“So, do you have Ford in the Philippines or you know, cars for that matter?”
I looked squarely at my Uncle’s friend in the rearview mirror, who was driving us home from the theater.
From the moment he knew where I came from, he was eyeing me like I was some strange, French-christened morsel in his plate; figuring out what kind of ingredients I was made of. Whether he was going to eat me or not, his gut could only tell.
“No,” I am tempted to say. I would have added, “We also don’t have roads and buildings. We live in primitive times,” out of influence from Oliver Stone’s “Savages.”
It’s nothing new to be asked countless of times by Americans about my country. Why are Filipinos so eager to swarm the world, in well sought, dangerous, and even remote areas such as Ittoqqortoormiit or McMurdo Station?
Do you have roads, sky scrapers, computers, Apple products, TV’s, Nintendo DS, malls, and cement houses other than forests and farms? The list is endless and those are different stories. For now, I’m confronted with cars.
Come to think of it, I doubt if some blue, gray or green-eyed “Other” like my Uncle’s friend knew that Philippines is composed of 7,107 jaw-dropping islands that could put his alabaster skin or his humor to good use.
Don’t be mistaken. I have nothing against their superior, progressive air. I mean, let’s get real. We’ll need about light-years to equal, say such as, their educational system (although Australia holds the pedigree of the toughest in the globe). Another fact is, English (although technically, the British own it) is the universal language. Apart from these, who can shun the idea that everybody (okay, maybe not everybody) seeks for a permission of entry to their country? It’s just that, compared to the numerous times I have traveled to and fro in their pristine land of sorts, several have been a letdown.
One time, I was lining up in the dressing room to try on some clothes. Behind me were Mrs. Jones, her daughter, and the daughter’s son. The son goes, “Look Ma! A Filipino!” I pretended not to hear.
Grandma Jones then scolds him, “Shh! She might hear you, it’s impolite.” I hear her daughter snicker out loud, “Mom, they don’t understand English.” That had me boiling. I whipped up my phone and with my best mimicry of the American accent, pretended I was talking to my Dad. Not to be outdone, I turned on my heel and told them in my best behavior that they could have my place as I was in a hurry.
The daughter had her mouth open as Grandma Jones and the boy laughed. I would then be caught in the same scenario in an airline. The rest of the passengers were given snacks. Mom and I were only given water. I wanted to complain, but I shuddered at the thought of drinking my juice filled with booger or saliva. And then there was that incident of “Hold-your-bag-closer-to-you-there’s-an-Asian-looking-burglar.”
…and I’m not just speaking for myself.
Anyway, back to the Ford. After telling him that although some areas are poverty-stricken, but we do have cars among others, I suggested that he should travel to Philippines some time, to Davao in particular.
“Isn’t it a waste of money? Besides, what does ‘Duh-bow’ have that I can’t find here?”
“At this time of the year it’s the Kadayawan Festival. Emulating our city’s legend, it’s a week-long celebration and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest of fruits, flowers, life… We have fluvial parades, street and ethnic dances in colorful costumes, concerts, tribal pageants, a display of orchids, and then there’s Durian, you should taste it. You’re mising half of your life!”
I then ranted about other places like Boracay, Palawan, Cebu, Baguio, Bohol, Vigan, Manila and so on. “Trust me, aside from being blown away by our hospitality, our exotic food, and culture, you’ll find the experience liberating.” I added.
Just as that, the drive ends. Thanking him for the ride, I decided to chime in a joke.
“Oh, and another thing, what we don’t have in our city are shooting sprees. Although there are crimes involving that, we still prefer using knives, ropes, spoons, forks, bolos… sometimes our bare hands. We like it raw, you know, primitive.”
“You’re kidding, right?” He asks, wide-eyed and with that, I bade him farewell with a smile.
The next time we meet, he would tell me he has set his eyes for retirement in the Philippines.
(As published in SunStar Davao | August 12, 2012, Davao City, Philippines)