Filipinos rise up


Filipinos are among the world’s earliest risers. Which confirms the suspicion I’ve held for so long that I was born in the wrong country.

The research firm AC Nielsen a month ago released the survey results that officially alienated me from at least two-thirds of my countrymen. Sixty-nine percent of Filipinos wake up before 7 a.m., the survey said, a respectable third to Indonesia (91 percent) and Vietnam (88 percent).

The results were carried in front-page stories of the major national broadsheets. I know, because on that particular day, someone who belonged to the 69 percent strategically spread the broadsheets on the floor when I got out of bed.

It was a bit disorienting, such that instead of the usual “Good Morning”, I kissed her and said: “What’s the margin of error?”

Later accounts have it that I slogged to the bathroom mumbling “methodology”. I was offered coffee and I thanked her by giving her a lecture on “sampling error, non-coverage error, non-response error and measurement error”.

It didn’t work. She said something about whether I knew the difference between the snooze button on my alarm clock and the TV remote control; that maybe I should stop thinking that waking up is just a “commercial interruption” between dreams.

AC Nielsen ruined what seemed to be a plausible cultural reason for waking up late. Now we’re not just lazy; we’re actually un-Filipino. Yes, the Filipino can, so why can’t you?

I’ve worked with alarm clocks all my life. I’ve tried the old ones, the ones that involved actual bells and hammers, but that didn’t work. The distressing noise teaches your body, in Pavlovian fashion, to compensate. Your body clock actually tells you to wake up just moments before it actually rings, so that you can preempt it and go back to sleep.

By the time those electronic alarm clocks started coming into fashion, I was pretty much a hopeless case. The low sound it emitted I actually found hypnotic.

Then the snooze button came. Great. Alarm clocks that are open to negotiations.

So I’m thinking of giving up on alarm clocks, I told her.

“More like the alarm clocks gave up on you.”

A few weeks after that survey came out, came another survey by the Asian Development Bank which showed that the Philippines had the second most corrupt government in the world.

Not only that. The top three early rising countries – Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam — were also the top three most corrupt. When you’re running out of arguments, you see connections everywhere.

So it was my turn to spread national broadsheets on the floor. “So you see,” I told her, “maybe this waking up early business is bad for the country.”

And I glided through the air triumphantly, as if to say – the early birds do get the most worms.

SunStar Cebu
7 April 2005

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