It baffles me the way the furor over the execution of the three convicted Filipino drug mules in China reached the crescendo that we are seeing today. It’s as if this thing had not been hanging over Filipinos’ heads for the last several months. It first captured the broader public awareness when the Philippine Government declined to attend Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremonies for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in Oslo. Speculation on Philippine Government motives behind the snub at the time revolved around pressure from Beijing involving both the Mendoza hostage massacre and what was at the time five Filipinos accused of smuggling drugs across the Chinese border.
Despite the issue already gaining enough profile to prompt the government to expend significant resources to appeal to Beijing for clemency weeks ago, the outpouring of emotion seen today in the wake of the execution actually taking place is overwhelming.
The execution actually took place. The highlight on “actually” is not accidental. Filipinos seem to apply some sort of selective denial of the future. As if specific near-certainties are not real until they actually happen. I’ve observed this trait of Filipinos many times in not a few funerals I had attended in the Philippines. Some of the deceased had been sick for many months before they died. And yet on the day of the burial itself, there would still be much noisy wailing and torrential shedding of tears as the casket is lowered into the pit. In many cases, mourners would, presumably in the throes of their noisy grief, even go through the motions of trying to throw themselves into the burial pit (a cue for fellow mourners to go into similar motions to prevent them from doing so). I used to wonder, as a child (impatient to get out of the hot sun, as I watched bemused), if they would actually go through it if nobody stopped them.
What’s up with that?
It is often said that prayers help one come to terms with approaching death. Indeed even the healthiest and most prosperous of Filipinos presumably prepare for (or fixate themselves on the possibility of their “time” coming on any random day in the very near future on their God’s whim) whenever they porstate themselves before their Lord in prayer. So in considering the renowned length of the average Filipino wake and our renowned prayerfulness that is underpinned by a morbid fixation on a possible death the next day, I remain baffled by the noisy grief being expressed by Filipinos over the execution of Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramon Credo, and Elizabeth Batain yesterday, the 30th of March.
Does prayer really help us come to terms with death?
Or does prayer merely act as an opiate that dulls any sense of personal responsibility to face the very real-world task of coming to terms with approaching death?
I see people who mourn noisily over a death they could have otherwise prepared for in the real world as no different to people who continuously complain loudly in the aftermath of a disaster that they could have seen coming or an accident that could have been prevented. Prayer is not what a bunch of men in robes make it out to be. To me, it seems that prayer merely weakens character, transfers accountability to a nebulously-defined “God”, and provides a brilliant excuse to defer facing reality to a time when one has no option but to do so after the fact.
Noisy grieving over a death that was otherwise foreseen is the hallmark of a weak character. It’s time Filipinos change their flaccid ways, stop acting like Drama Queens, pull themselves together, and harden up.
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- “Free Speech. Yes. Falsehood, No.” – press statement of Wilfredo Keng on Maria Ressa’s conviction - June 15, 2020