Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Pilipino Axe-Cent

The Filipinos I know speak much better English than I speak Tagalog, but that won't stop me from making another list.

Fs become Ps and Vs become Bs
By listening to enough conversation in Filipino, I started to pick up on the fact that Fs get converted to Ps ("fifty" to "pifty") and Vs often become Bs ("Biernes" instead of "Viernes"). This and other linguistic idiosyncrasies lay the foundation for frequent mispronunciation of English words. By the way, none of the following examples actually come from my wife, but she likes to read about herself so mentioning her again scores brownie points.

archie-teck - This person designs buildings. Pronounced phonetically here (which makes perfect sense).
choco-laite - Third syllable pronounced like late.
reee-leee? - Axe-cent on both syllables.
two porty pour - The number 244 called over the PA at Seafood City.
bri-yawn - Accent on yawn. I've heard my first name pronounced like this before.
pire place - Where logs are burnt and the letter F is forgotten.
creeteeseesum - The letter i becomes ee.
san jego - The di is pronounced as a j.
canajian - The di is pronounced as... you know.
calipornia - Most Filipinos do a better job of pronouncing my state's name than the sitting governor, who calls it cowlifornia.
hippopotamus - Americans put the accent on pot. I've heard it pronounced with the accent on tam.

Speaking of the Governator, my wife tells me that I sound like him when I try to speak Tagalog! Yikes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Filipino Entertainers in America

Animals and Gambling
To surprise the Mrs., we visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park in May 2008. I'll never forget that Saturday because I won more than $1300 in a single poker hand at Pechanga Resort & Casino after a relatively uneventful day at the park (I still prefer the actual zoo). Even if the park was a little boring, we ran into two celebrities with random connections to our own lives.

Celebrity Sightings
First, we ran into Dhani Jones, an NFL linebacker (that means he's a badass) for the Cincinnati Bungles who has an adventure program on the Travel Channel. Jones also starred in football at The University of Michigan, my alma mater. For whatever reason, I went up and introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes about his show and football.

A few minutes later, while standing in line for the safari ride, my wife spotted legendary Filipina singer/diva Kuh Ledesma a couple groups ahead of us. We didn't speak to her because the line was moving but my wife started to sing one or two of her greatest hits and explained that Kuh is the Filipino equivalent of Mariah Carey or something. Anyway, running into her reminded me of a story from my wife's childhood....

Chasing Planes and My Mother Imelda
When my wife was little, she was fascinated by planes and would stop whatever she was doing to stare in wonder as they flew overhead (good thing she didn't live next to an airport). Upon observing this behavior, her mother rightly predicted that Mrs. Ober da Bakod would grow up and travel the world.

My wife had an active imagination, apparently, because she also insisted that she was actually long lost daughter of another famous singer, Imelda Papin. The Vegas entertainer was everything my wife longed to be: famous, an entertainer, rich, and fair-skinned.

I'm not judging, mind you. When I was little my favorite dinner was pancakes (one of my birthday meals, thanks to an understanding mother) and I endeavored to be an Orkin man because the company uniforms and hats were cool.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Apology and Stuff About Filipino Communities

I'm Back
It's been a week since my last update but I'm going to get out of the habit of apologizing for my procrastination. I have a life to live and one laptop to share with my blog-happy wife. The low traffic numbers on Google Analytics are a constant reminder that updates = page views. Now let's get back to the gist of the post.

Filipino Communities in the U.S.
I've noticed that, unlike many concentrated Chinese and Japanese enclaves found in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Filipinos tend to spread out and blend into surrounding communities. Los Angeles has Historic Filipinotown, but how "historic" is something created in 2002?

For whatever reason, Filipinos (generally speaking) seem to blend into their communities. Maybe this tendency to blend has something to do with the history of the Philippines itself. Unlike some other isolated Pacific Island/Southeast Asian nations, the Philippines were ruled by the Spanish for 100s of years, brutalized by the Japanese during WWII and more recently populated by Chinese immigrants. Maybe all of these foreign influences have resulted in a more adaptable population, or maybe I'm just making reckless assumptions based on limited information.

