The popular Korean survival drama on Netflix called Squid Games continues to generate reviews and theories about its plots and characters. The far-from-tame survival game is about people desperate to win a gazillion money as prize for a deadly contract.
Briefly, and if you haven’t come across this series, it revolves around 456 players from various walks of life who are deeply in debt. The players enter a contest consisting of a set of children’s games with a ₩45.6 billion ($39.4 million) prize. In as much as it sounds easy, the brutal truth is that those who fail in the games are shot and killed. In the end, only one man will emerge alive as the winner.
Now, this isn’t a comparison about the fictional game and Philippine life in general. But some random notes on the fictional series may as well be a reflection of the society we actually live in.
The series shows how people, when pushed against the ground, will emerge with their survival instincts and start to fend for their own. It’s not a bad thing to take care of your own, of course, but when it comes to resorting to harmful acts that endanger one’s self and others, then that’s where the problem begins.
In May this year, a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey revealed that 50 million Filipinos rated themselves poor (based on average of 4.8 members per family). The survey also showed a waning
self-rating that showed an average of 45 percent of all families surveyed said they were poor, 31 percent said they were borderline poor, and 24 percent said they were not poor.
The sense of poverty is real as the pandemic has forced the country to go through lockdowns and various stages of community quarantines that paralyzed various major businesses, enterprises, government offices and educational institutions. Of course, these measures were necessary as new variants of Covid-19 has snuck into the country and resulted in infection statistics that continued to spike.
And now comes election season in the Philippines, which hopefully wouldn’t be treated as a circus or easy peasy child’s game any longer, but as a life-and-death matter. The country has been suffering enough — in the midst of a health crisis and the shock of economic opportunities
— and many lives have already been purged by the pandemic.
Surviving the pandemic feels like the journey of the 456 players who have no choice but to play along, move forward, and just put one’s eyes on the prize. But as the story goes, crisis brings out the worse in people, even to the point of murdering others.
On the other hand, it also shows that humanity still exists somehow as in the case of the story’s moral center Gi-hun. He defeats his childhood friend Sang-woo but opts to end the game so that both of them can live, though it would also mean they’d both go home penniless.
It’s the point of the series, in fact, as explained by writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk. That despite brutality, uncertainty, anger and fear, “there will always be hope for humanity.”
Then, there are also the VIPs, the ones who toy around and bet on the players, much like anyone would bet on horses.
So how does this all tie in with the coming life-changing Philippine elections? It is this: Let’s try to identify the Squid Game VIPs in the coming elections — discern those who are running for genuine service and those blinded by a deranged thirst for power. The 2022 elections is about our healing and recovery as a people. Not about greed or ambition.
But yes, as Squid Games has shown, we are all stronger than we think. In these dark, uncertain times, each one can contribute in small ways for transformation. We start by being there for each other as Filipinos. Make your voice count. Vote wisely.