It’s Not About Resilience Anymore
Picture a scene of rising muddied water, people stranded on roofs, and voices mangled as throats fill with rainwater and mud, all shouting the same word: tulong. They meld together, “help” screamed from every native tongue, creating a symphony of discord, growing louder by the minute as another joins the protest of pleas, as another life is taken from us. These voices, raw and unsettling in pain, that echo resoundingly among the people of a community, are then silenced by a single word: resiliency. Their fearful eyes and despairing moans for help are plastered over by a hopeful mirage: a statement on the Filipino’s unwavering optimism and a picture of children smiling amid the ruin of fallen trees, sludge of mud, and torn-apart houses. While these statements of rising amid the ruin are made by certain higher-ups, dry and safe in their homes, the affected Filipino people may be left homeless and with nearly nothing but the clothes on their backs and the narrative that they will soon rebuild with their sheer determination. We are beyond the times wherein we could be fooled into complacency and recompense by mere words on the unshakeable Filipino resilience. Now, it’s not about resilience anymore.
Among the innumerable disasters that have hit our country over the past few years — from typhoon Ondoy to Yolanda — one word has always risen from the rubble. Resilience has never failed to appear in the headlines and narratives on the Filipino experience during natural calamities. We tend to highlight not what devastation had happened, but how, as Filipinos, we are inherently resilient, and will therefore be able to recover in time. We rarely focus on what has happened, or how one actually recovers from this catastrophic event. We hear only whispers of the trauma and suffering and even the help given, in contrast to the bellows about our ever-resilient nation. It has been ingrained in our minds that we can overcome any and every disaster, come what may, if and only if we have resilience. Romanticizing resilience to the point that we believe that it is the only ingredient needed to recover from any disaster that may befall us not only diminishes the victim’s experience but also does nothing to help in their rehabilitation.
Resilience, as much as it has been used to describe our nation’s constituents, has also been used time and time again as a cover-up for incompetence and inaction by the people in power. This thinking justifies the lack of concrete plans for preparedness, mitigation, and response to the disasters faced by vulnerable communities. It perpetuates the idea that the victims will be able to recover with or without the help of the government, and with their own volition; thus, creating a sentiment that with their strength, the government need not step in. The glorification of resilience only strengthens the thought of “every man for himself,” excusing the lack of leadership as people struggle to survive with the bare minimum they have after the devastation whichever disaster has caused them. This harmful romanticization exonerates the institutions and individuals accountable from giving the very things the people desperately need. Yes, one’s own grit and hardwork is important, but when you exist in a system that does not aim to build up and help its constituents, and continue to enforce the narrative of working hard and remaining resilient will solve one’s woes, one will be stuck in an endless cycle of painstaking labor while being left to pick off the leftovers cast aside by those who rule this system of inequity and corruption. Instead of branding a community, even our nation, as resilient, what we need is tangible, sustainable, and effective action by those in power. In a time wherein natural calamities happen around the clock, we need plans for disaster risk management, mitigation, and response, along with the effective leadership needed to carry them out.
Resilience should never be a scapegoat, nor a plaster for incompetence. Now, more than ever, we need to amplify the voices that need to be heard. No, it’s not about resiliency, and should have never been about resiliency, but about action and accountability.
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