So yesterday, June 12, was the Philippines' Independence Day, the 109th anniversary of Filipino revolutionary army's proclaiming independence from Spain. But did we do anything to celebrate? Uh, does treating my kids to Krispy Kreme donuts count?
I've lived in the US for 13 years now and I'm married to an Englishman, and sometimes it feels like we've always lived this American middle-class suburban life. My kids know as many Spanish words as they do Filipino words. They eat milk and cereal for breakfast. We don't have rice every day. The way we live, you'd hardly know where I come from. But some habits die hard. Here are some things serve as a reminder that wherever I go and whatever I do, I'll always be a Filipino:
1) I always mix up "bring" and "take", i.e. "Bring you hat with you to the car, please" or "We're bringing my parents to the airport". If you're Filipino I'd be willing to bet that you don't even realize you're making a grammatical error. My husband has told me hundreds of times that "bring" is used with "come" and "take" is used in the same context as "go", but I still can't get it. In fact, the harder I try, the more mixed-up I get.
2) I pronounce each and every syllable of every word. Chocolate is not pronounced "CHOCK-lit", it is pronounced "CHALK-aw-late". Similarly, comfortable is not "COMF-tuh-ble", it's "COM-for-ta-ble", or in some cases, "com-FOR-ta-ble". If you ask me, if everyone took phonetics as literally as Filipinos do, there would be far less spelling and prounciation mistakes in this world. I mean, really, how do you expect anyone who's never heard the word Worcestershire before to be able to say it properly?
3) I use the word "traffic" is an adjective as well as a noun, i.e. "It's so traffic!" instead of "There's so much traffic!". It's probably a direct translation of "Ma-trapiiik!"
4) I never dry my kids properly. In Manila it's so warm that having some drops of water left on your skin feels lovely and cool, and in any case it's going to dry off soon anyway. Unfortunately my casual attitude towards towel-drying persists even in the cooler (i.e. freezing) temperatures of Northern California, Massachusetts and Great Britain.
5) I don't care whether I eat my dinner hot, lukewarm or cold. Again, it's a climate thing. In cold countries food needs to be piping hot, otherwise it gets all greasy. In a place where steaks are not the only things sizzling, lukewarm is usually good enough.
6) But I can't take drinks without ice. Lots of it (have you noticed how many of my quirks are related to hot climates?). Just the sound of the ice cracking in your glass as you pour your drink into it helps you feel cooler. Water or Coke at room temperature? That's just as ludicrous to a Filipino as it would be to serve an Englishman a bowl of soup that isn't piping hot.
7) I never leave a party/restaurant/Costco without taking leftovers or freebies with me. I know, I sound cheap (and I probalby am), but I think it's just a cultural phenomenon. We Filipinos like to get our money's worth, and if your restaurant says all-you-can-eat, we're going to hold you to it. Walk into any fast-food restaurant in Manila and look for the napkin dispenser. You won't find it; you have to ask for napkins from the servers at the counter, otherwise they would be all gone in a flash. Ditto for ketchup packs or soda machines (free refills? Not unless you accept that one order of soda is going to quench the thirst of an entire family).
8) I never pack a suitcase when I travel. Instead, I cram my belongings (and various presents for my relatives) into a 20x20x20 cardboard box, known to Filipinos as the Balikbayan Box. It's the configuration that makes maximum usage of the allowable linear footage for check-in luggage (so I guess this is another manifestation of trait #7). Observe the check-in line on any flight to Manila and you will see dozens of these boxes, trussed tightly with string or packing tape, with name and address information printed on all six sides.
9) I'm a good driver. I have to be; I learned the art of defensive driving in the traffic nightmare that is Metro Manila. I've had to learn to avoid smoke-belching public buses and jeepneys that swerve unexpectedly and stop anywhere along the road. Drivers in California, while not the best, are at least orderly. They at least follow stop signs and trafiic lights and lane markings. I could almost drive with my eyes closed here (but I don't, I swear).
There's a Filipino Independence Day festival this weekend in San Francisco. I think I'll dust off my national pride and go join them. Happy Independence Day!
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