Capacity to Take it


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For the thousands of highlander/lowlander Filipinos grinding daily for honest sweat, the word adversity is no stranger in their households, that they seek shelter in the arms of well-meaning activities or other work activities to slug on with life for their families, a capacity to take it on and override hard times yet clinging to an elusive aspiration all simply call as hope.

Months became years, weeks became months, days became weeks, people in Cordillera Administrative region (CAR) and Region 1 faced adversities like killer earthquake in 1990, series of typhoons, countless floods, tragic landslides, mining disasters, agricultural destruction, no job, sickness and other countless disasters.

Struck, the pandemic, still, no different from the above stated, if one takes it from the view of precious cares, hardship and human lives lost.

Many with whom Herald Express connected with, have brought out to the fore a fact they point as dealing with life’s storms can drain even the most resilient and it’s easy to lose hope when one is pummeled no end.

Many have seen troubles, up close, troubles that spike depression, often leaving an individual’s instinct for survival badly shaken, which, may even escalate into a predisposition of being uncertain. To most, it’s called “fear of the unknown,” or plainly, apprehension.

Life, indeed, can be very perplexing, for when an individual least expects it, life sets a challenge to test a person’s courage and willingness to change at the moment of impact. That being the case, it’s enlightening that despite such disasters mentioned, highlanders and lowlanders have always found time to rise to the occasion, individually and as a populace to hurdle challenge after challenge.

Perseverance during adversity in trying times, many have shown, can be a spine of human condition to continue a course of action in the face of difficulty, even if with little or no prospect of success.

Baguio City councilor Arthur Allad-iw last Tuesday said, “Adversity during trying times, whether natural or man-made serve as a challenge to the unity of the people.”

Alladi-iw profoundly understands that without social capital as the quality of relationship between community members and it being a factor in building community resilience, community unity can be at a crossroad.

Allad-iw gave a fine example of the capacity to take over adversity by the highlanders embedded culture of community help, strengthening networks, shared norms, values and resilience.

“In the Cordillera, where the culture is very much based on cooperative to survive and help each other, it enriches more our deep culture of “binnadang” or “ub ubbo,” Allad-iw points out.

Such highland cultural practice centers on help extended to community members in dire straits during widespread and severe challenging times. This culture automatically sprung into effect during extended community lockdowns with the affirmation to the those  being  helped that “kaseyanna,” or, “all will be well.”

Practiced for centuries, binnadang or ub ubbo revolves on the magnanimity of community members irrespective whether there’s help coming from outside of the community.

“Hence they are more resilient to disaster or trying times whether they receive or not from the government,” Allad-iw explains about the binnadang factor.

Adversity in trying times serves as a parameter as to how well government acts to stave off impending crisis as all wish on the health, the vigor and the prosperity of national life.

But tailwinds of pandemic lash the country with a death wish. And there’s much rebuilding to be done. It’s within this purview when Councilor Allad-iw notes, “It’s also this period   that we can see how the government serves its people, whether they perform their task or short from it.”

In such spirit of collaborative effort, people in these two adjacent regions and other regions as well face today are no less heavy than they seem on their fleeting smiles. And the gains made by the Philippines in early quarter of the year but totally wiped out by the pandemic are touchstones perhaps for the vindication of Filipino hope for next year.

As Councilor Allad-iw, hopes, too, for everybody’s well-being, noting, “Therefore the conditions call to assess the situation in order to come up with plans, programs and projects that address the situation and how to overcome it.”

For Allad-iw, too, fully supports putting muscle behind government vocal support of any private sector and other civil society initiatives that address adversity during challenging times.

Such defines a spirit, not broken, because of the basic stakes of what defines the people in the highlands and the lowlands in whatever jungle they have made for themselves or what nature throws at them.

Filver Dalipon, who will reach his senior year next year and from the Mountain Province says of the capacity to take on troubles that come the way. With a good command of English, Dalipon explains, “We go on because we need to go on. Because of what? Stubbornness?  Not knowing any better? Faith? Hope? Or finally wanting to know what’s the end of the story of the life of us?”

Dalipon, who took pause from his explanation about adversity in trying times, further says, “Thank God, we go on, because we go on. Born to be doomed, though we are, sometimes, but we need to go on.”

That life is composed of ups and downs – imposed either by nature or man –  has set Dalipon by rule of thumb to helping others, for he holds a view one becomes more compassionate, stronger and more grateful if one believes in the capacity to persevere.

Dalipon switched to Ilocano in his explanation, saying, “Nu awan lapped, rigat, dangngadang ken carit, ti panagbiag, kasla awan ti rikna.  Ken ti aldaw nga saan ka nga maka-anus, isu ti udi ti aldaw mo.”  (Without obstacles, difficulties, struggles and challenges, life wouldn’t make much sense. And the day you are unable to persevere is your last day.)

Camela Lorenzo, from the lowlands, married to a Benguet gentleman and now residing in Benguet, holds a view of the likelihood any, may encounter adversity at some point in a lifetime.

“Sigurado ak, 100 per cent, mangyari ti kasta,” Camela, who previously worked in Manila for a big corporation but settled down for good in Benguet after marriage, went on to compare the pandemic and other disasters as “terrible circumstances” which many may not cope well.

“A reason why the government provides us with tools ad correct information for understanding in dealing successfully with traumatic events that threaten our safety, our families, our work, health, emotions, relationships. When there’s lack of successful coping strategy, we won’t be prepared when painful events occur,” so Camela explains.

But Camela spoke proudly of her wonder about the discipline she encountered particularly in the Cordillera after she got married, seeing whenever adversity batters the land, particularly during the pandemic playing its tragic scenario among all people. She witnessed people’s capacity to listen, heed and help.

What she experienced, she couldn’t but help herself compare such outlook when she previously worked in Manila.

“Ayna, sika, Sir, idiay Manila, walang paki nga kunada, iti kaaduwan. Ditoy Montanyosa, nu adda landslide ti sulsulinek, agtitinnulong ti tao. Kasla kuma kastoy ni. Mulmulnoong nu denggen da ti gobierno nu kuna ti autoridad saan agbelleng basura idiay igid kalsada ta mapullatan ti drainage.  Ket nu ma-flood da, pabasulen da pay gobierno.”

“Nu ibagam nga dagidiay basura da ti makagapu nu apay na-flood diay lugar, ken naangot, addu ngilaw, pagballayan ti bao (rats) isu ti pagruggian ti sakit, ket dagidiay nag-ibelleng, isuda pay maka-unget.  Trabaho kanu ti gobierno ti aglinis basura. Apay kasdiay, Sir?” Camela scratched her head in voicing her long statements.

A life that reflects helping others to overcome challenging times regardless of socio-economic status in the highlands can provide an insight that many – even in government circles outside the highland region – appreciate and want emulated in their jurisdictions.

For those   whose lives are already enmeshed with the highland and lowland cultures, they find to their wonder that the capacity to take on adversity by the people is something of a discipline forged in fire.

A good example: A Benguet farmer, after having spent several thousands of pesos for labor and materials in planting vegetables finds himself bankrupt because vegetable prices have plummeted due to pandemic.

Only one alternative for the farmer:  let his produce to rot on the fields. But something bothers his conscience going for such an alternative.

Instead, he shells out more money for laborers to reap the products, load them onto his truck, gas up, bids goodbye to his family and steers towards La Trinidad, Benguet, Baguio City or other areas where there, he gladly gives his thousands of kilos of vegetables to people for free. Then he goes home, tired, hungry, empty-handed, man-hours lost and pockets less of cash – but with a satisfied mind.

That’s capacity to take on adversity with discipline molded by flame.