‘Diskarte,’ ‘delihensya,’ other ways of coping (1)
On March 24, 2021, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released the results of its Gender and Inclusion Assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable women and girls in the Philippines. Coordinated by the UNFPA, the study is a collaboration among 24 different agencies, notably the following: UN Women, Oxfam Pilipinas, CARE Philippines, Plan International, United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It is probably one of the few studies that a Philippine government agency, the Commission on Human Rights, has endorsed. The Australian government, through its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade supported this study.
Using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, the study mainly looked at the gendered impacts of the current pandemic, and its effects on gender roles in the household. It also presented and analyzed data on coping mechanisms among the economically depressed in different sample areas in Luzon like Nueva Ecija, Calabarzon, and Bicol region; Samar in Eastern Visayas; Western Visayas; and in selected localities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
As an advocate for inclusion and inclusive development processes, I found interesting the report’s insights on what the authors refer to as “hidden households” — those that manifest distinctive markers of marginalization. Among these are the following: Homelessness, internal displacement, being members of indigenous peoples’ groups; being geographically isolated; LGBTQI community; disability; and being perceived as potential COVID-19 carriers.
During the pandemic, aside from their work as productive income earners, women are handed an increased volume of unpaid domestic work, as the default “caregivers” of their respective families. Other findings included the following: uneven access of basic services, like health, among vulnerable subgroups; high levels of social stigma on persons perceived to be possible carriers of the virus; increased cases of gender-based violence that are not reported to the police; and gender bias and prejudice against marginalized groups. The pandemic has also given rise to a “positive” result: men have also started doing or helping in the housework, thus shifting men’s gender roles. As such, this can be an opportunity to advocate for a gender-fair society, where both women and men share housework together, thus dismantling the stereotypical assignment of rigid and binary gender roles. But it could also be a conceptual blinker, such that at first it may seem to be empowering to both men and women, but it might just be a token understanding of gender-fair relations.
Among communities composed of daily wage earners and other informal sector groups, some emerging negative coping mechanisms surfaced as the members of these communities had to deal with the realities of hunger and food insecurity. Some of them have engaged in (paid) sex work, mendicancy, and seriously entertained thoughts of committing suicide.
Two common mass-based Filipino ways of coping come to mind: “diskarte” and “delihensya.” Engaging in paid sex work can be considered a form of delihensya or “creative diligence,” to put it in a literal sense. Being able to do diskarte is through the use of one’s gift of gab to sell something, or even just an idea or a scam, to gullible prospective customers or buyers.
Here in General Santos City, the pandemic has deprived some daily wage earners of decent incomes, especially those working in the fishing industry. Members of fishing communities now sit idly by in their homes, waiting for calls that they will sail again in huge fishing boats plying international seas. Unfortunately, calls for them to go back to sea for their livelihood are few and far between, and both men and women in these communities have been racking their brains vigorously to find some decent solutions to their families’ hunger pangs. According to my informant, some male household heads have chosen to engage in nefarious activities that bring them quick and huge amounts of money in order to survive. Among these are shadow economies like drug trading, gun running, and in becoming guns for hire.
(To be continued)
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