I’ve been reminiscent of the Philippines lately, missing family and just the Motherland in general. Call this a Top Ten Things I love about being Filipino or what I miss most about the Philippines. This is a blog that had to be written! For this month’s Top Ten Tuesday, I’m writing about things that are “Uniquely Filipino.”
10. Big Families – It doesn’t matter if you’re an only child, if you’re Filipino, you’re part of a big family. Your cousins, cousins twice and thrice removed, neighbors and in-laws are just like your immediate family (sometimes you’re all even living under one roof, no joke!). There’s nothing like the unconditional, limitless, love from those that share your blood and name, but blood and name aren’t the only things that make a family. In the Philippines, everyone that attends one of your parties is an Auntie or Uncle, lol! I miss my BIG family.
9. Public Transportation – In the Philippines, you don’t need to own a vehicle to get around. Most people get around using public transportation. The Philippines has the most varied types of transportation available and accessible to everyone, of anywhere I’ve ever been. I’m not talking about buses or taxis, I mean jeepneys, tricycles, kalesa, and even three wheeler bikes called “pedicabs.” Check these out:
The “jeepney” is a colorfully decorated jeep-like vehicle that seats anywhere between 6 to 20 people and since they don’t go very fast, and they typically have fixed routes, people hang on the back of them, it’s all good!
8. Street Food – Asian countries have the best street food, and of course I’m biased but I think the Philippines has the best street food there is. Sweet potato fries, sweet corn, grilled meats of all kinds, beverages like coconut juice and soda in a plastic bag, and there are also plenty of “exotic” or “authentic” varieties to choose from. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can find street food for any meal!
7. Fresh Food – “Farm to table” isn’t just a recently coined cool phrase . In the Philippines, it’s a way of life. I don’t really remember going to the grocery store for food shopping trips in the Philippines, instead we went to the market (called “Palengke”), everything was fresh from the farm, the sea or freshly picked off the trees. If I wanted papaya, avocado or mango, I just went to someone’s house. We had a papaya tree in the front of our house, our neighbor had an avocado tree and I recall there’s always someone I knew that had a garden of peppers or other fresh ingredients.
6. Terms / Greetings of Respect – In the Philippines, there’s a term of respect for everyone: an older sibling, elders, employers, teachers, and other authority figures. There is also “mano po” a tradition, or custom used in greeting any of those figures. Think of it as a bow in Japan, it’s a gesture rooted in respect and adds formality. “Mano” is a greeting where one takes the back of an elder’s hand lightly to their forehead, it’s a sign of respect taught to children as young as babies.
5. Household Help – It’s not uncommon for average, or even lower income families to have an abundance of household help in the Philippines. Everyone needs to make a living, and household help was inexpensive. An average family may have: housekeepers, maids, nannies (yaya), gardeners, or drivers. They’re technically employees but some people stay with families so long, they become extended family. I remember in college we had help in the house, even my son Dean experienced having his own nanny. When he first returned to Washington, he would often tell me “I miss Ruby!” (his yaya).
4. Food Delivery – This is different from street food, vendors actually ride or carry their load around in neighborhoods and call out “tahoooooo” (fresh silken tofu with tapioca beads in a vanilla flavored beverage). In the Philippines, the food comes to you, kind of like the ice cream man. Common food vendors that roam the neighborhoods are ice cream, pan de sal, halo halo or balut. All I have to do is bring out my tall glass or dish, and pay!
3. Multi-lingual people – In the Philippines, Filipinos are at the very least, bilingual. Some know more than two languages because the Philippines has many different regions that have their own dialect. In most schools and businesses, English is taught and widely used. Filipino or Tagalog is considered the national language. I can speak three languages fluently. Well, technically, I can speak English and two Filipino dialects. The coolest thing about being multi-lingual in the Philippines is that it’s totally possible for two Filipinos to be speaking in their own dialect, and others won’t understand them at all!
2. Filipino Food – Okay, I’m going back to food again. I can’t help it, it’s such a huge part of our culture, it’s hard to ignore. I never met anyone who didn’t love a lumpia. Lumpia is basically a Philippine eggroll and everyone loves them. The one thing a Filipino will be requested to bring to any pot luck is lumpia and trust me, they’re always gone within minutes so you have to bring a thousand. There’s vegetable lumpia, lumpiang Shanghai (meat and veggies) and even banana lumpia. Be you a vegetarian, a vegan, paleo lover, there’s a lumpia for everyone.
1. Filipino Mafia – It really exists. A Filipino can go anywhere in this world, and they will most likely meet other Filipinos that will adopt them into their fold. We’re clannish that way. A Filipino will seek out other Filipinos in their community, or their place of work almost like it’s a gravitational pull. I learned this on board an aircraft carrier when I served in the Navy. Filipinos stick together, and it was almost like being part of an exclusive club that helped “hook me up” because someone knew someone who could get my laundry done when laundry was closed, or someone who could get me rice when the galley wasn’t even serving it. I mean, people in general tend to stick with those they lots in common with, but being Filipino in a foreign country is like a badge of honor.
Washington is home because it’s where the Navy sent us for most of Jeremy’s Navy career. Ultimately, home is where our little family is, but the Philippines will always have half of my heart and I’m so proud to call it home too! I wish it were easier to fly to the Philippines and spend time with my family. For now, I will reminisce about how great it will be to finally go on vacation to the Philippines…one day!!