cries for help. We have repeatedly asked for concrete plans on COVID-19 and disaster response — to which we heard no clear answers, but instead received glorifications of our great resolve.
We wouldn’t demand for true service if true service was extended.
Our countrymen have seen enough of politicians’ faces stamped on taxpayer-funded relief operations. We do not need a politician’s face on sardine cans and noodle packs coupled with political colors and party mottos. We expect concrete plans and courses of action for calamities that the country has already been experiencing for many years.
The excuse of the corrupt for their negligence and incompetence is the resilience of the masses. They appeal to our emotions to preserve themselves. But as the tweets suggest, enough is enough.
The lie in Filipino resilience is that it appears to be enduring when it is also allowed to be vulnerable. The word “resilient” itself is dressed in cotton absorbing the floodwater and sometimes adorned in silk drowning in mud.
While resilience is the character that keeps our hopes afloat, however commendable it is, it should not be the only thing that we will rely on in order to move forward as a nation.