Tuesday, March 11, 2014

N64
Isang Ubod ng Habang Kwento Tungkol Sa Kung 
Papaano Maging Isang Bagong Saltang Pinoy 
Sa Calgary Noon

[A very long story about what it was like to be a noob or freshie 
{F.O.B.} in Calgary back then.]

Or: "There isn't really racism... BUT..."

Written in: Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
Composition: Sequel to Of F.O.B.s, F.O.P.s, and Filipino Clubs
                         Recalling both an event which happened in the Philippines 7 years ago,
                         as well as events which happened here in Canada, from 17 years ago, 
                         up until today. I actually went through a few title changes because I was
                         not sure where I was going with this. But as soon as I started typing, things just
                         kind of started going and going. So what you have here is this overly long post,
                         probably the longest I've ever made. I'm keeping it this way - I happen to like its
                         epic rambling mess.
Previous Post: The Town Centre's Fiesta, Part II

_______________________________________________________________________
WARNING: THIS ENTRY MAY HAVE SLURS AND OTHER PEJORATIVES. 
BEFORE YOU MAKE A JUDGEMENT, DO KNOW THAT I ONLY USE THEM 
TO PAINT A PICTURE OF HOW THEY WERE USED BACK IN MY YOUTH. 
IT IS NOT MEANT TO OFFEND.
 _______________________________________________________________________

In a previous post talking about what it was like for me to be new to Canada, in particular how I made friends with other new Filipinos, I ended with the sentiment:
"...during that visit to the Philippines in 2007, after a decade of having been in Canada, I was so happy, so glad to have reconnected with my Philippine highschool barkada because I realized I was with friends I actually really, truly chose - friends I actually really liked and enjoyed being with - instead of friends I just kind of ended up hanging out with because of common nationality1

Wala pa rin tatalo sa mga kabarkada ko nung kabataan ko sa Pilipinas.
"
Heavy words? Not really. 

First, let us do a simple thought experiment: Think of your own ethno-cultural and national background. Then, think of a group of people - people who actually exist, instead of strawmen imaginary figures - who have that same background. Then, think of lots of them! A crowd, or a whole group of them!

It's easier if you are actually an immigrant like I was (or am). All I need to do is think of the old country - of the Philippines and all the Filipinos born and living there. But even if you are a multi-culti Canadian with a myriad of friends from all parts of the globe, this can still work - just think of whatever classification you might fall into. Let's say you can trace your origins to the not-so-rare Italians of Montreal. All you need to do then is to think of all those Italians in Montreal. A WASP from Post WWII England? Then think of all the other WASPs with ancestors with similar immigration stories you've met over the years. West Coast Chinese? Rural Albertan with Ukrainian roots? American from Houston Texas? African-American person from Georgia? You get the point.

Now, answer this simple question: Do you think its possible to get along with each and every one of "your kind", all because you share the same ethno-cultural backgrounds?


Continued...

Didn't think so.

Should you be of mixed race/mixed cultural parentage, then you probably already know the challenges of navigating those two sides, and how even though you may identify more strongly with one side than the other, when it really matters, you are your own person.

That was pretty much what I experienced during the time when I was still Fresh Off the Boat (FOB). As I mentioned previously, there was already the visible and obvious division between the FOB Pinoys and the Filipino Potatoes or Patatas - those who have been here so long that, although brown on the outside, they had become white on the inside. There was not one Filipino group, but rather, two distinct ones. 

But even the FOB group, even though already few in numbers, had so many differences that it was fractured and further divided into sub-cliques. Wasn't really all that great to be in; if I really had a choice, if I really had my pick, I may not have hung out with them. That's what I mean when I say nowadays that they were "friends I just kind of ended up hanging out with because of common nationality1". I'm thankful to have found them, for sure.  But if I had my way...

"But Randy," you might say, "there's always choice! You could have chosen to be with other people! You didn't have to be with Filipinos, did you?"

Ah, but you fail to consider Filipino culture, dear imaginary person who is asking all the right questions to advance my argument!

First, there's just the obvious: I was new, so why not approach other Filipino newcomers first? It was obvious to me, it was obvious to my parents, it was obvious to my Filipino friends still living in the Philippines (this is why they asked, "Did you have Filipino Friends?" as though you MUST have them to exist abroad), and it was even obvious to the Canadians.

More than that, in Filipino culture, there is more of a hive mind. Collectivism, is what they call it, or pakikisama - an almost cultural pressure to belong, befriend, and hang out with like-minded individuals as your clique, or group, or community. The tragic assumption, unfortunately, is that all Filipino newcomers must therefore be like-minded.

This is a problem that really only plays out in a place where you are the minority. In the Philippines, with around 70 million Filipinos when I left it in 1997, and with 14 million of them living in the region they call "Greater Manila Area" - where I lived - this was not an issue at all. Finding fellow like-minded Filipinos in a country composed solely of them is obviously easier. Duh! But in my Senior High, here in Calgary, Alberta, way back in 1997, the FOBs was such a small group that I could still put a face (if not names, and I'm bad with names!) to a lot of them.

To be fair, as newcomers to Canada back then, I did share a lot of things with my fellow FOBs. I already mentioned all of them in that previous post.


However, thinking about this has awoken some other memories from when I was new. Memories which actually do matter in narrating this existential trip of mine. Because as more time passes by, the more I realize that there is another issue which needs to be elaborated on and its reasons aired out.

I have been throwing around the Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) badge like it ain't no thang. As though it wasn't a big deal back then - as though by "owning" it and using it for ourselves, we neutralize its power.

But no one really used them as slurs anyway!

There were no widespread name-calling which victimized us, there were no lynch mobs which targeted Filipinos, and like I already mentioned, there were no regular rival gangland rumbles and fights which pitted Filipinos against... whoever. There just really weren't the ethnic conflicts that some Filipinos in the Philippines might imagine happen here all the time.

Indeed, I was asked all the time during my 4 month visit to the Philippines if there was racism here in Canada. It's a real concern of theirs, and I guess I could understand: As students in the Philippines, senior high and some specific college/university level history courses would have informed them of the civil rights movements in the U.S. half a century ago. Selective reading would have exposed them to racist and white power organizations which still exist all over the world. And of course, the media over there tend to report on the racism (real or not) Filipinos experience all over the world. So, for my friends and relatives, this was a genuine concern.

My answer?

"There isn't really racism in the traditional sense of the word, but there is stereotyping."

Yes, I understand the irony or potential hypocrisy of saying "stereotyping exists" all while repeating the labels of FOBs and Patatas - that's why I suddenly thought of it after all. At least it was Pinoy on Pinoy slur. Humourous, self conscious, self deprecating slur. Some days I actually wish there were real racial slurs, if for no better reason than it would have been easily identifiable. Easily fought.

But the stereotyping?

It's subtle. It's not overt. And it is never in your face. But it's there. You'd actually be surprised who ends up inadvertently displaying them! 

Somehow, this actually makes them all the more insidious.


