Between fatalism and providence


First of two parts

At the rate that she is being battered on social and other media, broadcaster Korina Sanchez may need “rescue, relief, recovery, and rehabilitation” more urgently than the victims of Typhoon Ruby. She looks like a battered wife without a husband to show as the culprit.

Her great offense, it appears, is a couple of careless remarks uttered during a segment of the TV Patrol news program where, while engaged in banter with co-anchors Noli de Castro and Ted Failon, she earnestly wished that Typhoon Ruby would skip the Philippines and dump all its fury instead on Japan, because that country can cope with a natural disaster much more effectively.

To comprehend the resulting controversy, it’s useful to know exactly what was said during the broadcast, which took place on Wednesday, Dec. 3, while meteorologists were still tracking the path of Typhoon Ruby, and the nation still had no idea when it would make its first landfall in the country.

Failon inbounded the ball when he opined that the next few days would be “critical” in determining the path of the typhoon.

To this, Sanchez reacted, “Kaya pa natin idasal yan para lumihis.” (We can still pray so it changes direction, [and perhaps skip our country].)

De Castro then joined in and remarked: “Sana ay hati na lang tayo.” (I wish we can just split the typhoon’s impact.) “Kalahati sa Pilipinas, kalahati sa Japan. (Half to the Philippines, half to Japan).”

To this, Sanchez quickly responded, “Puwede bang sa kanila na lang lahat?” (How about, they just get all of it?)

De Castro says diplomatically, “hopefully not,”

But Sanchez presses her point, saying, “Sa kanila na lang lahat. Parang mas kaya nila.” (Let them have it all. It seems they can cope with it better).

Why did Taklesa go viral?
That should have been that (over and out), but someone had the bright idea of recording the segment and posting it on YouTube.

Once it was on the web, the thing went viral. Reaction was immediate, sweeping, and angry. And the anger was mostly directed at Sanchez. The guys were spared.

The Rappler website reported some of the reactions, from the serious to the glib. “No one has the right to wish ill on another,” said one netizen. “Irresponsible and insensitive,” said another. And so on. And so forth.

Korina had her defenders, too, and they couldn’t understand why some were bearing down so hard on the TV anchor. “She’s only human,” they said.

On showbiz government, comments on Korina’s gaffe ran in tandem with comments on her husband’s misadventures on a motorcycle in Samar. Perhaps the most telling arrow from showbizgov was labeling Sanchez as “Taklesa,” meaning that she is lacking in consideration for others. When I took note of the new coinage, my son told me that the word has already been used several times on Kris Aquino. So the two Ks can keep each other company.

What made Korina’s remarks so offensive to many?

Was it because there are so many Filipinos in Japan and so many Japanese who would be in harm’s way if God were to grant Ms. K’s prayer?

Or was it because her prayer grates on Filipino sensibilities and is contrary to our Christian upbringing and beliefs?

Or was it because she is a recidivist? Last year, amidst the nation’s ordeal from Yolanda/Haiyan, she had a dustup with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, whom she accused of ignorance for criticizing the Aquino government for the hapless rescue and relief effort in East Visayas.

I can’t rightly say which, but to find an answer I have scoured my library and the web for clues, and I must say that I am grateful to the controversy for leading me to discover some insights into the challenge of coping with disasters, natural and man-made.

For one, I have gotten to understand the difference between fatalism and providence, which otherwise would have escaped my interest. I am not a religious person.

Fatalism, lazy and insolent
Professor Olasky, author of The politics of Disaster, suggests that there is a better perspective in coping with disaster than just wishing and praying for immunity from them.

Some embrace fatalism in looking at disaster. “If it happens here, it happens.” But fatalism can breed lassitude (doing nothing, noynoying?), or insolence (King Canute ordering the ocean waves to pause).

Fatalism was a staple of Greek and Roman beliefs, and still figures prominently in Hinduism (karma), Islam (Kismet), and many tribal religions.

Significantly, fatalism was never part of biblical thinking, which historically emphasizes the concept of providence. Olasky suggests that we must reawaken this understanding of providence, if we are to deal with disasters in ways neither foolhardy nor fearful.

Understanding the concept of providence
Olasky offers this key insight: “The concept of providence is based on the idea that God rules the world but we don’t know outcomes until they occur. It leads brave people to take action when they see children about to die, either physically or psychologically: only when we’ve done all we can and failed do we know that a death was ordained.”

He relates the story of Ted Yamamori, former head of the Christian relief agency Food for the hungry, who once described an African woman who was mourning the death of her child. The youngster was sick but still alive, yet the mother was convinced that fate decreed her child’s death. Yamamori changed fate by getting the child medicine that restored him to health.

Another charity agency has as its mission statement: “We believe God does not make mistakes….it is a high calling to provide quality care to those physically and mentally challenged in such a way that would be pleasing and honoring to the heavenly father and bring emotional and spiritual healing to those who brought them into this world.”

