Why be part of the mad rush?

lemmingsAgain Philippine society steps up to presenting itself as a showcase of sad juxtaposition. Just a month ago, an outpouring of often well-publicised support and relief work marked the aftermath of the destruction wreaked by tropical cyclone Ondoy on Metro Manila, and in recent weeks calls to prayer resounded as Filipinos braced for several more subsequent hits from Mother Nature.

Then all that heroically-pious pomp nicely segued into major business-as-usual: (a) voter registration for the coming 2010 polls which ended on Sunday, the 1st of November, and (b) the annual All Souls Day pilgrimage to the cemeteries.

The closing of voter registration last Sunday was characterised by throngs of last-minute registrants that all but overwhelmed Commission on Election (COMELEC) offices resulting in thousands of less-than-satisfied COMELEC “customers” and lots of expressions of “indignation” about the usual incompetence of government agencies and bureaucrats. Ho hum. As blogger Rom points out:

[…] there were more than 10 months of registration. While registration drives – a lot of them – did increase the interest of the people, the net result remained largely the same: very low daily rates of application. The very high rates of registration happened mostly during satellite registrations and special events sponsored by these registration drives. For the most part, however, registration at Comelec offices on regular days remained well below capacity.

The aftermath of All Souls Day rituals, for its part, would have been nothing new; if it weren’t for the context that recent events provide.

garbageincemeteries2
[Photo credit: GMANews.tv]

Indeed, GMANews.tv pretty much beat me to the punch:

The lessons from tropical storm Ondoy, which brought epic floods in the nation’s capital partly as a result of garbage-clogged canals and drainage systems, seem to be lost on Manila residents who generated tons of garbage during the observance of All Saints’ Day over the weekend.

Tony Dizon, a coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said parts of the Manila North Cemetery, Manila South Cemetery, and the Chinese Cemetery resembled garbage dump sites with mounds of trash piled up in many corners of the most populated burial grounds in the metropolis.

“We are really saddened by what we have seen. It’s as if they didn’t learn from the floods brought by Ondoy and Pepeng. Parang walang nangyari,” Dizon lamented in a phone interview with GMANews.TV on Monday.

And to be fair to those Big Bad Government Officials we love to hate there was at least some token appreciation for and encouragement given around the right thing to do as we went about our prayerful ways:

“By way of honoring the dead and preserving life, let us not bring disposable plastics and styrofoam in cemeteries this coming Undas. Let this occasion be the start of reducing and eliminating plastics in our households and communities […]”

That’s Environment Secretary Lito Atienza calling on the faithful to do the right thing last Saturday as Filipinos trooped in their usual great numbers to their loved ones’ tombs.

So while the earlier (a) ended in that typically noisy “indignation” directed at high-profile “government inefficiency” that popular sentiment tends to latch on to (and in the process attracting quite a bit of media and blog exposure), the outcome of the latter (b) hardly evoked a peep from our expert “activists” considering that it essentially underscores the deeper character flaw in the Filipino from which emanates most of what accounts for our society’s failure to prosper. When no fingers can be pointed, no expressions of “indignation” can be offered.

As Ben Kritz once wrote:

Those who would gnash their teeth about a major armed robbery have a hard time seeing the connection between that and the national habits of urinating in public, jaywalking, littering, and a dozen other antisocial acts that people engage in with no more thought than they give to breathing, but those things are a big part of the reason the truly sensational crimes happen. When the small laws – whether they are the ones that are actually written down or the ones that develop as a natural product of a civilised society – are neither respected nor enforced, no laws can be enforced.

The article from which the above excerpt was lifted obviously refers more to the connection between heinous violent crimes and the small anti-social behaviours that form part of the typical day at the office of the average Filipino. But as we see now in the context provided by this blog post, we can just as easily offer a brilliant juxtaposition of Filipino post-Halloween slobbery to the teeth gnashing that followed the havoc brought by cyclone Ondoy just a month ago.

As we surroundeth ourselves with garbage, so too shall we dieth of garbage.

There is an even more fundamental underlying psychology at work here where one finds the common denominator between the conduct observed in both the voter registration snafu and the post-Halloween garbage pile-up.

Why be part of a mad rush?

Why register to vote along with thousands of others on the eleventh hour? Why choose a particularly difficult day to honour the memory of your beloved deceased when you have the rest of the year to do so?

Again we are faced with the hard questions. And hard questions usually start with the word “why”.

Until we are prepared with convincing answers to such questions, we will forever be repeatedly shocked into a stupor whenever our most cherished habits, traditions, and thinking approaches get subject to the kind of scrutiny that often results in the revelation of painful and ugly truths about us.

About benign0

benign0 is the Web master of GetRealPhilippines.com
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16 Responses to Why be part of the mad rush?

  1. Pingback: Why be part of the mad rush? | The Anti Pinoy :)- Typhoon Pepeng

  2. ilda says:

    Ok. So you can’t help it because you really have to visit the dead on the 1st of November because someone from your family said that the dead will visit you from the grave if you don’t visit on that particular day. The question is, why bring so much food? Can’t it just be a quick visit to the grave and eat at a restaurant nearby afterwards? I don’t get this need to have a fiesta all the time even in supposedly solemn situations.

