Over the past year, we’ve heard the Philippine government praise the Filipino people for their resilience during the pandemic. And let me just say it right here, I am sick and tired of hearing this lame excuse for incompetence. Resilience is what they call Filipinos who have no choice but to pick themselves up and survive on their own during the pandemic. It’s just a glorified euphemism for self-sufficiency when you know that you have no one but yourself to rely on, so you got to pick yourself by your bootstraps and survive—all on your own.
Praising Filipino resilience during times like these is certainly a big sign that the government is checking itself out for anything that will resemble accountability for its people. It’s just a euphemism for saying, “Hey, good job on staying alive. Now go do the same thing all on your own for the rest of the year.”
I am writing this #BehindtheVerse not just because I was published by Ghost Heart Literary Journal in their April 2021 Chambers issue. I also want to weigh in on the never-ending narrative on Filipino resilience.
Resilient was written out of my sheer frustration with the government’s pandemic response. I wrote this while thinking of the people dying of COVID-19 without proper medical care and people dying of hunger because they lost their livelihoods during the lockdown. While I know that my conditions are better than most, I can’t help but stay awake in the middle of the night while thinking about my countrymen, who are less fortunate than I am.
As I’m writing this, news about community pantries all over the country has been on the headlines for the past few days. Community pantries are what can be considered as the primary example of Filipino resilience. Good citizens from all over the country are gathering together to give food supplies to people in need. The message of the initiative was clear and simple, “Magbigay Ayon sa Kakayahan. Kumuha Batay sa Pangangailangan.” This phrase was adapted from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital: from each according to his ability to each according to his need.
Now, we see how instead of supporting this selfless endeavor, the government is politicizing this initiative by red-tagging its organizers as communists. There are no words to explain how I am dumbfounded by this. Community pantries wouldn’t exist if the government’s pandemic response and initiatives were not severely lacking. The act of organizing these pantries itself shows that Filipinos are doing something to take action into their own hands by doing something to help.
News about the community pantries has also shed light on how the government is abusing its power for the nefarious red-tagging of innocent individuals. I hope that with what’s been happening over the past few days, we can move on from the narrative of glorifying the resilience of the Filipino people. And in light of the overwhelming support of community pantries all over the country, may it serve as an inspiration on how Filipinos can actually come together, take action, and demand accountability from the very institutions that are supposed to protect them.