Again 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.
[Photo credit: GMANews.tv]
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.