Filipinos never fail to find a way to turn moments of grief into moments of happiness. That’s something you can take from a person who had a first hand experience of his relatives dancing and laughing out loud on some random jokes about family stuff in his grandmother’s wake right in front of the casket. Hadn’t we been gathered in a small chapel in a funeral parlor, people would readily assume we were in a birthday party. I’m a hundred percent sure right now that people assumed we were a bunch crazies lamenting over a family’s death the crazy way. But we didn’t care. Perhaps my uncle was even right to say that grandmother would have sat at the middle of it all had she been alive.
Okay, maybe I was generalizing a bit too much. Maybe it was just my family that has that sense of humor that can be sickening to some. Nevertheless, I would not say that we are an insensitive bunch; we simply choose to be happy whenever we can, and I’ve been accustomed to it ever since I can no longer remember. That explains why I’ve always behaved differently during normally awful situations. I can still recall my college days when I would grin at my seat while taking an exam and my classmates would think that I must have studied well when in fact, I was simply laughing at my misfortune for I skipped studying the very part that was being asked in the questionnaire. I would submit my paper with a smile and everybody would gasp at how fast I finished answering the questions when I actually simply given up ’cause there was clearly no way for me to score any better unless I cheat; and I never cheated. (Yes, I’m currently gathering funds for my own monument right now.)
But despite what I said earlier, Filipinos in general are somehow the same; I must just belong to the extreme. Where else can you find children enjoying a more than one story high flood arranging diving competitions? But children find fun in everything, you would say. How about complete adults enjoying the huge waves hitting Manila bay in the middle of a storm and posing for pictures like the whole thing was a set for some glamourous photo shoot? Or gathering around a table filled with bottles of beer in front of a flooded sari-sari store ’cause holy crap it’s just flooding right? It’s not like you should be at home with your family and bear with their ways of having fun during the unfriendly weather. Filipinos are both lovely and ridiculous that way. It only rests on the way you take a look at them.
A couple of weeks ago I and my friends were talking about random events in our arguably interesting lives and the topic came to footbridges in Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, the widest avenue in the entire Philippines, and the many casualties of speeding vehicles when the footbridges weren’t there yet. One of us shared a friend’s story of crossing it. With eighteen lanes all in all, needless to say, crossing the avenue was scary as shit back then. It was pretty normal that unlucky pedestrians only get to pass three lanes and get struck by whatever vehicle on the fourth.
The friend made it to the island separating the eighteen lanes though.
She got mugged there.
Clearly, it’s not a very pleasant story. You don’t make fun of other people’s misfortune. But I laughed. The storyteller and I both laughed. The friend lived and that was all that mattered to us. The rest of the story was taken humorously and was made part of our collection of funny stories to share. We are both sick and funny that way. As long as there’s a bright side to an unpleasant situation you’ll always find us looking that way. Happiness is a choice; you can take us as a good example of that. -aB