[Inquirer editorial, Dec. 25, 2010]
PERHAPS IT'S a carryover from the goodwill brought on by the change in administration early this year—an event which, barring poisonous controversies like the still unresolved “Hello, Garci,” always engenders hope that this time, finally, the government would get its act together and put the country on the right path.
Or perhaps it’s the Filipinos’ fabled—or notorious, depending on one’s point of view—capacity for resilience and optimism, which has seen the race endure more than its share of those proverbial slings and arrows of misfortune, with a smile on its face and a trademark joke or two to tide it through the grim times.
Whatever the reason, the new survey by pollster Social Weather Stations showing that nearly seven out of 10 Filipinos expect a happy Christmas this year—69 percent, up from last year’s 64 percent, and a marked improvement from the “flat” 62-64 percent range measured in the last six years—is a reassuring indication that the Pinoy spirit, continually battered though it may be, remains indestructible, stout-hearted—and hopeful.
One could look at that unyielding cheerfulness as a weakness—an impairment of character that has allowed the country to coast along on mediocrity, eventually forgiving everything, no matter how outrageous or heinous, with a shrug and a giggle. In less than a generation—way shorter than the time it took them to bring a once prosperous, even-keeled country to heel—the Marcoses have waltzed back into the scene, their crimes not even meriting a pesky footnote in the fluff pieces that have assiduously covered their political and social resurrections.
Similarly, just a year back, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the most despised political figure in the country, her administration mired in the blackest repute. These days, it’s a safe bet her and her minions’ misconduct in office is slowly fading from public memory, the outrage now supplanted by the show-biz controversy of the moment, or the latest faux pas by a new administration seemingly intent on making a cottage industry of baffling, small-bore incompetence—from the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” fiasco to the error-filled new currency that, among other puzzlements, rewrote the map of the archipelago.
However, in that pathological penchant for seeing the glass as half-full, one might also see something different: a survival gene. That indomitable character trait could be a gift—an extra strain that provides emotional stability and good-naturedness even in the bleakest of situations. An anchor, in effect, that becomes a crucial tool for continued sanity. In which case, harnessed properly, that sturdy sense of hope could not only keep this nation afloat, it could also nudge it into catching the right wind toward its rightful destination.
The more heartening part of the SWS survey, in fact, is not so much that so many Filipinos still keep faith in the notion that their country will eventually right itself. It is that their values, for all the crass commercialism of the Christmas holidays, appear to remain firmly glued to the right place. Majority of the respondents, when asked what they wanted to receive as Christmas gifts, indicated non-material gifts—“Love/affection” was on top at 29 percent, followed by “family togetherness/family relations” at 17 percent.
More astoundingly, the happy, hopeful feeling was strongest among the class D of society—the masa—at 70 percent, followed by class E (67 percent) and class ABC (65 percent). The most economically miserable, it seems, find meaning in constructing the greatest rampart of hope.
That sounds very much like what Christmas at its core is—not the tinsel and the bling, the partying and ersatz bonhomie, but “the season of hope,” as it has been called, a moment of renewed faith that, with the coming of a promised Savior to cleanse humanity of its excesses, the better angels of one’s nature will henceforth be better heard, and help bring about a better life.
So the Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas in the world? Not a mystery—it’s the ritual closest to the Pinoy’s invincible, eternally expectant heart.