Dear President Noynoy, being average is NOT being resilient

According to Philippine President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy), Filipinos’ resilience will see us through any crisis. Here’s what he had to say as reported in a news item:

“Resilient? Yes, I believe so. I always try to look at every problem as an opportunity,” he told Palace reporters. “We have industries that could recover after being adversely affected by the developments in the world.”

He cited the businessmen from the sugar-exporting province of Negros Occidental, who later became exporters of prawns and flowers.

Mediocre work in the Philippines

I personally think that the word mediocre better describes Filipinos in general than “resilient”. PNoy’s statement itself reeks of mediocrity. Being resilient means having the capability to return to an original position, so his example of sugar-exporting province Negros Occidental that “later became exporters of prawns and flowers” is hardly something I can call “resilient.”

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Indeed, it was rigidness and the lack of “resilience” of the sugar industry of Negros Occidental that led to a lot of the hardship suffered by the region and Philippine economy in the 1980s, the decade the industry met its demise. To quote a columnist from the Iloilo Views:

The closure of the farms forced widespread unemployment among farm laborers. The economic difficulties brought hardships to the planters, causing them to curtail their extravagant lifestyle.


The mortal weakness of the Negros economy is that it is underpinned by a mono-culture crop. This made it vulnerable to exogenous economic upheavals and the price fluctuations in the world market. Negros had no other crops or industries to serve as alternatives to absorb the shocks of changes in the world market. The lifestyle of its people, both rich and poor, rose and fell with, and was determined by, the vagaries of the market in a globalized economic system.

Obviously, the real reason behind the collapse of the sugar industry in Negros seems to fly over PNoy’s and most Filipinos’ heads, which is why he thinks that Filipinos are “resilient”. Never mind that the sugar barons and their farmers did not get to bounce back to their original position – an achievement that would have earned them the description of truly resilient.

The word mediocre means “barely adequate and rather poor or inferior”. The word “mediocre” should not be mistaken for the word “resilient”. Most Filipinos cannot claim to have the character to recover readily from adversity, depression or the like due to the simple fact that our society has never really gone past the level other societies consider “sufficient” or “superior”. Our society has actually stayed at the same level or some may even say, had gotten worse since we gained our independence from the Americans in 1946. PNoy may not have realized it but when he said that Filipinos are resilient, he actually expressed a common misconception among Filipinos.

One is considered mediocre when his performance is not up to par with the performance of the rest. One is mediocre if he is below average according to the standards set out by a committee. In other words, PNoy’s statement that we are “resilient” only means Filipinos like him do not aim for a target higher than the average.

Unfortunately, people who wallow in mediocrity do not know that they are wallowing in mediocrity. The mindset of mediocre people like PNoy was best explained by French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix. According to the late artist,

Mediocre people have an answer for everything and are astonished at nothing. They always want to have the air of knowing better than you what you are going to tell them; when, in their turn, they begin to speak, they repeat to you with the greatest confidence, as if dealing with their own property, the things that they have heard you say yourself at some other place…. A capable and superior look is the natural accompaniment of this type of character.

In other words, mediocre people usually say things that they only heard from someone else. And because the second-hand information they use is not supported by empirical evidence, it usually does not make any sense. But when their audience is easily impressed or those who do not really make an effort to challenge the speaker’s statements, mediocre people often get by usually by “winging” it.

It should not come as a surprise that PNoy just keeps “winging” his every move in Malacanang. His former professor in Ateneo de Manila University, Prof. Pablo Manalastas claims that the Philippine President was just an average student in school:

“Explaining why he did not vote for Aquino, Manalastas said, “I had this idea that a president must be smart.” Resignedly, however, he said, “But as long as it’s not Gloria, it’s okay. But I did not expect much from him.”

Manalastas’s less-than-overwhelmed assessment of his former student may have something to do with Aquino’s performance at the Ateneo. Back then as a college student, he recalled that Aquino, though diligent, was an average student.

“I remember him very well because he got a C+ which allowed him to stay at the Ateneo,” the professor said. On a scale of 1 to 4 (with 4 as the highest), Aquino rated a 2.5.

“He was not among my best students; he just made it,” Manalastas said. Performing better than Aquino were his cousins Robert and Paul.

PNoy’s former professor had a basis for saying that PNoy was just an average student. His benchmark was PNoy’s cousin themselves who did “better” than the incumbent President. I guess PNoy probably never heard of the famous quote, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.

