THE PEN| No man [or country] is an island

PROFESSOR Randy David made an astute observation when he wrote in his recent column that Filipinos have a tendency to become insular and turn a blind eye to events that are happening around the world.

The well-respected academic and writer said that this inward-looking attitude could be gleaned from the seemingly scant attention that Philippine media has given to recent global developments such as the Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan migrant crisis which threatens to spill over other parts of Europe and beyond the continent’s borders.

Instead, the country’s major TV networks have chosen to report on stories which seem to have been lifted from the police’s daily blotter: murders, robberies, rapes and neighborhood shootings. And viewers who get to watch these events as they unfold on the evening primetime news don’t even blink or feign disgust, as they take their dinner or unwind after a long day’s work.

We are sure that Prof. David didn’t mean to put our country’s media in a bad light, as he is also a journalist himself. The point that he is perhaps trying to make is that Filipinos, by and large, have become so desensitized from the daily bombardment of negative local news that they have become indifferent to the great human tragedies that have befallen other nations.

This is quite surprising, considering that the Philippines has had its share of tragedies over the past several years. Super-storms Sendong, Pablo and Yolanda threw nature’s full wrath upon the country, resulting in thousands of lives lost, billions of property destroyed, and turning once thriving communities into virtual ghost towns.

The nation was virtually “shell shocked,” as it grappled not only with the seemingly gargantuan task of addressing the immediate needs of the victims, but more importantly, rebuilding the typhoon-ravaged areas.

As the Philippine Government marshalled its resources to respond to the calamities, the international humanitarian community wasted no time in making its presence felt in the hardest-hit areas. Less than a day after the typhoons had struck, foreign responders were already on the ground, surveying the damage, providing first-aid treatment, and rescuing people who were buried under collapsed houses, buildings and trees.

Despite the pall of gloom which hung over the disaster-stricken areas, the sight of foreign nationals distributing relief goods, attending to the wounded, and working side by side with Filipinos was truly a heartwarming and impressive sight. The tall Caucasian with the gentle touch and the smiling Japanese medic had come to symbolize the kindness and generosity of our foreign allies who are willing to risk life and limb in order to save the lives of people who are thousands of miles away from their home countries.

And more than two years after Yolanda left the country’s shores, international donor agencies continue to provide much-needed assistance which are meant not only to help victims meet their basic needs, but more importantly, to ensure their future by building schools, setting up potable water systems, and providing livelihood funds and training on enterprise development.

To be sure, Filipinos are grateful for all the assistance they have received from friends and allies in the international community. But it would do well if we can perhaps translate this appreciation into more concrete terms by providing aid to the people of other nations who are now being ravaged by war, famine and disease. There is so much we do to contribute in this great humanitarian effort.

With the power of social media, we can help raise awareness on the plight of the people of Syria. The image of a dead three year-old Syrian boy being carried by a Turkish medic was heart wrenching, making the world realize the full extent and impact of the ongoing civil war that has gripped the country. It is not enough for us Filipinos to sympathize with the plight of Syrians by merely clicking on the like and share button; better if we can take part in a massive worldwide online campaign that will finally put an end to the violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

The country’s educational system can also play a major role in this global effort. Elementary and secondary teachers can discuss more thoroughly during their civic education classes the causes of the ongoing civil wars and their effects on populations. It seems that students these days are no longer interested in current events, which is actually a shame. With the way things are shaping in the world stage, it would do best if the youth are well-informed on these developments which in all likelihood will have an impact, one way or the other, on their future.

For their part, the nation’s media organizations can perhaps dedicate more airtime for the coverage of events not only in Syria and the Middle East, but those which can have a major impact on the nation’s economy and well-being as a whole. If a major daily can do a front page story on the blossoming romance of a boobtube couple which “dubbed” its way into the public’s consciousness, why can’t the leading TV networks allot a few more minutes for stories highlighting international initiatives to address situations of conflict and how ordinary citizens can help in the humanitarian effort?

Although the Philippines is an island-nation, this doesn’t mean that its people must constrained by the country’s insular nature. We, as a people, should not be afraid to reach out and lend a helping hand to those in need, especially to those who have fallen victim to humankind’s inhumanity.

It is time for us to pay forward.

Posted in Opinion