Unofficial U.S. Filipino Capital?
So what can be considered the capital of Pinoy culture in the States? A lot of people might point to Las Vegas where Filipinos are the largest Asian minority group and many are employed as casino dealers and other public-facing occupations in the hospitality trade. Well, based on five minutes of unsubstantiated Internet research, that theory gets blown out of the water. It turns out that Los Angeles has 400,000 Filipinos alone, which might be ten times the amount of Vegas kababayan.

As a percentage of population, Daly City, a suburb of San Francisco, has the highest percentage of Filipino Americans of any mid-sized city in the U.S. We drove through on our way back from the Bay Area last Thanksgiving but didn't stop to take in the sights.

Home is Where the Puso Is
You aren't going to find the center of Filipino culture in any one community... The Land of Lechon can be experienced in the homes of your Filipino neighbors and friends, in restaurants and grocery stores where you can buy fish balls, and on most cruise ships sailing the seven seas.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Random Thoughts and My Filipino Friends

First Things First
So it's been a few days since my last update and I'm still working through the guilt associated with missing a day(s). I suppose thinking of blogging as a marathon would be a healthier view of the situation, but I'm holding on to this outdated notion that blog = diary.

Anyway, with less than 10 updates in my archive, I'm amazed at the reach and attention these posts have garnered... I interviewed with a certain mouse-related media company last week and one of the interviewers had read some of it. Today, I was catching up with an old coworker and she also mentioned this blog and was surprised to learn that I'm remarried.

Filipino Friends
I'll qualify this by admitting that most of my Filipino friends were my wife's friends first. I've had Filipino coworkers in the past without ever realizing they were Filipino. I just figured last names like Gumayaga, Gapuzan and Ladaga were Samoan or Hawaiian or Polynesian or something, never really appreciating that your chances of encountering a Samoan in California are infinitesimal next to meeting a Filipino.

In general (I love to qualify everything I write so as not to paint myself into a corner) most of the Filipinos with whom I'm friends are pleasant, educated and very laid back. The men seem quiet, mild and a little hard to read. Maybe their personalities shine through when communicating in Tagalog or their native dialect, but my impression is that these people are smart, good-hearted souls who enjoy life without taking things to extremes. Again, most of my Filipino friends here in So Cal are physical therapists, nurses and professionals, so I admit that my perspective is limited. But it seems like my white friends (and Asian and African American for that matter) are a little more boisterous, a little more outspoken and a little more inclined to self-destruction and depression.

Filipino women, by contrast, seem more outspoken and assertive than the men. We attended a white guy-Filipina girl wedding in August and it was the women that took center stage at the reception. When we go clubbing, it's the Filipina women that seem to be a little more social than the men. Some other observations of Filipino men and women in America...

1) The women like to buy Louis Vuitton handbags.
2) Both men and women usually drive an import.
3) Filipinos often live in Filipino-dominated towns like Carson and Daly City.
4) A lot of Filipinos work at the post office.
5) Filipino tourists seem to enjoy shopping and sight-seeing almost as much as Japanese tourists.
6) Filipinos have cousins in every major city in the United States - my wife has more family in
the States than I do and my family has been here much, much longer than hers.
7) Filipinos will travel, out of season or in, all over the damn country. My Filipino friend took his dad visiting from Manila to Mt. Rushmore in December! Seriously, these people are hard core about their sight-seeing.
8) Filipinos like to take pictures of every thing, especially plated food in restaurants.
9) Filipinos like to read this blog, apparently. I've met a lot of cool people on Twitter by posting my updates there.
10) Filipinos can take a joke and have a sense of humor about themselves... I haven't gotten any hate mail yet!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Wife the Igorot?

Note: There comes a point in a blogger's career where he/she posts an update that qualifies as too honest or containing TMI (too much information). For better or worse, this could very well be that moment for me.

The Image at Right is NOT My Wife

Because of her dark complexion and curly hair, my wife was often teased for being "igorot" or "ita" during her childhood. Like many of her fellow Filipinas, she'd prefer to be fair-skinned. It's funny that people of color often covet fair skin while ultra-pasty types like myself strive to be tan.

Family Ties
Upon meeting her lola and tito, both of whom possess strong family features, I thought the following: This is a nice family and I bet that their ancestors killed a-hole European explorers back in the day, shrunk their heads and celebrated by donning their newly-acquired undergarments. Well, I discovered on Wikipedia that headhunting was common in the Philippines (along with many other areas of the ancient world) so my instincts were sort of verified.

