Five Random Things to Tell Americans about the Philippines

Every once in a while, Daren and I would listen to 80s music in the car. We’d have fun guessing the title and artist of the song and even sing together, never mind that we occasionally suffer from lyrics-iosis (a completely made-up disease affecting one’s ability to remember the right words to a song). Yesterday I asked him, “Don’t you find it interesting that somebody from the other side of the world would know these songs?”

What I’m saying, really, is how much the Philippines has been influenced by the West. We knew about Gap and Old Navy long before they set up shops in our shores, and can sing songs by Madonna (particularly the songs from her Borderline and Crazy for You days) and Michael Jackson (I remember being part of a Christmas program presentation in our class when we danced to Beat It).

When I meet people for the first time, some of them are surprised when I tell them that I just relocated two years ago. They swear that it seems like I’ve been here for much longer than that. “Your English is very good,” a Chinese neighbor commented, perplexed. I just smile and tell her a bit about our system of education in the Philippines.

Friends, if you ever find yourself in the US and people are curious to know more about who you are and where you come from, how about telling them these things?

Five Random Things to Tell Americans about the Philippines

  1. Many Filipinos can speak and understand English just fine. According to Wikipedia, “Filipino (or more commonly referred to as Tagalog) is the national language of the Philippines and is designated, along with English, as an official language.” I read somewhere that the Philippines is the third largest English-speaking country in the world, with 92.8% (or approximately 89 million) English speakers. Added to Tagalog and English, many Filipinos can also speak and understand major and minor dialects. Unlike here in the US when you can only tell where somebody comes from by his/her accent, Filipinos from different regions speak in dialects unique to where they come from. If two Filipinos from different regions meet and find it difficult to communicate in Tagalog, they will speak to each other in English.
  2. We love taking pictures. If you see Asians and can’t figure out what nationality they are, wait till a person from the group whips out a phone and takes multiple shots in various poses. Wait some more and another person will follow suit (if he/she hasn’t already). Even before the advent of cellphones with cameras, we as a people have been infected with this photo-loving bug. Go figure, there was a time when the line “Let’s take a picture” can also be said as “Kodak-an muna tayo.”  (I am slowly learning, however, to let the Americans’ need for privacy trump my desire to take photos. I respect their personal space. I rarely take photos with other people now and post them on Facebook. Even my husband is not a fan of picture taking. Nothing wrong with him/them. And nothing wrong with me/us either.)
  3. If you ever step foot in a Filipino’s house, expect to be fed. No matter how humble the house is, a Filipino host will not let a guest go hungry. Or even if the guest is not hungry, he or she will still be offered food whether it’s from the refrigerator, from the stove, oven or microwave, or from the nearby sari-sari store. This is Filipino hospitality in action. Generally speaking, many Filipinos who migrate to other lands still carry this trait, myself included. For instance, I would insist that we feed people who enter our door, family and strangers alike. Just recently, I prepared a heavy lunch that Daren and I shared with the man who painted our porch and fixed our roof. Why? Just because it’s part of who I am, a Filipino who is genetically programmed to treat guests like royalty.
  4. We love our rice, our staple food. We can eat it with everything, anytime (from breakfast meal to midnight snack). A Filipino who has not eaten rice for five days is a cranky and hungry Filipino. We know that you have many kinds of bread available but nothing can make us turn our backs on our first love: rice. Forgive us when we have a hard time figuring out what kind of bread (A roll? Biscuit? Cornbread? Croissant?) should go with various dishes or meals. The only time many of us see bread is in the morning when we eat pandesal, or when we eat a snack like hamburger, ensaymada or sandwich. For some reason, we don’t think we’ve eaten a “real” meal unless it’s with rice.
  5. Christmas comes early in the Philippines. During dinner last night, somebody asked me about how we celebrate. I told him that when I was there last September, some malls were already playing Christmas songs and one small office I’ve been to even had a Christmas tree already put up. Yes, as soon as the month reads “ber” in the calendar, the Philippines enters the Christmas season. So if you ever see a Christmas tree and twinkling lights in some homes this day in November somewhere in the US, don’t be surprised. A Filipino probably lives there.

You can take the Filipino out of the Philippines but you can never take the Philippines out of the Filipino.

Say what you want about the Philippines—worst traffic, worst airport, worst postal system—but I would like to believe that we still deserve to be referred to as the Pearl of the Orient Seas. Speaking of pearls, tell them that if they ever get a chance to visit, they should go to Greenhills for great deals. If they wonder how come we have such a wonderful assortment of pearls, tell them that we are not an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands for nothing.

 

 

 

 

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