Our household has one story from a devastated DaanBantayan in northern Cebu, the hometown of our kasambahay. Last month, she went home there to be with her five-year-old son and elderly mother.
“Yolanda” left them homeless, starving, and helpless. Days later, as they queued for relief goods, they realized there would be at least two kinds of lines— those who voted for the winning town officials, and those who voted for the losers. Unfortunately for our kasambahay, they voted for the latter. Therefore, they weren’t priority recipients, and the goods they got were less.
The fate of our kasambahay is not unique, at all. In truth, this must have been replicated countless times. Patronage politics is a maggot that eats into the decomposing fiber of our society. The influx of relief goods and other material assistance runs into such an obstacle. The nation’s leaders come face to face with our damaged culture today, more than at any time in recent past.
This catastrophe divides the country’s population into two kinds—those who talk and don’t help at all, and those who help. Yes, as simple and as simplistic as that.
One has to rally behind the flag, no matter that you don’t like the President or his spokesmen, or you don’t like the Vice President and his omnipresent self, or you wonder in whose payroll this news talking head is.
Yolanda swept up to the devastated landscape a lot of stereotypes, especially in social media. Which one are you?
The Bitch/Eternal Critic/Know-it-all. You know the type. There’s no shortage of it, especially in social media. She/“he” hisses against everything, cutting no one any slack.
The Marketer. To this type, everything is promotion of one’s image or corporate image. Branding is everything and every moment. Even in the literal eye of the storm, there is effort to brand. When there is death and starvation, does it really matter which corporate image is being branded? What a no-brainer, yet it happens.
Image is everything
The Celebrity. Again, image is everything, with its attendant fame (and future endorsements). But there are celebrities, foreign and local, who know how to cash in on their fame for the honest good. Ironically, the social media that has become the main instrument for celebrityhood is also the means that can destroy their fame at this point. In social media, they come under the closest scrutiny, especially during disasters. Cyber-stalking has its use at this time.
The Cebuano. Self-reliant, at any time. Must be in their DNA.
The young and the idealistic, the old and the idealistic. They just want to help beyond politics or partisan affiliation. Our Super subsection editor Pam Pastor, thinking out of the box as usual, puts a box of nail polish bottles on the table in the Lifestyle workstation, with the sign “Polish for Panties.” You buy a bottle, and your cash is used to buy “undies” for Yolanda victims. Pam turned her obsession with nail polish—which any Instagramer and Twitter user knows of—into a fundraiser.
The “parachute journalist” and the celebrity “parachute journalist.” It seemed like the interesting times of the Edsa Revolution. They drop from the sky and turn into instant experts on Philippine governance. It doesn’t matter that the calamity is of a magnitude not seen anywhere in recent years. A matron, obviously turned off, said, “It is easier to deliver images than to deliver goods.”
The revered news icon Christian Amanpour, with characteristic ferocity, asked the President if he realized that the handling of this disaster would define his presidency. With the stench of dead bodies and the moans of the starving filling the nation’s psyche, what Chief Executive, indeed what normal person, would have the gall to think and talk legacy or political future?
Such probity seemed pompous, if not misplaced.
Socially responsible corporations. CSR or corporate social responsibility has never been more evident than it is today. Business entities are giving back to society, many of them without fanfare. The executives of a five-star hotel flew to the disaster-stricken DaanBantayan in Cebu right after Yolanda struck, and distributed relief goods for days.
Good citizen. Good Samaritan. This calamity showed that we have more good citizens than bad. That must be said. They are those who do whatever they can, in whatever capacity, even without an organizational structure or infrastructure.
Anonymous Filipino. He or she helps, shares what he/she has, is capable of empathy and compassion. He or she is used to suffering and can be fatalistic about it. In many admirable cases, it is not fatalism, but faith.
However, this calamity is one instance when the Filipino didn’t bare his sense of humor. It’s not humanly possible just yet.