Hopeful about 2016
Filipinos have traditionally been optimistic about the dawn of any new year, and the year 2016 is no different. In a survey conducted by Pulse Asia from Dec. 4 to 11, “an overwhelming majority of Filipinos (89 percent)” said they were “hopeful about the coming year.” This is practically the same as the year-ago poll results: In December 2014, some 88 percent of respondents said they looked forward to the approaching year with hope.
The numbers from comparable Social Weather Stations surveys are slightly higher but tell the same story. In a poll SWS conducted from Dec. 5 to 8, fully 92 percent of respondents said they were “entering the coming year with hope.” A year ago, the SWS number stood at 93 percent.
The optimism is palpable even though the year just past had its share of misfortune. The Mamasapano “misencounter” resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force troopers of the Philippine National Police, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front regulars, and at least three civilians—and it threw the Bangsamoro peace process into turmoil. The much-awaited mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather ended in a controversial defeat for the national boxing icon. The power crisis in Mindanao, the traffic nightmare in Metro Manila, the ongoing calamity that is the National Capital Region’s light rail system passed the level of farce and became sullen tragedy. China’s bullying behavior reached a new level of ugly, with its aggressive land reclamation projects in the South China Sea. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos continued to suffer from the consequences of a warming world: more powerful typhoons.
The optimism is evident even though 2016 will be dominated by what columnist Peter Wallace calls the “political madness” of the “ludicrous circus” that is the Philippine elections. By February, the national government’s attention will be consumed almost totally by the elections; local governments will enter their own period of practical paralysis by mid-March. And all throughout, we can expect the politicians implicated in the pork barrel scam to fight the charges with all the resources at their disposal. In other words, the political class will make sure that 2016 will continue to be a year of high political toxicity.
Where does this deep-seated hopefulness come from?
Survey data show that optimism about the coming year has had its ups and downs, but its lows are very much highs too: In a decade and a half of polling the question, SWS has always found a great majority of Filipinos hopeful about the coming year. The lowest ever was recorded in 2004, at 81 percent. Coming from its record high of 95 percent in 2002, the optimism index seems to have experienced its most dramatic shifts in the three years between 2002 and 2004. But even then, the low point was actually high.
In the six Decembers of the Aquino administration, the number of Filipinos hopeful about the coming year consistently stood in the 90s, with 2011 matching the record set in 2002, of 95 percent.
What do these all mean?
It’s possible that political turbulence has some minimal impact on the people’s sense of hopefulness. The drop from 95 percent in 2002, Gloria Arroyo’s first full year in office, to 81 percent in 2004, the year of a controversial presidential election, suggests that. But the baseline is already high to begin with.
It is high to begin with because—and here is another possible interpretation—Filipinos are quick to forgive and forget. Filipinos are naturally predisposed to say “okay lang” to adverse situations (“that’s okay”) and “bawi tayo” (meaning not so much as “let’s get even” as “let’s make up for it”) when the opportunity arises.
This can be a cultural weakness, because attitude-based hopefulness is more lenient, less rigorous or disciplined, than reality-based optimism. We can even say that the now-controversial principle of condonation-by-election took root in our jurisprudence because it reflected our culture’s too-forgiving nature.
But characteristic optimism can be a cultural strength, too. People Power, the country’s gift to world history, could not have been possible without the sense of hopefulness that permeated that historic stretch of Edsa 30 years ago next month. When harnessed, it can even stop tanks.
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