Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Easter People

On an intellectual level, we Filipinos are probably among the most pessimistic in the world. We wallow in bad news, we have low regard for our leaders, we seriously doubt the future of our country, and our good days have always been old. Everyone else seems better off, hence the overwhelming desire to pack our bags and head off for greener pastures.

On an emotional level, we Filipinos are probably among the happiest in the world. It's obvious from our smiles and our cheerful disposition. Even as we're bewailing our fate, we do so with a shrug, make a joke of it, and blithely move along to the next grievance.

So how do you figure that? Well, you can't. If you tried, you'd tear your hair out in the attempt. It's one of those inscrutable mysteries of the universe. This mad contradiction is embedded in our character. It just simply is.

Chesterton once wrote: "The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite." How very appropriate for us! And Chesterton adds: "It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything."

And so too with us: just when we're on the verge of apparent suicide from the weight of our worries, we suddenly rear our heads in jolly laughter, and in so doing infecting the person beside us.

This, too, is the underlying pattern of Easter. If we had followed the story to its logical conclusion, we would have had a would-be prophet dead and buried, his followers scattered in the hills and hiding from the Romans, and his radical teachings trampled and forgotten. But no, at the very last moment, the story swerves by an inch, a magnificent inch. And so the Hanged Man comes back to Life, his followers conquer the Romans (in an off-kilter fashion), and His words? Well, "The earth and the heavens will disappear, but my words will never disappear."

We Filipinos are true inheritors of the Good News, not simply because we've heard the Word but because we live it in reality day by day. We're battered and broken, abused and scarred, in anguish and in grief, and when the moment is at its darkest, we rise up and dance.

This is not to say that our problems aren't real; they are. This is not to say that we shouldn't try to solve our problems; we should. Most of all this is not to say that our problems will go away; they won't. This is to say, simply, that when we become a bit too intellectual and too logical and therefore too depressed, we should be a little less intellectual and a little less logical and less depressed. Because ultimately, we always bounce back.

After all, we are the Easter people.


  1. Amen to that Dom.

    No matter how crappy my day is, I always find it in my heart to have a good laugh over something.

  2. I would have to say that it has been my visits to Philippines that has lead me to return to the Catholic faith.It was the first time that I had ever lived in an area were Catholics were in the majority.(where I live in northern Georgia, there are very few of us)Sometimes Philippines can be a difficult country to understand but it is a much better place because of the religion of the people.

  3. Awww, thanks, guys. Advanced Happy Easter to both of you.

  4. nice post you have here... and perfect for the season. :)

    ahh somehow.. we all need to live with contradictions.. this is the divine dichotomy.. :)

  5. Hi Dom,
    We're here until Apr.20 hope you return from Davao by then.

  6. Cultural anthropologists' take on it is that we 'shrug it off' or make jokes about it because we know we can't do anything to change the system. Because its part of our culture, it has carried on since colonial times. No amount of independence declarations can change a way of life.

    We probably still view government in much the same way, its bad but we feel we can't do anything about it.

    That isn't true however, because its now been 'our' government and 'our' country for sixty years.

    I suppose there's a bit of lag when it comes to changing culture. Good thing about being young (or still being alive) is that we can do something about it.

    Kalbaryo din dito. Deadlines closing in fast.

  7. Hi, Tina: Emerson said: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." So I guess we really do just have to roll with the punches.

    Hi, Robert: oh, darned! No planned trips to Dumaguete in the meantime so I might not get to meet you. Do enjoy your stay, though!

    Hi, Sparks: ah, but which came first? Do we joke about the system because we can't do anything about it? Or we can't change the system because we joke too much about it?

    The political structures at the community level, I think, have remained largely the same for far longer than the sixty years since independence from America. Hence, it's much harder to change.

    In a way, it's a good thing that I've moved to Davao. Mindanao, or specifically, Christian Mindanao has a much more recent history than other parts of the country. It would be interesting to compare the development of the political structure than older communities like Negros or Cebu. Anyway, stuff for a more extended post.

    Deadlines besides, the important thing is: are you having fun? I hope you are. Inggit ako. ;-)