Dumagueteños bask when referred to as ‘Gentle People’. Definitely, I see a lot of this gentleness, this kindness exhibited by the common tao here in Dumaguete, though I’ve seen the same traits at the NAIA and other places in Manila associated with the travel industry. In Cebu, Bohol, Davao, Iloilo, Leyte, Butuan, Surigao, Palawan as well.
I see the gentleness more as a nation-wide trait, than one solely owned by Dumagueteños. We are sought internationally for our care-giving skills, as nurses, yayas after all, testimony to this national trait.
But what I do observe in my many years of returning to the Philippines for longer and longer periods of time is that it’s not so much a ‘gentleness’ that we exhibit here in Negros Oriental but an apathetic attitude towards all the wrongs that go on.
Yes, there is a pocket of the population that is trying its best to steer this ship around, but they are so few, not even 500 at my last count.
I have become a pain in the neck at gatherings because I tend to bring up the subject of political wrongdoings, and I get one of four reactions each time:
1. You can’t fight City Hall, they will do what they will do, so why even try?
2. I’m just here to enjoy myself, and I’ll be gone soon so there’s no point doing something.
3. Yeah, I’m interested in the issue but right now is not a good time.
And then a response coming from only one or two people:
4. What can we do?
I often get, “Di, sit back, enjoy your stay, your life is good, so keep it that way!”
Precisely! It’s because my life is good that I cannot sit back, and not see that goodness go out to others. I credit good people for bringing me that goodness, albeit I worked hard to achieve it.
I am not a particularly religious person but I’ve had life-altering experiences in my early adulthood that taught me that remaining silent is ultimately being complicit.
It was my belief in God that got me through those experiences, with a healthy dose of help from friends and total strangers. When someone kills himself because no one can be bothered to understand and help, that is when it hits home that no matter one’s circumstance in life, one cannot just be an observer. One has to be involved, and speak up.
I’ve lived most of my life in Canada, having moved there in my early 20s. My observation is that Canada is generally in a good state because the citizens are involved. They take their politicians to task, they name politicians and department heads who fall short of the legal expectations and requirements of their position.
Canada is considered one of the best places in the world to live in. Wonder why? Because they are not apathetic.
So I challenge my fellow Dumaguetnons to try highlighting a wrongdoing that we should not be afraid to name names of perpetrators, of department heads, for example, who cannot be bothered meeting a commitment simply because they believe they are untouchable.
They are untouchable because we enable them to be untouchable.
For example, I find that a number of our failings in correcting what is wrong in our society, and especially in the political arena, are driven by cultural traditions. We don’t want to offend anyone.
We are immediately tagged as boastful, and lacking in humility, if we want to show others how things can be done differently. That we have not learned our Bible lessons well. We are insensitive when we prick someone’s amor propio. That we do not know our place in the hierarchy of social order.
If you’re moneyed and have a name to bandy about, then you deem yourselves to have the final say, overriding the well-thought through plans of an organization that’s trying to implement something. I saw this behaviour during the Leni Robredo campaign. Being rich trumped experience and planning.
Don’t you think it’s time to set aside our cultural failings? After all, we had no problem setting aside centuries-old admonition of no-sex before marriage.
If someone says to me the next time, “It’s bad manners to speak up!,” then I am going to retort, “And why is it not bad manners for civil servants to stand someone up?” (I recall here the recent experience of the columnist Mr. JG Umbac which has given me an excellent springboard for my commentaries.)
Good manners are displayed in how we handle a delicate situation. Shouting, screaming, calling a person names are not helpful; but pointing out to a department head that one of his or her responsibilities is to explain in detail why a particular rule is in place, and WHY it needs to be in place. A response of “because, because this is the way it’s always been done” no longer cuts it.
So by publishing the perpetrators’ names, would they now deem to meet with the people who boldly speak up?
On the subject of developing a spine, we have yet to hear from Mr. Ipe Remollo, and the officials identified with his administration, on what they did to conclude that Dumaguete needed a destruction project of the boulevard that was undertaken under the nose of this City of Gentle People.