_______________________________________________________________________


The Danger of a Single Story: Stereotyping and Presumed Homogeneity

When I say that Canada is very multicultural to the point of being welcoming and open to people of all cultures, I mean it. Within its borders exists a "Distinct Society", and on the greater scheme of things, it really truly does welcome every new immigrant with open arms. The label of "Cultural Mosaic" is used to describe itself as different from America's "Melting Pot", because there is less pressure to assimilate. It's a nice romantic notion and perhaps it did make life here easier for my newly landed immigrant self.

But whenever I really think about it, I feel as though it did - and still does - come with a few unintended consequences. One of them, being that it inherently stereotypes and "others" people from different cultures.

If you have about 20 minutes, please, do listen to Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk. She is from Nigeria, but I feel as though some of her experiences do apply to my own immigrant experience. If you haven't got the time, the synopsis goes like this:

"Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."

And if there is one take-away I wish to share from her speech, it is this:

"The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story."
While there is an intentional open-minded neutrality, perhaps even an overt kindness, with the curiosity in which Canadians' multicultural philosophy approaches newcomers, it is a view inherently focused upon how different we all are, rather than looking for the things which make us all the same.

Just like Adichie, I was asked more than once by Canadian-born multi-generational Canadians2 about my favourite films, books, and magazines.

For those who have no primer on the Philippines at all - which, 17 years ago in 1997, was fairly common for people here - a lot were surprised when I answered the trilogies of "Indiana Jones", "Star Wars", and "Back to the Future" as my favourite films of all time (even though I was 15 when I said this, they still rank highly in my all-time list nowadays). TV shows? "The Simpsons", "Friends" and "X-Files" were the big ones back in the late 90's, but in my childhood it would have been "Transformers" (G1), "Voltron", "McGyver", "The A Team", and "Knight Rider" which featured prominently. Music? Although this was one interest where I did enjoy a lot more of the Filipino trends before moving here - owing  a lot to the heydey of grunge, rock, and metal explosion in the Philippines at the time - they were nonetheless bands who admit to having been influenced by foreign (to them) groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Guns and Roses, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, The Beatles, Rolling Stones.... and all those Rock and Metal Heavyweights... which I myself also listened to as a kid. Books? I was not yet as avid of a book reader at the time, but I sure read many topics about World War II and Space Exploration in my parents' Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Though at 15, I may have in fact read "Gulliver's Travels", grabbed a Mack Bolan book or two, and dabbled in a few of my Mom's mystery novels. Magazines? I read "Motor Trend", "Four Wheel and Off-Road", "Car and Driver", "Road and Track", as well as "Time", "Newsweek", and of course, "National Geographic". Clandestinely, as a kid, I have read "Playboy" and "Penthouse3" - yes read, as in, I went through the articles. Honestly! Peksman!

In fact, I feel that last one about gentlemen's magazines is worth mentioning because, in shaping my own life philosophy, I feel it actually was a fairly big contributing factor. As I've mentioned in another post:

"[Playboy was a] magazine which, even though I first had to read clandestinely as a kid, still educated me so much about exquisite taste, style, and sophistication. Even if I never got to apply many of it in the real sense of the term - in that it only fed my fantasies of growing up as a sophisticated man, and that I am not now that sophisticated man I thought I would be - at least my fantasies as a kid were sophisticated. I wished for a future me where my bachelor's pad was chic, my car stylish, my clothing fashionable, my bearing urbane, and my girlfriends (plural)4, strong and powerful."
In no small way, I now believe the wide variety of media I was exposed to as a kid was a preparation for a cosmopolitan and international outlook. A life philosophy not rooted on any nationalistic pretensions but rather a primer to the idea of global citizenship. The "West" was not this mysterious place for me, just as it never was for my parents nor my grandparents5.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-lQ8ps1Ywf3A/UxF52Vd1IfI/AAAAAAAAA5U/F7WKtEyLRfU/s1600/img_1028.jpg

Amorsolo's Tinikling.  Photo of painting stolen from here.

I know it's not a flattering assumption of Canadian-born multi-generational Canadians I encountered back then - because I am perhaps not giving them enough benefit of the doubt when I say this - but I still wonder how they viewed the cultural presentations done by the Patatas clique who comprised the Filipino club in my senior high? Did the multi-generational Canadians actually know and realize that what they were seeing was pretty much tantamount to Cosplay? Or did they accept it as how we actually lived back "home6"? Did they actually imagine the Filipino life to be a bucolic painting akin to Amorsolo's cultural depictions and tableaus? Hell, I'm the one with ancestors who once drew a living from agriculture, and I don't think their lives ever looked that idyllic at any point in time! Might these cultural presentations actually be achieving the opposite effect? That instead of opening people's minds to other ways of life, could it actually be giving people the mindset that anywhere outside of "the west", people live unsophisticated lives?

Rewind a bit to junior high, about seventeen years ago, freshly transposed from a Filipino private school to a Canadian Grade 9 setting (Philippine and Canadian School schedules did not match, I ended up repeating 3 months of Grade 9), I distinctly and vividly remember my shop teacher - Mr. Stan___d - ask me whether I used to live in a straw hut and ride a water buffalo to school. Such a question is akin to asking whether Canadians lived in igloos and got around via dogsled. Had I possessed then an acerbic wit and sharp retort, I would have gladly fired back a joke along those lines. But was he actually joking? I think so. Or rather, I sure hope so! Whatever the case, even though I'm a nice guy who tries hard not to pull the race card by giving the benefit of the doubt to Mr. Stan___d, I still can't set aside all doubt. Some days, whenever I recall that experience, I can't help but connect these seemingly unrelated stories of my senior high's Filipino Clubs' cultural presentations with my curious junior high shop teacher's weird question7.

At the very least, very few seem to fully realize that some parts of the megacity of Metro Manila would make Calgary seem like a backwater rednecky place, a small prairie town surrounded by wheatfields. And I mean that in the nicest way possible! I love rednecks, I love prairie towns, and I love wheatfields. The point being: This is not Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto. 17 years ago, before Calgary's most recent oil boom, this was not recognized to be a place where trends in Canadian fashion, culture, business, politics8, or even the arts originate. Metro Manila on the other hand, is virtually the epicenter for everything that happens in the Philippines, and is also a big player in many issues concerning South East Asia - and I lived a mere 30 kilometers or so from its epicenter. Yet for the Calgarians I met at the time - kind and welcoming though as they may be - in defining this place as the "first world", always situate it as top of the heap9. Opposite that, where I came from was consequently labeled as either "third world", "developing world", or even "underdeveloped world", with all the generally accepted meanings and baggage of those words attached.

Moving again to senior high: In Grade 10, our English class watched Theatre Calgary's production of "A Christmas Carol". Afterwards my teacher, Mrs. Gun___r, asked me, "Have you seen something like this before?"

I said, "Not "A Christmas Carol", no - this is my first time seeing it on stage. It is kind of cool. Definitely a lot more entertaining live. Thank you for this."

She said, "Oh, so you have seen a play before?"

