Almost on cue, Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was quick to praise the Filipino crewmen of the ill-fated Costa Concordia which capsized off the Tuscan coast of Italy on the 13th of January while carrying more than 4,000 passengers.
Soon after the incident, President Aquino said, “You are men and women of courage, heroism and dedication. We commend you for showing to the world the best traits of the Filipino seafarers.”
The Philippine embassy in Italy also reportedly received “positive feedback” on the “Filipino crew’s brave acts manifesting competence, professionalism and humanity, even under extreme pressure”. Not to be outdone, the Catholic Church through the efforts of “Filipino priests at a local church in Rome” made their mark on the back of the tragedy by offering a “Thanksgiving Mass” attended, of course, by Philippine Ambassador to Italy Virgilio Reyes Jr who, by the way, also “personally assisted the Filipino crewmembers when they boarded their flight home”.
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As of a 23rd January report, 13 of the Costa Concordia passengers are confirmed dead and 24 remain missing.
The Philippines’ prowess as a seafaring people, however, is not as admirable as we are made to believe by the media, the Church, and the Depart of Foreign Affairs. The country is a consistent host to some of the worst civilian maritime disasters in modern human history. From 1987 through to 2008, for example, a single Filipino shipping company — Sulpicio Lines Inc (SLI) — was a common denominator underlying the preventable deaths of at least 10,000 people at sea. The causes of these disasters have remained fundamentally the same over the 20-year run of Philippine sea disasters that involve not just SLI. In fact, they follow a template…
Ill-maintained passenger ship oversold and overbooked with only half of its passengers recorded on ship manifest cleared for departure by corrupt Philippine Ports Authority and Philippine Coast Guard officials caught in open water as typhoon strikes”¦
And while, at present, an entire society is transfixed upon the media-hyped impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona the allegations of whose crimes present a monumental challenge to substantiate even for the combined resources of a mob encompassing 188 Filipino congressmen and a cabal of both “online” and traditional “journalists”, the direct links to obvious negligence of tragedies that kill tens of thousands of ordinary Filipinos remain an obscurity at best.
Indeed, look no further than the way the media sensation being created around the Corona impeachment distracts Filipinos from the rot of a lack of results around economic progress under the Aquino government, or how the promotions gimmickry of the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign whitewashes the wasteland that has become of the Philippine landscape after decades of abuse. These are no different to how the holding up of the “heroism” of Filipino crewmen who were, for the most part, simply doing their job masks a fundamental lack of basic senses of courtesy, civic duty, and personal accountability in a nation scrounging for every morsel of substance to prop up their vacuous sense of “national pride”.
Perhaps the showbiz approach to building a country will get us somewhere in the way cheerleaders pump up a stadium of fans. But when the whooping and high-fives die down, there is still the small matter of reality to face and deal with.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.