Speaking of resilience, the photo of a highway destroyed by the earthquake that hit Japan on the 11th of March and the photo taken on the 17th March, six days after the repair commenced should show everyone what the word means.

Japan's Great Kanto Highway after the March 11 earthquake

The Great Kanto Highway six days after repairs started on March 17

There was nothing mediocre about how the Japanese people repaired the road.
Compare that to the condition of most of Philippine roads whose state is never really good enough to begin with even without being destroyed by a natural disaster like an earthquake.

Until Filipinos learn the real meaning behind the adjective word good in its comparative and superlative form, better and best, we cannot consider our society “resilient.”

Perhaps we can all take some inspiration from what Steve Jobs said in a speech to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Sadly, the reason why most Filipinos like PNoy consider themselves resilient is partly because of the adjective bad. Most Filipinos actually take comfort in the thought that if the Philippines is bad, in their mind, some countries are worse or the worst off. And I do believe that Filipinos are still waiting for the day when things go from bad to worse before they do something more drastic to uplift their condition.

[Photo credits (Japan earthquake): The Daily Mail]

53 Replies to “Dear President Noynoy, being average is NOT being resilient”

  1. I agree with what your are driving at. I wish to share with you a quotation I read on the wall of the Metrobank main office lobby – “Staying in the status quo is moving backwards.”

  2. Current Filipino culture would rather let the roads be reclaimed by nature as their way of contributing to restoring the environment.

    1. That’s probably part of the reason no one complains about the potholes. The taxes practically go straight to the public servant’s pocket.

  3. A President must represent the totality of what an ideal nation desires and upholds, and must take steps to apply these in a realistic setting.

    Again, totality – not the average. =)

    1. PNoy is not the kind of person who can do that.

      Unfortunately, Noynoy did not even think about running for the highest office in the land to begin with.

      He did not excel in school so we can’t really expect much from him. I just can’t understand why the people who supported him thought that an average guy could take on such an enormous responsibility.

      1. Hard words. So what have you done aside from writing? You excelled in school? What have you done to your life now? Where were you the past few years? Journalists gets killed everyday and people blame it on someone else. Journalists/writers hide behind freedom of speech knowing they really have the freedom. But all you do is complain. Mediocre thinking at its best! When will we see new ideas that can help contribute to excellence? When will we see ideas that can help uplift souls? You did not excel in school that’s why… Haha

      2. Looks like you don’t have much insight to express on the message said here so instead you concentrate on speculating about the personal circumstances of the author. Now that is what is mediocre thinking “at its best”.

        As the famous Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have said: “Great minds discuss ideas, Mediocre minds discuss events, and Small minds discuss people.”. 😀

      3. Ilda,

        The reasons they voted him in are: (1) the other guys were considered less than average (crooks, lightweights, a bit batty), and (2) the honor accorded his mother, and how tired Filipinos are of being ripped off by government. Now there is perception and truth, but perception determines votes. So I hope that clears up your failure to understand those who supported President Aquino.

        1. yes, completely agree with you Mr. Joe America.. Our previous president Gloria Macapagal was smart and a graduate of Harvard University but what happened?Can we say that our lives was better off when we had a smart President? I am not really an avid fan of our President but so far for me he is better than our previous president because he is very serious in curtailing corruption.I mean who else will i vote if there are no choices left? Do i have any options?

      4. @colossus

        Do you go around the blogophere asking those silly questions? What is the purpose of your questions? I keep getting asked the same things usually by PNoy’s supporters. I’m thinking it might be you or PNoy’s supporters have this standard rebuttal that they actually think is relevant to all the articles they read online. Do yourself a favour and address the issues I brought up instead of attacking me. Otherwise, I will just dismiss you as a troll.

        I would have thought that exposing our society’s shortfalls would be enough to wake you up from your stupor. It is certainly enough for a lot of people I have encountered online. I guess you are still waiting for things to go from bad to worse before you can accept that there’s something wrong with our society.

        Have fun with your mediocrity!

      5. @Joe America

        Richard Gordon had a law degree, was a Mayor, Chairman of SBMA, was a fully functioning Senator and is the governor of the Red Cross. I fail to see what is so below average about his credentials. Another candidate, Gibo is even more accomplished than his own cousin PNoy. I don’t know how people could have actually considered them less qualified than PNoy. I believe that it was just unfortunate that majority of Filipinos are gullible enough to believe media’s portrayal of how “evil” they are.

        People keep forgetting that Cory was never considered an effective leader in the first place. Which is why giving honor to her, someone who was actually instrumental in sealing the fate of the Filipino people to mediocrity, is something that I will never understand.

