We Filipinos are known for our unstoppable optimism, easygoing casualness and sense of humor. We are characterized by our ability to smile in times of depression, laugh even in the face of problems, and get back up despite any disaster thrown our way.
The recent crisis brought on by the monsoons served as an excellent example of this. In the midst of deep floods, torrential rain and blowing winds, our fellowmen worked together to find safe ground, put together relief packages and rescue others who were less fortunate. They did all this with smiles on their faces and hands offered to friends and strangers alike. Evacuation centers were alive with friendly chatter among the rescued who often already knew each other from living in the same area. There were even some laughs: a few moments of classic Filipino humor that were caught in snapshots and uploaded – despite the raging storm – to be spread all over the Internet. The world could see and appreciate the way we Pinoys deal with calamities; that is, by moving on and pushing forward.
When you live in the Philippines, you eventually get used to natural disasters. Yet whether rain or shine, Filipinos know how to brighten up the day with a good joke, a friendly chat or a lively conversation. This has become such a custom that even in the face of depressing times when most other people might be dejected or distraught, these happy-go-lucky habits prevail.
The philosophy of an average Filipino is to look at the bright side despite any obstacle. This is why we have stayed strong, why we don’t let misfortunes bring us down. We have an eye for spotting fun in the most unexpected places, and we always love to share the joke. Only in the Philippines do you find a man dressed up as a mermaid in the middle of flood season, a couple celebrating their wedding in knee-deep water, and people doing all kinds of normal, everyday activities despite the rising swell. These activities range from swimming and surfing to playing in cyber cafes to posing for Facebook pictures to getting a haircut. I wonder; do they serve treatment discounts during storm season?
In addition to finding the fun in all kinds of situations, we take optimism a step further: if we can’t find a bright side, we’ll make one. With all the volunteers for donation drives and relief operations, it was clear the Philippines was creating its own silver lining behind the stormy gray clouds that hovered over the country.
Interestingly, there are three scenarios that make the country come together regardless of what else happens: a Manny Pacquiao fight wherein the crime rate plummets to nonexistence, an occasion commemorating a beloved government official, and in the none-too-rare event of a disaster.
This is not surprising since we were traumatized by previous storms. It seems like such a short time since Ondoy, or even Milenyo. The mere mention of the names strikes a note of fear and depression in the Filipino community, and after disasters such as these, we have become more aware of – and prepared for – future calamities. In fact it is during calamities that someone’s status in society is completely forgotten. Since luck can make victors or victims out of anyone, every person is equal, even if just for a while.
More than the readiness of people to help others, everyone including victims firmly refuses to lose hope. Even in the midst of a rescue operation, wherein people are being assisted left and right, it is rare to find someone so distraught and broken that their spirits seem to have been washed away along with the waves. In fact, even victims choose to come back to areas where the storm hit worst to aid those who were less fortunate than they were. It’s in times like these that the famous concept of “bayanihan” is really palpable in the community.
It is unfair to say that Filipinos are unaware of the all-too-real disasters in their lives. In fact, our awareness is the reason we put so much effort into preparing for future plights. It is also untrue to say we are unfeeling; everyone who has lost a loved one to the storm feels real sadness and loss. While it is true that there are some Filipinos can smile or laugh in times of distress, there are some who can not as well. But one thing is for certain: regardless of their immediate reaction to the circumstances or obstacles in their lives, they know how to get back up eventually. Filipinos find a way to keep moving and feel better.
It takes great strength to find happiness in adversity, and it takes an equal amount of resilience to get back up despite things thrown your way. These traits set us apart from the rest of the world. They are values we deserve to be proud of and should continue to pursue. Our stubbornness is a funny thing – it is what lets us keep happy and never give up, even in times of crisis.