Bitch, I've been a goddamn actor in a school play!

Well, I didn't say that, but I have indeed been an actor in a school-wide play when I was in third year highschool (Grade 9) in the Philippines, and I sure wanted to tell her off! But I was still in my polite Pinoy newcomer phase. I dared not disrespect my 'elder', the same way I just kind of excused Mr. Stan___d's "straw huts and water buffaloes" remark. Besides, she really was the nicest teacher you could ever imagine. As respectfully as I can, I listed the large production plays I've seen: "Noli Me Tangere", which I had to clarify as the most important Filipino novel; "Ibong Adarna", which is probably the most important Filipino epic - think of it as our version of Arthurian legend, I may have added;  and an actual Shakespearean play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", which I did not state I actually saw adapted into Tagalog, being that I was already trying to emphasize how I did not live in the boondocks and have actually seen many many plays.

Looking back now, I sure was a lot more forgiving back then.

But you have to put it into context: Once again, these happened 17 to 16 years ago in Calgary, when it had under a million people. It was also a time when some classes in senior high, I was the only Filipino guy. Where Grade 9, in junior high, with three quarters of the schoolyear out of the way, I was actually the only kid to arrive as a newcomer, fresh off the plane. And regarding the few Canadian-born multi-generational Canadians who have actually met a Filipino, I guess they were not like me at all. The Filipinos who came before simply had different stories to tell. So different that the next guy who came around was such a novelty.

I just happened to be that guy.

Actually, I almost forgot how in that Grade 9 class, before even any talks of what movies I liked, what music I preferred, and what things I liked to read, so many remarked on how good my English was. And I didn't even know how to react to it because they were pointing out what was natural for me and everyone I knew back home!10 "Uhh.... o....k....? Thanks?  I guess?" was my typical reaction.

Nowadays, 17 years later, I actually think my English wasn't all that good. If anything I wish I was quicker and sharper in my replies; because the most appropriate reply to the you-speak-good-English remark would have been a sarcastic, "Thanks! You too!


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The Danger of a Single Story: Cultural Sensitivity leads to Individual Insensitivity

What then were the practical ramifications of this stereotyping and presumed homogeneity which result from a general lack of knowledge of Filipino culture and society back in those days in Calgary? Save of course for the somewhat insulting "you people" generalizations: "You people must not have heard of our movies, music and literature", "You people must live in straw huts", "You people must not have seen a play before", or "Wow! Unlike your people, you speak good English!" Since they tend to be so earnest and polite when they ask this, it's almost worthy of "Stuff White People Like". So why take issue with them? Can't I just write them off as the strange quirks of a few Calgarians who - back then, 17 to 16 years ago - were desperately trying so hard join in on the drive to becoming world class, multicultural, and open to new immigrants, but still ended up falling flat on their faces anyway?

In the end, it was not just a trivial experience for me. As Adichie points out:

"The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar."
I know how it almost sounds contradictory that I am quoting a passage which in effect is saying "we are all the same", while distancing myself from the cliche of a new immigrant that some people may have held in their minds - which, to be fair to Mr. Stan___d and Mrs. Gun___r , I acknowledge could have come from actual living people. Some of my fellow FOB Pinoys back then may have indeed needed further improvement with their English skills, some may have lived in the boondocks prior to relocating to Canada, and perhaps a few had never seen a big production of a live play before. But I could name a lot of people who did not fit those descriptions. And that's exactly the point: Here in "the West", we all wish to be viewed as individuals first, and everything else - citizenship, community membership, ethnicity, and whatever other organization you may belong to - as secondary. Yet that same treatment is not always applied to new arrivals11.

The part that's so bonkers is that they actually mean well! People here are generally nice that, when they ask such questions and make such remarks, they really, genuinely, just want to know which aspects of Canadian society you are experiencing for the first time. And of these novel experiences of yours, which of them could potentially have a bearing on your academic performance? Cultural sensitivity is what I believe they call this nowadays.

But in being too culturally sensitive to "my people", by assuming every newcomer's accumulated life experiences and performance levels fall behind the bell curve of Canadian society, the newcomers who do excel could end up either having their potentials held back, or having to personally sandbag themselves on purpose just to fit in.
 
That is also why I feel this is such a hard issue to raise. I am in essence calling out a special treatment - attacking a double standard which technically favoured "my kind" - because even though they underestimated us newcomers back then, they really were nice, polite, and earnest about it! "Awww, you people suck at English? Here, let's put you in a class where you can still feel good about yourselves."

Like I mentioned, I was put into ESL even though I felt I didn't need it12 - I "had to" because the decision was made for me. And like every other FOB, the prescription was that I should belong there. The worst part was that ESL back then did not seem to have the tiers or levels - or at least less of them - unlike how they do now, as some recently newly arrived Filipinos now tell me. Back then, I shared my class with kids who could probably barely read or write in their native language anyway, let alone English!

That's another thing which annoyed me about the ESL class I was in. It was basically a dumping ground for unwanted kids with foreign roots. This is not me being mean to my ESL classmates. Instead, I am indicting how my school treated them - or us - back then. When I look back, I now wonder whether some of those kids actually had dyslexia or maybe even some kind of learning disability? Or maybe for those with only verbal difficulties speaking English, perhaps all they had was a speech impediment? Perhaps some may have even had a slight autism or asperger's, but were written off as "that weird foreign kid" and exiled into ESL, instead of receiving the appropriate attention. Of course I'm only speculating, but some days I really truly do wonder; I really truly feel sorry for those who may have been screwed over in this manner by the system we had back in the day.13
 
As some weird compromise for me, I was put into that English class (with Mrs. Gun___r) concurrent with taking ESL, all on the same semester. ESL in the A.M., English by P.M.. I guess I was good enough to be in a proper English class like the native English speakers, but too new to really skip English as a Second Language instruction. In my mind then and now, taking ESL was ridiculously redundant. A total waste of time.

As much as Mrs. Gun___r's "have you seen a play before" question weirded the shit out of me, I loved her and much preferred to be in her English class than in ESL.


_______________________________________________________________________


The Danger of a Single Story: New Frontiers here in Oil Rich Calgary - The Pendulum has swung the other way.

In large part, the reason why I can talk comfortably about this now is because so much has changed in Calgary.

Actually, saying "so much has changed" could potentially be misinterpreted. It was really gradual, rather than a revolution. Some ideas regarding immigrants and immigration merely spread further that they became the norm. Such ideas have always been there, but some people may not, or may have only had limited, first hand experience; like Mr. Stan___d or Mrs. Gun___r. But as time went on and Calgary grew, more people started to get to know first generation immigrants that they started gaining direct knowledge and forming relatively healthy opinions of them - instead of, you know, being based on outright stereotypes. Kind, polite, and earnest though they may be, they were still unflattering stereotypes of us as a primitive and exotic culture from elsewhere.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-kIgmSutOwcE/Ux9W9VcKe8I/AAAAAAAAA6Y/gZikOUZhbQM/s1600/Primary-Source-2.jpgThis is not a new trend. Alberta has always had immigration cycles which opened up the frontier to populations from different parts of the world - every new arrival was not always regarded highly by those who came first. From everything I've read and heard, the racism Eastern Europeans experienced may have been worse during the settling of the west, compared to what any new arrival will experience nowadays or even two decades ago. At least whatever I went through back when I was new were mostly simple misconceptions and stereotypes.

