"Happy Go Dead" Filipinos

Do you know the expression “Happy go lucky”? It is one of those idioms that if you read it literally, it makes no sense. But with usage, it does. It means a person who is carefree, living life richly and maybe even dangerously, but always winning in the end.

It attaches easily to the Philippines. Poverty and hard life do not get Filipinos down. Filipinos are one of the happiest peoples in the world. Celebrating fiestas, finding great fun at the tuba table out back, singing karaoke, riding motorcycles with not a care in the world, nor a helmet.
Happy go lucky.
And dead a lot of the time. Because, in the happy going, Filipinos sometimes don’t give a lot of care . . . or thought . . . to what they are doing. And they are not always lucky.
Joe Am’s “Top 10 Ways to Kill Yourself in the Philippines”
That was going to be my title for this piece initially, but “Happy Go Dead” is simply too snazzy. It should be the title of a murder mystery. And maybe, in a way, it is.
Number 10: Play with Firecrackers
This category includes shooting your gun straight up into the air. You can tell this country loves its fireworks when parents don’t tell kids about Santa but instead haul them out onto Main Street on Christmas Eve to watch the neighbors barbeque themselves on roman candles. Or New Year’s eve it’s even better. The country passes laws banning fireworks, but the fun-loving, happy-go-blow-up locals do what they normally do with irritating, imposing laws. Ignore them.
Number 9: Drink the Water
I’d guess that 50 percent of the water in the Philippines goes directly from the mountain side to a leaky, broken pipe, and from there into a dirty container, and from there into kids’ mouths. I shower and brush my teeth with the local untreated water and if I inadvertently swallow some, I pay intestinal hell for it for a couple of days. But the locals have adapted to the creatures that inhabit the water, so generally they are okay. But sometimes, they are not. I figure cholera will make its debut sometime soon because with the increasing crowds of people born and raised here, sanitation suffers. Also in this category is failure to dispose of waste properly. When output and input cross over, it is not good, folks, not good at all.
Number 8: Run for Office
Or be a journalist reporting unkindly on one of the candidates running for office. Every Filipino should be required to read the news report that says a person holding a gun is not the same person he was before he picked up the gun. He’s more aggressive. This nation scares me every time I go into the airport, enter the mall or visit the bank and am advised in big red letters to check in my gun. My God, even Dodge City in 1856 had gun control laws. You can’t be packing a six shooter in Dodge City, much less the automatic, 20 round sub-machine gun pistols available these days. When I first arrived, I thought Filipino men were all fat. Wrong, Whitie! They are simply packing assorted armaments and flack vests under their shirts.
Number 7: Ride a Ferry
These big, thick ungainly chunks of iron were made for tanks, not sea-going vessels. The ferries are stacked five decks high, tip over easily and sink fast. No wonder Japan ditched the things for cheap sale to the Philippine companies that, if they thought about it, would advertise: “more thrilling than a death-defying Disneyland ride!” I definitely kiss the earth if I arrive at the other side. Well, I fake the kiss. Pollution abounds.
Number 6: Carry a Gun
See Number 8: “Run for Office” and read this article.
Number 5: Drive a Defective Vehicle
I live in a town of, what, 50,000? There are trucks and cars and buses and motorbikes galore. And maybe two mechanics. The main repair parts used are tie wire, electrical tape and welding rods. Gum is not really big here. 15 people were killed a couple of weeks ago up on that mountain right over there. They were going to a funeral when the brakes on their truck popped. So then there were 15 more funerals. A lot of them kids.
Number 4: Ride Five to a Motorbike
The Flying Walenda Brothers, a well-know death defying high wire circus act in the States, had nothing on ordinary Filipinos going to town five to a motorbike. Stacking riders like that is an art and driving is an amazing feat not yet documented in Science Magazine or The Contortionists Gazette. One kid is propped on a basketball between the handlebars and Dad. Dad is scooched up on the very front tip of the seat. Behind him are two kids and balanced at the back, her butt dipping occasionally onto the hot exhaust pipe, is mama. Now, I am not being critical here. Poverty does not offer poor families sedans, and people have to get from A to B. They buy what they can afford. My criticism would be directed at the Catholic Church, whose God-speaking wise men are not wise enough to see how certain dots are connected. Like unrestrained birthing and no money and five on a bike. Slaughtering families on motorbikes is okay but putting a rubber on a guy’s dick is a sin.
Number 3: Go to the Hospital
Most of the good doctors have fled to make real money as nurses in the USA and elsewhere. The doctors remaining here are mainly pill doctors, caring for the trampling herds. Any ailment can be treated with a pill, from leprosy to buck teeth. And the pharmacies dole out pills like dealers passing out cards at a Vegas blackjack table, just tap the green felt with your finger. I’m reminded of the case in my town where a guy diagnosed as having malaria died on the way from the local hospital to the big city hospital . . . of appendicitis.
Number 2: Live on the River Bank
Or flood plain. Or 10 feet from the beach. Look, city planning people. Here is your lesson of the day. One plus one  equals two. Torrential downpours plus housing on the riverbank equals dead kids. Big waves plus housing on the beach equals housing at sea. It doesn’t belong there.
Number 1: Ride a Motorcycle Without a Helmet
When the reason most people put on a helmet is because “there is a checkpoint today”, rather than “my kids need their father”, you know that this is a nation with some really big self esteem issues. When macho overrules sense, when “happy go lucky” over-rules loved ones, we’ve got a problem. Frankly, I am damn tired of driving past bodies lying in the street oozing blood and brains onto the pavement. Usually they are under the age of 25. And if you law enforcement types ever get around to doing some serious law enforcing around here, kindly also get the swarms of stray dogs off the National Highway.
Your happy go lucky American friend
Living and loving the lifestyle
With helmet atop
And house aground
Joe America
32 Responses to “"Happy Go Dead" Filipinos”
  1. andrew lim says:

