Posted by: nastypen | January 29, 2008

Big Buddha, Why So Glum?

I like the figurines you can find in my house in Cebu. One altar has this big portrait of Jesus Christ. In front of him, there is a row of Chinese allegorical figures of wealth, old age, prosperity. Standing next to them is something we got in McDonald’s ages ago: Mongolian Snoopy.

In one room, there is a shelf with an explosion of the big Buddha figures accumulated throughout the years. I like the figure of the bigBuddha in mirth than the Catholic statues because Buddha was frozen in laughter whereas the saints either look in agony or in ecstasy or deadpan. Ok, I know, the big buddha IS NOT THE Siddharta Gautama who became Buddha. In fact, he is not really the buddha but a monk. Of course, I only found out about this much later. So I grew up thinking this was THE Buddha. It’s not.

Anyway, for the sake of introspection and cultural misindoctrination, I will still address it as the big buddha or as I call it, these are my mini-me’s:

Say Cheese!

Then I saw one statue of big buddha in not an exultant state. Wait, isn’t he known to be the “Laughing Buddha?”

Daddy and I are both born under the Year of the Horse. Throughout the years, he has collected items of our birth year. I guess dad romanticized the notion of the horse as a strong free spirit, unfettered by chains but still running within bounds of society, just like my father.

My dad was hardly superstitious but he likes more of the meaning of images. The horse is a noble and beautiful animal, after all. We didn’t light incense sticks nor do we really celebrate the Chinese New Year, but we have this fascination for Chinese art and iconography.

My father, though his wallet may have been limited, he knows that his children’s imagination and knowledge shouldn’t be. He bought us books and made us read enough to know that these statues are for purely personal aesthetics rather than blind superstitious fanaticism.

Although I was puzzled by this guy:

He does look like me when either I am hungry or I am in my melancholic state. He has a small tuft of facial hair as well! I’ve never encountered a big buddha with hair aside from his thick arched eyebrows. Who was this?

I thought in a pantheon of laughing big buddhas in the shelf, this one look so out of place. Instinctively, I turned the statue and was horrified/aghasted/humored/fascinated to see this:

I shrieked. Underneath the glum there are two people in coitus. The man with the shaved head is a monk! The woman is sporting geisha hairdo! I never saw this growing up. I started to laugh uncontrollably and showed it to my sister who said she never saw this either. I showed it to my brother in law who proceeded to check the undersides of all the big laughing buddhas.

Yup, this was the only one.

Oh, daddy, you were such a wily and naughty bastard and we love you for that! The big buddha is glum because of the monk doing the nasty?! How incredibly subversive and cheeky! I love it. This big buddha will have a place of honor in my altar one of these days. It will stand near the copy of Sex Lives of the Popes which my father bought in the 90s much to my mother’s horror.

This pulling the rug underneath act made me realize how I miss my dad, his stories, wit, and his jokes. I bet if I could hear the big buddha’s actual laughter, they sound like my dad’s. And that is all the more special to me. Bleeding saints can stand in a corner for all I care.



  1. lol, what a fabulous post 🙂 i love the the Buddha figures, and love the commentaries even more 🙂

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