Thursday, April 14, 2011

might as well be a boy named sue

April 14, 2011
Here’s the thing, I live in a fish bowl and I don’t mind one bit. Sure people stare at me, but you know what? I stare right back. And truth be told, I stare extra hard at white people. I’m telling you it is like living in a mall or airport. I just watch the world go by and want to know everybody’s story.
People shout at me all the time, and again I don’t mind. I don’t mind people wanting to know where I’m going, because the thing is they really don’t care.
I don’t mind when the kids shout my way and let everyone this side of the Pecos (I don’t know what you say in the Philippines, so we will stick with Pecos) know that I am an Americano. Usually, if it is children I yell back Filipino and they laugh.
I don’t mind these same kids asking me my name. Again I turn it on them and if they tell me their names I tell them mine. Usually they just laugh
But there is something I do mind. The other day C and I were coming out of the mall (so maybe I really do live there) and I decided to take a Palo Jeepney to Campetic. The ushers were shouting at us (there has been debate about whether to call them ushers, I coined that term but don’t think it is their official job title) and ushered us towards a Palo jeep. When he saw we were takers he ushered us the front seat. As he was shutting the door his usher friend came up and asked us our names. C gave hers and they said it was mahusay, I agree she does have a beautiful name (see what I did there, now you want to know her name).
Then upon giving them my name second usher shouted right in my ear: LALAKI!!!
To this I replied: Diri lalaki, babaye ako.
He laughed and the first conductor said that he has a brother with that name.
They went about their way ushering other travelers to their respective jeeps and I heard the second conductor say more than once lalaki while sniggering to himself. Couldn’t he tell that I obviously was not a boy? So ya, that I do mind. And that I get a lot. No matter how much I stress the Z sound and make sure it is not an /s/. Curse you Spanish influence!

Another thing I don’t mind is a Dunkin’ Donuts parade. I was in a coffee shop down town and there we saw just that. Then we went to the mall, and you know what? The parade had made its way to the mall. Inside. The. Mall. Marching band and all. That I do mind also, but apparently Filipinos don’t mind at all. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

quarter of a century

April 11, 2011
I’ve been blessed in my adult life with some hardcore birthday celebrations! Parties are always better when they last all week, and I’m glad to say this year delivered.
Celebration #1: Sunday April 3. D’s birthday is on April 5th but like me she was going to be gone all week, so the party was held early. She invited me on over to celebrate and it was amazing. I tried to keep it under wraps that my birthday was that week also, but she let the word leak. So our old lady barkadas sang to us all evening. We talked and ate and laughed and had a good time. I’m glad I was able to share it with her.

Celebration #2: Two part installments, Monday April 4 and Tuesday April 5. A bit more low key but spread over two days was the celebration for K, who also has is birthday on the fifth. We went to dinner Monday night where he bought himself some drinks and we had some pasta, then the following night when everyone was in town we went to an Internet bar called Brod Pitt (were not quite sure if this is play on Brad Pit or what). It was nice, and we ended up being joined by a volunteer with a different program from the United Kingdom and a Filipino pal of his.

Celebration #3: Thursday April 7. Because I was in Tacloban surrounded by Americans I was spared the traditional Filipino birthday wake up call at 4 in the morning. I knew at D’s party they were trying to organize it and I told them over and over again I’d be out of town, I hope they believed me and didn’t come serenade my Auntie. Instead we went to class in the morning, had lunch, went on a scavenger hunt and found a place to go for dinner. A crazy place called Sombrero that was more Middle Eastern than anything else. They did have chicken fajitas, but also kebobs, rice, and even Buffalo wings. They brought out a bowl of ice cream, and maybe it was some birthday magic but it tasted just like Cold stone cake batter. I passed the bowl around and every body got a bite.
After dinner the festivities continued to a place near our dorms that actually use to be Imelda Marcos’ backyard (or at least in the right location to have been her backyard). We stopped and watched some baklas dance.
This is such a look into this part of Filipino culture that I’ve never really mentioned before. Here, sexual orientation is very much associated with…sexual identity, I guess. I don’t really know how to explain it. Around grade 5 or 6 people start saying if a boy is gay, and then all of a sudden that boy is put into a gender class of their own. They start sitting with the girls and are very effeminate (way more effeminate than me). As adults they get manicures, wear make up, some wear female clothes. I’m amazed how, I don’t know, normal it is to have this in such a very strong and traditional catholic culture.
So, anyways we watched these baklas dance cha-cha. It is amazing to watch one ‘guy’ dance the ‘female’ part with flourish and fancy footwork, then turn around the next song and have the same flourish as the lead. So we are oohing and ahing and then MD jumps in and starts cutting a rug with them. More come asking us to dance so H and I go for it. Luckily this song was not cha-cha, but another traditional dance with a four count that I am way better at. So there I was counting and dancing and my lead was great telling me when to turn, and when to do this move, and patient with me when I danced out of my flip flop. It was so fun!
After that song we went over to the videoke section and sang away. Again another great look into Filipino culture. They sing amazing solos to ballads that they’ve been perfecting since childhood. We sing pop songs that the whole group basically shouts along with. My song of choice is Build Me Up Buttercup, but also attacked a Queen song or two. So much fun, but we always get the feeling that the Filipinos hate sharing the mic time with us.

Celebration #4: Did I mention the whole week was language camp? Which means all the people that I spent those first months in country with were in town, minus two and plus two new guys! We hit up all the usual Tacloban haunts, found new places, and had some good catch up. Saw a couple movies in the theatre, spent hours in the local coffee shop and made plans for the future. November was a long time ago. Oh ya, and we also worked on some language skills, but really that was very secondary.

Celebration #5: I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be getting packages well into July. I love how much love comes my way from the states!