    Ha ha ha this is good Joe. I attribute a lot of these seemingly nonsensical behaviors of the Filipino to the Dark Knight: Bahala na si Batman! (fatalism) Many Filipinos will only change reckless behavior if they are already hurt or when their souls float over their dead bodies and wonder what happened. ha ha ha

  2. Thanks, andrew. Glad you appreciated it. Yes, we all carry around a sense that bad things happen to "other people", not us, but that determination – the ego behind it – seems rather enlarged here.

  3. Cha says:

    That image of that whole family on a motorbike made me cringe when I first saw it on Facebook captioned: Family Bonding, More Fun in the Philippines!Here's something even more cringeworthy I came across today, House Bill 6228 authored by Pasay City Representative Emi Calixto Rubiano proposing the putting of English subtitles In local films; this bill is "aimed at assisting our foreign guests to enjoy our local films without having to worry about the problem of translation".Oh yeah, never mind that our "foreign guests" are probably stranded in their hotels anyway because half the city is flooded. Never mind that there's a likely chance they will get ripped off by the taxi driver or mugged on their way to the moviehouse. They at least enjoyed a local movie without having to worry about translation. Happy! Happy!So if I may just put something at the top of your list, the number one cause of death in our country are the sociopathic, incompetent and stupid lawmakers and government officials that we keep electing into office. Think Maguindanao massacre, Manila hostage crisis and House Bill 6228.Ay caramba!

  4. Ay caramba indeed. Make Rubiano do the translation and he will understand that sub-titling films is not done for free, and also that there is such a thing as a free market. If filmmakers are not marketing to ferriners, why force them to. If government is going to do it, it is low low low low low priority, considering all the other problems in Pasay City.Ay caramba, mucho estupido . . .

