Filipino Resilience and its Insufficiency in Times of Crisis

We need to remind ourselves that in times of crisis… it is the very panic, anger, and resentment that we deny ourselves right now that will get us the help we so desperately need. When we refuse to be passive any longer, when we refuse to just accept the situation as it is, we can utilize our anger and our pain to demand better for ourselves — to demand change.

Resilience is not a solution. We shouldn’t have to depend on it to survive.

by Camille Castro

WE ARE SURVIVORS. There is no question about it. The disasters we Filipinos have seen and lived through seem to have come straight out of an apocalyptic-disaster-action film — volcanic eruptions that have buried towns in ash, 7.9 magnitude earthquakes that forced towers to kneel, and typhoons and floods that washed away countless people’s lives and memories. Our country is constantly under attack from natural calamities that destroy thousands of lives, yet in spite of this fact, somehow, by some miracle, we find ways to get through these events with smiles. The sky could be falling and the earth could be breaking apart, and still, we would laugh and joke together. Why? Because that’s who we are. We find the bright side of seemingly Vantablack situations and push through them with smiles always gracing our faces because what else can we do? Because that’s the only way we know how to survive. Because we are strong. Because we are resilient. Because if we no longer have that trademark Filipino resilience, and we lose that trademark Filipino smile, all we are going to be left with is panic and anger and resentment. And where will that get us? If we can’t be the bulletproof, unshakeable, impossibly optimistic people we are known to be, how are we supposed to survive?

In reality, it is that very question, that very mindset that further perpetuates our inability to find actual solutions to our endless natural disaster problem. The premium put on being resilient makes us blind to the vitality of actually solving and responding to the issues we face. Instead of looking for ways to remedy our problems, we look for coping mechanisms. We have become so used to never receiving the help we need that we no longer even look for it. We are resigned to the fact that when disaster strikes, there is nothing that can be done to help us — that the only thing we can do to make it through a calamity is to stay strong and do our best to survive. But we deserve more. We need more. The earthquakes and floods and typhoons aren’t mere unavoidable blips in our lives — they are life-altering, catastrophic tragedies. They are disastrous and dangerous cataclysms and they need to be treated that way. We deserve more than being told to “wait” and “stay strong.” We deserve immediate and effective rescue and relief teams so that we don’t have to “wait” and risk our lives while doing so. We deserve efficient preventative measures and evacuation protocols so that we minimize the risk of casualties and injuries during these calamities. We don’t need to be told that our resilience is admirable. We need proper rehabilitation policies that will allow us to regain our quality of life. We deserve more than just survival. We deserve change.

With the state of our environment declining, and the increase of natural disaster occurrences, even if resilience is enough right now, it will be but a trivial concept in the future. We can only be strong for so long. The worse these devastations get, the more lacking resilience becomes as a means of coping and survival. It is high time that the Filipino people unlearn not only the glorification of resilience, but the entire survival system that is built upon it. We need to remind ourselves that in times of crisis, while optimism and fortitude are valuable, it is the very panic, anger, and resentment that we deny ourselves right now that will get us the help we so desperately need. When we refuse to be passive any longer, when we refuse to just accept the situation as it is, we can utilize our anger and our pain to demand better for ourselves — to demand change.

Resilience is not a solution. We shouldn’t have to depend on it to survive.

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