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Are You Contributing to the Harmful “Resilient Filipino” Narrative Without Realizing It?

The talk of Filipino resilience is something we’ve all heard before. It’s nothing new. In the past years, whenever disaster struck, the narrative always came back. Everyone always saw at least one picture of a Filipino struggling in the midst of a calamity with a caption celebrating our people’s endurance.

With 2020 hitting us with one disaster after another, especially with the typhoons these past two weeks that added to the turmoil of the still-ongoing pandemic, more and more people are learning the dangers of this narrative. 

However, not all takes have to contain that buzzword – resilient – in it for it to promote that narrative. So, it’s important to be aware of the place of privilege you’re coming from when weighing in on news, whether in private conversations or things you post online, because you may be contributing to the harmful “resilient Filipino” narrative without realizing it. 

Here are three questions to ask yourself when assessing whether you’re guilty of this or not:

Do I share posts romanticizing sacrifices or risky actions people resort to in order to help fellow victims?

If you see a post about a civilian risking their life to save someone else or about someone giving up food for their kid because there weren’t enough relief goods and your knee-jerk reaction is to say it’s inspiring, there’s a problem there. Posts that romanticize these situations as great heroic feats to emulate and be inspired by are harmful. It glorifies the actions taken by victims without acknowledging the systemic failures that forced them to do so in the first place, which is exactly what the resiliency narrative is all about.

Am I promoting private donation drives and fundraising efforts as the only solution?

This isn’t to say that people stepping up to help each other isn’t something to be happy about or praise. It’s definitely a good thing that many are using their privilege, platform, and resources to do what they can. However, sentiments that frame this as something that can replace government aid is counterproductive. Saying that the country should just rely on the generosity and enduring nature of volunteers is not only unsustainable, but it also fails to hold the government accountable. Victims’ lives shouldn’t have to depend on whether fellow civilians have extra to give or not, especially when it’s the government’s job to provide sufficient calamity aid. 

Do I find myself making excuses for government officials in conversations?

This doesn’t even have to mean blatantly defending the administration. Even talking over valid criticisms with sentiments of neutrality can be harmful and promote the resilient Filipino take. The resiliency narrative is detrimental because it counts on Filipinos to just brave through disasters instead of holding the government accountable. So, to downplay the demands of Filipinos for better disaster preparedness and response from the government contributes to the damaging idea that victims should just fend for themselves and endure.

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