Manila is my home. I feel like I belong here, and I’ve incorporated Filipino culture into my life.
Having said that, I still do things that are very unFilipino. Here are a few of them:
*I live alone. This is rare in a culture that puts such high value on family and companionship (not to mention frugality). Students are usually puzzled when I tell them I live by myself, and ask this question: “Nakakalungot yun, diba? (Isn’t it depressing)?”
It would be sad if I spent all of my time by myself, but I don’t. I normally spend all day talking with people, so I don’t mind having a little time alone. And quite honestly, I’ve kind of outgrown the whole roommate thing. I want my next “roommate” to be a beautiful woman with my last name.
*Unless I’m in Tagaytay or Baguio, I never use the word “ginaw” (cold). I just don’t get cold in Manila. The only exception is the occasional movie theater with super-charged air conditioning.
*I don’t mind walking through the rain. Most Filipinos think walking in the rain is a surefire way to get sick. Not me—I figure I’ll just dry off once I reach shelter. I think I’m influencing some of my Filipino friends in this regard. Some of my teammates will now walk fearlessly by my side during a light rain. I jokingly tell them they are becoming American.
*I walk straight from the gym to my apartment after my workouts—without showering first. My foreign readers may wonder why this is a big deal. Well, Filipinos are meticulous about personal hygiene (something I greatly appreciate). Most of them would never leave the gym without showering first. Not me—I spread my noxious, foreign fumes all the way back to my place. Maybe I’ll change this practice if the elevator girls at my apartment building start passing out.
*I generally think morenas (brown-skinned women) are much more attractive than mestizas (fair-skinned women). I’ve written about this before.
*I’ve never eaten balut. Half of my Filipino friends think it’s kind of gross, so I don’t feel obligated to try it. I’m afraid my gag reflex would kick in and the little duck embryo would be launched back to daylight before it ever reached my stomach.
*Speaking of eating, I can go a whole day without rice and not feel deprived.
*I don’t watch telenovelas (soap operas). In fact, I just don’t get the way Filipinos do dramatic television. One minute you’re watching a dramatic dialogue, the next minute an alien, witch, or mermaid appears. I get my dose of telenovelas whenever I ride the bus—that’s quite enough for me.
*I don’t like reading Tagalog. I’m fluent in the language, but I never have liked reading it—weird, huh? Don’t get me wrong—you guys are welcome to comment or email in Tagalog. But I rarely read books, blogs, or articles that aren’t written in English.
*I don’t like “textolog.” I get confused when vowels disappear and numbers take their place. This seems to be second nature to my friends, but not for me. I can usually decipher these cryptic messages, but I normally ask people to repeat the text using whole words.
So there you have it. After six years here, I’m still not fully Filipino. Maybe some of these things will change after another six years. Maybe I’ll even try balut.
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