We are strange funny: Our new abnormal (XXI)

Published November 7, 2020, 6:46 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


Philip Cu Unjieng

We Filipinos are a peculiar, imperturbable, funny bunch. Beyond the oft-repeated remarks about how we’re so forgiving, forgetful, musically inclined (I missed out when that was being handed out), and resilient in the face of disaster and misfortune; the one I’ve always loved and admired is our sense of humor in the face of adversity. No matter what dire situation we find ourselves in, it’s an iron-clad guarantee that the Filipino will “mine” it, and extract some wonderful riposte, or come up with a precious gem of a joke.

The last 7 months and running of our COVID Community Quarantine have been a wellspring for this crazy side of us to shine through – from large “litro” plastic Coke bottles turned into face shields, to a pet ostrich knowing that it doesn’t have a quarantine pass to leave its village. And last week’s visit of typhoon Rolly was no exception; and beyond the tickling of our collective funny bones (see photo), there also was evidence of the idiosyncrasies and “strange comments made,” that mark us as true Filipinos.

The imperturbable Pinoy; or ‘Where’s Rolly? No super-typhoon is going to disturb our Sunday lunch inuman!’ (Sourced from FB)

On Saturday, as several friends would post on social media about how the then super-typhoon was expected to make landfall on Sunday, and we should all be taking extreme precautions there would always be the comment from the odd person about how it’s just showering like a normal rainy day, or that the wind was strong, but not a full-force gale. And to be honest, even on Monday, I’d hear some people griping about how we had over-worried and shut down the malls on Sunday, when there wasn’t even any truly bad weather to speak of.

I personally wanted to make them all “batok,” as didn’t they see what had happened in the Bicol and Quezon provinces? Weren’t they aware of the drownings, the still missing people, and the extensive damage caused when Rolly hit those areas? If anything, they should have been very grateful that we in the NCR were spared from absorbing the brunt of the typhoon. Instead, it was almost like they were castigating PAGASA for false weather predictions.

And I remembered how back when I was a child, and there’d be Signal No. 2, with classes suspended; if it turned out to be a sunny day, my parents would moan about what education I was getting if every time a typhoon warning was issued, I ended up staying home… while all I could think of was what if the streets got badly flooded, and I was stuck in school? Guess it really is a Filipino trait to think damn being prudent or acting on the side of safety; and feeling short-changed if what we’re told to be wary of, doesn’t happen. Yup, we are a strange lot –  turning what should be relief and being thankful into an occasion for griping.

Filipinos are also known for being passive-aggressive, the great procrastinators. But if you’re looking for a group that’s shed their passive side, and are now pure aggression, I would nominate the motorcyclists and bikers of our main thoroughfares. I’m not kidding – thanks to the ECQ, they lorded it over the streets, taking all the lanes, and ignoring all the signs that said you had to at least have 120cc engines to take your motorcycle on the main highways. But as we’ve eased the COVID restrictions, we’ve also become highly dependent on two-wheeled delivery services, and they’ve continued to act like they’re the only ones on the road.

Bicycles are on EDSA and SLEX. Along with motorcyclists, they sprint across the road even before the light turns green, or they inch and go halfway across the intersection – which is not only unlawful, but dangerous as hell. I don’t know, it’s like a road disaster waiting to happen, and the traffic enforcers are all turning a blind eye to this state of things. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bikes and fitness, but the city’s road network has to be properly designed to accommodate this. What I find lunacy is how invincible these cyclists now think they are, and I shudder to think about how easily their attitude, speeding, and bravado can end up in serious accidents and fatalities – and it’ll always be the fault of us in cars.

The divided states of America, How now?

Yukon Huang, a senior fellow of the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is based in Washington DC. A specialist on China and East Asia, Mr. Huang was formerly the World Bank country director in China, and before that, Russia. He is an adviser to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and various governments and corporations. He is published widely, with the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the National Interest, and Caixin among the publications that carry his think-pieces.

I make mention of all the above because on November 10, Tuesday, 9 a.m. Manila time; Mr. Huang will be doing a special livestream and talk about the recent US presidential election, and it’s impact on US-China policy, and by extension, how it will affect the East Asian region. Yukon Huang has been one of the learned voices when it comes to contemporary US-China economic relations; his 2017 book was titled Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong. In it, Huang gave an insightful analysis on why the repeated warnings by many well-regarded economists about the impending collapse of the Chinese economy continues to get it wrong – and why China has maintained dynamic growth for over four decades now.

The Manila Bulletin and ChinoyTV are the media platforms partnering on this livestream, with GlobeMyBusiness as technical partner. And it all was set in motion by Ever Bilena’s Dioceldo Sy admiring Yukon’s Opinion pieces, and reaching out to him. For Dioceldo, Yukon has an authentic voice who understands the dominant economic role China is playing on the world stage; and by being situated in DC, could comment on the fluid (and volatile) US political situation – and it would be opportune to have him share that with our business leaders and economic forecasters. To register for this illuminating talk, head to HTTPS://tinyurl.com/YukonHuangWebinar.