The Amazing Filipino Ability to "Deal with It"

I see on the weather charts that typhoon activity is picking up. It’s that season. Every day I check out the satellite photo supplied by NOAA. I think it is done by one overworked guy. Occasionally he sleeps, so the photo doesn’t change on those days. But he is always on the job before typhoons, and that is what counts. It is a simple way to be advised of brewing storms a few days before they hit. We can lay in a good stock of drinking water, rice, canned tuna and Snickers bars.
Did you know that the Philippines is one of the leading tuna canning nations in the world? And one of the worst at managing fishing resources? There will be a crack-up between the two forces in a few years. Like, when there are no more tuna out there to put in cans.
But I digress early.
When I wrote this, a nearby typhoon was bending the bamboo and slapping some wayward tin around.  I think it will just graze us. I look down the hill and see mostly trees, but I know that under those trees are homes with kids and old people and people who work hard. I wonder if they know it is coming.
Filipinos have to deal with a lot, you know? I’m talking about the common Filipino, not the oligarch or the business man or the rich people. I’m talking about the laborers, rice workers, construction workers, shop clerks, office workers, fishermen, teachers, guys who climb coconut trees and chop sugar cane, and transportation workers. The millions who go out daily and earn a pittance, and from that carve out a life of family and laughter and getting through another day.
Getting through another day.
Filipinos do that better than anybody.
The water and sanitation suck. Health service is crappy. School kids are stuffed tighter in their hollowblock canisters than sardines in a tin, and teachers are relentlessly overworked. The main transportation vehicle is a pair of cheap, worn out rubber slippers, or crammed five to a motorbike.
Then a typhoon or flash flood or fire comes ripping through the place and kills hundreds, or a ferry tips over and kills hundreds, or rebels and extremists come ripping through the place beheading and murdering innocent people in the name of high ideals. People lose eyes and legs and arms and teeth like Mr. Potato Head coming apart in Junior’s hands. What is workers compensation for a coconut worker who falls from the tree these days, anyway?
It has been 22 years since the last major volcanic eruption, but we all sit atop a big gurgling mass of boiling rock, not to mention giant tectonic plates that are eternally rumbling eastward under our feet. Every day we have but a few hundred meters of dirt between us and Hell.
People get sick. Tuberculosis and STD, flu and diarrhea, food poisoning from non-refrigerated leftovers, horrible sanitation. Snake bites. I read a report a while back that said ATM panels are as germ laden as a toilet seats.
Well, there are not a lot of toilet seats here, so no problem, eh?
(Note to self. Buy a case of those surgeon’s rubber gloves for banking requirements.)
The common Filipino just deals with it, you know?
An Uncle dies, they do the blessings and the march to the grave and weep and light candles and someone feeds everybody, and the next morning they are out stuffing rice shoots in the mud for 10 hours. Pay is a bag of rice at the end of the harvest.
Saturday night, someone who had a good day or week pops for a jug of tuba and the wizened old men, and the young men who are wizened by the sun before their allotted time, gather under the mango tree to tell dirty jokes and cackle the night away. At some time they inevitably talk about their fighting chickens.
The women take care of the kids and keep the dirty kitchen cooking.
When they are done with that, they take care of the kids some more, for there are a lot of them. Or auntie’s kids, or the grandkids.
Sunday, the good people go to church or sleep in or go to work again, seven days this week.
If there were eight days a week, they’d work that one, too.
And the French get all bitchy because government wants them to work more than 36 hours a week. Hell, 36 hours here is half the work week. Change the name of the fried potato slices to Wuss fries.
Life here is tangible. So is death.
This is no squeaky clean suburb with manicured grass lawns, two cars in the driveway, fancy schools and a hospital right down the street, with drinkable water piped in 24/7 and no brownouts.
This is dirt and wind and rain blowing through the cracks in the bamboo and the only thing between the family and a flock of dengue carrying mosquitoes is a ratty old sheet. Lots of folks piss in the corner and shit in the woods and cook over the sticks that Junior hauled down from the hills last Saturday.
The motorcycle has no warranty. Hell, it is 15 years old and held together with tie wire and electrical tape. The motor has been rebuilt more times than the late Michael Jackson’s face.
The national bird is the Philippine Eagle and the national air is Smoke. Everything burns here, plastic and wood and the dog’s shit, when it isn’t fertilizing the banana trees.
The nearest movie theater is 125 kilometers away. The local pizza tastes a lot like cardboard.
The national animal ought to be the Pig.
No one does pig better than Filipinos. No part is too obscure not to be devoured in some concoction, and heart attacks are the National Cause of Death, from eating all that fat.
But it fits, you know? You drag yourself through life, face death in every form imaginable, what’s wrong with a little fried fat? Or riding a motorcycle without a helmet? Or playing with guns?
No one deals with life better than Filipinos. Because it is framed in death, every day, in every way.
They are aware the Grim Reaper’s hot breath is there. Always there. Somewhere.
They just deal with it.
Thats the way it is.
Just dealing with it. It’s this nation’s soul.
10 Responses to “The Amazing Filipino Ability to "Deal with It"”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Joe,The ability of dealing with things in any form or shape is most common and universal; however, in the Philippines it is unique because they deal with life and death and any other serious adversity. Some people call it Filipino enginuity, other people call it bahala na, I am not sure what it is, but you surmised it adequately that its the nation's soul. That soul, in my mind is a forced gift given by the government to its people due to its inability manage our resources.Through adversity, they learned to coupe and live with so little. They are the forgotten and the voiceless people.Its Jack

