Monday, February 20, 2006

Where Sorrow Wears a Smiley

WHAT MAKES US TICK as a people may make some of us feel sick. So goes the crux of my column tomorrow in Sun.Star Cebu:

It's as awry as a sore thumb sticking out, but mirth in the face of misery is one peculiarity so patently Pinoy. Absurd enough, true, to baffle even the Greeks who symbolized theater as a tragicomic pair of masks.

Consider, for instance, those television footages straight from an accident or crime scene. See how the reporter intones the ill-starred subject of the story while a bustle of kibitzers at the background jostles for their fair share of the camera, waving and winking or striking a chin-up pose worthy of Mr. Suave. That happened, yes, in the wake of the Wowowee stampede. A grinning face or two, that’s also starkly visible in the front-page photo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday counterpointing the utter despair of those waiting for upbeat possibilities about survivors in the Southern Leyte landslide.

Here’s where the Grim Reaper seems to have trouble with being taken seriously. As if tragedy were a freak force of nature, a pratfall or an outlandish piece of rumor out of a clown’s lopsided mouth.

In this grin-and-bear-it country where stand-up comics are more compelling than politicians and where cartoonists can best interpret our socio-economic state, being hapless is something most of us endure with unbearable lightness. As if, on the heels of man-made or natural disasters with a ho-hum rate of recurrence, yet another sorrow can be shrugged off thus, “So what else is new?”

Be merry today, tomorrow is another sloppy trick up a freak’s sleeve. Or so many of us with a happy-go-lucky binge seem to believe. Recall a recent article from Time Magazine, explaining why Filipinos consistently top national happiness surveys compared with the rest of the world despite poverty, calamities and countless other reasons to wallow in the slough of despond. We can even die laughing.

We’re gracefully tough as the bamboo, true. We suffer fools gladly, and we can win Olympic medals if being easily amused and self-sufficient were up for competition.

"Around the world, people are searching for happiness,” writes Alan C. Robles. “For Filipinos, happiness isn't a goal: it's a tool for survival.”

The Flintstones might as well be Filipinos, who knows?

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