Switching Gears
Okay, now that I've offended at least two or three ethnicities in this update, I wanted to take a moment and acknowledge the terrible land slide that claimed so many lives in Baguio City. If there's a silver lining in such tragic times, it's hearing TV Patrol World anchor Ted Failon say, "Salamat, Rowena 'Ina' Reformina." Kudos to Ms. Reformina for wading through the flood to report on the environmental disaster unfolding in Luzon.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Filipino Parties - A White Guy's Perspective

I've been to a few Filipino fetes and have some observations. Whatever the occasion (holiday, birthday party, memorial, boxing match), expect the following:

1) The dining room table isn't for dining - Typically the table is so loaded down with grub that guests have to retreat to an open seat, plate on lap.
2) Paper plates - I know Filipino families have real plates (brought out for formal occasions), but paper plates, plastic forks and knives and plastic cups are standard operating procedure.
3) TFC - It's on the TV, sound up or down, for the whole party. The only programming to supercede TFC is a Manny Pacquiao fight or item 4).
4) Magic Mic - Plug it into your TV and it's Karaoke in da house!
5) Thirsty for a soft drink? You don't have to make the long trek all the way to the fridge, because a two-liter bottle of your favorite tasty beverage is right there on the table! This is often the case with condiments as well.
6) Beer - The hosts are always handing me a can or bottle when I walk in the door. I guess they figure I'm just another binge-drinking white boy, or maybe they just feel sorry for me because I don't speak Tagalog and getting a buzz on must be the best way to pass the time. On more than one occasion, I've ended up drinking beer and watching TFC while my wife chats it up with her friends.
7) Food pushers - The same people plying me with beer are handing me a plate and telling me to "eat, eat." I suppose it'd be an insult to not partake, but I plan to NEVER make that mistake. Word to the wise, fast for a few hours before a Filipino party and bring Tupperware if you don't feel like leaving empty-handed.

There's more where that came from. Stay tuned for future updates.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another Update Coming Soon

Checking In
Sorry, fans. I'm neck deep in work/interviewing and will be updating with a post about Filipino parties soon!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend Top 10

The List
In particular order...

1. The wife's update
2. Surf and turf at Tito Frank's in Oxnard
3. The almost miracle comeback at Spartan Stadium
4. Dexter
5. This video (R-rated language) about social networks
6. Jump roping
7. The Bagel Broker
8. Orzo with roasted vegetables
9. My first taste of avocado ice cream
10. Hitting four of a kind at the Friday night poker game

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Last Night's Hiatus and Food (Continued)

Did You Miss Me?
Sorry, fans and kababayan, for skipping last night's update. The wife and I went to a '60s-themed surprise party for her boss's 60th birthday, and the Patron was flowing at the open bar. Here I am looking fly in my hippie duds. Anyway, with 345 impressions to date, I'm beginning to buckle under the awesome weight of blogship.

My Wife's Cooking
We don't eat a lot of traditional Filipino cuisine at home. It's shameful, actually, we don't even have a bag of white rice in the kitchen right now. Don't get me wrong, we take the occasional trip to Seafood City or Island Pacific to stock up on essentials, but most of our recipes come courtesy of, and our Food & Wine books. The real sacrifice is obviously the one made by my wife, she misses traditional Filipino cooking so we rarely pass up on the opportunity to attend a Pinoy party and the usual buffet bonanza.

tersweet Homecoming
On her recent trip back to the Philippines for her tita's funeral (may her Catholic soul rest in peace), she was able to enjoy the authentic flavors of home for the first time in six years. The circumstances of her visit certainly could have been better, but I took some comfort in knowing she was with her family and eating the cuisine she can't find in the States.

Eating My Way Through Luzon
When I get the chance to visit Manila, Baguio City and some of the provinces next year, I can't wait to try some authentic lechon, sisig and more. Until then we'll have to settle for Max's, DJ Bibingkahan and good 'ole Jolibee. And of course I'll try the seafood (Adobo style and/or with coconut milk) as well as the Pancit, upo and more.