Today's new frontier is an economic one, and in order to conquer it, Alberta has been tapping on to immigration. I'm no expert in this, so, feel free to do your own readings. However, I can report on what it was like to experience for some independent immigrants.

You've probably heard of the cliche. Here in Canada, so many newly landed immigrants who were once professionals in their origin countries basically end up doing menial work: Doctors becoming taxi drivers; engineers becoming janitors, administrators becoming maids and wait staff. There is indeed truth to these stories. As I already mentioned, my Mother, once an official of the Central Bank of the Philippines, ended up being a mere cashier when we were just new here, while my Dad, who has had experience working for Saudi Arabia's terraforming endeavour, became a machine shop lackey. From what I kept on hearing back then, Canada did not recognize their credentials, so their Master's Degrees were basically worthless here.

Opposite of the "Brain Drain" countries like the Philippines go through for continually losing people like them, Canada was practically "Brain Hemorrhaging" (at least that's the term I've once heard) - it sets really high standards on what kinds of immigrants it will receive, yet it would not make use of the skills which these new Canadian residents possess.

Much like my experiences in high school as a newcomer, the expectations were very low. It was hard not to get the feeling that the default assumption was that you suck, you have nothing, you came from the boondocks, and that you don't know shit about life here. 

Fast forward to Calgary's most recent Oil Boom during the 2000's, and some things started to change. Companies began hiring people regardless of wherever they earned their qualifications. Then, the Government of Canada itself started to initiate programs that would allow the hiring of workers directly overseas. Off the top of my head I can cite the so called "nominee programs", the "sponsored caregiver programs" and the "temporary foreign worker" stuff. In short, Canada has learned to make use of the "Brain Gain".

Since many of these new immigrants, as well as temporary and sponsored foreign workers who have earned the right to become permanent residents of Canada, move their family here as soon as they get the chance, I've been informed that the school system has also slowly started to somewhat adapt. I guess it had to, what with so many kids from overseas continuing their education here. As I mentioned, I've been told that nowadays, there are many levels of ESL classes. I've also heard anecdotes of kids who managed to fight to be advanced to a higher English class level because, as they put it, "The assessment they gave us was fucking bullshit" - the complete opposite of my experience where even asking to be put into Mrs. Gun___r's English class felt like a hard fought battle.

Given all this, do I now feel as though people here now have well-rounded opinions of Filipinos?

Not really.

I mean, I still hear things which make me cringe, even though - or perhaps especially now that - the pendulum has swung the other way.

It's become so flattering to hear the praises so many Canadian-born multi-generational Canadians2 heap upon their first generation immigrant friends and colleagues. You often hear of things like hardworking, disciplined, good work ethic, highly productive, and not prone to complaining. When praising their friends' achievements, they would often cite Filipinos' typical high educational attainment and great international work experience - since many have worked all over the world, like my Dad. When giving evidence for the good humanity of Filipinos, they cite how so many send money home14, a lot are involved in the Filipino community, but without being exclusionary in that they find they are adaptable and get involved in a lot of "stuff white people do". And then the white guys with yellow fever would of course cite how beautiful they find Asians, perhaps even Filipinas15 - either they would brag about their girlfriend/mistress, or ask "Do you have a sister or female friends you can introduce me to?"  (also see: Seeking Asian Female: A Documentary About Yellow Fever).

Whenever I hear any of these I just can't help but think, "Oh fuck. Here's another white person who's trying to get into good terms with me."16 And it's ok. I can say this - many of my friends are white.

Thing is, it is not a point of pride anymore for me to hear "your people are good people". It's a little too close to other "you people" statements17 that it makes me so insecure and uncomfortable. You can't just go from putting me down to suddenly kissing my ass and not expect me to develop any personal issues.

Plus, I also don't happen to believe in Filipino exceptionalism anymore - far too many awful Filipinos still keeping the Philippines down for me to still be subscribing to that. In fact, if you are shocked to hear this from me, well, welcome to 1987, slowpoke.

A very good article has been written about how Filipinos may actually have a "broken culture". I've been citing, quoting, and linking to it quite regularly, as you might have noticed. (must read: "A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines?", James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly, November 1987)

A lot of progressive websites have also been tackling numerous subjects as to what really needs "fixing" in the Philippines. (Get Real Philippines.com, thesocietyofhonor.blogspot.com, The Antipinoy.com, The Filipino Mind.com) There's bickering for sure, but at least important issues are being talked about. Which cannot be said of so many Canadian-born multi-generational Canadians2 who reduce the Filipino individuals they've met to "you people" platitudes.

This is where the level of discussion is nowadays. So if ever that you told me you find Filipinos to be good people, and I made a face... well, now you know why.

It's time you acknowledged that it's the Filipinos you know who are good people, and not necessarily each and every Filipino. If anything, the very fact that you know so many Filipinos here (meaning, Filipinos who have left their motherland) is a reflection of the dysfunction of the Philippines and why so many choose to leave.

You might know a disproportionate amount of them who are "good". But do realize - and acknowledge - that immigration is highly influenced by "push factors" and "pull factors".


"Push factors" are those which influence someone to emigrate from their home countries. For the average Filipino it is usually economic: Under or unemployment and limited opportunities are often cited. I find it so hard to dwell on this because it is so obvious. Limited opportunities push people to seek greener pastures.

There are even subtle factors such as a form of persecution so deeply ingrained into the culture that no one bats an eye - yet still makes life difficult for those victimized. One glaring example I have in mind because March is Women's History Month: Women's rights, or the lack thereof. It has been said that Filipina women have become the "Servants of Globalization" - appearing as nanny, caregiver, maid and domestic househelp all over the world - because it sucks to be a woman in the Philippines: it is still a macho and misogynistic culture which believes in double standards, male superiority, and regularly treats women as objects; it is normal for the rich and elite men to take up a mistress or Querida; the Catholic church would never allow divorce and contraception; and overt expressions of female sexuality are often chastised as whorish or as the mark of a "loose woman", highlighting the culture's Madonna-Whore complex. It too is the reason why the Filipina is very open minded about marrying outside of their culture. 

What can serve as a push need not be a single concrete push factor, as is the case with Filipino migrants who left the Philippines because they simply have lost faith in the whole country as a system, be it the society, the culture, or the very corrupt government. It could be the culmination of many small things rather than one big example. Whatever the case, the person who is driven to leave his/her origin country, is a unique kind of person.