    Next question is, why leave your garbage in the cemetery? Isn’t that disrespecting the dead considering you’re supposed to be paying some respect to the dead? And more importantly, why do people think that it’s someone else’s job to pick-up after their mess? This is a classic case of people expecting just the government to do everything else for them.

    Obviously, even after the great flooding from typhoon Ondoy, most Filipinos haven’t learned anything about how to avoid polluting the country’s sewage system.

    Stop making a fool of yourselves people or if you can’t, simply pick-up your trash!

    Don’t take innocent people to the grave.

    • Maia says:

      It’s true. They love to party and then conveniently forget to clean up the mess when cemeteries are for quiet reflection and showing respect for the memory of loved ones who have passed away. Sure, a lot of Pinoys are proud of turning such solemn holidays into fiestas and will immediately say “It’s part of the Filipino nature to be happy all the time!” but where does it say that that should include defiling a loved one’s resting place? Most of our relatives used to stay overnight in cemeteries and have picnics there, but then they realized that it was too stressful and that a moment of silence and prayer during their visits was better. Besides, the traffic is horrible both ways.

      Seriously, people can’t get their priorities straight. It’s a source of national pride that we’re one of the happiest people in the world, but there should be boundaries and this ‘cheerfulness’ is bordering on just plain ignorance and lacking in common sense. Just because we feel the need to hold a party in the cemetery doesn’t mean we don’t clean up after ourselves. Malinis nga tayo sa pangangatawan pero lagi na lang natin hinahayaan yung paligid.

      And yeah, dumating na nga yung bagyo at ang daming namatay pero andami pa ring ayaw maniwala na basura ang may dahilan kung bakit nga binaha ng husto ang Pinas. Paano kasi, pag nagtapon ng basura yung isa, iisipin niya na hindi lang naman siya ang gumagawa, marami rin. Wala namang mangyayari kasi marami pa ring iba ang nagtatapon. Isipin din ng iba na okay lang kasi wala namang nakakakita nun or konti lang naman yung tinapon niya, hindi makakasama.

      What I don’t understand is why it’s so hard for people to JUST FOLLOW RULES. There are other parts of Manila and parts of the country that have good waste management and people practice garbage segregation and recycling, yet other barangays and municipalities can’t enforce this properly. Sayang din. Ang dapat nga diyan, taasan ang multa. 1000 pesos per plastic bag of garbage that you throw indiscriminately.

      • ilda says:

        Tradition and religious beliefs have done a lot of damage to our society. It doesn’t matter if what people practice wreak havoc on the environment and their own wellbeing; they just blindly follow what their forefathers have been doing for years and not bother with the consequence.

        It’s hard to speak against people’s beliefs even if there is evidence that it is wrong because you’ll just be labelled a traitor or a deserter.

  3. benign0 says:

    We Filipinos (a) don’t see the issues that face us as components in a bigger framework of dysfunction, (b) fail to apply the class of thinking required to identify the causal relationships between components in this bigger framework, and therefore (c) revert to finding comfort and “hope” in superstition, religion, mysticism, and the empty promises and slogans of traditional politicians. In the case of this year’s All Soul’s Day, the comfy world of the spiritual (in the sense of the rather shallow way Filipinos regard spirituality) so easily provided a rather disruptive distraction — almost like an induced amnesia — from applying any lessons revealed by the Ondoy disaster.

    There is a popular feel-good saying:

    Satisfaction is getting what you want;
    Happiness iw wanting what you get.

    The trouble with sayings like the above that pander to loser mentalities is that they lead one to believe that “getting what you want” and “wanting what you get” are mutually exclusive. They are not, because you can have both.

    Getting what you want is a fulfilment of one’s aspirations. And wanting what you get is an ability to appreciate one’s achievements. As we can see from this reality check, the two aspects of the above saying actually complement each other.

    Perhaps those who left their rubbish in the Philippines’ cemeteries this weekend thought that they’d abdicate their responsibilities as civic-minded citizens under the excuse that they were too busy having a “happy” time playing mahjong and pusoy with their kamag-anaks for one night.

  4. GabbyD says:

    i’m confused about what people are saying here about waste management:

    1) are we supposed to not make waste? to do so means not to consume. are you saying: dont consume while at the cemetery? or don’t consume anywhere?
    2) if we cant make waste in cemeteries, doesnt that mean, we transfer our waste to our homes. why is that better/cleaner?
    3) why is it wrong to make waste in cemeteries? should the issue be proper waste disposal facilities in a cemetery? bigger trash cans, etc?

    • benign0 says:

      No need to be confused GabbyD:

      (1) All living things consume. It’s the nature of the waste and the way we dispose of it that is the issue here.

      (2) Indeed, if we don’t dispose of the waste in cemeteries, we will still have to dispose of it at home — which makes us more responsible for and more in control of the way said rubbish is disposed.

