Did we really expect a seamless, swimmingly-hosted Southeast Asian Games (SEAG)? This is, after all, the Philippines where nothing works. Filipinos cannot organise their way out of a paper bag and this is reflected in just about every failed system and ways of working borrowed from former colonial masters and sloppily-applied to their setting. It has long been evident that excellence is not a strong aspect of Filipino tradition and this fact had been in plain sight everyday for decades since “independence” was granted in 1946.
Indeed, the way the Philippines prepared for the SEAG is an utter disgrace. But the Philippines overall, for that matter, has long been a disgrace to begin with. Considering that these games are set to be one of the biggest and most participated in history, it is quite astounding that the Philippine Government put its hand up to host it in the first place!
Various “reports” and factoids on things going wrong are now flying about. Delays getting delegates settled, inadequate accommodation, unfinished venues, and, of course, the paralysing traffic that is allowing Manila to live up to its Gates-of-Hell image are now talks of the town. True to form, all these came to light over the broader public chatter at the eleventh hour. True to form because, in the tradition of Filipino thinking chops, foresight is not a pillar of Filipino thinking and problems most normal people will have foreseen a long time ago often become recognised as such only when they had reached FUBAR proportions such as in the case of today’s SEAG preparations.
That said, most of what we are hearing is “bad news” and it does not help that Opposition “thought leaders” are behind much of the maligning of the event. A self-proclaimed “expert” on the SEAG is even now running a series of tweets branded Usapang SEA Games. Others are “trending” hashtags like #SEAGamesFail. Amidst all this, there seems to be no particular mainstream media outlet delivering reliable facts on what really is going on. The entire system, as usual, is failing Filipinos — because Filipinos consistently fail to build systems that work.
There is nothing enough money and effort can fix, however, so, indeed, there is hope. Hope in what, exactly? Well, Filipinos need to first recognise that this SNAFU has nothing to do with sitting governments and how well or how badly one or the other “committee” is performing. Effort and money need to be channelled towards the right things — not into politicians’ pockets, not into developing concepts alien to the Filipino mind, and certainly not into partisan politics or media initiatives that distract from important things.
In short, while one may take heroic efforts to remain optimistic that things will be fine, hope lies over the long term as usual — a future where lessons learned from mistakes today are applied.
Take stock of the on-going chatter surrounding this latest circus and one will find one standout omission — solutions. The national discourse may be an exciting dynamic landscape but it ultimately fails because obvious solutions are not focused upon when they matter. Like the proverbial frog slowly being boiled alive, we as a people can’t seem to step back and view situations with clear eyes and open minds. The hope then is that this latest outrage will go down in history as yet another lesson. Whether or not Filipinos learn from it, as always, remains to be seen.
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