by Don Pagusara
Prints and Traces

One day in January, in the wake of the Metro Manila Film Festival, I overheard this conversation among a gathering of village folks in a small local eatery in my sitio-

“Puro mga komedi man ang patok sa takilya sa mga sinehan. . .!  Mahilig gyud kaayog kataw-anan ang katawhan no?”

“Mao gyud. . .ganahan kaayo tag mga palabas nga komedi.  O tan-awa, diba kinaham kaayo ang mga salidang giapilan ni Vice Ganda?”

“ Number One nga komedyante daw na si Vice Ganda karon sa atong nasod, oy!  Ug number one pud iyang Showtime nga programa sa ABS-CBN!”

“Nalupigan na si Eugene Domingo?”

“Ayaw ka. . .ang ‘Kimmy Dora’  baya apas-apas gihapon!”

[It’s all the comedy shows that emerge again as blockbuster movies,  ha?  The people are really fond of funny stuffs!”

“That’s right … comedy films are our favorites.  Oh see?  It’s the film that stars  Vice Ganda that proves to be the top money-reaper?!”

“Vice Ganda is now rated as the number one comedian in our movie world! And so is the Showtime program of ABS-CBN! ”

“He has overtaken Eugene Domingo ha?”

“No…but mind you, ‘Kimmy Dora’ is still among the top!”]

There is indeed a veritable phenomenon of the Filipino’s pagkahilig sa kataw-anan (a penchant for the funny).  Perhaps, this has some connection to how we as a people cope with the condition of social problems in our country, especially with the worsening poverty among our people.

Almost every social observer– or any Filipino psychologist, for that matter — would consider this behavioral tendency as a positive trait.  They would invariably say, this is an exercise of the so-called resilient quality of our psyche as a Filipino.

And so nothing is insurmountable.  Nothing is incapable of relief and resolution.  No super typhoon or any calamity is capable of dragging our people to helplessness or national suicide.  It would seem there is always reserved fuel of humor in our souls to cope with any disaster however grave.

Or as the singing icon Freddie Aguilar would put it in one of his songs,  “Tawanan mo ang iyong problema. . .Hahahahahaha. . .”

Freddie Aguilar may not be the chief endorser of this “laughter as best medicine” prescription.  But he has succinctly delivered what the cultural policy-makers and cultural peddlers and investors of our society would like to abide as an attitude among our people.

Popularizing laughing-stock performances in the movies and other entertainment shows match perfectly with what the ruling classes wish to reign in the people’s consciousness. They are an effective device of cajoling the masses to take the nagging problem of poverty with crass humor and laughter.

And in the comforting process of tickling the “funny bone” of the masses, the social problem of poverty and other attendant problems are forgotten or laid aside.  It’s like giving a sugared chocolate to a malnourished child in tatters. This is tyranny in its most noxious form, a masked expression of treachery.

The “art of cajolery” is of course an expertise, a master stroke, of the politicians who serve as pseudo-leaders of our people.  There is no serious effort and political will on their part to solve under-development and extricate our people from poverty.  There is no seriousness in the over-all affairs of governance. Not among the national leadership, nor among the cultural investors responsible for propagating cultural values. And so, there is no seriousness at all in all areas of our social reality. Neither in politico-economic, nor in cultural affairs.

The baser appetites of the people are taken advantage of. It’s their fondness for the funny which are being given high premium. It is being capitalized by the national policy-makers as well as the other stakeholders of the free enterprisesocial set up as a sort of fallback premises to maintain the status quo.

The masses are perpetually fed with entertainment dishes cooked up with ingredients of laughing stuffs forever and ever.  There is no honest-to-goodness policy and program of depicting film shows that could have helped in pinpointing the realities of social ailments besetting our country, and thus be of service in finding solutions to longstanding social problems.  The over-all effect is apathy among our people.  And so, underdevelopment and poverty continue to be an existential reality.

Worse, poverty begets corruption and all sorts of criminality in infinite dimensions.

If we have to enjoy the comforting effect of laughter, let it be as a prize for having successfully demolished the major social maladies of our country.  Not as a kind of momentary suspension of the terrible scourges of miserable existence that the masses have to bear and suffer from day to day. Not as a form of drug that dulls the people’s social awareness and stupefies the consciousness of our citizenry towards a blind acceptance of the prevailing socio-economic backwardness.

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