The start of this week has been plagued with one tragedy after another—from a tragic ship sinking to torrential rains causing mass flooding in all parts of the metropolis. Having been stuck in traffic on Manila’s streets on many a rainy day myself, with vehicles literally inching their way or caught in a standstill, it has often been quite frustrating and terrifying even. Many become anxious over the thought of how to get home safely in the midst of a seeming frenzied breakdown in traffic rules, waist-deep floods, and a paralyzed transportation system.
Honestly, these maddening moments make us all beg the question of how our country has supposedly become the most promising financial market thus far. Visitors must really have disparate impressions of what the Philippines is about—with its beautiful beaches and high-end resorts, all in stark contrast to the almost unexplainable chaotic environ of our cities in the rain. Even so, it is seemingly ironic that despite a much-hailed economic boom, there are these constant reminders of the absence of sensible urban planning and rationalized development around us.
And so, stuck in traffic on those dreaded rainy days, I’ve often asked if we’ve simply accepted our fate? How have we simply endured and tolerated what we have to live with? It must be the reality of living in an unpredictable, stressful city that has made us Filipinos strong-willed—a survival instinct that we’ve learned as a people. In truth, there lies an admirable sense of resilience among Filipinos.
The American Psychological Association (2013) has long studied the construct of resilience as a process of adapting well in the face of threats, trauma or significant stresses in one’s life. Psychologists have equated resilience too as “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. It has further been pointed out that resilience is not a trait you are born with or without. But that fundamentally, being resilient is something one can learn and develop as behaviors, thoughts and actions. Learning to cope may be a difficult process often marked with emotional pain and sadness in the face of adversity.
As we watch images of Filipinos whose lives and homes have been washed away by floods, it is interesting to see people who still manage to wave and smile to TV cameras. Then too, there are those who have simply accepted these misfortunes as a way of life, a new normal even. It is often consoling to hear people who manage to be hopeful in the direst circumstances, that being spared from all these should make one extremely grateful after all.
Seeing how people vary in their coping, the road to resilience seems as individual to us all as our food preferences. Ironically though, our resilience has often made us learn to settle too easily and to accept the way things are. Yet, the two things that make Filipinos extraordinarily resilient also come with a strong sense of spiritual faith and the caring and supportive relationships within the family and the community. The spontaneous demonstration of our cultural traits of bayanihan and pakikipagkapwa during tragedies undoubtedly make us a unique populace. We seem to bounce back without prompting, often accepting whatever life throws at us with a prayer and a shrug of the shoulders. And maybe in these difficult times, resilience and hope are what we can all do with a lot of.