        Remember, for evil to prevail, all that is required is for good men to do nothing. PNoy should really stop talking about the “decade of dark years” because he did nothing to stop the people he keeps blaming.

      6. Ilda,

        Well, as I said, there is perception and there is truth. President Aquino rode into office on the halo of his mama. It may not be what you like, or understand, but it is what happened. We are well past the debate of who SHOULD be president. I dropped the tear-stricken Mr. Gordon when he said we need more tourism in Muslim Mindinao, as if beheadings were an adventure tour. I dropped Mr. Teodoro when he lost the rubber boats in Manila, during Ondoy. They are just like President Aquino, more of the same family names, with family ties, and burdened by Ego. Still, it would be curious to see what a serious, independent, older and wiser Teodoro could do. Five years, eh?

  4. When you’re last in a race, you can’t aspire to finish the race among the fastest by merely keeping apace. You need to run doubly fast to catch up at the very least.

    Filipinos cannot even grow their economy fast enough to keep up with their population growth. So where then is the basis for this supposed “goal” to eliminate poverty sometime in the foreseeable future?

    1. Do you have an answer to your own question? How do we catch up in the pace that you seek? How do we improve – as in what SOLID STEPS should we take? Like many Filipinos, you two only see the obvious, and magnify the bad, how about shedding some SOLID INSIGHTS and SOLID SOLUTIONS on these pertinent mediocrity you say in the government? Could you please WRITE THEM DOWN IN THIS BLOGSPACE so we ordinary mortals would be enlightened by you highly evolved individuals? All I can hear from your posts is that the government is an ass, acts like an ass, and would forever be an ass…

      1. Have you ever considered sending them out to the right people, the people that could make the difference? If you wrote it for an ordinary mortal such as lame me then it would not matter would it? Because most of us illiterate-mediocre-stupid-no-good-party-loving Pinoys won’t even bother reading them right? If you did send them out, why stop from there? Why not lobby for the solution to be implemented? Why just leave it at the hands of nincompoops? Why not do everything you can (aside from blogging and criticizing)and make it known to the powers that be that you have a solution? Or are you afraid no one will listen? Be more proactive Mr. Benigno, channel this energy into worthy ACTIONS. And don’t wait for your work to be wasted on someone like me because I can’t do it FOR YOU.

      2. Why don’t you make yourself matter then? See that’s the trouble with many Pinoys. They see themselves as helpless, mere victims, and in your case “lame.”

        Notice what you write above — how everything is suddenly MY responsibility? How did that happen? What about you? How can one be motivated to be “proactive” when faced by people like you who see their fate as all being in the hands of “the powers that be”?

        You merely exhibit and validate the very mentality I write in these blogs.

      3. If it’s not your responsibility whose is it then?

        Oh, AND I DO matter Mr. Benigno and I don’t consider myself helpless with the victim-mindset like you stated. I certainly do my part but I don’t bitch about it in any cyberspace wanting to get attention. I make my own destiny as a Filipino by helping other Filipinos succeed and not gripe constantly about how stupid we are. I’m involved in the GK movement and its advocacy so you can’t call me lame and say “see their fate as all being in the hands of “the powers that be”… I don’t believe that anyone can help me but ME and in so doing that allows me to help someone be empowered too.

        So, bacause of “lame” me, you are not motivated to do something? to ACT on your theories and highly-intellectual insights? Seems to me you guys only have “bark but no bite”. You are the ones who lament things and whine about everything. Well, your replies to me only show how both of you are afraid to WALK THE TALK. It’s very clear what your insights are but shall we be forever be playing the BLAME GAME?

        And that is my closing argument.

        1. @Justinjade:

          Everybody seems to be bragging about being a member of the “GK” movement nowadays. It has become the fashionable thing to do, isn’t it? While it is considered a noble act, people seem to be forgetting that it is a band-aid solution to our country’s problems. You can’t compare that to what we are trying to do.

          We are advocating for a more permanent solution to address poverty. We try to dig into the very reason why the number of poor people keep growing. We propose alternative solutions to alleviate the dire situation. In fact, if we ever succeed and be able to implement our ideas, Filipinos won’t be needing the GK movement anymore. 🙂

          Here’s something else you don’t realise: part of the reason the country is going down is because of the growing apathy of the average Filipino. Now bloggers like us are trying to make a difference by speaking out against public servants like PNoy who are doing a very good job at driving this country to the ground. You should really thank us.

