Let’s talk resilience
It’s 2 a.m., and it’s relatively more quiet than the past few days. Our country just went through one of the strongest typhoons this year, followed by another typhoon, followed by the Magat Dam incident in Cagayan Valley. It has been traumatizing, to say the least. Coupled with a lot of arguments online about whose fault things were, and what should have been done, sprinkled with the usual ad hominem statements, everything has just been chaotic. And with every single disaster our country has faced, a constant catchphrase reverberates—the Filipino “resilience.”
It’s always been a common subject matter growing up — from grade school essay contests that praise the virtue and plays that allude to it, to catchy TV station IDs during the Christmas season. It might be an understatement to say that one can’t be Filipino enough without knowing how resilient one is supposed to be. Somehow, it has always been uttered in such a positive tone — an attribute of the Filipino character, they say. And, indeed, in a poor country where we enjoy watching TV shows about very rich people during dinnertime, what can’t we achieve with being resilient?
From the time we were born, we have adapted to our environment so we can survive. Survival is a basic human instinct, forcing us to develop abilities to stay alive. Every individual has a survival instinct regardless of age, gender, societal status, and nationality. Given a challenge, we always adapt to try and succeed. Given a disaster, we do everything in our strength to live. From this, we try to get back on our feet, and get through another day and another challenge. Isn’t this, in essence, resilience?
However, I’m afraid that resilience, the very concept that we were conditioned to love growing up, is not unique to us Filipinos. Anyone from any place on earth, if given a challenge, would adapt to it and bounce back. But what could be unique to us is the chronic negligence of those in power to prevent people from having to always rely on their resilience in the absence of anything else. And this negligence goes back generations, resulting in complicated problems that spawn even more complicated problems.
It is unfortunate, frustrating, and devastating to have to go through the same problems over and over again, but with the magnitude of the difficulties worsening over the years. It seems our resilience has become a trophy that people who are supposed to serve us to the best of their abilities only brandish whenever we suffer from their lack of foresight or care. Our resilience has a breaking point, and we deserve more than being trophies for having the basic instinct to survive.
Talking about resilience and being proud of it are not exactly bad. In a way, I am in awe at how, time and again, we get back on our feet and even find ways to smile in the darkest of times. We go through so much, but for some reason, our spirit as Filipinos never seems to run out.
But the time has come to change the narrative and include accountability from our leaders whenever we talk about the resilience of the people. We are Filipinos, and yes we are resilient, but we also deserve long-term plans so we don’t go through foreseeable problems again and again. We should invest in people who are experts in disaster mitigation and preparedness, and equip them with the right tools. We should provide more capital for science, research, and technology. We have countless gifted and talented Filipinos, but we don’t give them enough resources to serve their countrymen. Most of all, we need to rehabilitate and conserve our environment before it becomes too late, even for our resilience.
The next time we think about resilience, let us go beyond and ask ourselves why Filipinos just have to be resilient all the time—and what needs to be done for us to evolve into something better.
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Jairus Cabajar, 28, likes to tweet. He works as an internal medicine resident doctor at a government hospital.
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