It is quintessential Filipino to first fine the humour in tragedy or adversity. Whether it a political debacle or natural disaster, or even personal loss, the Filipino family will strive to find a way to continue to laugh together. For those who are not familiar with this peculiar trait, or who are married into it and still can’t get the hang of it, let’s see if we can shed some light on the matter.
In 1986 when thousands of Manileños took to the streets for the EDSA People Power Revolution, myself included, it was more of a carnival or town fiesta atmosphere than a revolution governed by doom and gloom. There was street food all over the place, people with guitars singing, but most of all people were telling jokes, EDSA jokes, Marcos jokes, any manifestation of humour related to the current event. It was absolutely bizarre to be laughing amidst the tanks, the tear gas, the fight for democracy and the efforts to topple a dictatorship, but there we were, united by food, faith and laughter.
Years later it dawned on me that although it takes great strength to face the difficult moments in life, it takes even greater courage to be able to laugh in the face of adversity. The ability to do this is what gives us the equilibrium in an unbalanced society. Laughing about your troubles is not a form of avoidance, but one of the rare coping mechanisms that allows the soul to open up to gratitude and faith when the tendency is to go down the opposite path.
Having said that, let me tell you another story: my darling daughter is a graphic design student in Florence, Italy. Not being able to afford a flight to Berlin on her limited student budget, she takes long bus rides home, and is blessed with the patience of a saintly traveller. She has no qualms travelling for 17 hours and even enjoys it. This particular trip began Wednesday morning as she dashed around town making last minute purchases. She then was about to head towards the bus station, when she realised that the bus ticket she had purchased was for January 18, and not December 18.
So she quickly purchased another one for the trip that day and made her way to the bus station. Her muddled brain was stuck in Lalaland as she stared blankly at the buses leaving the station, particularly the bus to Monaco… the Italian word for Munich. It was only when she tried to board the bus to Pisa did she realise that she should have been on the bus to Monaco that had just left.
The ticket counter was helpful and sympathetic to her plight, and issued a ticket for the evening trip.
Lo and behold, daughter dear got on the right bus in the evening and hurtled down the highway, seven hours to Munich and supposedly another 10 to Berlin, but not without a few glitches. To make a long story short, her father, who flew from Mexico to Berlin the next day, beat her to Berlin by several hours, because the 17-hour bus ride turned into a 20-hour one. I ended up waiting at the station diner about two hours, and I swear it was the longest I ever stretched out a cappuccino. We eventually made it home, and the taxi cab´s card reader conked out on him, so I had to scrape together the cash I had in my wallet.
Earlier that morning I went deep diving into my photography archive and unearthed some goat photos taken during my last winter in India. These goats were family pets in an impoverished part of Old Delhi. The owners took pity on the animals standing out on the cold pavement and tried to make them as warm and comfortable as possible, the end result being rather hilarious for passers-by. The point being, in spite of the poverty, harsh conditions, and challenging situations, kindness, patience and humour matter.