Words by Pamela Marquez
Edited by Jhanjoe Hermano
Art by Alyssa Joie Tablada
Surviving through hunger, sickness, and poor crisis management for months on end is, once again, being lauded as a show of resilience in our country.
It’s not a secret that the Filipino people have always prided themselves on their resilience: withstanding earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and typhoon after typhoon. And really, why shouldn’t they? Being able to bounce back immediately after a hardship, all the while offering help and warmth to other people, is a feat one should always hope to have. But the story changes when the trait you work hard to build for yourself, and particularly your country, is used as a tool to shroud its downfall.
On September 6, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded by the Department of Health was 237,365. More than 3,000 people have died due to the virus. 6,735 medical frontliners have been diagnosed with COVID, and 40 deaths have occurred. In addition to these, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted in July also found that 45% of Filipino adults, or 27.3 million people, were jobless, and that half of these people lost their jobs in the pandemic.
Despite these numbers, some remain optimistic. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a controversial quote, stated he was “surprised at our resilience”, given that only 45%, and not 100%, of Filipinos lost their jobs.
While it makes sense for people to feel relieved that most of us were able to bounce back, the idea that having only nearly half of the country unemployed is a situation that “could have been worse”, might be a sign that there is an underlying issue that spans even farther than the pandemic.
In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda struck and saw the destruction of 1.14 million homes, the death of more than 6,000 people, and the creation of damages that cost billions. It was one of the country’s most devastating blows, and Filipinos were praised all over the globe for the strength and resilience they showed amid the tragedy.
Last January, the country’s citizens once again had to roll up their sleeves and bear the brunt of the Taal volcano eruption. 39 deaths were reported, and damages in Calabarzon were said to be worth 3.4 billion pesos. Filipinos personified “bayanihan” when everyone promptly started helping each other out by donating face masks, food, shelter, and the like.
And now, in this time of COVID-19, we are all being put in difficult positions. Medical frontliners have to face every day with limited knowledge on and protection against the virus. So many people cannot afford their basic needs, such as food and shelter, due to unemployment. The educational system cannot continue without somebody being compromised. And while we individually make our best efforts to practice the proper safety precautions, the sickness is spreading like wildfire.
In these events, as well as countless others throughout history, emerges a pattern:
Too often, we see media posts with people who flash smiles at a camera despite wading through a flood, or stories of people cracking jokes in the middle of a wreckage surface. Many of us feel that familiar sense of pride because, well, it truly is amazing that our people can still find hope and optimism in desperate times.
But take away the lens and sharp cutlines of the media, the fleeting delight of being recognized, all the smoke and mirrors—and what we’re left with is a people in struggle and who have been forced to deal with it time and time again. This part, it seems, is one that always goes unrecognized.
Because we’ve gotten so used to our resilience, and it is so often romanticized by the media, the government, and sometimes, ourselves, we forget that we’re supposed to be striving for something more. A place and time where we won’t have to be resilient because there is no tragedy or mismanagement to withstand.
Little by little though, this is changing, especially with the situation of COVID-19. We’ve watched the numbers get higher and higher and felt helpless. But we are discovering a new social awareness. Social media in particular has been a platform for spreading this and reminding people that we can pull our country up from its nature of never-ending resilience.
For example, for Typhoon Yolanda, people noticed and criticized the government’s lack of preparation and efficiency in distributing aid. Lootings occurred, even with the influx of donations from other countries, because many people still went hungry.
As for the Taal eruption, certain institutions were reprimanded for their disaster response. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology was said to have failed in dissemination of information regarding the eruption. It also didn’t help that the calamity fund was reduced by 4 billion pesos coming into the year.
From this, we must also encourage a systematic evaluation of the country’s problems and their possible solutions. These solutions must be based on science and facts so we can make sure that the issues are being addressed head-on and targeted in an effective way, so we won’t face any more problems in the future.
Examples of these proven solutions in the case of the coronavirus are the imposition of a travel ban, effective contact-tracing, and immediate and efficient testing and preparing a large supply of testing kits. Many countries hailed with having good responses to the virus used these responses.
Awareness is what drives people to action. On a smaller scale, as individuals, it is our responsibility to continue doing our best to be socially aware, educated, and updated on the different issues around the country. We can help further by teaching these to people who may not be aware about the issues, especially in a time rampant with fake news and less and less reliable sources of information.
We can also join different organizations or participate and donate in drives that target the problems present in the country so we can be better prepared for them. This is a good idea if you want to maximize your impact and aren’t sure how to start, because you’ll have other people with you in the cause and a facilitated, structured approach for effectively alleviating the effects of problems we’ve had in the past and attending to the problems we have now.
Lastly, though the need for resilience is what we are trying to combat, it is still a trait we need to have. Resilience in itself is not a bad thing; as pointed out earlier, the need for it is what we have to address. And we cannot really do that if we don’t uphold ourselves to one more thing our country prides itself on: our unity. We can only prosper as a country when we decide to work together, man and woman, citizen and citizen, people and government, to get to our goals. When we all put in our best efforts to create a good system, solve the country’s problems, and make sure every Filipino is given the opportunity to live a secure life, then we are on the way to the right type of resilience.
Pamela resides in Metro Manila, Philippines and is currently a Sensereporter in the Micro-internship Program of Makesense Philippines. Her role focuses on writing and creating content for spreading social awareness and positive change to the different parts of the country. Pamela feels particularly passionate about making quality education accessible to all and fighting for climate change.
Jhanjoe is a STEM senior in UP Integrated School from Marikina City. An aspiring medical professional, he initially struggled with juggling his passion for science and love for art, but eventually found an intersection and continues to use his skills in both fields. Through publicity materials and visually appealing infographics, he aims to make science more digestible and engaging while advocating for its increased role in public policy and societal development.
AJ resides in Metro Manila, Philippines and is currently a Sensereporter for Makesense Philippines. Her role focuses on writing content for social good. AJ pushes for Quality Education for All and Media Awareness.