Romanticizing resiliency

During the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda, social media was abuzz with various accounts of everyone’s harrowing experience of the devastating calamity. A tweet by a certain @melsungit particularly struck me, and I quote: “Please let’s stop romanticizing resiliency already. It’s time to demand LGUs to respond better to disasters. If not now, when?”

Right. We Filipinos have a penchant to romanticize the resiliency of our nation, especially in times of great ruin and devastation. At first impression, there seems to be nothing wrong with it. The strong, positive attitude that the survivors had shown in the days following the tragedy has been a testament to the true character of the Filipino people. Even those who have been orphaned, or whose properties were completely ravaged by the typhoon, still managed to smile—evocative of the optimism that tomorrow will be a brighter day. Filipinos are resilient. Filipinos can weather any storm.

But really, is resiliency enough?

After Yolanda, we cannot claim to be resilient by merely standing idle, waiting for the next catastrophe to befall upon our battered land. Being resilient is not about placing temporary stopgap measures and neglecting the possibility of the same things happening again on the premise that we could withstand the strongest of storms anyway. We tend to overemphasize this abstract idea so much, to the point that we forget to shift our attention to concretizing real, long-term action.

How can we claim to be resilient, when despite everything that had happened, it still didn’t effect any change in us? Being resilient, in the truest sense of the word, is the exact opposite of what we are made to believe. Ninotchka Rosca puts it best: “We break when the world is just to much, and in the process of breaking, are transformed into something difficult to understand. Or we take full measure of misfortune, wrestle with it and emerged transformed into something equally terrifying.”

Resiliency is not just about coping; it should be about change. Resiliency is not just about being able to stand up again, stronger than we were during our last fall; it is about collective action in ensuring that what made us tumble before will not break us any further in the future. Filipinos can be genuinely resilient if we breakaway from the seemingly unbreakable mentality we imbibe whenever disaster strikes.

Now how should this be done? My humble opinion dictates that we must address the very source of our vulnerabilities. In a way, it is us who created these problems, made worse by our own actions and omissions. Time and time again, we are hit by natural calamities of different scales and magnitude. But just as they happen, it seems as if we never learn. We still lack the necessary preparedness in combatting these threats. If only more safeguards were put into place, then the loss of lives would have been minimal. Maybe it’s the perfect time to demand accountability from our government.

Admittedly, Yolanda was regarded as the strongest storm to have made landfall, and the wreckage it caused, regardless of any degree of preparation, was bound to happen. I beg to disagree. To the extent that the typhoon was worsened by climate change, we have no one else to blame but ourselves. Maybe it’s the perfect time to demand from everyone to do his or her share in sustainable living.

Lest the post-Yolanda aftermath turn into some sort of blame game, let us have the decency in acknowledging our own shortcomings. We, Filipinos, are not so resilient after all. A part of what happened was our very own doing.

We break. We fall. We don’t surrender. But in rising up again, there must be an implied recognition of our vulnerability. Resiliency is not measured by how we responded, but by how it changed us. P

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