Musings of a Visitor

If you are to sum up the Philippines in one phrase, the best one would be “a place of contradictions”.

In Canada, we seem to wear our ‘Filipino-ness’ like a shirt. We have the luxury of taking it off and putting it on, depending on where we are or who we are with. That’s not an option here in the Philippines. For a Canadian-born Filipino like me, the stone-cold reality is that the Philippines is a place that I’ll never truly be a part of.

Upon arrival at NAIA, there was a choice of three lines to fall into: Filipino, Balikbayan or Visitor. I was told that I qualified as #3 – and not #1 or even #2. Visitor.

Driving along Buendia, I saw a lineup of people waiting to buy NFA government-subsidized rice – while Mang Inasal, the chicken restaurant at the Mall of Asia currently advertised a promo that gives you ‘Unlimited Rice’ with your combo meal.

My cousin tells me that she has completed the caregiver certification course in order to be able to work abroad, because that provides the best opportunity – and I can’t think of any good reason why she shouldn’t go ahead and do that.

I can’t open the window and give change to every child that knocks on my window selling sampaguitas, but shouldn’t I? If I gave them 10 pesos, that’s like a quarter in Canadian.

On Wowowee, kids as young as 5 years old are encouraged to pelvic-thrust and gyrate like Beyonce for a few American bucks and later on in the show, stay tuned as a Mother of 5 must answer trivia questions correctly to win a prize. The prize? A plot of land and a house to go along with it.

On Pinoy Idol, the contestants that sang traditional Tagalog songs got told by Ogie Alcasid that their style was “medyo old-school” before getting kicked off and eventually losing to the contestants who were doing horrible Christina Aguilera impersonations.

Filipinos here also watch American Idol and love those blond chicks and that wussbag David Archuleta but not so much Ramiele Malubay because she was “too dark” or “too short”.

The cockfight arena is the biggest sausage party of the face of the earth. Pure guys.

An old man that I talked to here in Laguna province said that while they want GMA out, the Philippines needs a President who is going to be tough -- like Ferdinand Marcos. Then another guy chimed in and added that things would have been better if Fernando Poe Jr. was elected. Fernando Poe Jr. was a star of action movies.

I saw a T-Shirt at Greenhills with a caption that read: "I AM THE IMELDA OF BAGS".

Today, EDSA Shrine is just where people sit down to eat their lunch or smoke on their break from their job at the mall across the street.

No one takes pictures with the Ninoy Aquino memorial at the airport (it's a recreation of the chalk outline of his dead body on the tarmac), but there's a huge Kris Aquino billboard along EDSA and she's all sweaty wearing some whorey outfit.

The entire town of Alaminos, Laguna came out to walk my Lola’s coffin to the cemetery. Everyone from the ‘mayaman’ cousins who drove in from Muntinlupa, to the wealthy townsfolk that have owned land here since the turn of the century just like my Lolo Leonardo, to the coconut, mango and pineapple farmers who till the soil on our ancestral lands, to the families that live ‘along the riles’ that sometimes ask for short-term work and are now extended members of the family, to the squatters who live on my Lolo’s property and were allowed to stay.

I guess its true -- we have no control over the card we are dealt. People here sit on all sides of life from poverty to privilege and I guess its not so much about what you've got, but what you do with what you've got. (I know, easy for me to say.)

… and me, who delivered the eulogy for my Lola in busted Taglish, while doing my best.

After it was all done, someone told me that I made a good speech, but they couldn’t understand me.

Line #3. Visitor.