The Survival Instinct of the Filipinos
By Apolinario Villalobos
Survival is a human instinct, but varies according to environment and culture. Some can survive with utmost honesty, some with deception, and still others do with violence. The Filipinos use ingenuity and resourcefulness in order to survive, sometimes even with much tolerance of a wrongdoing – a manifestation of a non-violent character. This tolerance does not mean, however, that the Filipinos are of a cowardly race. By survival, this writer, mean endurance and persistence.
Filipinos have shown that despite the onslaught of disasters, they have recovered, with grace, yet. And, recovery is made with resourcefulness. Though typhoons and floods may have flattened villages and towns, the affected literally pick up pieces of their lives– actually, useful debris that could be pieced together even for a scant roof over their head.
Tin cans become pots for rice to be cooked and water to be boiled for doled out coffee or instant noodles.
In big cities such as Manila, what some perceive as vagabonds are actually Filipinos who survive on the jingling coins in their pockets and junks that can be salvaged from dumps, and sold in recycling centers for their daily subsistence. Those who sell candies and cigarettes in traffic-clogged streets do their best to set aside substantial amount for a pedaled trike (traysikad) that would become a regular source of a bigger income. Some patiently gather vegetable trimmings discarded by vegetable wholesalers, to be cleaned and sold by pile on sidewalks.
The non-violent character of the Filipinos made them tolerate even the blatant ineptness of the government, and instead of raising hands that grip guns, they make do with rallies where effigy- burning, shouts, speeches and songs become their “most violent” expressions. Not even the much ballyhooed “People Power Revolution” that caused the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship saw violent actions from the waves of protesters. Compatriots in military and police uniforms reciprocated by accepting flowers and foods offered to them.
While in the Middle East and Africa there are incidents of suicide bombings, nothing of same sort has ever happened in the country. Long before the spate of kidnapping for ransom in Mindanao rocked the island, particularly Jolo and Basilan, some countries in South America have already been suffering from it. Despite the threats announced by headlines in broadsheets and tabloids about the sure collapse of tourism industry because of the varied turmoil, the Filipinos nonchalantly continue to hope for the better by doing something to arrest the downtrend.
The Philippines is a case of “unity in diversity”. Filipinos who have diversified cultures and religions have managed to maintain a closely-knit society. When the vast Philippine Arena of the Iglesia ni Cristo in Bulacan was inaugurated, the whole country celebrated. During the seasons of Ramadan and Eidl Fitre, Christians are one with Muslim brethren, the former being respectful to the solemnity involved. During Christmas, many Muslim homes also display lanterns and Christmas trees. When the MNLF-Nur Misuari faction devastated Zamboanga City, Christians and Muslims joined hands in condemning his act. In Mindanao, when ragtag bands of rebels would attack a village, Muslims and Christians flee to the same direction for safety.
This unique survival character of the Filipinos is once again put to test in the face of the political and economic unrest that beset the country today. Not a single day is without a tabloid or a broadsheet shouting headlines about corruptions in the government and the weakness of the leadership. The Filipinos turn to the social media to express their ill-feelings. There are pockets of rallies but they are held with utmost restraint. Issues on the volatile economy and impending “chaos” that might result to starvation due to skyrocketing of prices and expected long power interruptions do not deter the steadfast Filipinos who astutely maintain their patience and poise.
The unique survival instinct of the Filipinos may be attributed to their fear of God. Their religiosity is so deeply-rooted in their character that even in the face of any adversity, they are unfazed.