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  • Filipinos and Their Contagious Laughter. The Power of Humor to Heal

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    Filipinos & their relationship with humor.

    Filipinos around the world are known for their hospitality. It’s not difficult to find a Filipino who’s willing to give up his/her master’s bedroom to provide a long-lost relative a place for refuge. But, one other undeniable characteristic of many Filipinos is their humor. If you travel along the Philippines today, the streets of Quezon Boulevard in Manila are consumed with Comedy Bar Infrastructures. If you haven’t been in one, it’s a place where many Filipinos in the Islands find solace to their daily woes. Stand-up comedians use physical humor acting out their funniest stints so that their audience can laugh out loud, laughing their miseries away.

    In America & those abroad, Filipinos find a magnetic force that endears them to comedy films, funny people, and why their favorite uncle is the known jokester in the family.

    The DOWNSIDE of Humor

    Before delving into the power of humor to help us cope and heal, it is worthy to note that the use of humor can also be a maladaptive coping mechanism to sweep away troubles under the rug, so to speak. Here are three ways that some Filipinos may use humor in this manner. This list highlights only three downsides of humor and is not all-encompassing.

    • The use of humor to avoid conflict.

    Since the culture relies heavily on teaching empathy and therefore on “not offending others,” humor may be used to voice out opinion or emotion that may otherwise be unwelcome or frowned upon. Interjecting humor gives it a light-hearted spin and those who don’t take it well can be charged as pikon (sore loser).

    • The use of humor to escape reality.

    Life as a Filipino/Filipino American traversing the American lifestyle has its own challenges. It’s not uncommon to find a Filipino consuming a marathon of Variety Shows, YouTube videos or spending much time on Facebook for entertainment and pleasure. These types of virtual engagements become problematic when they take the place of personal connection and when we escape reality para lang matawa (just for laughs).

    • The use of humor to be accepted by others by putting oneself down.

    One striking difference in the islands is that comments on others’ physical attributes are more openly expressed. A person who is deemed to have an unfavorable physical attribute may sometimes play on this by joking about it (self-deprecation) and using it as their trademark. Filipino comedy films contain many of these characters, for example, a comedian known for his long chin (baba) known as Babalu is a famous actor in the Philippines. Whitney Tyson (Whitney from Whitney Houston and Tyson from Mike Tyson) uses her dark complexion to amuse her audience through slap-stick performances. By amusing others, the amuser gets to feel a sense of belonging in exchange.

    Laughter vs Humor

    There is a difference between laughter and humor. Humor is an attitude. The ability to view the world as something other than awful (Ellis & Adams, 1994). It’s the ability to be child-like, not taking things too seriously and wearing a positive world-view lens. Laughter is an expression of the outcome of humor.

    First Coffee. Second Tawa.

    Why You Should LOL (Laugh Out Loud)

    Various research shows a myriad of reasons why keeping a light-hearted view of the world can benefit our physical and emotional health, which consequently improve our relationship with ourselves and others. In examining laughter in different cultures, a study found that the mere sound of laughter is the same across cultures, leading some researchers to believe that laughter helped bond our ancestors together. In fact, the sound of laughter is so common and familiar that it can be recognized if played backwards on a tape (University of Kentucky;

    Health benefits of laughing out loud:

    • Makes you more attractive to your friends, loved ones, and the opposite sex.
    • Couples who laugh together, stay together.
    • People who laugh heartily, on a regular basis have a lower standing blood pressure than the average person,
    • Strengthens immune system, increasing infection-fighting antibodies,
    • Less medication was needed for patients in an environment with humor presentations
    • Stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information.
    • Laughter burns more calories. Laughing for 10 minutes a day burns the same calories as a half-hour workout.

    Emotional Benefits of Laughing Out Loud:

    • A study showed that people who engage in joyful laughter produce brain wave frequencies similar to that of a true state of meditation (Lee Berk, Dr. PH, MPH).
    • Individuals who laugh easily have better self-esteem and more positive outlook in life in general.
    • Relieves tension, keeping us fluid and flexible instead of allowing us to be rigid and breakable in the face of change.
    • Reduces stress hormones and boosts immune system while also inducing optimistic feelings.
    • In patients with schizophrenia, a humor and laughter intervention reduced hostility and depression/anxiety scores; improved social competence.

    Most laughter comes from spending time with family and friends and not just by listening to jokes.

    It’s no surprise that Filipinos Abroad & Filipino Americans hold this characteristic close to their chest.

    Humor heals and it’s within our reach, free and contagious.

    Shall we end this article with a little laugh?


    Dear Bulag,

    Pakisabi kay bingi nananalo si pilay sa takbuhan.   



    Walang Kamay


    Lol, that joke gets me every time! For my non-Filipino speaking readers, I’m so sorry, this one will lose its character if I attempt to translate it in English.

    Lastly, I hope that you will become an active seeker of humor rather than waiting for it to seek you.

    Do you have any wholesome Filipino jokes you care to share? Wholesome pleazzzse. Comment on the side bar and while you’re at it, get your free EBOOK: 5 Pinoy Love Languages by entering your information below.

    Sa Uulitin,


    About Roanne

    Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 12 years. She has frequented at least 400 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care.

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    1. Blaise
      September 29, 2020 at 10:46 pm -

      Awesome! Salamat for sharing and ingat ka. – Blaise

      1. Roanne de Guia-Samuels

        Roanne de Guia-Samuels

        November 13, 2020 at 10:40 pm -

        thank you, Blaise for stopping by! inggat ka rin 🙂

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