It’s definitely no secret that I’m Filipino. I mean, it’s not like I go out onto the streets and make giant “Look at me, I’m Filipino!” proclamations when I get the chance – upon first glance, people can usually tell what my ethnicity is. That being said, it’s not normally something I think about until one of the following things happen: 1. Someone asks what ethnicity I am “just to make sure” or 2. I do something that is just absolutely, undeniably Filipino. It is during those times that I start to realize that different practices and cultural customs I was raised on find ways to filter themselves into my everyday living. Make no mistake, I am by no means ashamed of any of it – it amuses me more than anything, especially when I hear one or both of my parents’ voices in my head when it does happen. Here are a few examples that have happened to me recently that made me realize, “Wow, I’m definitely Filipino.”
1. Phone Conversations
If you walk into any Filipino household, and someone just so happens to be on the phone (more often than not, it’s the head female of the household), you can hear the conversation through the thickest of walls from the furthest corner of the house. What’s more, if the person on the other side of the conversation is another Filipino, every word of the conversation could be heard verbatim from miles away. Growing up, I was always surrounded by loud conversations, especially the ones over the phone. I was, and still am, a quiet and shy person, so whenever a person’s voice is elevated in the slightest, I start to get uncomfortable. I never expected myself to become one with my Philippine kin and have conversations louder than a whisper – up until it was pointed out to me recently.
A few days ago, my supervisors at work were incredibly amused by the way I speak to people on the phone when someone calls my office. Apparently, I yell, much like the way my parents do when they call one another, or when they talk to pretty much anybody. When they asked why I spoke with such impressive volume, I found myself telling them the exact same thing my parents told me when I asked them why my grandpa was talking so loud on the phone: “I wanted to make sure they could hear me.” I know that certain things from my upbringing filter into my adult life – I just never expected talking loudly would be one of those things.
2. Meeting Other Filipinos
Growing up in Sacramento, and pretty much anywhere else, the Filipinos are an elusive bunch, something I realized pretty early on. Growing up, there was hardly another Filipino kid in my classes, and if there ever was, we often kept each other within eyesight. This excitement translated itself over to my adult life, and now whenever I meet another Filipino, or someone who was raised under Filipino customs, there is this understood camaraderie and instant chemistry. This could be due to the fact that all interaction with another Filipino only happened at family gatherings, or on trips to Seafood City or other Asian supermarkets. Whenever my parents met a new Filipino, they instantly became best friends, and later found out that they either grew up in the same village, or they, by some twisted Once Upon A Time-esque circumstance, happened to be distant relatives (I am now convinced that I’m related to all of my Filipino friends in some way). Meeting another Filipino was, and still is, just as exciting as meeting someone you went to the same high school with.
3. Moving House Procedures and Superstitions
I have recently moved out and into my own place, and am still going through the ongoing list of things that I don’t have and forgot that I needed. Prior to moving out, my dad went through a long list of items he thought I might need, among those things being rice and, the very Filipino, patis (that’s fish sauce for my non-Filipino readers). But perhaps the one thing that both he and my mom made sure I did when I finally moved was to bring rice and salt into the new house first (BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE!!). Every time my sister moved into a new place, they enforced this very peculiar yet somehow kind of valid practice on her, and she did just so. It was later explained to me that carrying in rice and salt first into your new place of living would insure a never-ending supply of God’s grace, and the otherwise minimum essentials needed to live – if you run out of things to eat, at the very least, you can cook rice and eat it with salt to get by. Needless to say, salt and rice were the first two things I carried into the new house, and I made sure I let my parents know just to give them (and, frankly, myself) peace of mind. It’s only a matter of time before my parents make me throw coins into each corner of the house and throw a house warming party.
4. Being “On Time”
The one thing my parents have varying view points on is their perception of time – my dad is a very punctual person, and my mom often runs on what has been coined “Filipino time.” I inherit a lot of traits from my mom, my perception of time being one of those things. Filipino time is often something that runs in every Filipino household – arriving to a party past three o’clock that started at noon could still be deemed as “early.” Unfortunately, this is something that has translated its way into my own personal life, causing me to have my fair share of rushed mornings and frantic “Where are you?!?!” texts and phone calls from my friends. It’s something I need to work on, I know. But am I willing to sacrifice that extra five to ten minutes of sleep? Probably not.
5. The Term “Recycling” Has A Whole Different Meaning
Growing up in my house, I was taught to never throw anything away that could easily be washed and reused later (because “sayang”). I was used to finding plastic utensils mixed with our silverware, empty tubs of butter and other Costco-sized food containers with the rest of the tupperware, and Ziploc bags hanging above the sink waiting to be used again. It wasn’t until I started living on my own that I found out that people actually threw these things away after using them. My first thought was “oh wow how wasteful,” but later came to the realization, “oh yeah that makes sense.” The practice of reusing plastic utensils will probably live within me for the rest of my life, but the day we find pigs flying around will be the day I start reusing plastic water bottles.
There are plenty of other practices and superstitions that will follow me to my grave – the second my palm starts itching, I begin waiting for a large check to come in the mail. Truth be told, I’ll probably never get rid of these things because they’re part of my culture, and have become an inherent part of who I am. No matter how many people give me funny looks upon hearing of these funny little quirks, nothing will keep me from proudly waving that Filipino