"Pull factors" are those which attract a potential immigrant into Canada. As mentioned, throughout its history, immigration has often come in waves, depending on the  needs of this country. What is unique about today's era of immigration is that new immigrants, especially now in this interconnected world, will have researched Canada a great deal prior to applying. They tend to know what they are getting themselves into before making any big moves. We are weighed with other immigrant receiving countries, such as Australia, the U.S.A., and the United Kingdom. "Which culture would fit me best? What is there to do in each of them?"

In fact, during this four and a half month Philippine visit of mine, I have been in embarrassing instances where a friend who is taking interest in moving to Canada engages me in conversation. As we get to talking, it has more than once emerged that I apparently know less about Canada's political system than my Filipino friend because I stopped caring about its nuances after my Canadian Studies course. Bottomline: Those who move here tend to be already primed to 'like' and later on, 'fall in love' with Canada. The person attracted to Canada in the first place, is a unique kind of person.

There too are the standards set by receiving countries. Personally, I call this gatekeeping. Who gets in? The things I've already mentioned involve educational level, professional experience, as well as other work-specific qualifications for the foreign worker programs. There too are the obvious criminal background checks. Believe it or not, there are even health standards - or at least there used to be when we applied - I guess they wish to know whether any new immigrant will be a burden on the healthcare system. The medical tests as demanded by the Canadian Embassy/Consulate even screened for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (or Infections, as they are called nowadays). Quite literally, we had to bend over and spread our ass cheeks for Canada. There are a lot of these steps and any one of them could prevent you from ever setting foot in Canada. The person who can get through this gatekeeping, is a unique kind of person.

Finally, there are the personal motivations. I like to keep this separate from the "push factors", because most times, I feel as though they are different things. While your origin country's situation may suck, it's still on you to move, uproot your life, leave everything and everyone behind, and start a new life elsewhere. The person who can do this, once again, is a unique kind of person. 

 I, as a kid, was brought here against my wishes, and I still play that card once in a while. It's a bad attitude, I know, and that's why I treat this blog as a method of catharsis...

All these things considered, how then do they play out in the real world?

You already know who gets to make it here. To start with, they all tend to be from the middle class. The professionals, the working types, typically employees, but I'm not excluding those up to midlevel management types. They all tend to be educated. More than that, they tend to have an open minded, cosmopolitan, internationally aware attitude. Chances are, they have learned to have a good work ethic.

Economically, you will never see the poorest of the poor Filipinos ever make it here. They simply can't afford to get here - if their educational backgrounds and work experience qualify them in the first place.

The upper middle class might also be reluctant to move because they could be the upper level management types, owners of successful medium enterprise, or perhaps even descended from the petty bourgeoisie and small-time landed gentry of colonial times. By having more to give up and liquidate, they are less likely to uproot their entire lives and move elsewhere. Plus, if they're already doing alright in the first place, why move?

You are especially not going to see the richest of the rich: The top one percenters; the elites; the members of the oligarchy; the ruling class; or any of the rich families. None of them would ever dream of demoting themselves to being "mere immigrants".18 Perhaps they will pay a visit as well-moneyed tourists. Perhaps they may retire in places with mild weather such as Florida or California. Gamble away their pocket money in Las Vegas. Perhaps their children will get educated in the prestigious universities and colleges of "the west" - in fact, this happens all the time because, having been "westernized" is such huge currency over there. Fucking huge!

So what am I getting at with all this?

Simple: The Filipinos you meet here do NOT represent the full gamut of Filipinos you will meet in the Philippines. Immigration has a way of homogenizing who gets in. 

Personally, I do find it ironic that Canada brags so much about its diversity, when it in fact tends to select only one "type" to grant the privilege of living here19.

In the end, I guess it's kind of nice that Filipinos are associated with all kinds of flattering things. It's a compliment, for sure. I just can't help but get annoyed at the fact that it often comes off as an underhanded compliment. "You guys make such good immigrants! You guys are so hardworking! You guys are so adaptable! You guys make such good employees!" ...like I'm supposed to be servile or something.20


_______________________________________________________________________


So how does this all then relate to this Existential Trip of mine? 

Well, as I said, it made me bitter when we were newly landed immigrants (as I said here, here, and here). As I may have also told Cousin Marco during one inuman, moving to Calgary was a step back in status - yes, I admit now to having been status conscious.

I guess our middle class classification in the Philippines would have been that distinctly Pinoy term of "can afford", as in, my folks "can afford" certain things without second thought. They could have afforded my post-secondary education had we stayed, and I would have been just another one of the middle class kids I described in another post. My allowance would have been decent, I suppose, and I would have balanced leisure and schooling. And had I performed well with good marks on my report card, I may have been rewarded with certain luxuries.

I actually felt that I was one of the cooler kids in highschool back "home"6. No doubt having had such a healthy adolescence, I would have had a great, if not an ok time in college/university had I stayed. Could I have then become a working professional in whatever sector of the Philippine industry? Probably. I mean, that's what my parents did over there before moving here. That's what a lot of my junior high friends in the Philippines all went on to do!

Woulda, coulda, shoulda...  I know it's all speculative. But the point is this: I had everything going for me back "home"6. We were not of the socio-economic class who were necessarily feeling the "push factors" to leave the Philippines. Far from it - as my parents' house, two vehicles, and no mortgage in the Philippines would attest.

But yet, we still moved here. Where my parents worked menial jobs. Where at school I was severely underestimated/underrated. Where all of a sudden I was lowest tier, with far fewer girls taking interest, and bullied by the "cool" crowd on occasion. Most times it's subtle, like I said: From the weird assumptions they have of my possible "primitiveness"; to being browbeat for little mistakes like little pronunciation errors, which were mostly due to accent rather than outright mistakes; to the body language of eye-rolls, sighs, and little "ugh" sounds/remarks in response to simple faux pas I may have made because the nuances and subtleties of this culture were still new to me.

Which in my mind is made especially more confusing by the fact that in everyday situations, new arrivals nowadays can get away with worse English, more blatant cultural displays not falling under costume parties - for instance, bringing your smelly food to school -  and can just be way more comfortable in their own skin. Bonus points if you're an Asian girl. They may even be seen nowadays as the originators of "cool" - thank the internet and pop culture. Did I mention I was one of the cool kids before I left "home"6? Geez... just as when I got over my issues, acceptance for "my kind" has become more prevalent. Where the fuck were these when I was new?

Maybe it's not fair to think this way, but I seriously feel as though newcomers have it so easy nowadays. And this seems to be true all over the continent, as well as in every facet of society.


And that's good, right? As in, things are getting better. The underhanded compliments are being challenged. AMWF couplings are increasing, yet at the same time, being called out as still a rarity - all without the person doing the calling out labeled as pulling the race card. Fetishism for Asian girls is also being called out.

So it should be a win for everyone!       Right?

The sad part is that very few Calgarians would ever know it was this bad for certain newcomers back in the day. In the same manner I never or seldom admitted to experiencing the things I have narrated here, very few people I've conferred with before making this post would admit to it either. I don't know why, to be honest: I suppose it either makes them less cool for admitting they weren't cool back in the day; it's a memory they would rather banish from their thoughts; or maybe they still fear being labeled as a Person Of Colour pulling the race card on " 'dem white folks". 

