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The Power Of Laugther

Humor. Is it just a diversion or car.:: be a survival kit? In the Philippines, laughter is the way Filipinos cope with natural catastrophes, overcome the burdens of everyday life and cushion the impact of events over which they feel they no longer can control.

The ability to reduce a situation to absurdity is, however, not to trivialize it. Filipinos are not oblivious of despair. Their history is a lament of the struggle against colonization, the atrocities of war, political anarchy and poverty. More than just comic relief from these harsh realities, Filipinos have found in humor a reservoir of psychic energy from which they draw a positive outlook in life. If they can laugh at a situation, Filipinos argue, they can rise above it.

This attitude may lead outsiders to conclude that Filipinos are passive to their fate. But what may appear as passivity to the casual observer is in fact an active social mechanism deeply rooted in the Filipino's collective consciousness.

A People Of Hope

You first see it in their smiles: spontaneous, warm, infectious. The Philippines shining through, as the national airline's ad puts it. Charming, you might say, though there is much more to it than just charm. The Filipino's easy smile reveals a cheerful approach to life, a sense of humor, a pleasant disposition and, most important, an indomitable spirit.

As Filipinos comfortably combine work and play, they find countless reasons for celebration - a good harvest, a raise in pay, the arrival or departure of a relative or friend, baptisms, weddings, birthdays. And, not to be left out, the fiesta, the feast of all feasts of every Philippine town. Filipinos have been celebrating since time immemorial. Historical accounts of life in pre Spanish communities describe how planting, harvesting and building a house were done cooperatively by groups of families and always ended with eating, drinking, music and dance. To this early fiesta tradition, the Spaniards introduced the Catholic saints who later became the focus of the celebration. Today the early harvest festival with its acquired Christian overlay continues to provide Filipinos respite from the rigors of daily life.

Filipinos find humor in most things. Through good times and bad, they laugh and make jokes. Sometimes misjudged as frivolity, laughing at themselves and the mess they are in is actually an important coping mechanism. Poking fun at difficult circumstances or at people who oppress them is away of fighting back, of overcoming. The long difficult years of the Marcos era was a fertile period for Filipino humor.

A Legacy Of Commerce

When people talk, about commercial activity in the East, the conversation eventually focuses on Arabs, Indians and Chinese, the shopkeepers of Asia. There is, however, another group in this exotic community that is often overlooked the Filipinos. Commerce has always been a part of Philippine history and today reflects Filipino culture in action.

Filipinos first appear on the stage of history, not as scholars or warriors or priests but as traders. Chinese chronicles of the Sung Dynasty document the Filipino presence in Canton as early as 1982 when traders from Ma-i, a country north of Borneo, now known as the Philippines.

Much earlier, the invention of the outrigger around 4000 B.C., permitted the Malayo-Polynesian speaking people of Southeast Asia, among which were the Filipino, to venture farther out to sea. That this movement of people must have also involved the movement of goods finds support in pottery excavated in Southeast Asia dating back to around 2000 B.C.

Maybe Is No

(By: Zeus Salazar)

In the Philippines, yes is yes, maybe is no and no is rarely heard. A- a Filipino a yes or no question. Whether tria1 (Are you coming to my party?) or serious (Can I borrow money?), one is likely to get a yes, if the idea sits well with him. If it doesn't, he won't say no, he'll say maybe. His response, irresolute as it may seem to non-Filipinos, doesn't necessarily reflect an inability to make decisions. Rather, it shows a well-mastered tact of protecting the other person from hurt. He says maybe though he means no to soften the force of a direct negative and thus immediately assuage the other person's feelings.

A description of Filipino society may be culled from what anthropologists call a high-context culture, one in which the modes of behavior are not explicitly stated but are instead inferred in many different ways, such as tone of voice, body language and the idiosyncrasies of the linguafranca. (By contrast, the low context behavior of Western societies is seen as abrasive, uncouth and impersonal.) In a high context culture, interpersonal communication operates both on personal feelings as well as upon the anticipated reaction of the other person.

This explains the Filipino's sharp intuitive sense or what he calls pakiramdam. It is a skill, learned from birth, which enables him to grasp nuances, much like a trained musical ear distinguishes secondary and tertiary themes in a dense symphony.

Home Is Where The Filipino Is

What, another cousin? "An American exclaims in mock exasperation as he is introduced to a cousin of a cousin of his Filipino fiancee.”Everybody in the Philippines is related," a Filipino friend tries to come to the rescue. "Oh yes?" the American says, not quite believing or understanding the Filipino family tree.

Poor American. He will never see the tree for the forest. For the tangled growth of relationships that bind Filipino familial society together is a dense forest indeed.

Let's see if we can find our way through this primeval landscape.

Archaeological evidence recovered from all over the Philippines attest, to there being viable settlements here as early as 5,000 BC. At the time of Spanish conquest in the 16th century, Philippine society was made up of fully functioning communities called barangay. They got their name from the vessel of the sea-faring Malays, who migrated to the Philippines in several waves and in kin-groups, together with slaves and household help, and implanted their colonies on the deltas and banks of river networks.



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