It seems as though the hustle and bustle that is characteristic of the “ber” months has fallen over the Philippines as a whole. With issue after issue and controversy after controversy coming at us from multiple sides all in in the span of a month, it’s not difficult to imagine why one would wonder what we’re doing wrong. We have been seeing the same problems amplified over time, and what do we do? We stick through it. We adapt. Because we are resilient. For so long, the resilience of the Filipino spirit has set us apart from countless other countries. Even in the midst of disaster, we find ourselves unbroken and unshaken. We do not lose hope in a better tomorrow—even when politicians give us every reason to. But is there a downside to this quality we are too often praised for?
At the forefront of this month’s headlines, the controversial relationship between the Philippines and China did not fail to raise new suspicions among Filipinos. Despite multiple issues arising between Filipino and Chinese nationals, many of them stemming from the infamous maritime dispute which has been getting more hostile one administration to the next, the Philippines still finds itself on the receiving end of the “handout” game.
We see a great disconnect where the actions of President Duterte are concerned. Dauntless in his political approach and steel-heartedly set on change, he cuts off ties with the United States…only to somehow manage to talk China into granting us loan upon loan.
But the Filipino people are not the uneducated, misinformed people that we are often mistaken to be. We are well aware of the powerhouse China has become just as we are well aware of its debt-trap diplomacy, which allows emerging countries to loan money for the development of their infrastructure—but the cost just might be far greater than any monetary price that could ever be put on development. This may very well cost us our sovereignty.
Besides the controversy concerning our love-hate relationship with China, it seems as though the Philippines has been rattling its own waters as well. Also this month, the issue on the Commission on Higher Education’s anti-Filipino new General Education Curriculum (GEC) was raised.
The Supreme Court’s (SC) decision to lift the Temporary Restraining Order that had initially stopped the implementation of a rule that will exclude courses on the national language from the GEC in colleges, has caught the attention of Filipino citizens and advocates of our national language.
Should the extraction of Filipino courses succeed, will we really be taking a step forward? Will losing touch with our national language actually result in progress? The government order is a painful strike not only to the thousands of teachers whose jobs are being threatened, but more importantly, to the sense of nationalism that the Philippines has been found on.
The national language is key in uniting a divided people. Countless students, teachers, and universities have taken a stand and are reminding the Filipino people that through the teaching of our language, our identity and our culture is actually kept alive as it is passed on from one generation of Filipinos to the next. And if, through the failure to pass on the knowledge of our national language, we also fail in passing on our collective identity and our rich culture, then the disintegration of our nation will be on no one else’s hands but our own.
No, not even China’s.
On another note, this month, we saw the justice system take a step forward when the Sandiganbayan convicted former First Lady and current Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos guilty of graft. However, just before the people could celebrate the triumph of justice after such a long and tiresome wait, the court’s approval of Imelda Marcos’s appeal to post bail as well as the leniency encompassing this entire case questionable timing of a handful of higher-ups’ showmanship of chivalry towards the aged damsel have only given the Filipino people reason to question our country’s justice system altogether.
The facts are right in front of us—a heinous crime has been committed against the Filipino people. And yet it appears as though it is being excused with no more than the soft flick of a bailable hand.
This battle against the all-too-familiar habitual abuse of power in the scene of Philippine politics has been going on for nearly three decades. Wealth has been a hindrance to truth and justice for too long. The prestige that comes with fame has served as blinders to the eyes of the law for too long. Three decades is far too long a wait for justice to be served to the Filipino people.
Which raises the question—is this so-called “forward” step of justice…even justice at all?
And just when we think that the leniency towards convicted politicians is where our problem ends, we find out that senseless violence and disrespect have been stirring among the Filipino youth.
A car chase involving opposing fraternities Upsilon and Alpha Phi Beta ended up in a brawl, which caused an uproar among members of the University of the Philippines’ community. Unfortunately, the commotion did not stop there as screenshots of a group chat linked to Upsilon called “#LonsiLeaks” that talked about racism and sexism towards Muslims and women were leaked. With the increasing number of fraternity scandals, an investigation was immediately ordered to fully address these issues.
It is quite ironic how such foolishness—which stems from ignorance—can be exhibited in a place well-known for its educational excellence. The fact that senseless violence occurs even in institutions where people go to supposedly become sensible is something that can make one question what society has deemed to be “sense” altogether.
November has not been a smooth ride for the Philippines. It seems as though the countless controversies, disputes, dilemmas, and issues coming at us, threatening to suffocate our sovereignty, our identity, our justice, and our peace, have battered the nation. We are in a figurative corner, and the punches coming blow by blow are knocking the wind out of us. Resilience may have been a quality Filipinos have been praised for, but it will be our downfall this time around. We cannot remain here. We cannot stay and adapt anymore.
It’s time for us to get out.