What if, says Olasky, we apply this attitude to helping those who suffer through Yolanda or Katrina or Ruby, or will suffer through the disasters to come? Then every challenge truly becomes an opportunity.

In part two of this series, I will discuss how theological views, especially the Christian view, can influence for the better our policy choices in facing disasters.


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  1. I would venture to say that the reason why Ms. Sanchez’s comment went wild is because we are looking and watching at a potential First Lady of the country. If she were an ordinary anchor person, her words will go unnoticed. In a culture like ours, especially those in leadership position spouses play significant role. We experienced it with the Marcoses and the Arroyos with disastrous results. Ms. Sanchez has been a public figure longer than her husband. For her to stay in the sideline if her husband were elected would be contrary to her being. Any statement coming from her with the looming election in mind will be interpreted in various ways. As you indicated, the other anchors were spared. One thing is sure, we demand perfection from anyone who steps into a leadership runway including spouses. The question for a lot of people is will she be another Imelda or Miguel.? Will she be working behind the scene to pursue her own agenda? Every gesture, every word will be scrutinized to the point of ridiculousness. But it would seem that Ms Sanchez is prepared for that kind of a life. She has been in this role more than two decades. However, as you pointed out, Ms. Sanchez seems to be out of her element when it comes to defending her husband on a world stage. In her interview with CNN Anchor, Ms. Sanchez seemed oblivious to the optics on the ground during last year’s typhoon. She should have known and instead of admitting to a massive failure of the government in responding to the needs of the victims, she defended what was indefensible. Indeed, if her statement is reflective of her inability to see beyond personal and family interest, it is going to be a serious problem, should her husband is elected president. We may be seeing a Marie Antoinette or an Imelda Marcos. But we have been seeing this kind of behavior in different levels of leadership. In this sense, I am fatalistic in my view of the nature of leadership will have in the near future.

  2. What happened to the donations the Aquino administration received last Yolanda disaster; the last time I read it was about $300 millions.

  3. We cannot blame the “bashers” of Korina. Her words and actions will always be on the watchful eyes and ears of the citizenry because her husband is aspiring to be president and she as first lady. The good thing is that the citizenry are knowing each day the personality and character of Korina thus this will weight heavily on the candidacy of Mar for president.

  4. They should have consulted a meteorologist before uttering those unpleasant statements.
    Don’t they know that Japan will never have a typhoon in this time of year? for it is winter in
    the land and that include China never na nagkabagyo ang malamig at maginaw na bansa
    except snowstorms.

  5. Another charity agency has as its mission statement: “We believe God does not make mistakes….it is a high calling to provide quality care to those physically and mentally challenged in such a way that would be pleasing and honoring to the heavenly father and bring emotional and spiritual healing to those who brought them into this world.”

    Should PNoy qualify for this … ‘mentally challenged’? I think so!

  6. Vicente Penetrante on

    Climate change believers say that disasters come because we are not taking care of the earth as God has commanded us to do. Others say that disasters come in order to bring “mankind at its finest in responding with generous relief.” Others still believe that the 3 Fates who spun, measure and cut the thread of life are responsible. They are the goddesses who preside over the birth and life of humans.

    We await the theological views coming up.

  7. Filipino’s form of humor is at time appallingly undesirable, Filipinos are fond of making fun or jokes at the expense of another person, there are jokes that can be playfully shared between or among good friends but not when it is directed at a stranger or non-acquaintance – it often leave a bad taste in the mouth.

    These news persons should have first thought of how Philippines have lost a number of our expert meteorologist to other countries, how this government had failed to implement an effective disaster program, knowingly that Philippines is at the tropics, and year-on-year experience the same sort of calamity.

    Prayers? It is not the ultimate answer to a natural phenomenon, planning and its proper implementation is the solution. Directing disastrous calamity towards the direction of another country? It shows a dreadful display of apathy towards those who would suffer.

    Filipinos should grow intellectually matured and be more conscientious in all manners of social and societal relations – this way we can move the country forward.

  8. P. on

    Speaking of the ABS-CBN news team, they should get rid of their parting words: “‘yan ang aming nakalap sa mas malawak na pag-papatrol”.Usually, their coverages are too limited and redundant. They often keep on dealing with one major subject and nothing else newsworthy. Except, perhaps, for the ‘gossips’ about movie stars and celebs, which are trivial to the peoples’ daily lives.

    Also, Korina is not the right person to say: “kung may malasakit sa isat-isa,………..” With the legal problem she had with her one-time ‘maid’, she cannot /doesn’t project sincerity. .:

  9. It is a stupid joke and remark coming from the ex-VP of the Philippines and Korina Sanchez. Talking without thinking not realizing the consequence and ill effect because of lack of moral discipline and sensitivity are bad deeds to most educated Filipinos.