Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

The "Pure" American and His Barong

Yesterday (Sunday) I had the opportunity to preach at University Baptist Church here in Manila (great experience). I wore a traditional white barong (they do communion on the first Sunday of the month, so all of the ushers and staff wear white shirts). I got some interesting looks later as I walked through the mall in my formal attire. I can’t blame the curious mall dwellers for staring—I guess I was kind of a walking contradiction.

Occasionally students will ask me if I am a “pure” American. Usually they are wondering if I’m part English or European. Believe it or not, sometimes they are wondering if I have Filipino blood (maybe they think I have a mestiza grandmother).

I always answer “yes,” but that is actually not such a simple question. I’ve been here for about four and a half years. This is my home. I’m still very American in some ways, but in others I’m not. I’m a walking contradiction, barong or no barong. Let me give you some examples:

*I can type text messages without even looking at my cell phone.

*I look both ways before crossing the street—even if it is a one-way street.

*I eat with a spoon and fork.

*I know the meaning of “barok,” “jologs,” “ebz,” “japorms,” and “social” (pronounced so-SHAL). I know that some of these terms are getting old and will be replaced soon.

*My favorite boxer has the nickname “PacMan.”

*I get annoyed or offended (sometimes both) when other foreigners criticize and stereotype Filipinos.

*I have more barongs in my closet than neckties (in fact, I’m not sure if I even have a tie here in my apartment—I think I left it in the States).

*I have a tendency to stare at other foreigners.

*I own a rice cooker (and I know how to use it).

*If I see an open tent with people gambling and drinking, I immediately look for a coffin. Speaking of which, I have preached at a funeral wake using a videoke machine as my sound amplifier.

*I ride jeepneys.

*I point using my lips instead of using my fingers.

*My friends call me a Bicolano.

*I think of “Kuya” as part of my first name.

*Being the only American in a room (or building, or entire mall) doesn’t make me the least bit uncomfortable—in fact, I feel quite at home.

*When in other countries I begin to desperately miss being with Filipinos (even when I’m in other Asian countries).

*I have translated for Filipino-Americans who don’t speak Tagalog (one of the more bizarre experiences of my life).

Does this sound like a “pure” American?


  1. kuya kevin 🙂 re:”the mall dwellers were staring” – not only because it was a walking contradiction – pinoys don’t usually wear their barong outside the premise of a formal event – not even on a formal date hehe – usually right after an event, guys wear their undergarment instead (not the sando – wearing a sando inside the mall looks gay-ish for some – only if you have your t-shirt under) – but usually they bring their extra shirt – coz either others will see you as tita glo’s bodyguard, a politician, or their school administrator – but yea, you’re a pastor – that can’t be a faux pas to others :)…maybe 🙂 – but hey, wearing your barong says a lot already on your appreciation for our culture – Mabuhay ka K. Kevin! Isa kang tunay na kuya! picture po – kuya kevin+the barong 🙂

  2. Go to my friendster account and you’ll see a picture of me at a wedding wearing my white barong. Normally I do take it off before/after an event, but it just wasn’t so practical Sunday.

    I have a blue barong that I really like 🙂

  3. aha!

    ngayon ay napatunayan mo nga na ikaw ay isang tunay na amerikano ngunit ang iyong puso at pagkatao ay nabahiran na ng isang maka-pilipino.. magaling kuya kevin!

    lugod kong ikinatutuwa ang iyong mga binaggit sa iyong pahina. haha. sana ay naintindihan mo ang aking pamutawi sa iyong inilathala… maraming salamat po!

  4. Hi Kevin:
    You are more Filipino than I am.
    Thanks for appreciating the Pinoy

  5. hello, bro! or in a more pinoy manner – “kapatid!!!” well, you are more of a filipino than some of our kababayans here…thanks for caring for our country, its people, culture and our very own barong. God has been doing great things inspite of the typhoons, political unrest…and surely you are a part of this, not the political thing of course, but you are indeed a welcome blessing to us…thanks again kuya Kevs. keep on! HATAW!!!

  6. Kathy,
    Saan ba ang dictionary ko? 🙂 I understand the basic meaning of your post, but I’ll have to go back and do some vocabulary review 🙂 Umaga pa–medyo maaga para makapag-basa ng Tagalog na malalim. Salamat!

    I’m definitely not more Filipino than you are. You epitomize every positive stereotype of a Filipina.

    Thanks, bro! Thanks for being my brother and friend.

  7. Spikaprocopia

    12/06/2006 at 8:09 pm

    WOW !

    hhmmm, how abt “Balut”, do u eat that kuya?
    Nasubukan mo na bang sumabit sa jeep? 🙂
    Wla lang, just want to ask 🙂

  8. Honestly I think balut is kind of gross and I do not think I will ever try it.

    I’ve ridden on the back of a jeep, but just going up a hill on a private road. Maybe that doesn’t “count.” 🙂

  9. spikaprocopia

    12/06/2006 at 10:03 pm

    Balut is gross??? hahaha, ok i understand:-)

  10. hi! just browsing friendster profiles saw ur page na curious sa blog mo and now here i am, reading all your posts..hehe! ang galing.. nkaka inspire tlga.. keep it up! mabuhay ka kuya kevin..

  11. Thanks for reading! Ad me up on friendster.

  12. hey kuya kevin! sobrang nakakatawa yung blogs mo about cultural issues! i have friends from all over like the states, canada, australia etc and it reminded me of their own “mis’-adventures here in the philippines.. but at the same time encouraging din naman… and for the record i haven’t met any foreigner who has embraced the Filipino culture like u did (most of the time i get offended/annoyed when they give comments about our country or Filipinos in general)… i would love to meet u someday and hear you preach…=)

  13. Michy,
    You are welcome to visit us at worship any time.

  14. Kuya Kevin nakakatuwa po ang post nyo hahahahah! 🙂 Ayus!

  15. hi kuya,nakakatuwa naman po ung mga posts nyo…keep it up and God bless…

  16. Hi, Kuya Kevin. Just wanted to say thanks for the GREAT seminar( True Love Waits) in Makati Science High School. Very informative but also entertaining. 🙂
    Salamat din po dahil you embraced the Filipino culture. You’re one of the VERY few na nakilala ko na di nahihiyang sabihin sa lahat na “part” Filipino sila 😀

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