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