A revolution of a different sort is at hand in the Philippines and it has the potential to effect the truly profound sort of change that is long overdue. The recent successful clean-up of Boracay and Manila Bay has created a new collective consciousness in the Filipino — one that has eluded an entire people for centuries. It is a spirit of deep volunteerism around doing the right thing in the smallest ways. Indeed, it is profound change in the way small grassroot-level stuff is done that serve as solid foundation to reform the big things.
As I write this, news about a similar volunteer effort to clean-up the beachfront and riverbanks of Tacloban City is breaking. The results are nothing short of a small achievement (a size certain camps in the Opposition like to point out about these initiatives) that has created a well of pride that can potentially fuel a lifetime of civic initiative.
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“Time and again, it’s been proven that when people come together, we make things happen,” said Apple Alagon, a businesswoman and a Rotarian.
Alagon, who joined with other groups, student organizations, and government workers during the cleanup activity, added that “it’s an amazing feeling to be with people who care enough to take time and take part in the efforts of cleaning our coastal areas.”
To be fair, this is but a small start and the foul mess that had, for decades, been a permanent feature of many of the coastal areas of the Philippines’ big cities, are just symptoms of a deeper systemic problem with the country’s decrepit sanitation and waste management infrastructure and the almost absent sense of personal accountability Filipinos apply to their individual contributions to the problem upstream. Alagon rightly points this out…
“Educate the public. No matter how many cleanups we do, if we don’t take responsibility in disposing of our garbage, this will always be a problem,” said Alagon, who is the president of Rotary Club of Ormoc Bay.
This is the bigger challenge and the big point missed by elements of the Opposition who are quick to dismiss these “clean-up” initiatives as “too easy” and too “short-term” to be of consequence but then neglect to take the higher road and propose that we look further out to build upon those initiatives by incorporating them into longer-term strategic goals. To do that, of course, requires having a vision — something the Opposition have long proven to be severely lacking as evident in the impoverished campaign platforms they apply to this year’s elections. In the absence of that vision, the Opposition are only able to nitpick on and tear down whatever achievements of the Duterte government are chalked up and, where shortfalls and flaws are rightly observed, fail miserably in proposing alternative pathways.
Credit it to the immense political capital Duterte wields when even just a whiff of his equity graces an initiative or to what is more likely: a sudden alignment of the planets that drew upon a sudden and unexplained surge in a sense of civic duty amongst thousands who’ve volunteered to do their part in these clean-ups. Whatever the case may be, there is an opportunity right there to capitalise upon — to, perhaps, see these small instances of public initiative snowball into, say, a cultural revolution the likes of which to date is unprecedented.
Contrary to what the naysayers are shrieking about, many Filipinos now seem to recognise that these clean-ups and other such initiatives are not ends in themselves but, rather, first steps. Already, Netizens are calling on ordinary folks to “whip out” their smartphones and catch people in the act of littering in these newly-cleaned public spaces. Perhaps this volunteerism in such unprecedented scales have imbued a greater appreciation of the notion that the public own public spaces and, as such, need to contribute their end of the deal in the upkeep of these spaces.
The job is, by no means, over — all this, as mentioned earlier, being just first steps. Manila Bay, for one, represents end-of-the-road for much of the rubbish Filipinos deposit willy-nilly in various capacities upstream. There remains an entire waste disposal pipeline starting at every Filipino’s household that still needs to be cleaned. The big challenge is that such a clean-up may not be as visible nor as fit for public relation agendas as the recent Great Manila Bay Clean-up spectacle. But to keep Manila Bay clean — and clean on the inside as well — requires that same volunteerism be seen not just in public but in the privacy of one’s own homes and over one’s routine day-to-day way of life.
What the Duterte government could do — and the real influencers and activists (without the quotes) among us could support — is to channel enough energy into the right advocacies, advocacies that deliver real results and not just the quaint validation fixes that one or the other snowflake private school millennial or old-fart commie subsist on. Most of these advocacies involve mundane tasks that don’t fit the virtue-signalling agendas of the noisy inbabitants of those hen houses where inbred ideas of obsolete “activists” breed. In that sense, it’s high time Filipinos grow up and embrace quiet achievement of the sort that delivers sustainable personal achievement and graceful pride in being a member of the Filipino nation.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.