I do. I definitely fear it. It's a serious accusation.

Moving here was a disaster for my confidence in that, I still feel that this place initially ruined it. I wasn't even confident enough to complain. No one wants to portray themselves as the victim. And even if I did, back then, it was a powerless, toothless, impotent complaint - you'd just get browbeat for pulling the race card - a subject of a future post. 


I blamed moving here for everything. This is why I hate being called "lucky" to have moved here as a kid. Fuck that shit. I sure did not feel lucky back then. You don't need to experience outright and blatant racism to feel like shit.

Around the time I was approaching my first decade here, I thought I was over all that - all that bitterness and that blame game. As mentioned, I saw my parents succeed and prosper. I went to school and entered the workforce. I saw Calgary's recent economic boom and along with it, its recent intake of immigrants, right about the same time I became just another Canadian.

This became home. I thought I was so over those "immigrant blues" of sorts. Loss of status? Not one of the cool kids anymore?

"Nothing but petty shit", I convinced myself. I was 15 when I moved. I should be over them. It was also around that time when I stopped calling the Philippines as "home", but rather just a place as "where I am from". In conversations, I started saying "over there", instead of "back home".

But then, of course, I had a bad work-related falling out, then, I went on this Philippine trip of mine.

If moving here was a step back in status, a demotion of sorts, going there as a Canadian - as a "westerner" - was a tremendous promotion!

In the Philippines, I was cool again. In fact, I was way cooler than ever before. Everyone assumed I was rich or had money, even though I wasn't and I didn't. Everyone assumed I was highly educated, even though I only had a Broadcasting Diploma around that time. Everyone just thought I was bigger and better in every way possible. Being "westerner" kind of imbued me with a halo of sorts, as though I were a step above Filipinos. Just as Laurel Fantauzzo says in her essay, "Under my Invisible Umbrella", "I was top one-percenting for the first time in my life."

And I wasn't even white. 


Even when I was really truly underestimated in my abilities, it still felt like a praise: "You don't feel like you can drive in here in the Philippines? Oh, well that's because you're a really good, law abiding, polite, courteous Canadian." Sometimes, they even come off as self deprecating: "Metro Manila is so hard to navigate anyway as a newcomer, Randy. We understand if you find it impossible to get around." Which, in the end, only made them overprotective: "I'll introduce you to a chaperone to accompany you everywhere." or "Here, take our Van with our driver. Wag kang mag alala, kami ang bahala! [Don't you worry about anything, leave it up to us.]"
 
Even their less flattering assumptions of "westerner" lifestyle were hidden, indirect, coded praise, really! More than once, I was asked by a Filipina trying to seriously drop hints and gauge my so called "morality" versus my "experience" by assuming, "Oh you North American boys, you're all the same. You must have had a lot of girlfriends yourself! Babaero ka, ano?! [You're a womanizer, ain't ya?]" But what she really meant was this: "You must have fucked a lot of women by now - an international, multiracial cast of women, no doubt. But at least you probably did it in equal terms; you 'westerners' respect women's sexuality, don't you? I am conservative, but I still have desires. As a result, I find that equally repulsive yet intriguing, seductive yet taboo, disgusting but attractive. Believe it or not, these are all things which will actually help you score with me. You may proceed with your sweet nothings. Make me surrender to you. Please...?"

Even the hostility I occasionally encountered over there in the Philippines was due to Filipino insecurity, a reflection of the Colonial Mentality over there. They put you up on a pedestal, even if only to find your faults. But goddamnit! At least I was in a pedestal! It's off putting for sure, but it's no threat to me. In the grand scheme of things, even their prejudices tend to place us above them - the complete opposite of what I experienced here when I was new to Canada.


Of course I struggled with all these thoughts in the Philippines. It became most pronounced right around the sweetest part of my honeymoon period with the place. Yeah, it was totally cool to experience, but the sad part is that I was very aware, and insecure. Somehow, in the back of my mind I asked, "Do I really deserve any of this good treatment? Am I really meant to enjoy these good experiences?" I guess I had gotten so used to being a nobody, being a somebody in the motherland was quite the novel and unique experience. It was just right there, below the surface of some of my posts: 

"Was I regressing? Was I merely projecting a 'what if I hadn't left' scenario? Was I merely subconciously masking a part of my identity altered by the 10 years spent in Canada? Is this why it was so easy to feel a sense of belonging?"
"Canada may be a friendly, accepting, and tolerant nation, but somehow this part was missing. It is hard to grasp and difficult to pinpoint; for it is more than a sense of belonging."
"I had a photo-op by the Oblation, but I did keep my pants on. There was this girl who was going for a jog who was making eyes at me. That or she just thought I was an idiot."
"IN fact, the Canadian Passport is an all access pass in the Philippines. It gets you through security checkpoints faster, gets you invited to prestigious shit, and it drops panties."
I wasn't very willing to write it out in this here blog back then, but I was thinking it and really struggling. Yes, it felt good to be there. But how much of it was because the world is just so fucking unequal? The "third world" loved me because I was from the "first world", and the "first world" didn't regard me too highly at first because I was from the "third world", even though nowadays the "first world" tends to suck up to me or kiss my ass, simply for being from the "third world" - I guess it's the new cool. I guess nowadays it's heroic to be from the "honest, simple, hard-working indigenous aboriginal people of... wherever."

In fact, what I experienced during this Philippine trip of mine was way more extreme than the average traveler's honeymoon period because I had such a great past in the Philippines and a slightly unsavoury newly-arrived-immigrant experience after I left it. For the first time in ten years, things felt like they were going my way. For the first time in ten years, I had status. I was popular with the ladies. Everyone regarded me highly. For once, I really truly felt important. Wanted. Needed. Respected. And yes, even feared.

All of these sparked the idea to call this my "Existential Trip". It's pretentious and everything, but... I honestly began it with the serious question of, "What am I doing here in Canada?" which I then followed up during the flight to the Philippines with, "What will I see? What will I experience?... How much will I have changed?" and finally, right up at the moments I was enjoying myself the most, I would ask myself, "Why is this place (the Philippines) so good to me?"

This inability to have guilt-free fun would dog me for the rest of my four month stay.