  5. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e (aka: The Cricket)1. Interesting observations which perhaps need to bewritten in stone (words to live by "don't chisel yourway though life!) and placed in each church andcourtyard (government) entryway!2. Side bar: I have pictures of over 50 childrenloaded into a jeepney going to Tagatay! I have seennews announcements of mass deaths (15 in a pick up truck, 25 in a bus, and 10 out of 15 on a motortrike! I guess this is one way to thin the heard!)!3. I suppose that we can find a few more ways andmeans for any tourist visiting the islands to "off"themselves– I really kind of like hearing about"tourist suicides" (come to my islands…it is morefun in the philippines….!). I see many news-reports of tourists deaths from just "hanging"around a island hotel room and is as a good methodfor tourists suicides as any I have seen in the news–LOL..!4. The saddest death numbers I see in the news isthe number of police, security guards, and militarymembers who either shoot themselves and or by the"bad-guys" But even worse is any death caused by highgovernment officials who are paid to look the other-way, or are payed for selling arms and munitions outthe back door….sad…sad!5. Then there is death by ignorance of the governmentto provide safety, security and protection for the citizens they are sworn to protect: death on or beforearrival at a emergency treatment center, death on thehighways due to bad maintence and upkeep, death by vehicles which are lacking maintence due to no annuallicense inspections, and then the death by storms/disasters as the government is too busy to attend toprevention and remediation, and lastly, death byuntrainned police, fire, emergency medical techs whohave no training, no equipment and no supervision!Question: How can a emergency services, fire/disassterambulance or police swat unit reach a location whentraffic grid lock is the norm (especially in stormconditions)?chirp!

  6. "death by ignorance of the government to provide safety, security and protection for the citizens they are sworn to protect"Yes, I should have had a category on this. It wraps up most of the others. I need to do an article about law enforcement. There is the tug between central (national) and local oversight of the PNP. I know there are lots of police, but I have no idea what they are doing. They are not enforcing laws as far as I can tell. The National Highway is one long kill road, unpatrolled. Municipal law and order isn't. But I suppose you and I ought not crab too much about it if the locals are happy with their lot.

  7. Edgar Lores says:

    Here’s my Top 5 for America:Number 5: The Great SatanThe unbridled materialism of the US has earned it the moniker of the Great Satan. Greed, it has been pointed out, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I am certain that deaths have been caused by shopping, watching too much TV, playing computer games for too long, but cannot cite any statistics. But Google supplies several references for death by shopping.Number 4: The Export of Libertarian PrinciplesPost World War II, the US has waged war in defence of or to promote democracy. The death toll in American lives and in the invaded countries would number in the thousands. Korea (36,500); Vietnam (58,000); Gulf War (258); Iraq (935); and Afghanistan (1,800).Number 3: Too Much FatThe sight of men and women as broad as Sherman Tanks walking Main Street is a wonder to behold. It is estimated that 30% of the adult population is now obese. Type 2 diabetes, which was once thought to affect only adults, now affects young people. It’s a risk factor for kidney disease, heart disease, blindness, and amputations.Number 2: Appetite for DrugsPer World Health rankings, the death rate for the US is 1.5 per 100,000 people and is ranked 101. For Australia, it’s 0.5, ranked at 141. For the Philippines it’s 0.1, ranked at 153.The appetite for drugs in the US can be directly linked to the drug wars in Mexico and Columbia.Number 1: No Gun ControlThe American Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. Per The Guardian, the US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – 88 per 100 people. It has 2.97 gun homicides per 100,000 people. Australia has 0.14. The Philippines though outguns the US at 8.93!Does the fact that I can list only 5 for the US means that Pinoys are more happy-go-lucky?

  8. Brilliant, Edgar! Positively brilliant!Hey, the U.S. doesn't need more than five, because those five are sufficient to wipe out the population in about 100 years. Well, you might throw in the 40,000 or so slaughtered on the roads yearly as number six.If Filipinos have your sense of humor and perspective, then, yes, they are more happy and luck doesn't matter.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think the point of the story is that they died cheap. Why did I day that? Well, We are all grown ups here and let us figure it out. Mostly of those accidental death could have been prevented. I guess the authorities are having so much fun in the Philippines where they ignored public safety. Then one will say: Hey! how about those high rate of drunk driving death in America? Well, good one, but America had done so much to rectify the problem. That is same big difference where nobody seems to care in the Philippines to do something about it except politicians stepping in to help with the burial cost only. It is a wonderful life, you know. Your top 5 in America is a problem, the top 10 in the Philippines is senseless and worst. How worst? Men and women, young and old including children cross the national highway or streets with complete disrerard to their personal safety by walking accross without looking. GrrrrWhat can we do as a citizen to change that basic safety attitude? America had solved that problem long time ago, why cant we?Its Jack

