It was difficult to come up with a caption for the following photo, much less this post.
But the the official slogan–now six-weeks old–of the Department of Tourism inspired me.
It’s more fun in the Philippines!
My photo collection
At events like Baragatan, the province-wide festival that happens in June, at the first one I ever attended, I took 400 shots over five days (click here to read a related post). At the first boxing match ever held in Palawan (click here to read the post), I took 600 shots!
Photos are meant to be shared. I’m a storyteller and I use photos to support the story or form the basis of the story.
I post a few in Facebook and I post more in websites that specialize in sharing images. Three such websites are Photobucket, Flickr, and Google Photos. To those three sites that host photo albums, I upload some. But most of my photos end up here–as components of a post in my blog.
However, after I took the photos that appear in this post, I didn’t know what to do with them. How shall I share them? These are nuns after all. When you’re in the company of nuns, you tend to behave with more circumspection, more reverence. Your conversation tends to be peppered with special words like “rosary” or “prayer.” You speak in quiet tones, think before you speak, and, in general, are more polite.
But we were drinking with them. How often does one go drinking with nuns? And what are we doing drinking wine with them?
Then it occurred to me. Because it’s more fun in the Philippines! Here’s a perfect example. Nuns are normal people and here was evidence of it.
Last month, I had the pleasure of hosting two friends from Manila. I took them to visit the towns of Narra, Brooke’s Point, and Rio Tuba in southern Palawan. We had memorable adventures every single day. Take Narra, for example. We sang our hearts out at the cafe after dinner. (They sang, I just tried to.) The other big thing that we did at Narra was toast the new year. What made it memorable was who we toasted it with! We hung out with the sisters of the Augustinian Recollects order. Toasting the new year was the final act of bonding that we did that one memorable afternoon.
The slogan is the government’s official one: It’s more fun in the Philippines! Here is an uncommon example of a truth claimed by our government. I say that because Filipinos like to put things in the best possible light even if the truth has to be stretched a bit.
Here’s an example. The term “world-class” is employed too frivolously by many Filipinos who want to describe something they created or are associated with. St. Luke’s Hospital is a case in point. It is not world-class even though it claims it is. Aspirational is not the same as Inspirational. Aspirational (I hope to be world-class) is not the same as inspirational (Let’s try to be world-class). If you’re not yet world-class, common sense suggests that you don’t proclaim that you are. People will compare their experience to your claim and decide whether your claim of being a world-class hospital met their expectations. Over time, enough experiences by enough people will know whether the hospital’s current management, tends to exaggerate or not.
Filipinos may be inured to that behavior but foreigners aren’t. It’s about being ethical and, most importantly, credible.
But let’s return to the topic. In “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” lives a slogan that is truthful. It is more fun in the Philippines. There are more opportunities to experience fun experiences in the Philippines per day. For best results, you have more chances in the provinces. Palawan is a great choice, an unsurprising claim to come from me. The population is composed of Filipinos (or Pinoys, the term Filipinos now call themselves) who come from all over the rest of the country. Most residents are immigrants from other islands!
Filipinos lag in areas like punctuality, neatness, and cleanliness, but they do well, very-well in fact, world-class even (!), in getting into the spirit of the moment.
The ease of being able to get into the spirit of the moment is, I think, the secret of Filipino happiness. Filipinos are able to easily slip into the flow. Flow enhances the quality of one’s life. It’s not quite happiness but it’s typically followed by feelings of happiness, according to science.
These exceptional moments are what I have called “flow” experiences. The metaphor of flow is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as “being in the zone,” religious mystics as being in “ecstasy,” artists and musicians as “aesthetic rapture.”
It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life. We can be happy experiencing the passive pleasure of a rested body, warm sunshine, or the contentment of a serene relationship, but this kind of happiness is dependent on favorable external circumstances. The happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness.
— Psychology Today article
Michael Jordan shot more than 50 points a game when he was in the flow. Well, MJ, you shot 60 points tonight. You played with great vigor and sparkle. Well, interviewer, the ring seemed bigger than usual, I couldn’t hear the audience, everyone was in slow motion, I could almost dribble my way in. I was in the zone.
Filipino culture encourages it. Filipinos are so willing to take a few moments for levity, for some humor. The bonding between the two or three improves and suddenly, you’re feeling like a group. Suddenly, you’re feeling good. You radiate good vibes and you receive good vibes. You’re all on the same page. You don’t feel the minutes going by. For many moments, in fact, you don’t feel the passage of time. That’s what Filipinos so easily do. Get into the flow!
Filipinos do it to enliven their reality. The majority of Filipinos live below standards of the developed world (Western and affluent Asian, for instance). So reality is tough and Filipinos use it to cope. It’s one of the strengths of Filipino culture.
Was it just five years ago that commercial photographers in Manila started asking subjects to adopt two different poses? You hire a photographer to cover your party. Let’s say your photographer takes 20 shots of your group. He’ll ask you to adopt a formal pose for the first ten then a wacky pose for the next 10.
You’re smiling. Wacky poses make one smile. Those photos were taken right after lunch, about 90 minutes after we met. We just clicked! No one was high or drunk.
The waterfall experience
We were planning to visit Estrella Falls, a waterfall attraction of Narra, but our plans unexpectedly changed.
More opportunities to have fun in the Philippines?
In the following sequence, Sister Avelina was trying to establish the actual height of the floodwaters (when it peaked).
Totally unscripted. Totally spontaneous. And very funny though the photos can only hint at it.
The drill team
San Francisco Javier, the school the nuns operate, has been in Narra for 50 years. It’s well-regarded and has elementary, high school, and college students.
The flow is contagious.
Expressions of respect and affection
Asian society is very respectful of its elders. The Japanese and Korean bow, with the depth and length of time the bow is held, proportional to the individual the respect is being shown. Filipinos do it differently. They show their respect by touching the elder’s hand to his or her own forehead.
What do you think? Is it more fun in the Philippines? Yes, I’d say, and there’s more warmth and love too, I think.