      (3) True. There is also the issue of not having enough waste storage/disposal facilities in cemeteries during Halloween. But still: Is that a good excuse to litter? There is still the option of taking your rubbish with you and disposing of it properly when you come across the means to do so. Then again in a society where urinating on public walls is a widely-accepted cultural trait, I don’t really blame you for struggling a bit to grasp this concept.

      Note how you take each of the three points you make out of context, Mr. GabbyD. Perhaps you will appreciate more how these three points are actually an inter-related aspect of a system when I re-state these ideas in a more coherent fashion; thus:

      We need to change the volume and nature of our consumption to reduce the component of it that cannot be naturally degraded or re-used. As we go about this, we need to continue to find sustainable solutions to managing disposal of the component of our waste that cannot be re-used or naturally degraded.

      The key to sustainable solutions is to see the issues and challenges we face as a system of inter-related components. That way, we learn to formulate more systemic solutions; ones that address root causes rather than mere symptoms. 😉

    • GabbyD says:

      the missing argument is : are there waste mgt systems at home? maybe not.

      • Filo says:

        Why is it so difficult for Filipinos to understand a basic value like “Don’t leave your garbage lying around where it shouldn’t” and all that implies? The Japanese get it. The Thai get it. Why can’t proud Pinoys get it?

        Complicating the simple, Pinoy style.
        Geez.

    • benign0 says:

      the missing argument is : are there waste mgt systems at home? maybe not.

      It’s not a missing argument, GabbyD, it is precisely the point.

      There are none because they aren’t a priority. And why aren’t they priority? Because government officials don’t see it as a priority. And why don’t they? Most likely because they don’t see it as an issue relevant to winning elections. And why isn’t it relevant to winning elections? Because Pinoy voters do not vote on the basis of issues.

      • GabbyD says:

        i was refering to your bullet 2: “2) Indeed, if we don’t dispose of the waste in cemeteries, we will still have to dispose of it at home — which makes us more responsible for and more in control of the way said rubbish is disposed.”

        you cant be “in control” if you bring it home, when there are no waste disposal facilities at home.

        in fact, during all souls/saints day, there are more waste disposal facilities INSIDE the cemeteries. for some visitors, it would make sense to leave their trash there.

        quite frankly, this expectation makes sense — they believe that cemetery mgt will clean up after them, clear out the trashcans that are installed on cemetery grounds, and said mgt does NOTHING to convince them otherwise.

      • benign0 says:

        You know what, GabbyD? I agree with you.

        You (though apparently unwittingly) described the system of dysfunction that characterises that slobbery of Pinoys that leads to all these environmental disasters we’ve been seeing AND WILL continue to see in coming years.

        Thus Pinoys:

        (1) lack control over waste disposal in their own homes;

        (2) rely on anyone but themselves to pick up after them; and,

        (3) As a result of the above two, see leaving garbage scattered around as perfectly sensible.

        Nice one, dude. 😀

      • Sasha says:

        I think I know what GAbby’s point is…. why make a distinction between reckless waste at home and in public places when both end up the same place?
        Because when you take responsibility of your trash at home, you are communicating you respect public places.

        What the waste management company does when it takes the trash from your home is entirely their responsibility. YOU did yours. If they don’t do their part, it’s their problem.

        But it should not be a reason to just go throw trash in the streets.

  5. I went to Baguio last year and the same problem exists there. There’s an open admission park with an awesome mountain view. There was trash everywhere. Part of this is due to the fact that there weren’t too many trash cans placed in the most popular pathways. The other was the impatience of the people to wait and hang on to their trash while they walk to the nearest trash can. This implies the two sources of the problem: external–municipal action regarding the availability of trash cans and internal–people’s impatience and short-sightedness about the proper disposal of their trash. The result? Everyone loses, the park was a mess.

  6. HusengBatute says:

    I wonder where this so-called “bayanihan” spirit so loudly trumpeted went. Oh well. Perhaps, when another crisis arrives.

  7. benign0 says:

    We Filipinos (a) don't see the issues that face us as components in a bigger framework of dysfunction, (b) fail to apply the class of thinking required to identify the causal relationships between components in this bigger framework, and therefore (c) revert to finding comfort and “hope” in superstition, religion, mysticism, and the empty promises and slogans of traditional politicians. In the case of this year's All Soul's Day, the comfy world of the spiritual (in the sense of the rather shallow way Filipinos regard spirituality) so easily provided a rather disruptive distraction — almost like an induced amnesia — from applying any lessons revealed by the Ondoy disaster.There is a popular feel-good saying:Satisfaction is getting what you want;Happiness iw wanting what you get.The trouble with sayings like the above that pander to loser mentalities is that they lead one to believe that “getting what you want” and “wanting what you get” are mutually exclusive. They are not, because you can have both.Getting what you want is a fulfilment of one's aspirations. And wanting what you get is an ability to appreciate one's achievements. As we can see from this reality check, the two aspects of the above saying actually complement each other.Perhaps those who left their rubbish in the Philippines' cemeteries this weekend thought that they'd abdicate their responsibilities as civic-minded citizens under the excuse that they were too busy having a “happy” time playing mahjong and pusoy with their kamag-anaks for one night.

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