Next Post: The Duke: The First Pinoy I ever met in Calgary



Related Posts: Digging Deeper: Why I'm in the Philippines for an extended visit
                          The Trigger
                          Why Keep on Telling the Story: It's not just About Me. 
                          Some Clarity
                          White Privilege in the Philippines: When it is Worse to be Filipino  
                          White Privilege in the Philippines Part II: Not just a black and white issue
                          What no one is saying about Coke's SuperBowl Ad
                          The Useless kids of the Filipino Middle to Upper Class
                          Deconstructing and Unpacking Rice and Rice Growing 
                          Of F.O.P.s, F.O.B.s and Filipino Clubs

Further Reading: A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines?, James Fallows, The Atlantic,
                              November 1987 

                              Brain Drain and Brain Gain: The Migration of Knowledge Workers
                              From and To Canada, John Zhao PhD, Statistics Canada

                              The Role of Multiculturalism Policy in Addressing Social Inclusion 
                              Processes in Canada, Canadian Multiculturalism Education Foundation

                              Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration, and Domestic Work
                              Rhacel Salazar ParreƱas

                              Because People Still Don't Get it, Here's What's Wrong with Having
                              a "Preference" for Asian Women, Audrey Zao, xoJane
                             
                              'Yellow Fever' and the fantasy of the Asian Female, Nicolas Gattig,
                              Japan Times

                              Much of Philippine History was Motivated by Filipinos' butthurt
                              kneejerk reactions, GetRealPhilippines.com





Notes


 
* "West", "Westerner", "Westernized" = These are all loaded terms in the Philippines. I can't quite put my finger on it as to how Filipinos regard it... besides the obvious usage of describing us "westerners". So, I've usually resorted to just putting it in quotes, because everytime I hear its inflection, I feel like it should be up in quotes. 

1 = Nationality. While I've made a point to never mistake ethnicity for nationality, the use of this is proper in this context. While I have no doubt that most, if not all, of those people I knew in my ESL class later became Canadian Citizens, we were all of different nationalities at the time, having only recently moved to Canada.

2 = Canadian born multi-generational Canadians. I wanted to say "white" but it wasn't fair. There are white people who are new to this place as well. While they - the people with stereotypes of me/us Pinoys - did happen to be mostly white, they were mostly people whose ancestors came here so long ago, their current generation has no memory of their immigrant origins. Not every white person in Calgary does it.

3 = One of the Penthouse magazines I had in my stash was a special issue about Tinto Brass' "Caligula" (1974) with Malcolm McDowell. It was already the mid 90's when I was reading this magazine in secret, so even then I was learning about Film History! It would be around the mid 2000's when I finally saw "Caligula" in its entirety. It did not disappoint.

4 = Another thing I was asked by so many Pinoys in the Philippines during my 4 months stay was whether I was into Pinays, whether I would consider taking one of the Pinays still over there as a wife. In fact, I got asked this so often that I suspect people thought that's what I was after during that visit. Which I myself found secretly insulting; it's a little too shallow, if you ask me, as though every existential crisis could be simply solved by pair bonding.

But anyway, back to being a noob in Calgary: I also was asked by some Latina in highschool whether I was into Pinays - and it was asked while pointing at some group of Pinays in school back then, as though it was "do you like that one?" And I said, hell no, because I wasn't at all attracted to her example. This shocked her, as though she was expecting the opposite answer. She prodded for the reason. And I may have simply answered my usual reply that it would be racist to ignore (or select) other girls based on that. Something which I actually do believe in.

Days later, because I recalled my old Playboy and Penthouse stash, before I moved to Canada, I suddenly imagined how she would have reacted if I had replied instead, "Naw, I've been jerking off to chicks of all races since I discovered how to play with myself."

And before you judge me, read this first: Because People Still Don't Get It, Here's What's Wrong with Having a "Preference" for Asian Women.
If anything, you should commend me for having a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, fantasy base.


5 = I have family in Hawaii who moved there just after World War II. I have seen photos and letters my Grandfather (mother's side) kept from their communication. Today, I have family in California, New York State, Florida, and of course, the ones in Hawaii. We're really an international cast.

I almost forgot: My Father talked to my grandparents (his in-laws - my Mom's folks) in English because they were from different regions with different languages. They might even actually be considered as technically different ethnic groups - for sure they would have been different "kingdoms" or territories before colonialism. Few Canadian-born multi-generational Canadians realize how ridiculously diverse the Philippines is, and that's ok I guess. Still, it's a good lesson in why you must never consider people belonging to one nationality as homogenous. As a kid, I did not need to look very far to know that Filipinos differed from each other a great deal.

But I digress. The point is: The Philippines has a lot of languages. Too many, in fact, for any real unity to exist. For some time during its Colonial History, Spanish was the official language. Then, English for a short period. Pilipino (which is really Tagalog) only became the official language during the Marcos era, I believe. Even though Marcos was an Ilocano like my Mom. It's really confusing. I seriously feel now that Tagalog is too Manila-centric (being that it is in the Tagalog region). Many of the people living in other regions, my Grandparents in the Ilocos region in particular, would much rather have it as English - at least that was one sentiment I heard a lot. 

6 = Home. I think as late as late as 2004, even though I had became a Canadian Citizen by 2000, I still saw the Philippines as home. In my mind there was not a permanence to my stay in Canada. I was always "going to go back, right after I finish school."  Of course, I finished Broadcasting in 2004, yet I stayed here.

7 = Mr Stanford's joke is nearly copy-pasted from a posting elsewhere, in case you've read it and were wondering why it may sound familiar.

8 = ...at least around the time I arrived here in Calgary during the late 90's. Joe Clark's era was over. Harper's was yet to come.

9 = Top of the heap: Don't get me wrong, Calgary IS a great place, but it was a city of less than a million in 1997. There were a lot of things it did not have back then (still doesn't, right now). Also, the Calgarians I met back then were never haughty about it at all! So, I don't necessarily begrudge them for this. They were just.... innocent, I guess? As in, they simply fail to realize that I could have come from a place that has just more of everything. 

I guess in their mind, if it has more of everything, why move? Right? Well, it has more of traffic, more crime, more corruption, more rude people, more pollution... etc. The only thing it has less of is space.

10 = In case you didn't know, English IS the second language in the Philippines as well as the language of instruction and of business. Like I said in another post, I have family still living in the Philippines who speak less Tagalog and speak better English than I do. It was just so weird having it pointed out like that. Granted, I had some adjusting to do: Some big words weren't used on a daily basis in my life in the Philippines, so I had to learn them. 

And on the flipside of things, some daily words one uses in the Philippines were too big to use here on a daily basis. As an example of the latter, it is fairly common to hear fastfood workers in the Philippines to say: "Sir, please feel free to avail yourself of our free promo". 

Avail? When I first heard it, I had to make her repeat it many times, to her frustration. Here in Alberta, it would have been, "Would you like to enter our free promo?" Simple, to the point and without flowery flourishes.

11 = New Arrivals. I realize that in the introduction section, I practically said that Philippine culture is collectivist. And then I went on to say how I'd like to be recognized as an individual first. Hypocritical? Nope. Not at all. If anything, part of what I'm saying is that when I moved here, I did not set out to recreate every little bit of culture where I came from, but to absorb what is good from this one. Besides, the Philippines, in its worst moments, can still be so tribalistic in so many ways, that perhaps using "collectivist" was wrong... 

As James Fallows puts it:

"...when observing Filipino friendships I thought often of the Mafia families portrayed in The Godfather: total devotion to those within the circle, total war on those outside. Because the boundaries of decent treatment are limited to the family or tribe, they exclude at least 90 percent of the people in the country."
12 = ESL. Looking back at my old writings. I definitely made a lot of mistakes, tenses, run on sentences etc. 

