The Gist


Remember when Presidential Spokesperson Roque said, “I'm still surprised at our resilience at 45 percent pa lang po ang nawawalan ng trabaho. It could have been worse, kasi nga po complete lockdown ang nangyayari sa atin." And in the words of the public official, we should still be thankful?

/ 14 September 2020

Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura? Nagpasko ka na ba sa gitna ng kalsada? If you did and you endured it with a smile amidst it all, then you exude a classic Filipino trait that we are all so fond of. Filipinos’ resilience is something most of us take pride for. But like everything that’s too much can lead to worse, we should keep the notion delicate to respect people’s hardships and situations in life.

It’s been a rough year and the government has always assured us to stay positive to keep us all afloat from the depression that the pandemic has caused. For the first few months it was acceptable, but we’re through the end of the year with a lot of uncertainties and we’re still clinging on resilience as a saving grace for us all. 

There’s truth in our resilience today that has made us a stronger nation. We got through the worst storms in centuries like the Yolanda and Ondoy; we survived the SARS outbreak in 2003; we got back after Mt. Pinatubo explosions; but this year has been our biggest challenge because COVID-19 has affected the world and tipped our local economy with a major quake. We needed hope; crave, per se. But it all should come with a sense of sincerity and backed with actions. Unfortunately, many Filipinos are finding it hard nowadays to believe in this ‘resilience’ because we are still struggling to find our footing for the past six months in lockdown.

With his classic smile that brims in vigor and hope for the government, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque takes the stand every now and then to spread news and positivity. It’s a fact that critics have always kept a macro lens on whatever he says to the public because he represents the voice of the current regime. So, to no surprise, every word he utters are always minced and criticized to see the value in it. But, apparently, these words of assurance seem to reflect a fragile truth that some people link to toxic positivity.

In one instance, he addressed the rising unemployment in the country. Sad but true. However, his words, “Ako po ay nagagalak na hindi tayo 100 percent nawalan ng trabaho kasi sa tagal po na naka-lockdown tayo, talagang I’m still surprised at our resilience at 45 percent pa lang po ang nawawalan ng trabaho. It could have been worse, kasi nga po complete lockdown ang nangyayari sa atin.” The math is vivid, 45 percent is not by hundreds or thousands, but more. 

In August, the Social Weather Stations recorded an all-time high record of unemployment on Filipino adults for the month of July this year, which shows a clear jump from the 17.7 percent from December last year. To put it bluntly, 45 percent is equal to 27.3 million who went jobless in July. As much as we needed that recognition of resilience, people beg not to disqualify the emotions and hardships of people who lost their jobs because of an unprecedented pandemic that the government has been struggling to contain for months now. 

Several social media personalities such as Slater Young and Frankie Pangilinan are using their influence to call out the glamorization of resilience.

Remember Temptation Island but let’s make it real? In the words of Roque, “Sa Pilipino, when you have to live with something, sayawan mo na lang pero iyan po ang gagawin natin. Sasayawan po natin, we have to deal with COVID-19.” The statement was said during a televised press briefing last July when the plans to resume operations of various industries are being considered to keep the economy going.

At some point, resilience also was challenged when former Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo took his words to a test by commuting in Manila after being dared by several militant groups. “You know when I said there was no crisis [in transport] , I was referring to paralysis. There is no paralysis in the transport system because we can still get rides,” he says. Dismissing the struggles of everyday Filipino commuters by leaning into the idea that public transport is always available, he instead blames traffic for the cause of commuters’ woes. 

Even in the education sector, we remain resilient and pushed through with some schools rushing in to prepare for the whole new normal education. According to J. Prospero E. De Vera III, chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), “Filipinos are known for being resilient. This pandemic has opened our minds that being resilient should not start when an individual has started his or her family and has experienced problems but rather, should begin from the time we have started with our education. In this way, resiliency will be inculcated in our minds and in our day-to-day living. To our students, parents, faculty members, and school administrators, please do not stop being resilient, innovative, and caring. These characteristics will not only contribute to our personal development but also will help our community and in turn, will contribute to our nation.”

Resilience is a big word. As much as it seems light and positive, it also carries a burden in it to stay strong at the face of complicated situations. It’s not a matter of using inspiration or creativity as an excuse to dismiss the real problems in our society. Resiliency was once a Filipino pride. But in the context of our lives as citizens of a nation, we deserve better and for our real struggles to be heard and understood instead of just receiving flowery words.