The Filipino's survival kit
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-01-25

Laughter is a vital part of a person’s survival kit. Laughter is the defense mechanism for coping with something traumatic that could otherwise drive us to insanity or dangerous uncontrolled rage. It also applies to a nation — the sum total of persons sharing a geographical location.

Laughter as a national survival kit is perhaps more applied in the Philippines than anywhere else. This national psychology is easily shaped by our sad collective experience with oppression — from past colonizers and the neo-colonizers, the oligarchs, who now rule our land.

In the past, our ancestors resorted to the Kundiman as a coping mechanism for the sad experience with Spanish tyranny. Kundi man (if not) says it all as music is resorted to for diverting the mind and soothing the pains of a nation suffering under the conqueror’s oppressive boot.

When Senator Richard Gordon treated my family and our Macgregor cousin from South Africa to the Light and Sound History Tour in Intramuros (one of Dick’s projects when he was Tourism Secretary), he pointed out this fact of history about the origins of the Kundiman when we were in that portion of the history tour portraying Filipino sufferings during the Spanish era.

One of the reasons why your Chair Wrecker rates Dick Gordon very highly as a potential good president is because of his sense of history. Time and again, your Chair Wrecker has emphasized the need for Filipinos to know our real history. It is a must if we Filipinos are to unite and move our country forward. We cannot solve our core problem when we do not know what it is and who caused it.

Lately, we have resorted to comedy as our coping mechanism and we try to take things lightly even when in the very marrow of our Filipino soul we know that the national situation is deadly serious and will heavily impact on us and our loved ones. We make fun of crucial national issues that carry the potential for unleashing civil strife in our country just so that the burden lightens somewhat.

It is the logical option for a largely un-empowered people. Other people will already be on the level of serious discussions and national mobilization when faced with a serious national problem that could lead to civil strife. But that is natural for people who are empowered to utilize the advantage of their numbers.

When Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983, the prospect of civil strife here became all too real. A critical mass against the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship arose from the blood of the murdered Ninoy Aquino. When over two million people braved rain and lightning during his funeral, everybody thought that the end of Marcos has come.

The whole world started a sort of death watch on the Philippines — keeping an eye when our country will explode. But instead of seeing angry, violent mobs duplicating the successful assault of the Bastille during the French Revolution — the world was surprised to see festive rallies here. Puzzled, they asked why Filipinos are celebrating instead of demonstrating national outrage.

Who can forget the Hindi ka nag-iisa (you are not alone) jokes that rally placards sported in the Makati Commercial District? “Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa, Imelda (Marcos), naka-isa ka (you got one over us), Marcos, nag-iisa ka na (you are now alone)!” the most popular joke went. It became a running series of ‘hindi ka nag-iisa’ jokes.

Other more serious people, given the outpouring of support for the then Opposition after the Aquino assassination, could have toppled their oppressors within three weeks. It took us all of three years.

Thus, it is heartwarming to an old crusader for good government like your Chair Wrecker to see the advent of The Professional Heckler and Juana Change in the internet.

Loi Reyes Landicho, a young man this Chair Wrecker will want to meet one of these days, opened a website ( and called himself “The Professional Heckler.” He entertains those who log on to his website with his imaginative and yes — funny — jokes that target our political personalities and some celebrities.

Loi follows the classic formula for comedy — the high and the mighty are made fun of by those below their station in society. It is the logical formula for comedy simply because the high and the mighty are better equipped and disposed to accept being made fun of than those below who are already trying to cope with penury and misery. You can just imagine how a person living in penury and misery will react if made fun of.

I came to know about Loi’s website when he emailed me many moons ago to introduce it. When I logged on to Loi’s website, I was pleasantly surprised to see a young Filipino dish out what I only see nowadays from the likes of David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart. In the past, we used to enjoy these political jokes from the late Joe Guevara.

I became a regular visitor of the website and my egroup thanked me for sharing Loi’s originals with them (which I cut and paste then email). Loi’s political jokes, like those of his US counterparts, allow many folks to appreciate what could otherwise not be accepted if communicated under normal editorial assertions. The comic, often witty, approach allows the idea to be accepted and establish a toe hold of the mind, as it were.

Juana Change, the series of YouTube videos produced by concerned and patriotic artists and entertainers, is particularly interesting in that it not only provides laughter and entertainment but it also provides insights to the core issue being tackled. Whether it is Charter change or government fixers being tackled, Mae Paner as Juana Change renders a hilarious performance that deserves an Oscar for comedy and a national award for education.

Mae Paner’s group is able to produce the YouTube videos with some help from patriotic donors. But she admitted in Che Che Lazaro’s ANC show that their group still contributes their personal funds to be able to produce more videos. They are non-partisan but want only to contribute their God-given talents (and money) to enlighten our people on important national issues and social problems.

If indeed it takes humor to win true Filipino freedom and democracy — then by all means let us have more Professional Hecklers and Juana Change characters. If ever, Filipinos will be the first to laugh their way to economic and political emancipation.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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