I still do all of them now, sadly. I just own it as my style. Point being: It's not like mono-lingual English-only speakers don't make the same mistakes.

I must also add, I am not now the best English writer/speaker. Far from it. But I am glad that by grade 11, I was in regular English Courses. I didn't dominate like I did in ESL, but better to be challenged in something I cared to do than dominate something I cared so little for.

13 = Perhaps some of those kids were also left-brained math, engineering, and science types who cared little for essays and poetry and what not.

14 = This is going to sound so...  well, I actually don't know how it'll sound, but I do believe it might come off negatively:  I am SO glad my family does not send money "home". I'm so glad my family over there are super baller that they might as well be sending money here, to Canada. Besides, as heroic as the Filipinos are who send money home, I see that as such a bad idea. Look, even Suze Orman agrees!!! Yes, my Dad was an OFW (called OCW back then) at some point, but I'd like to think it was different for us. Nowadays, there is a trend for one breadwinner to fund the lifestyle of extended family members - absolutely ridiculous in my books. Also, believe it or not, my loyalties are with Canada and Canadians now (because I am one), and I just see the whole foreign worker program with slight unease. Yes, I said it. I'll have to make another post about this.

15 = Sometimes I honestly don't get how some white guys don't get how the word "exotic" works - like, I'm NOT going to see someone like me as "exotic". I've had more than one white guy brag about their "cute" Asian girlfriend. I might say, "...O....K. Sure. I guess." Though in my mind I'm thinking, "Did you ask out your maid? WTF? Kudos to you if you think she's cute and exotic, but to me she's common. I mean, it'd be nice if she were actually cute and hot... but she's not! Try to go back to her hometown, see if she even gets noticed." 

Of course I could never say that to their face. It would be racist of me, even if I'm telling the truth! Jesus! If they only realized how much self control I am exerting whenever they present their new love/conquest to me, and there I am, trying so hard not to deflate their egos. 


Sa Tagalog: Tuwang tuwa si kupal, bakit ko sasabihing mukhang katulong ang bagong gelpren nya?

There too is the phenomena of truely cute and or hot Asian chicks getting it on with fat, overweight, over the hill, old white men, but if that's what those Pinays wanted, then that's what they got. Mostly, they're nice guys, so I'm fine with that. You get what you bargained for. The white dudes with less than average Asian girls, but think of them as supermodels? I dunno, I guess I feel sorry for them more than anything - blinded by "exoticism".

16 = Flattering view of Pinoys: Once I was reading Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the Banality of Evil", for Dr. Margo Husby's class. I was in fact, researching for a school presentation, which I later posted here. I was in the library, and a white girl from another class approached me and told me all these things all while raving about her maid. Or a friend she just recently made, who turned out to be a Filipina maid?  Jesus... I've forgotten. The point is, she was just all praises for Filipinos, and there I was just so turned off - because I'm logical and shit. The topic is weird enough on its own, what made it weirder was that she just brought up out of the blue. There I was, minding my own business, and her first come-on was, "OMG! You Pinoys are such good people!"

Unfortunately, only afterwards, did I wonder: "Was she hitting on me?"

It sucks, but, I seem to have the complex where I just can't take a compliment. Like I said, this place can't just go from putting me down to kissing my ass and expect me not to develop any issues.


17 = Refresher of my examples: "You people must live in straw huts and ride water buffaloes", "You people must not have seen a big production play before", "Omg! Unlike your people, you speak good English!"

18 = One of my Mom's relatives who are among the top one-percenters in the Philippines told me this a story: 

"My sister in New York (State) told me when we were younger that I should move there with her (she had been there since the 70's).  I said, 'No maids? No chauffers? No cook? No servants?  NO WAY!'" 
 And he said that as honestly as he can. He really, honestly meant it. 

My Mom has said something along these lines as well.

As I mentioned, when we were just new to Canada, my Mom's first job was as a cashier. When things got bad, someone who caught wind of my Mom's dissatisfaction tried recruiting her to be a Nanny, or more euphemistically called "caregiver". 

My Mom's response? "I did not even change my kid's diapers - I had my own maids doing that for me (back in the day, in the Philippines) - why in the hell am I going to change some other kids' soiled underthings?"  

I know it's not exactly the most loving thing to say, but I actually admired her for that. Because even though it was such a demotion for my parents to move here, at least they drew a line as to how low they'll go.

This then brings me to another thought which I may or may not expand in another post: Some sick, twisted, elitist polyp in my brain actually sometimes thinks that only losers migrate; only those who can't hack it "back home" move; only those without self respect will demote themselves just to live in "the west"; and that being an immigrant - already an 'uncool' move to begin with - becomes less cool the more Filipino immigrants come here.

Yes, I know, it's a fucked up way of thinking on my behalf. I know it. I realize it. Once again, this after all, is why I write it all out. It's catharsis. I'm trying to understand things. I'm not the type of person who just carries opinions without examining them. It's not that I believe some opinions can't be helped - but I do believe some opinions come from somewhere, with or without your control. Sometimes life experiences force your hand (or brain, in this case) to occupy a certain position. If you can somehow be conscious of why you make certain choices, why you form certain opinions, then maybe, just maybe, you may finally stop doing it simply out of reflex.


In the bigger picture, I could be talking about the basis for most prejudices such as racism, sexism, homophobia.... anything! In the greater scheme of things, the lack of examination is why these old-timey prejudices still plague us to this day. 

19 = Just like the Patatas clique and their cultural shows, I now feel that the image most people have of Canadian multiculturalism is misled - most people seem to equate it to overt cultural displays. I still believe Canada is multicultural and I do celebrate its diversity. I just wish the images associated with it were more subtle. Those overt displays of culture?  Mere cosplay.  And in the case of the Patatas who dress up in native Pinoy garb, if a white person wore that (unlike the patatas who are white only on the inside), it might be considered offensive. Even racist... like this (click link). Yet the Filipinos who are really "white inside"? They can get away with it. Where's the justice in that?

Expect another post regarding this.

Oh, and another thing: This makes the point of never generalizing and considering one nationality as homogenous all the more important. The fact that I still viewed the FOB group back in highschool as fractured is a testament to this - despite the fact that we have been all "screened" before ever reaching Canada. I have also met some adults who say something along these lines: Not every Pinoy in this city is worth hanging out with. 


Sa Tagalog, hindi porke't pare pareho tayong Pinoy, pare pareho na rin tayo ng kulo. 

20 = I once read of a story of a criminal enterprise run by Pinoys here in Canada - I have since forgotten what their scheme was, exactly, but it had to do with organized crime.

When I read the story, I actually celebrated it a bit in my mind. Perhaps it's sick and twisted of me, but you wouldn't believe how refreshing it was to hear about "bad" Filipinos doing "bad" things in this here place. The fact that they were engaged in something as "cool" as organized crime made it all the better. In my mind I thought, "Finally! Filipinos who aren't always straight edge and law abiding."




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