It’s not surprising that Filipinos are now called to accept what COVID-19 vaccines they get are better than nothing. Filipinos had it coming for a long time now. A whole national tradition of making do with junk because these were better than nothing marks most of its history since being granted “independence” by the United States in 1946. In fact, there is a Tagalog phrase dedicated to encapsulating this national character trait:
Pwede na yan.
The kinds of COVID-19 vaccines they get today and the way it is delivered to them is classic jeepney-style “ingenuity”. Why complain now when for decades after independence in 1946, Filipinos heaved a collective shrug year in and year out, decade in and decade out as they boarded their decrepit rides to and from work and collectively sighed — pwede na yan.
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The only reason we now hear the chi chi “activists” and titas of Manila throwing a fit about something substandard is because they (or their sponsors and amigas) are affected. They now find themselves amidst the throng of unwashed masses in the equivalent of the proverbial mad scramble for essential government services. So now — at least for these shrieking titas — pwede na yan is just not good enough. Their chi chi gated subdivisions, private schools and hospitals, private cars, and private sector access to all those nice things will do them no good this time and they have no choice but to screech about the very same government services all the rest of them had been putting up with for decades.
The trouble with this state of affairs is that there is no critical mass — literally — in the Philippines to support credible calls for good enough at a mass scale. The ethic is just not there. Philippine society is the way it is and, as a result, left behind by all the rest because of a missing chip in Filipinos’ collective intellect that renders them incapable of aspiring to excellence through innovation and doing things differently. Whilst little mom-and-pop companies that once made bicycles in Korea now export wondrous works of engineering that now compete head-to-head with the best of those made in Germany and Japan, the Philippines’ industries languish in abject mediocrity, unable to compete even within the domestic market.
Even if the best of them COVID-19 vaccine options were actually available in the Philippines, it is unlikely that the way they will be distributed will do justice to them. Using the Philippines’ public transport situation as an example again, it is like how importing the most modern buses and trains in the world won’t matter if the system that they will be put into service within sucks. Think of it for a minute — modern buses that cost 200 thousand dollars a piece deployed to jeepney routes. It’ll be an utter waste!
Filipinos need to get real about their beliefs that they are entitled to the best that the world has to offer. It will mean ensuring that they have an ethic of being equally-capable of grasping what it means to be world-class. Until then, just shrug, relax and chant the ol’ mantra — pwede na yan.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.