  2. Yes, it struck me as I was feeling the energy of the typhoon brush by that the people here have to deal with a lot, and are more successful at it than most Americans would be in similar circumstances. I admire the courage of those who live day to day on a pittance. I'd go nuts in a month, from anxieties.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am sick and tired of how Filipinos just "deal with it" The same old streets get flooded all the time, every time it rains. What's the matter, nobody smart enough to build a drainage system? Nobody? I guess we'll just have to deal with it.Electric power lines that look like they've been spun by retarded spiders monkeys, will short circuit and dangle to the ground during every typhoon. Woopidoo Simple road constructions are done in the middle of the day during heavy traffic, abandoned in the afternoon (and several weeks), and this grand complicated project of laying down asphalt will finally be competed(sort of)after several months. Oh and they're still not putting a drainage system. I'm just going to pat my head and rub my tummy while I say let's just deal with it.Local drivers during fender bender accidents will stay in the middle of the road, putting long lines of traffic to a stop for hours, just so a Police "officer" can conduct an insurance "investigation" Ha! a lot of people will be late but oh well, this is the Philippines and people just deal with it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And the people elected this really funny former actor as Mayor, so I can't imagine why these things continue to happen. Oh well

  5. Anon, have you seen that profile of the vase that if you look at it differently, it is really two faces, one looking at the other? You point out the faces, whereas I was commenting on the vases. I was attempting to address the peculiar spirit of toughness that fundamentally poor people summon up, working not at a career, but day to day, to fend for a family of 10.You are commenting on the intellectual limits of the vast number of people, most of whom have been schooled haphazardly or in authoritarian fashion, not to think and figure things out, but to obey or disobey . . . or be stupid if one has a power position . . . to gain any kind of advantage.I agree it gets tiresome, the lack of consideration that goes on around here.

  6. Edgar Lores says:

    Hi Joe,Just wanted to say I like what I read in your blog. You bring a fresh perspective on Filipinos and the Philippines. You, being a foreigner, can see things that we don't. Me, being an expatriate, appreciate the truth of your perspective, and the candor with which you speak. Most of all I appreciate that your voice raises awareness not only of where we are but where we ought to go.May the force be with you.

  7. Edgar, thank you for the kind words. It's a nice way to start this lazy Sunday.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey, Joe, you know what's worse? People who attempt to change things for the better are sabotaged and dragged down (read: crab mentality). Just look at how Miriam and Jinggoy harassed Harvey Keh at Corona's impeachment trial.

  9. Yes, that is true. The incessant need to squelch progressive change . . . to protect the status quo. Ms. Santiago could play the raving lunatic Queen of Hearts in "Alice in Wonderland"."Off with Keh's head!"

  10. Anonymous says:

    My brother recommended I might like this website.He was totally right. This post actually made my day.You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!Also visit my web page : topografía

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