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Filipino Resiliency: The Overused Narrative in the Philippines' Media

By Krista Orejudos

Image via Kevin Frayer/AFP/Getty Images

With the Philippines devastated after experiencing four typhoons in the span of two-weeks during late October and early November, people are now calling on the government to stop romanticizing “Filipino resilience” and to create better natural disaster protocols. Though there has been governmental aid to the citizens, not enough has been done; they refuse to push for real actions towards climate change because the media labels them as having “Filipino resiliency.”

Now if you’re unfamiliar, the term “Filipino Resiliency” means that Filipinos, especially the victims of these natural disasters, can overcome any hardship and are idolized for doing so. It implies that the victims don’t need any outside help when they have “resiliency” on their side, but this comes at the expense of their trauma. Glorification and romanticization of this term do not alleviate or reward the harsh realities that victims face daily.

This further normalizes the vicious cycle of home displacement every time another typhoon comes their way. It undermines their entire socioeconomic status because the victims are now accountable for their safety despite how they may not have the resources to survive. What’s even more ironic is that Filipinos are seen as weak if they were given support or if they sought aid. Since they are subjected to this idea of resiliency, it has also become an admirable “characteristic” of Filipino identity and it is their “duty” to live up to its name—anything less of showing resilience would be shameful to Filipino culture.

However, this term is only an excuse to cover up the lack of crisis management and government preparedness when dealing with recent situations like Typhoon Goni and Typhoon Ulysses. It is nothing new that the Philippine government has done before; they have long exploited its peoples’ strong will and spirit to avoid admitting government failure.

To illustrate, there have been many Instagram pictures falsely depicting smiling Filipinos who are half-way submerged under dirty rainwater as their houses are slowly collapsing behind them. These headlines speak of their endurance but it doesn’t focus on the people who have put them in these horrid conditions. For example, one big corporation that the media has refused to name is now under investigation for being responsible for environmental damages such as the massive flooding in Cagayan valley.

Moreover, the government has fallen short on also taking accountability for their environmental negligence. They have ignored their current cries for help while islands, cities, and provinces are nearly destroyed by Typhoon Goni and Typhoon Ulysses. It is only now that senators and lawyers are calling on higher positions of power to “stop romanticizing Filipino resilience. Filipinos are indeed strong but some disasters could have been avoided,” as said by Senator Grace Poe.

Another claim by civil rights activist, Leila de Lima, has stated “‘officials must prioritize the lives of their people, instead of prioritizing their personal and political agenda.’”

Even Pinoy actors like Slater Young have spoken out about this issue on Twitter, “‘Can we please stop glorifying Filipino resilience? The most ‘resilient’ have it the hardest.’”

Image retrieved from For the Future/Instagram

The way I see it though, the media and the government must challenge this dominant narrative by redefining it as building Filipino resiliency on all levels of institutional capacities. This new discourse allows both the people and the government to work together in adapting and recovering from natural disasters as well as empowering the voices of the victims. The foundation of leadership and trust will also be improved in local and national regions of government. Though it will not be easy to erase the negative consequences of “Filipino resiliency” because it stemmed from governmental neglect and media exploitation; it is a new start to truly encompassing what it means to be a “resilient Filipino.”

Written by writer Krista Orejudos

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