          Try not to pat yourself too much on the back. You might break it.

      4. Dude, I was just using the very words you used in your previous comment, that’s all. And about your “involvement” in GK, well good for you. Too bad you had to grandstand about it here though. That’s just so typical. 😀

      5. HE is grandstanding?

        may i quote: “Our brilliant Solution Framework

        (2) My book where many more solutions are spelt out

        (3) An online crash course on Roadmapping 101 for Presidential Candidates”

        hmmm… i guess you tend to call people out for grandstanding when you do it so frequently yourself, senior brilliant.

        a key component of “grandstanding” is the exaggeration.

        1) did he exaggerate?

        2) or did you — author of the “briliant “solution?

      6. Nah. He grandstood about something that was not within the scope of what was being discussed here. I, on the other hand, remained within scope on a matter directly relevant to what was being discussed.

      7. ” He grandstood about something that was not within the scope of what was being discussed here.”

        ah, yes.

        because what people hate about grandstanding is when its not in context.

        otherwise, its grand!

      8. @gabbyd: truly what you deem as grandstanding is telling of the measure of what sets the bar too high for you.

        being within context actually keeps this “grandstanding” within the scope of the real discussion, which makes it, well, appropriate.

        so hate what you will, but you’ve just revealed your distaste for the accomplishments of people who’ve achieved far more than you. isn’t that so, uhhhhh, FILIPINO? alrighty then!

      9. bravo Justinjade!

        how very pinoy of you, someone gives an inch and you want a mile… all the while demanding that it be served up to you on a silver platter. If there’s one thing I learned on this site, is that Pinoys are one of the most entitled beggars in the world.

        Its not enough that benigO and Ilda take the effort to outline a workable framework (gratis, no less), you also expect them to save the whole dang country!

        So you do volunteer work, bravo for you. But that’s the problem, you just handed them fish instead of teaching them how to fish which is what advocacy blogs like this are trying to instill – trying to get people out of the victim, “poor-me” mentality and thinking more progressively.

        I’m sorry if all this sounds like so much armchair criticisms to you but if it helps inspire even one pinoy lift *himself* out of poverty then it justifies all the tough love these guys have been dishing out.

      10. @benign0: sorry couldn’t resist my inner grammar nazi – the past tense is grandstanded, not grandstood. carry on, dont mind me 🙂

        @gabbyD: better yet, he’d be “out-standing” since he’s “out” of context 🙂

  5. ” The word “mediocre” should not be mistaken for the word “resilient”. ”

    Now that is a classic line.

    I like this article, (surprisingly enough, heh). The interesting thing is that you could take President Aquino’s name out and substitute “the ordinary Filipino” and it would still make sense. Things will change when more Filipinos decide to become extraordinary. Some are, but way not enough. Hopefully the internet will increase the speed of enhanced self-awareness.

    1. It was hard to take his name out. I find him very essential to the article because he is the epitome of mediocrity.

      Thanks anyway! 🙂

    2. You’ve got a good point there, Joe America. In a sense, a country’s government is also a reflection of its people’s way of thinking. I hope to see the day more Filipinos become self-aware, enough to start turning this country around.

  6. The “masa crowd” mentality is a manifestation of our lack of self-respect as Filipinos. We have a double standard. A Filipino will vote for an intelligent candidate in the USA; but the same Filipino will vote for a mediocre politician in his/her own country. We always equate “bakya” and “baduy” with our very own and it shows. We should always see ourselves with the highest regard and standards. Shows like Willing Willie is directed specifically in capitalizing on this mentality…the root of which is our failure to produce Filipinos in the Philippines and instead create Foreigners in their own land-who look down on themselves as Filipinos and their fellow kababayans. Willie has to go, along with this sick mentality.

    1. Not every single Filipino is a fan of Willy. Please stop over-generalizing. And not everyone is happy with the way TV shows are being aired or its contents. Most of us opt to just turn the tv off and be busy partying.

      1. @justinjade: so, to be clear, what you’re saying is, you can’t state an observation you’ve made about a huuuuuuge number of people that have something glaringly in common, as long as there is ONE exception? where do you get your logic, dude, from gabbyd?

        “Most of us opt to just turn the tv off and be busy partying.”

        partying? really? masa ka ba? if you really are, you’ve no money to party as often as you claim (which means somebody‘s full of hot air). but if you do party harder than you teevee, eh di parang typical pinoy talaga – walang ka-ahon-ahon, waldas sa pera kahit katiting ang kinikita (kung meron man).

        congratulations though on your aversion to willie. that guy is like barney, that (put expletive here) purple dinosaur. some parents prolly think he’s the devil. have a nice day.

