When Care Becomes the Fad

Genuine care for others — I think that’s one of the things people must really have to be more prepared for another disaster like Typhoon Ondoy.

The headline on a local newspaper yesterday said that donations for typhoon victims are overwhelming. That’s great. That’s awesome. That is perfectly how it should be. Many of us feel proud for showing our fellow Filipinos that the spirit of “bayanihan” can still be revived in this modern age. I take my hat off to that.

But it’s easy to get over melodramatic over our present achievements just by watching the endless TV marathons about the typhoon donations and heroic acts many of our fellow Filipinos have done to try to fix the disastrous situation. We are riding a surge of patriotism so powerful that every corner conversation, every TV station, every Facebook update and every tweet is all about volunteering and sending out donations to victims. But we must ask, “Where did all that care come from?”

Where did all that care come from? Was it there before the typhoon unloaded record rainfall on Metro Manila? Was it there when other provinces were crushed during past typhoons, landslides and other catastrophes? Was it there even before any natural disaster occurred?

Thousands of Filipinos, both rich and poor, have lost their homes due to the raging floods of Ondoy. Many poor people, especially, lost their houses totally, swept away by the merciless floodwaters. They have no bank accounts to dig into, no other homes to live in, nothing whatsoever to start with.

These people weren’t helped before. The enormous income gap which is continuously widening ensures that shanties will be built along rivers and creeks for years to come despite what recently happened. There’s no way for these people to build houses of better material. They will build shanties which will be destroyed by floods, and they will build shanties again as long as the status quo exists.

In the same way, if the present state of affairs goes on, greedy and corrupt government officials will still spend public funds in the most ridiculous ways, and probably pay for their tasty New York restaurant meals with them. No disaster preparation plan will be successfully implemented, no infrastructure will be built to better equip the nation against the extreme weather clearly brought about by climate change. Some of the richest will still control wealth so that the bloody income pyramid remains. Meanwhile, most of us would still choose to not give a flying f*ck about our fellowmen.

And then on an ominous, dark, windy day, another Ondoy will hit us again. The same tragic videos will be replayed over and over again on our TV screens, as once again, we raise our national flag and roll our sleeves to proudly pack the survival packs for the next victims.

It’s a crazy vicious cycle.

The thing is, we are not prepared for Ondoy because we are poor. Our poverty definitely has many causes. Still, I would go on the record to say that one of its primary causes is that we don’t genuinely care for each other.

We only care when the scenarios before our eyes become too extreme. At that point, a lot of damage has already been done. It’s like a man who only cares about his health when he gets sick. Then he goes for remedies, waits until he recuperates just enough to get back to his vices again.

Somebody told me politicians who are running for public offices are putting their names on the donation packages sent to victims. I’ve heard people talk about volunteering as if it’s the “in” thing. Where were all these people before Ondoy? Where was their care before more than 200 people have died?

This spectacle of bayanihan is sometimes really awe-inspiring to watch. But sometimes I think that Metro Manila falling before a cruel and blind enemy just provided us with a mirror of ourselves. Metro Manila represents the ego of our nation. It is our ego. Our egos fell before an overwhelming enemy.

And the donations rained down like record rainfall. It’s almost as if we’re trying to correct ourselves, clumsily bury our guilt over our own inadequacies as fellow citizens by helping others to just survive the next day, so our eyes can get rid of them once again.

But what about other disasters, natural and man-made, in other parts of the country? Don’t we care about them? There are no lines for volunteers for those events. No drop-off points for donations. We watch them boredly in the evening news.

Where will all the helpers be after all the donations are given away?

So while I give due credit to all the people who are helping to fix the damage dealt to the country, I’ve decided to be more cautious than hyped up. Somehow, I see in these “selfless” and “brave” actions a desire to just patch things up for the next opportunity for emergency patriotism.

Genuine care for others — that’s what we truly need.

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This article is dedicated to Chemae  who cried last night because no one seemed to take her desire to help typhoon victims seriously. For me, tears are more valuable than bags of goods because they indicate genuine care.

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