Bert laughs as we pick "beggar's ticks" off his clothes.  We are laughing too.

Bert laughs as we pick “beggar’s ticks” off his clothes. We are laughing too.

During a typhoon or hurricane, the rain comes in great waves, pelting down, receding for a bit, sweeping in again.    So it is with the laughter among my group of seven friends as we travel to visit another friend in hospital in Olangapo, and later enjoy lunch with others who shared work at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Someone makes a joke, the group erupts, another comment is thrown in and the laughter builds to a climax, then backs off for a while – then another witticism, a play on words, a gentle teasing and a comeback, and the laughter crescendos again.  Finally comes a longer lull.   I sit outside on the porch while my group of friends congregates in the kitchen.  I wait.   And sure enough, the laughter comes again.

At this moment, I understand the phrase, “a gale of laughter”.   I have lived in many places, and everywhere people laugh – but not like this!   Is this particular to my group of friends?   There are certainly some famous jokesters among us, and friends whose staccato laughter begins as soon as they’ve delivered a line, signaling all to join in.

But I don’t think our group is unique.  This capacity to laugh is part of Filipino culture.   It creates and sustains relationship, and sometimes it defuses tension.  Perhaps the ability to tease and be teased explains a certain “live and let live” attitude I notice here.

Filipinos can get angry.  Violence and brutality are part of life here, as in every country.   However, if American drivers had to contend with people shifting lanes, cutting in front of each other and passing on “the wrong side of the road”, blood would be spilled in accidents and confrontations.  Yet road rage does not seem to apply here.  There are accidents and deaths on the road, but I’ve yet to experience a driver cursing at someone who has suddenly pulled in front of him or speeding up to prevent someone from cutting in.   Drivers “go with the flow”.   Maybe they’ve learned to laugh at each other.