Save Mary Jane Veloso! Save Baguio City! Save the Pasig River! Save Boracay!
Filipinos are always looking for a higher or wealthier power to “save” their wretched lot. The pattern has been set and the consistency now world-renowned. After abject neglect, wanton partying or sitting on their asses for years, or all of the above, the eleventh-hour cry is always the same and inevitable.
The call is usually directed to God. His son Jesus, after all, is the Saviour. More recently it is directed to the Philippine Government. Like leader like constituents. Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III refers to his subjects as his ironic “Boss”. His constituents, on the other hand, refer to their president as their saviour. It is a relationship of circular accountability where the buck stops with no one.
The more prayerful the more potent a saviour is — or so Pinoy-style thinking goes. That, in essence, is the source of the power of the Pope in the eyes of his Catholic flock in the Philippines. He is the pre-eminent earthly channel to God. That does not stop other more ordinary folk to make similar claims. They also have their own quite impressive followings (and lucrative TV franchises).
Today’s Inquirer editorial on the plight of Boracay (the Philippines’ erstwhile tourism crown jewel) can serve as a parable of this national dysfunction.
First the shortsighted partying…
There [on Boracay’s sands], revelers typically engage in a nonstop whirl of beach parties, water activities, sports events, music concerts and the like. In 2014, Boracay received a staggering 1,472,352 tourists, both local and foreign, a figure higher by 100,000 compared to 2013. But that number even fell short of the official government target, which was 1.5 million tourist arrivals.
…then the killjoy eleventh-hour realisation — that the problem of algae which, studies have found, thrives on effluent leaking from the island’s pwede-na-yan (“that’ll do”) sewage “system” is getting worse. And so comes the predictable lament following the standard Pinoy template of regret:
The Department of Tourism estimates that a tourist is bound to produce at least one kilo of trash; multiply that by the 80,000 “Laboracay” revelers alone that had most recently flooded the island, and you get a waste management problem of nightmare proportions.
You gotta have real patience saving a people who are routinely “surprised” by mounds of human waste in their own backyard — or compatriots “suddenly” on death row in a foreign country. You ask, What were you doing the whole time your own shit was piling up? And all you will get is a shrug and that characteristically sheepish canine smile Pinoys are world-renowned for.
Fortunately, God’s patience and understanding is, we are told, infinite. And so… Let us pray. Pray for the salvation of Boracay. And Mary Jane Veloso. And the Philippines. More importantly, pray that Filipinos will elect a good president for a change.
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