Beauty in the
Beast: The hugot of the Pinoys joy
By ROBERT Z. CORTES,
September 10, 2015
Some nights ago, I missed my
flight to Chicago. I've lived in Manila for more than 20 years, and
I've been going to the airport quite regularly all that time, but this
was the first time I've ever missed a flight due to traffic. In the
car, I wondered out loud to the friends who were with me what the news
would say the next day.
The day after, CNN reports
"Downpour causes monstrous traffic jam in Metro Manila." I actually
used that very same word monstrous to describe the EDSA gridlock,
when I wrote to my dissertation adviser to explain why I'd be missing
a rendezvous with another professor in Chicago.
Indeed, there was no other
word more apt.
From where I was feeling
so helpless as the clock was ticking nearer and nearer to the flight
schedule, and I wasn't even halfway to the airport 3 hours after
leaving my home in Pasig I saw before me a colossal snake with
scales of glittering red lights on one side, of blinking yellow on the
other. The beast was gorging itself on the Filipinos' patience and
For a while I felt I
understood why road rage happens. I even thought for a second that
suicide in this country would be perfectly justified. It was
inevitable in this hellish traffic, I thought for moment.
But it was only a fleeting
thought. For in the car with me were people who didn't succumb to the
"inevitable." They made a choice to be serene. The two people in the
passenger seats were either sleeping like overgrown babies or laughing
at the whole absurdity of the situation when they were awake.
Admittedly, they were irritatingly cheerful at times, but I guess
that's better than being irritatingly grumbling.
As for the driver of the van
well, what can I say? The whole time, he was sympathetic to my
difficulty yet patient with what we obviously could do very little
about. He taught me who was more than a decade older than him that
one always has a choice in these situation: to be either impatient or
calm, a hell to others or a source of peace. I learned we can be
virtuous in any situation, including the negatively superlative
traffic of EDSA.
When I realized all this, I
took out my rosary and, like a child, prayed as my mother had taught
me. I glanced to my right and glimpsed Our Lady of Guadalupe on the
huge LED board seemingly looking and smiling at me. "Nice touch for
your birthday," I thought (it was Sept. 8) and I meant both the
traffic and her image.
I also did some bit of
mental prayer as I had learned from St. Josemaria. Having finished 30
minutes of it, I began praying to Blessed Alvaro whose anniversary of
beatification a ceremony where I was present last year is fast
approaching (Sept. 21).
Having gone to all my "heavy
duty" intercessors, and realizing that no miracle would lift the van
to the airport in time for my midnight flight, I decided instead to
lift up my will and unite it to God's. I prayed, "Thank you, Lord, for
this chance to offer up something significant to me for whatever You
want this to be offered. I ask not to know, but to love, your will."
And, as always happens in these situations, I was filled with peace.
Some hours later, I read
something similar in Bl. John Newman's "Meditations and Devotions".
"My...perplexity may be the necessary means of some great end which is
quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain...He knows what he is
about... I trust thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I more loving to
me than I myself. Deign to fulfill thy high purposes in me, whatever
they may be work in and through me. I am born to serve thee, to be
thine, to be thy instrument. I ask not to see I ask not to know I
ask simply to be used."
I went to bed that night
filled with peace and thankful for the little blessings, instead of
thinking of the inconvenience this entire experience spelled and would
spell for me. I was thankful for the Shell toilet that was available
just when my bladder was near bursting; when I came out there was a
long queue to the toilet. I was thankful that we made it back home at
1 a.m. instead of 3 a.m.; I knew there were still people trudging
their way home in those wee hours of the morning. I always have a
choice to be grateful.
I am definitely not
fatalistic, and like every Filipino, I expect the government that
takes one third of my salary to give us back the service that we
deserve. Nevertheless, I also believe that we need to always maintain
the characteristic Filipino goodness and joy in difficulties such as
these. This experience has reminded me once more where the Filipino
gets it the hugot, as they now say. It is in prayer and abandonment
to God's will.
There is where one finds
beauty in the beast.
The next day, I found myself
enjoying breakfast with friends, laughing Pinoy style, over the
silliest considerations. At some point, I told them about my devotion
to Fr. Joseph Muzquiz who is my intercessor for things connected to
the U.S. I explained to them that his intercession was weird: that he
stops things from happening and gives me something better in return
(I'd see that in retrospect, of course). It's what I call "negative
I told them that, ironic as
it may seem, I believed this was Fr. Joseph's favor to me. I mean that
the delay was made for me to have more days with friends, more
productive moments of work, a better schedule over all in the U.S.,
and still make it to the interview with the subject of my dissertation
on Sept. 14. I added that to "up the ante" for this intercessor, I was
going to ask him to help me rebook my ticket for free. This was
important for a cash-strapped student like me.
I called Asiana Airlines and
told them my situation. A very nice lady spoke to me on the other end.
She said, yes there's a flight available for Chicago at midnight 2
days after. She emailed the new ticket with no questions asked.
I intend to be in the
airport by 8 hours before the flight instead of the usual 3 hours.
Sure, there is beauty in the beast, and I'd appreciate it when it's
there. But I have no desires of seeing it any time soon.
[Robert Z. Cortes is a PhD student in Social
Institutional Communication at the Pontifical University of Santa
Croce, Rome. He has an M.A. in Ed. Leadership from Columbia