  10. Anonymous says:

    You missed the number one killerInsult a person with powerOrdinary conversation could be fatal to you whether you are a peace loving citizen, journalist, doctor, lawyer, politician. Gossip the evil deed of your government official or say the barangay captain is spending government money the wrong way or spread the word that the register of deed is selling fake titles, or the cop is taking bribe from motorist or protecting jueteng operators, you better hire personal bodyguards for the rest of your life.A motorcycle is more expensive than life, costing about 35,000- 75,000 pesos for brand new moped while running over somebody will commonly cost you 10,000-50,000 to settle depending on negotiations and status of the victim.Its more fun in the Philippines because literally, "life is cheap"He he heJohnny Lin

  11. Anonymous says:

    JoeForgot to add: Want to dispose your enemy permanently?5000 pesos is current running rate of hired killers. want proof: the claim of that arrested triggerman in the killing of that reporter/dr in Palawan. Really cheap, ah!Johnny lin

  12. brianitus says:

    Coming in close at number 11:Drink gin everyday…p-p-p-party every day! (no offense to BEP fans)Alcohol makes dying simply spectacular. It fuels those accidents you see on the news.

  13. Anonymous says:

    JoeYou just exposed yourself in this blog Hmm living in Leyte, close to Tacloban. How many foreigners live in that thick of the woods? Be careful my friend, don't get over excited when you write. Your anonimity on the right column will be useless.Johnny

  14. AJ says:

    12 – Eat fatty and salty foods every day (goes great with alcohol)13 – Eat instant noodles for breakfast/lunch/dinner every day (since you've spent a lot of money for fatty foods and alcohol)

  15. The place is crawling with white guys, actually. A lot from Holland. Quite a few Americans who, of course, have the CIA behind them to follow up on any untoward incidents. Besides, I don't pick on individuals, too much, unless they are picked on by millions or at least dozens of others.

  16. Ah, so true, although I rather consider alcohol to be the lubricant that makes #1, 4 and 10 work. On its own, it contributes mightily to the happy go lucky . . .

  17. Ah, I fear you are right, and now I have to redo the whole damn list. How could I miss that one?Indeed, life is cheap here. I have engaged a small but ruthless private army myself. Soldiers come cheap, too.

  18. Well, Jack, I found myself pondering your last question this morning and it is not a simple one to answer. I may have to do a whole blog on it. The main thing is that there is, probably due to all the oppression and clan animosities of history, a tendency among many Filipinos to be self-contained rather than giving. Missing is the realization that SELF is better cared for when the COMMUNITY is cared for. So taking care of others is not a priority for most. Even the idea of taking care of one's loved ones, by riding with a helmet, escapes a lot of people.I know you were writing to Edgar, and he'll probably have more insight. That's mine.

  19. ps. What to do about it? I have no idea.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Joe,What to do about it? I dont know either, but I could make a general comment that Philipipnes is like a child growing up to maturity level in a turtle pace. Currently, Philippines is in cognitive development trying very hard learning the basics. Its Jack

  21. Anonymous says:

    Joe,I am tired counting dead people, allow me digress on your NEW BLOG LIST.Beautifully added.Its Jack

  22. Thanks. I'll add a few more good blog sites. It rotates so that the fresh articles are always on top. Am I a "portal" yet??

  23. Anonymous says:

    Dont know Joe, but whatever it takes to keep your blogspot livelier, people will support it. Its Jack

  24. Edgar Lores says:

    This is my viewpoint from personal experience.Background: I was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Hawaii. I believe I was only 6 months old when we disembarked in Honolulu and 8 years when we disembarked in Manila on our return to the Philippines. In Oahu, Dad discovered Protestantism and my parents elected to be missionaries. When we went to live in the province, I was amazed at the freedom enjoyed by kids. Amazed and jealous. When we were in bed almost after sundown, I could hear the kids playing far into the night. They shouted with glee, ran naked in the rain, stole fruits from neighbors' trees. They were absolutely without any inhibition, without parental control.There I said it. That is my first insight. Lack of parental control and, therefore, lack of discipline.But what do you expect from parents who know no better? My second insight: ignorance.You can go back to colonization. America had at least Britain which had civilization, organization and discipline, the upper lip. Philippines had Spain who brought the Cross but nothing else. We are still bearing the Cross.But you can blame history, you can blame the Church, you can blame the politicians, you can blame anybody. Ultimately though, you have to look at yourself and ask, "Hey, I'm in deep shit here. I believe I know how I got here. But how do I get out?"

