Calling Filipinos resilient is an insult

By Ninotchka Rosca

It was difficult to see and hear those words repeated, in media reports, articles, military and even White House briefings: “The Filipino people are resilient.” A characterization which should raise anyone’s hackles, with its image of a jelly blob, quivering when punched, then quieting back to what it was before the rain of blows: sans sharpness, inert and passive, non-evaluating of what happens to its self.

No, we are not resilient.

We break, when the world is just too 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 emerge transformed into something equally terrifying.

Read on…


  1. 1/3

    My Expectation

    Disaster Root Cause Analysis, although saddled with a disadvantage of a possible hindsight bias, may lead to Systems Change and Systems Re-Design in order to prevent the recurrence of the same catastrophe.

    Of course, there will be myriad contributory factors that led to the tragic event like the fact that areas severely affected were coastal regions. However, human experience from fresh random (Read: NOT selective in nature) interviews will still provide a significant role in the investigation.

    Let’s take these examples:

    “I thought that Yolanda [the local name of Typhoon Haiyan] was just like the past calamities that I experienced,” Borromeo said. “I realized it was ten times stronger than anything I experienced in the past.”

    Rene Almendras, Secretary to the Cabinet, I recall, said that some Taclobanons told him, “We were ready for the wind. We were not ready for the water.

    Ted Failon, in the “Failon Ngayon” episode last Saturday mentioned that “mala-tsunami pala ang storm surge.”

    • 2/3

      For sure, we cannot generalize those statements other than inferring ‘underestimation‘ of the strength of the natural phenomenon based from the magnitude of the casualty. But was this thought really commonplace among the Visayans? What led them to underestimate? Were there really preparations like forced evacuation but were not heeded by the populace?

      Several objective interviews must be done first so we can find out what really is the general expectation of the Visayan people prior to the onslaught of the typhoon. What was the popular sentiment before the typhoon hit land and caused the storm surge? What was their thought of the Signal No. 4 and the storm surge that could happen?

      It’s just sad that the root cause analysis is reactionary on the part of the government; nonetheless, it must be done in the days to come for the purpose of avoiding the same disastrous fate that we had just witnessed.

      Let us just remind those who will investigate to analyze the facts regarding human experience before the disaster happen. Several survivors from different localities in the typhoon-affected areas must be randomly and objectively interviewed (similar to a systematic survey). For instance, the perceived popular ‘underestimation’ may have been brought about by leaders’ ‘underestimation’ too. Another attitude in weathering a storm like ‘strong faith’ must also be considered. Could this be a widespread feeling then?

      The investigators will then be able to recommend systems correction but, of course, accountability, if truly justified, must not be ignored.

    • 3/3

      I mentioned ‘strong faith’ in order to weather a storm…

      Borromeo described the next four days as a humbling experience that made him more religious. “People had no shelter, food and water, but you would not hear them complaining about the material things they lost,” he said. “They always thanked God they survived.”

      (The mashabledotcom link was provided above.)

      Again, if this is the widely accepted belief, even days before the storm, then there must really be a Systems Change in all of us because human experience must result to human proactive actions.

      This is the meaning of Confucius’s view of the learning process: “involve me and I will understand.”

      Thus, we can expect that this tragedy, and perhaps other unfortunate incidents [like the Aug (Ugh!) 23 hostage incident] won’t happen again because we already learned our lesson.