Palawan Daily News - - Front Page - BY SERGEI TOKMAKOV

You know what the most shock­ing part was about see­ing the vic­tims of Typhoon Yolanda stand­ing in the wreck­age of their own homes? Not the mas­sive de­struc­tion and slow gov­ern­ment re­sponse - all of that was pre­dictable. For me, the most shock­ing part was wit­ness­ing the vic­tims smil­ing and jok­ing. It was sur­real.

There I was, a Cal­i­for­nia lawyer, get­ting some of the most valu­able life les­sons from peo­ple who had lit­tle for­mal ed­u­ca­tion and al­most no ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions left. Years went by, I got in­volved in many as­pects of so­cial life in the Philip­pines and re­ceived some other im­por­tant les­sons that I now ad­vise for­eign­ers to learn from Filipinos.

Hap­pi­ness. This year, Gallup In­ter­na­tional listed the Philip­pines the third hap­pi­est coun­try in the world. About 86% of re­spon­dents an­swered they were happy. In the midst of poverty, calami­ties and cor­rup­tion, Filipinos al­ways find a rea­son to sin­cerely smile. Why? I be­lieve that faith, fam­ily, friends and food are the ma­jor sources of Filipino cheer­ful­ness. Fol­lowed, per­haps, by karaoke. Faith is very im­por­tant here. Most Filipinos truly be­lieve in some­thing big­ger than them­selves and are grate­ful for the gift of life. Given the coun­try’s com­mu­nal cul­ture, a typ­i­cal Filipino is al­ways sur­rounded by fam­ily and friends, con­stantly par­tic­i­pat­ing in a count­less cy­cle of bap­tisms, wed­dings, birth­days and loud karaoke ses­sions. There is al­ways de­li­cious food. Lo­cals al­ways look for a brighter side of things and funny as­pects of life to laugh at.

Tol­er­ance. The lat­est Global Gen­der Gap Re­port by the World Eco­nomic

Fo­rum con­firms high rates of gen­der equal­ity in the Philip­pines. Best in Asia and tenth in the world. There is a rel­a­tively high per­cent­age of women in pol­i­tics and other ar­eas of so­cial life. Of the last 35 years, al­most 16 were un­der fe­male pres­i­dents. Peo­ple with non-tra­di­tional sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions are ac­cepted as they are. Seems like al­most ev­ery fam­ily has an openly gay/la­dy­boy mem­ber. They freely go to churches and ev­ery­where else. LGBT in many other coun­tries have to fight hard for sim­i­lar rights. Hate crimes are not nearly as preva­lent in the Philip­pines as in the US.

Hos­pi­tal­ity. When you’re with Filipinos, you’re with fam­ily. If you’re friendly, they’ll in­vite you to their events and in­tro­duce you to their friends. They like for­eign­ers. In fact, they like Amer­i­cans more than Amer­i­cans like them­selves.

Shar­ing. Even strangers on pub­lic trans­port share snacks with those around them.

Laid­back at­ti­tude. This one is my fa­vorite. It makes it very hard to do busi­ness in the Philip­pines but also makes it a very pleas­ant place to live and so­cial­ize. It’s very hard to get Filipinos to join any rat races or to worry about the small stuff. And to them al­most ev­ery­thing is small stuff, in­clud­ing time it­self.

The phe­nom­e­non known as the “Filipino time” means that, re­gard­less of when the event is sched­uled, peo­ple will show up… when­ever they feel like it, usu­ally a cou­ple of hours later. It’s like liv­ing in­side Jack John­son songs.

Min­i­mal­ism. “If you don’t have the best, make the best of what you have” is a ne­ces­sity of life in the Philip­pines.

English. Best in Asia. They speak bet­ter English in the Philip­pines than in Cal­i­for­nia which has lots of im­mi­grants from non-English speak­ing coun­tries.

Mo­tor­bike skills. In any prov­ince, an av­er­age 15 year old Filipino is a more skill­ful mo­tor­bike driver than most “hard­core” Amer­i­can bik­ers. Filipinos are so hard­core they don’t even need big mo­tor­cy­cles. They just load up their whole fam­i­lies with bags of stuff on an old scooter and weave through ob­sta­cle cour­ses of pot­holes and stray dogs, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously check­ing their FB and tex­ting, on a daily ba­sis.

I be­lieve the world would be a bet­ter place if more peo­ple adopted at least the first six items on the list above. What do you think?

About the Au­thor: Sergei Tokmakov is a Cal­i­for­nia lawyer & PNP tourist po­lice pho­tog­ra­pher. He pho­tographed the Miss Uni­verse can­di­dates in the Philip­pines and ex­posed Coron oil spills. Loves the Philip­pines. Fol­low him on IG @sergei_­tok­makov_photo

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