  25. Edgar Lores says:

    I have to add: most Filipinos, in their freedom, do not realize they are living in deep shit. Overseas workers, the products of overpopulation and Catholic intransigence, know this and are bringing that awareness back, which is one reason why Raissa's blog is so popular.Hopefully, this awareness will spread and bring about much-needed change. It may be turtle pace but that's all right. Revolution, as in the Arab Spring, is relatively swift but the price is high and the fruits are not guaranteed, as in Egypt.

  26. Edgar, you get the point made well. Cut right to it, parental influence shaped by ignorance. It is not an influence that is easily or quickly re-shaped. And always the question, what to do, what to do.I fault government for being blind to the sociological basis for poverty. They seem to think it is solely economic. Or else they have no idea how to reshape broad-based Filipino thinking to be constructive instead of destructive.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Good, cutting off your pic from that phallic stonehenge. Sleeved shirt you were wearing must be the last one you talked about. You must have realized outback guides never wear those plaid shirts. Only cowboys in america did. He he he Hmm, many Hollanders. Really or from Netherlands? Amsterdam specifically? Wonder how busy is internet signal over your horizon? We need your independent bombastic targeting of our system to remain anonymous. Always be safe.Johnny lin

  28. "bombastic" I like that word. I'll use it in tomorrow's blog. I don't know where the Dutchmen are from. The Philippines is popular in Holland and I don't know the background of that. Seafarers perhaps.

  29. Cha says:

    How do we get out of this mess we are in?I think the President has shown us one good answer to that. Start with one's self. By saying no to wangwang, he Is saying no more to the culture of entitlement among those in government. By choosing to speak the national language in most of his speeches, he is reaching out and making himself accessible to the people. By telling off ABS CBN and Noli de Castro at what many consider an inopportune time (myself included), I think he was probably saying it's alright to challenge the status quo, to go against the popular expectation, to be the game-changer.I think the bloggers like JoeAm and their commenters like @Jack and @Edgar are also already doing their bit in getting us out of this mess. Every time we join the chorus of voices calling for change, every time we speak up and say no more, every time we ask "what to do?", we are closer to being heard and it only becomes a matter of time when our question will be "what to do next?".

  30. What a wonderfully uplifting commentary, Cha.I also think that when President Aquino mentioned "responsible parenting" in his SONA, and through his spokesman urged legislators to vote on the RH Bill with the betterment of the Philippines in mind, not politics, he was making a strikingly profound break with business as usual. He effectively said set aside the wishes of the Catholic Church and pass the Bill because our children's well-being depends on it.Man, talk about breaking out of the good old-boy mold . . .

  31. Anonymous says:

    For Me RH Bill wont solve Poverty in Philippine.Only Free Education same with the Middle Class and Rich Class Community…Even the Nurses applying for Job in USA can't passed the US Exam…Why because No improvement…If you visit Public School or Provincial Government School you will see lack of Tables, Chairs, Notebook, Pencils, and Teacher… Do you think RH Bill will be the Answer…Please Read : http://prospect.org/article/education-cure-poverty#main-content

  32. Anonymous says:

    For Me RH Bill wont solve Poverty in Philippine.Only Free Education same with the Middle Class and Rich Class Community…Even the Nurses applying for Job in USA can't passed the US Exam…Why because No improvement…If you visit Public School or Provincial Government School you will see lack of Tables, Chairs, Notebook, Pencils, and Teacher… Do you think RH Bill will be the Answer…Please Read : http://prospect.org/article/education-cure-poverty#main-content

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