In 2009, Hong Kong columnist Chip Tsao called the Philippines a “nation of servants,” unworthy of contesting the Spratly Islands with China. There might be thousands of Filipinos working as maids in Hong Kong but his article drew a howl of protest and a hailstorm of criticisms from Filipinos all over the world. Tsao eventually apologized for his words.

This week, many people in Hong Kong and in other countries are calling the Philippines and the Filipinos a whole slew of unsavory words. One just has to access the internet and there they are, words with such venom enough to whip us all into an angry frenzy a thousand times more intense than the one that greeted Chip Tsao last year.

Post your reaction to the Manila hostage crisis

But today we are quiet. We bow our heads and let the words hit us. We scan the comments in Facebook accounts and news sites and we zip our mouths. We are a nation shamed into silence by the undeniable evidence of our police’s inability to save the lives of eight Hong Kong tourists taken hostage this week. We understand the utter disgust, we also felt it. We understand the sorrow, we also felt it. We understand the sense of hopelessness bleeding into anger, we also felt it.

Disgust, sorrow, hopelessness and anger-- we have been feeling these as Filipinos for almost all our lives. We feel them when faced with the many blatant government corruptions and our leaders’ widespread, self-serving, and unapologetic thievery. We feel those emotions when people in power coldly abuse, mistreat, and even murder others just because they can. We felt those emotions watching the hostage drama unfold in Quirino Grandstand, when we saw the police officers handcuff and drag Capt. Mendoza’s brother into a squad car, then heard the gunshots that rang out in the bus. We felt those emotions when the SWAT team tried again and again to enter the vehicle. We felt those when we saw the crowd swarm just to get a glimpse of the bus, hampering rescue operations. We felt those emotions when we found out how many hostages died. For many of us, it was a preventable tragedy that need not have happened.

In truth, hostage situations happen all over the world. What really made this sad is how our police force responded and handled the problem. And so, we don’t need Hong Kong residents to insult us; we ourselves hurled diatribes at the officials involved from Sorry Wala Akong Training as the definition of SWAT to questions about Noynoy Aquino’s competence and sanity based on his absence then smiling response to the crisis.

It is one thing to be victimized by our nation’s man-made disasters especially those perpetuated by the ones supposed to protect us, it is another to see people from other nations, innocent tourists pouring dollars into our economy, be so. It is as if our dirty laundry, the shameful family secret, was exposed for all the world to see.

In a way, that is probably for the best. Because as Filipinos move on, buoyed by a Miss Universe fourth runner-up win, we tend to forget. Political families charged with corruption are reelected into office. Even the Maguindanao massacre now seems like a distant memory. And so, perhaps the world will not let us forget. Perhaps the world will remind us again and again about what we need to learn, change and improve based on the Quirino Grandstand tragedy. Even the fact that that needs to happen is embarrassing and shameful.

Last year when international writers and comedians poked fun at Filipinos, we were very quick to demand apologies. I wish we could have proven to those detractors that all their insults were unfounded by handling the hostage crisis better. I wish we could have shown the world that we may not be as rich as other countries, we might have to work abroad just to feed our families and send our children to school, but we can serve and protect their citizens if they visit our nation. I wish we could have done that as the world’s eyes were on us.

But we didn’t rise to the challenge. We failed horribly, embarrassingly. And, I as a Filipino am deeply, deeply sorry it had to happen.

Jocy L. So-Yeung teaches at Davao Christian High School.