Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tips on How to Fake it (Become pseudo-Filipino)


1. Arm yourself with the digits for karaoke songs at all times. Do not leave yourself at the mercy of friends to pick your song…. “Ocho, Ocho” and “The Spaghetti Song” are my personal favorites. They require a lot of repetition and absolutely none of the high octaves that are painfully included in most people’s personal favorites. Yea, it’s a cheap shot, I know.

Another easy song for the not-so-talented-or-otherwise-gifted-in-any-of-the-entertainment arts that Filipinos love and excel in is “Wild Thang” and “Betty Davis Eyes” which is more about emphatic speaking than singing. The ladies at my house roll every time I sing them, especially when I had a bad soar throat and thought I really did sound like Stevie Nicks.

My friends go wild because their tone-deaf American friend is singing in Tagalog and knows the words to the songs. Also, it’s not as highly embarrassing as getting stuck singing “Top of the World” by The Carpenters in front of the entire faculty, especially since I hadn’t heard that song since I was 5 years old.

2. Never ever leave home without your cologne, powder, toothbrush, fan, compact umbrella, and handkerchief, (especially since you make the ridiculous 5 minutes commute, a total of 12 blocks to the high school every day), otherwise, be prepared for co-workers (of the same sex, of course) to cluck their tongues at you as they shove recycled printer paper up the back of your shirt to absorb the sweat. These supplies come in handy on trips outside the office which always have the potential to become longer visits than you plan do to social courtesies that need to be followed. A one hour appointment can turn into lunch with the associate afterwards and even more chica-chica in her/his office after lunch….

3. When in doubt of how to answer someone’s question, because it is too personal etc., just laugh or say, “secreto”. That always seems to work and satisfy people that they haven’t offended you by asking the question and that the two of you are on good and close terms.

4. Become a very creative liar.

I’ve been a pitiful liar all my life except in writing, which may be why I always used to leave my parents notes the next morning as to why I missed my curfew rather than facing them and buckling within seconds. Most of the time people really want to know where you are going just that you are okay going there alone and don’t need any help finding a particular store or government building. Where are going? Where have you been? is the American equivalent of “How are you?” People only answer half the time and its said merely as a form of greeting half the time more than anything else….

Also, after being asked by 40 people within a mile radius these questions, you start to learn to respond to these questions only when you recognize the person or they keep shouting out the question even after you are almost a block away. Puffing out, “’Yan lang” is a sufficient answer to their pleasantries….Which means “just there”.

People also feel compelled to come with you where ever you go because you will rarely see a male or female riding a trike, jeepney or walking without a close friend at their elbow. American independence seems anti-social to them…and I guess it can be sometimes. Filipinos are extremely generous with themselves and their time….If they are every running late, it is not because they are not good at keeping track of time, it is usually because they saw someone on their walk to class/church/the town hall/etc. and didn’t want to be so rude as to interrupt them and run off just to get to a meeting on time. People will sit long after a meeting is over and chit chat, share marienda or a snack and then separate. It’s as if that is the real reason for the visit, to socialize and the meeting was just an excuse to see that other person….There are so many business associates I’ve meet here that are always remarking when they see me that they miss me and want to get together soon and catch up rather than coming out and saying they are interested in working on a future project together. It’s really an endearing quality about Filipino culture that I quote admire and wish to adopt, even though it has taken me a while to get used to after 10 years working in a completely contrary professional environment.

But it’s so much easier to tell someone you are going to the office to finish up paperwork rather than have your host cousin trail you to the supermarket to get tampons and then have to explain what they are used for….

5. Always check your coinage before handing it over to the trike driver. OB are considered an import (My package got held in customs because of these little buggars) it still does not qualify as local currency and will only reward you with a befuddled but politely silent and about to accept the halo-halo. Be prepared to smile widely and give one your nervous laughs.


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