My family visited me last month. The trip wasn’t short of laughs, conversations, shopping, politics, sightseeing, good (aka out of my budget) food, arguments, headaches, and of course, love. With family you get it all, right? Mine is no exception. I love my family and am so lucky they spent so much time, energy, and money to visit me. I miss them so much already and am counting down until I get to see them again! Along with our tropical vacationing, visiting my beautiful site was on the list. Since they have left, community members have reminded me on several occasions how much more beautiful my mom is than me. Now, the truth of the matter is, my mom IS beautiful. I say this proudly, aside from her beauty, the woman ages like you wouldn’t believe and is blessed with a very good metabolism! However, in addition to that, she is fair, much more so than me. Filipinos value fairness. If you are light skinned, your beauty factor increases exponentially. Scarfs and umbrellas are no stranger when it’s sunny outside along with your options of whitening lotions, soaps, etc. at your local mall and supermarket. This fascination with fair skin is baffling to me. I come from a world of tanning salons; I used to work at one during college and girls would eagerly ask me what tanning bed I used because they wanted MY tan. I try to explain this to my good friend who tells her child that she is too dark or to my other friend who will never leave the house without covering her face with a hat or something of the like. However, they are always kind enough to remind me that my tan in beautiful on me since I am a boombay. This is how they refer to people of Indian descent. This brings me to a whole different topic.
Local: What are you? (Referring to my nationality)
Me: I am American.
Local : *confused look* and responds with “But you don’t look American…” or if I am with another Filipino asks them in Ilokano “What is she, really?”
Aside from the fact that I am not Indian, I am of Nepali descent, I am American. This is a statement I repeat here almost daily. Filpinos have this view that all Americans should be white and are always intrigued when I tell them I am American. The whole American Melting Pot concept has been missed. I don’t blame Filipinos, when media constantly depicts white “Americans” and the media places added value on such. This is the reality. However, my job as a non-white American is to inform them of this misconception. My favorite way of describing the various ethnicities and cultures of Americans is simple, I tell them we’re like a halo-halo. I’m not sure how familiar you are with Filipino desserts, but halo-halo is one with a bunch of things in it, mix-mix as they like to call it, topped with ube ice cream on top. It’s really a delight and you must try if you haven’t, but, getting back to topic, as soon as I explain it this way I more often than not receive “oh” accompanied by that general look of understanding. All is right!
I see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James memorabilia everywhere. The NBA is extremely popular here and at any given time of the day, B TV (the sports channel in the Philippines) is airing some NBA game from the states. My brother had a field day at one of the markets in Manila when he found 450 PHP basketball jerseys (equivalent to $12) and walked away with the best starting line-up ever. However, on Harbowl Superbowl Sunday I sat at home with my computer and my finger on the ESPN refresh button as I excitedly (and anxiously) kept up with the Niners vs. Ravens game. Football doesn’t have the same influence as basketball here, unless you’re referring to futbol. I have been talking about a 49ers comeback since my freshmen year of college as I proudly posted a 49ers calendar in mine and Patrice’s dorm. Where’s the western influence when I need it!? I guess I have to remind myself of the work i love to do and beautiful places i get to see while I’m here. I can’t have my cake and eat it too…but I can wear my 49ers shirt (compliments of the bestie, thanks, again, Pat!), eat some halo halo, and wait for the 49ers to make it back to the Superbowl next year (and actually win it this time) instead! Please feel free to entertain yourself down below with some pictures from my family’s vacay :)