  7. Wow! an bilis na reconstruct ng road sa Japan…. Well, we can’t blame Noynoy if he can’t repair our roads unlike Japan… the Philippines don’t have the money for more projects and maintenance including road repair. 1/3 of the national budget goes to the foreign creditors to pay our national debt. So the remaining money is spread into social services, education, health, infrastructure etc. and what’s left actually is not enough…. kaya nga nangungutang uli ang gobyerno para pambayad sa utang… a vicious cycle… by the way… our national foreign debt is not $60 billion… so no matter what we do… mahirap talaga tayo in a long time.

  8. Resilience – Merriam-Webster Online:
    2.: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
    Resilience – from MW learner’s dictionary:
    1. the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens.

    Ms. Ilda obviously does not like our current President. I suggest she and Benigno run for office next time so they could experience first hand what it means to be running a government. Writing about something you oppose and don’t agree with is easy, anyone can do that given cyber space, but running for office and making things the way YOU WANT or CLEARLY SEES them to be is easier said than done… try it for once and write about it next time, then probably you’ll have CLEARER insights…

      1. ok then run next election Ms. Ilda. If you are that good, I might even vote for you. 🙂

        I’m just up to my head with bloggers who only criticized but do nothing to help.

        1. @Justinjade

          How do you know we are not doing anything to help?

          Did you say that I should run on the next election? You seem to be totally clueless. FYI: most voters are anti-intellectual.

      2. justinjade, maybe don’t read them, then, since you will never be able to suppress other people’s thinking, if right or wrong. To attempt htat is futile, futility being in the way of getting anything done to help. And certainly, under pain of apoplexy, stay away from most of my own posts.

    1. “Writing about something you oppose and don’t agree with is easy, anyone can do that given cyber space, but running for office and making things the way YOU WANT or CLEARLY SEES them to be is easier said than done… try it for once and write about it next time, then probably you’ll have CLEARER insights…”

      @justinjade: you don’t have to shoot yourself in the foot to know it will hurt. you don’t have to eat broken glass to know you probably won’t enjoy it. you don’t have to try being president to know it’s not an easy job. but you’d have to be a poor excuse for a public official to ask for an extremely important job you never wanted, to promise big system-wide changes you do nothing to make real, to rally people into electing you to a level far beyond the reach of your competence, to pretend to be something different while staying as one more of the same.

      what i’m trying to say is, hindi masisikmura ng desenteng tao na manlinlang ng ganoon. a person with the decency enough to not do these things to millions of gullible people, impoverished and well-off alike, is someone whose respect i can reciprocate.

      so next time, if certain insights are UNCLEAR to you, maybe the problem isn’t with the insights in the first place. ‘get what i’m saying?

  9. bakit nga ba maraming tao ang gumgawa ng krimen sa panhaon ngayon? bakit pinababyaan ng government na lumala ang mga ito?sa dame ng kasu ng pag patay bakit di natin ibalik ang death penalty like sa ibang bansa.hindi naman ibig sabihin ng pag hahatol ng ganitong parusa sa mga taong nahuhuli na pumpatay, nagnanankaw, at iba pang krimen na talamak na sa panahon ngaun ay inilalagay na natin sa kamay ng tao ang batas. Hindi ba naisip ng government na this help lot of people na maibalik ang takot sa mga sarili. like sa mga bansang pinaiiral ang ganitong batas ang sinumang pumatay sa kapwa ay pinapatay din kapalit ng ginwa nitong krimen.please help the poor children na pinapatay at mga taong walang kamalaymalay.accident is ok but not by killing them

  10. mr.president sa dame ng krimen di ba ito na ang panahon para maging mahigpit not literally the way na magiging dictator but in terms of policy and law..the issue today is not all about graft and corruption but maging kaso ng pag patay, at iba ibang pang krimen.. ndi ba dapat na ang mga taong maaari lamang mag possess ng baril ay yung mga tao lamang may katungkulan pang seguridad katulad ng pulis..i believe that the president will hear all our suggestion..pairalin ang puso ng buong sambayanang sinasakupan, maging matigas sa lahat ng mga patakarang ipatutupad..

  11. Please, let us not talk of something intellectual when it comes to some certain people…It’s a waste of time… certainly they do not understand what they are talking about.

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