Thursday, April 2, 2015

When Patience is a Vice

(published 13 October 2014, MST)

I was on a bus along Edsa at 1130 pm on October 1, that Wednesday when a thunderstorm that lasted for an hour caused flash floods and put most of Metro Manila at a standstill.
Even though I had spent the last four hours figuring out the best way to get home north from Port Area, Manila —the only was the roundabout way, I discovered—I was thankful that I had found, at last, a nice seat by the window. I thought it would be a good time to read a book, saved as a PDF file on my phone, and listen to some music. The air conditioner was cold and the cushion on my back felt reassuring. Never mind if the 22-kilometer ride took long—I was delayed by hours already, anyway. 
My comfortable window seat however prevented me from reading. I could not help but observe the people around me.
At that late hour, there were still many people out and trying to get home. They did not all look like call center agents on their graveyard shift. With many sporting what looked like company issued uniforms, they seemed to have gone to their workplaces that same morning. Perhaps too they waited for the rain to stop (it did, at around 6 pm) before venturing out. And here was what greeted them.
It was almost midnight and our bus was still full.  People were still standing on the aisle. Almost all of the other buses were as full. On the road, along Edsa, there were still many who were standing waiting for a ride.
No doubt, the people were exhausted and desperate. It had been a long, long day.
Hours earlier, flash floods had rendered major roads impassable. Those driving their own vehicles had found themselves on a giant parking lot, way past their dinner time. Those boarding public transportation had decided to walk to their destination. Wading on floodwater had become a more attractive option than sitting still and getting nowhere.
It was a heartbreaking sight. These people were just trying to earn an honest day’s living. They wake up, go to work, do their best, and look forward to payday. This so they could pay their rent, their kids’ tuition, pick up a few things from the supermarket, give their families a fastfood treat, and perhaps save a little.
These people know nothing about siphoning off public funds through intricate schemes, accepting donations from influential friends, or padding government contracts, making grandiose promises just to get elected. 
These are the bosses who deserve so much more than the shabby treatment they are getting from their government.
* * *
So goes the legendary Filipino virtue of patience. You can never put a Filipino’s spirit down. This trait of ours has never failed to amaze other cultures. What’s a little inconvenience, a bit of a wrinkle? We always see the bright side; we put up with a lot of things many others would dismiss as BS.
These wrinkles however always carry the possibility of turning into something else, and this is where patience turns from virtue to vice.
A constituency, for instance, becomes too patient with their leader who does a bit of good here and there but is involved in dishonest acts.
They put up with promises of a better life from candidates during elections when in fact nothing changes.
Train passengers keep on lining up for hours, enduring the rush of people and even risking their lives day after day because they heard that repairs would be made soon anyway.
And on that bus where I was, exhausted passengers munched on their biscuits or hamburger takeouts, joked around with their colleagues or played gameson their phones as if they did not just have a harrowing day.
At least, traffic was moving now and they would be home soon.
This legendary patience is perhaps responsible for our slacking government leaders. They give us palliative measures that mollify us for a while, but their sights go no further than their terms of office or contemplation of their political future. We demand this and that, but are easily distracted. We express interest only in immediate action and then move on to the next hot topic.
In the meantime, those accountable to the people just bide their time and wait until the patient people’s attention is set somewhere else.
Sometimes it OK to lose patience and to make impatience known, not through angry but fleeting rants on social media, but through something more consequential like our votes. Our patience is why they don’t take us seriously and why they get away with things illegal, criminal, unethical, immoral.
Let’s do ourselves a favor and remember all those who exploited our patience.

No comments: