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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, August 21, 2020
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Mythical resiliency


The so-called Filipino resiliency is one of the legendary traits that incompetent and abusive leaders and their spin masters routinely exploit every time they fail us catastrophically and yet we find ways to refuse to keel over and die.

There is no doubt about it. The Filipino is resilient. If we can survive Yolanda, Ondoy and Ferdinand Marcos; we know from experience that we cannot be broken by anything and anyone. We may not emerge victorious most of the time, but despite being severely bruised, battered and disadvantaged compared to other nations; we are simply glad to be alive and willing to go on finding ways to survive.

We can smile at anything and face everything with our signature sense of humor. Perhaps that is why many of us are fine with not whining in the face of gross incompetence, believing the schtick that such behavior would be unpatriotic. Anyway that is good because such unFilipino behavior could mean being tagged as a terrorist by a government that has become too spoiled with its resilient yet silent sheep.

We are blessed with the innate ability to suck up everything that man, nature and the gods can throw at us and trudge on. This trademark resiliency makes the Filipino the perfect people to lead, whether the leader be benevolent, corrupt, or incompetent.

Celebrating Filipino resiliency should be a good thing if we had a government that was run by people with competence and integrity because it is one of those rare and positive traits that can be the secret ingredient in helping a country surmount the most difficult challenges.

However, there have been times in recent months when it feels like that wonderful resiliency is being abused by those in power and their propagandists who use it to make us feel better about the never ending tragedies and catastrophes generated by their gross incompetence. Filipino resiliency has been turned into an excuse for mediocrity, a bad joke and a recurring nightmare.

Our trademark resiliency is being wasted by piss poor governance. Instead of being used as an asset to further progress through visionary leadership, it is an excuse when providing sub-par services, responses, and solutions to the problems facing our country. Mediocre public servants know that they can get away with providing crap public service because Filipinos are a resilient bunch anyway.

This dependence on our famed resilience has become even more apparent throughout the travesty that is the COVID-19 crisis response of this country. The general feeling is that government officials are fine that the Philippines has slowly but surely turned into the region’s COVID-19 top-notcher. We have surpassed Wuhan and China in terms of infections but there is still no plan aside from the midnight quarantine wheel of fortune sessions hosted by our rambling dear leader.

If you come to think of it, the number of COVID cases in the country is now almost 180,000 with still more than 3,000 infections recorded every day but government has done basically nothing but police the use of face masks, face shields, motorcycle barriers, curfews and checkpoints. Despite that whole lot of nothing, government has apparently already run out of money so our COVID-19 response is basically waiting for a vaccine. In China, they built a 1,000 bed hospital in 10 days, when the number of infections in Wuhan wasn’t even 20,000. Perhaps the Chinese in Hubei province aren’t as resilient as Filipinos and that is why our government officials know they can afford to twiddle thumbs for six months.

Filipino resiliency could be one of our greatest assets in our quest for progress and greatness. However, for it to be an effective ingredient, it needs to be paired with a properly working government instead of one mired in mediocrity and propped up by propaganda and troll farms. Even our mythical resilience has its limits and we are acutely aware by now how much time, energy and resources we have to shell out to constantly make up for all the shortcomings of government as we strive to live up to our reputation of resilience.

There is no doubt that Filipinos are resilient. Time and again, we have displayed our ability to survive almost anything, from plundering dictatorships to super typhoons and financial crises. By hook or by crook, despite all our disadvantages, we will also survive COVID-19. I don’t know how bruised and battered we will be after all is said and done, but we will survive because we have no other choice and we have known for some time now that we can only rely on ourselves. We’d probably be better off if we had more effective and visionary leaders in place but this is how our cookie crumbles so we simply have to deal with it.

Maybe one day we will get tired of being forced to be resilient and start demanding more from the people who made promises and swore an oath to make our lives better. For that to happen, we will have to stop romanticizing our resiliency and start upgrading our standards for public servants.

We have long established that Filipinos are resilient and it is something we rightfully take pride in. Maybe it’s time we developed another trait that we, as well as future generations, can take even more pride in. Can we start working on developing the trait of setting higher standards and expectations from our so-called leaders?*  

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