Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The making of a Story

I've been entertaining the idea of writing a book. Well, it's a goal that I've had for a long while now, but throughout the years, I have found my struggle with it, not having figured out what type of writer I would be, or what type of things I would write. To the few that I have shared aspirations with, they're all just like write, winter - just write, and I do, but I constantly find myself getting writers' block and not knowing where I'm going with whatever it was that I was writing about.

I think what I'm really interesting in is writing about life as a Filipino - American. I feel like there have been many novels written about the plight of the Chinese-American, or the plight of the Japanese-American, but I haven't read many novels about the story of the Filipino-American, or maybe there are but I haven't found them.

I just don't know what I should be writing about. The below story is something that I've been working on just a few months ago. Haven't quite finished the whole storyline but I think what the story is going to be about the difficulty of dating an 'outsider/non-Filipino within a Filipino family.  I'm cutting and pasting the first chapter. Please, if anyone happens to come across - please let me know what you think. Do you think my writing style is okay? Do you think I have something going here? Critiques?  Let me know what you think.


My Father analyzed the contents of his box:
4 Costco packs of Spam
1 Costco Box of Rice Crispy Treats
1 Costco pack of Tuna
2 Costco Bottles of Centrum for Women
He had been making occassional trips to Costco over the course of a month, buying random goods to send to the  family in the motherland of the Phillippines.  Sending out these Balikbayan boxes was a tradition that he had done ever since I could remember, taking requests from family members in the motherland and sending it to them 3-4 times a year. It was time for another Balikbayan box to be sent.
These family members were cousins, aunties, sisters, sisters of second cousins twice removed. I had never met any of these family members in my entire 18 years, but as a child, was often forced to speak to them on the phone in what broken Filipino verses I could muster.
“Dad!” I would say in harsh whisper. “I dont’ want to talk to them!”
But he would hold the receiver in front of my face so that any words I might say having to do with me not wanting to speak to them would be seen as  embarrassing and rude, on my part.
“Halikana!” he would mouth to me. Come on!
So in broken Filipino mixed with English, I would take the phone and  formulate what few sentences I could that always translated to the same phrases in every conversation :
Hello. How are you? I am fine.
It was an awkward minute of a conversation, followed by even more of an awkward silence that would prompt me to pass the phone back  to my Father to continue the conversation with the relatives.   
“Dey want to talk to you,”my Father would say as he relunctantly took the phone back from me
“But why?” I would protest.“I don’t even know them, they don’t even know me.”
“Dey just want to talk to you,” he responded.
I eventually found ways to avoid talking to them, pretending to not hear when my dad called me downstairs to give my “Hello. How are you? I am fine” speech. When I began to drive, I made it so I was conveniently going somewhere when they called.
"Sorry dad, Gotta go write a paper," I would lie. Or "Gotta go study at the library, Im meeting my friend…” and then I would name off some randomf friend I knew that he knew as I headed out the door.   It didnt matter that I didnt really have a paper or that it was summer break and didn’t have school.  My Father was unaware of what I did  in regards to school.
if I continued to call them and have conversations with them without me, continued to take down their requests for what they “needed” from America, and continued to send them Balikbayan boxes.
Now, as my dad tried to find ways to maximize the space of his current box, I sat in the living room couch catching up with my subscription of youtube videos .
“Dee-Dee,” he suddenly called out in his Filipino accent. “Do you tink choc-late will melt in the P.I.?”
I did not correct my Father as he pronounced my name incorrectly. He had named me ‘Heather’ when I was born, had convinced my mother that I should be named ‘Heather after the actress Heather Locklier, instead of ‘June’ after his own mother, or ‘Charmagne’after his ninang. But in all the years of my life, he had always called me ‘Heidi’, or ‘De-De’.  I accepted it as it was, but it was confusing to anyone and everyone who would come over for the first time.
“I thought your name was Heather,”  they would whisper to me with a confused look.
“It is,” I would respond with a shrug of my shoulders. “My dad’s just weird like that.”
As he called me by my incorrect name, I continued to look on my phone and pretended not to hear.
“Dee!” he said my name louder.
“Yea..” I finally said  and looked up annoyingly from my youtube videos. I was in the middle of watching a video of some kid walking casually over an icy sidewalk, and then slipping and falling.  35,000 views.
“Do you tink choc-late will melt in the P.I?” he asked again
I automatically gave him my best you got to be kidding look.
“You want to give them chocolate?”
“Yea… recess...ehhh.. how do you call dat one wit dat peanut butter inside de middle.”
“Reeses Pieces?”
“Yea, recess in the pisses… I tink your cousings in de P.I. will like dat one”
My you got to be kidding look intensified.
“Really? They don’t have chocolate there?”
“Ahhh, it’s not de same,” he said, dismissing my comment as his focus went  back to the contents of the box. Taking one item out, he adjusted the remaining contents, and then put the item he took out back in the box. Taking another item out, he readjusted the items,  and put the item he just taken out back in the box. It was like a game of tetris.
“We go to Costco,” my Father said to after a couple of rounds of Balikbayan tetris. “to get some choc-late.”
The statement wasn’t a request or a comment that lingered in wonderment over whether or not we should go; it was an authoratative command that said we needed to go, we were going, and I was going to take him.
I couldn't say "no". My Father had developed a cataract in his right eye,  making it almost impossible to see in his right side, thus making it unsafe for him to drive.  A part of me resented the fact that I couldn't say "no", but I didn't know if I would have said " no" if he didn't have the eye problem. The role of the dutiful daughter role was engrained in me.

I said nothing to his "request" but continued to peruse on YouTube for more comedic videos. It would be a good hour before we left; my Father still was playing Balibayan tetris.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In Flight : A novel by Jose Dalisay

I'm 30 pages in, but from what I can tell. Jose Dalisay is good writer, ... like a really good one. I feel like such a failure of a Filipino for never hearing about this guy, his writings, or his books, but apparently, he's won multiple awards, lectured at multiple universities around the world, and is director of some literary program at some University

I feel like destiny brought me and his book together. From the very beginning, even though I didn't quite know it myself, I feel like my purpose in starting this "Filipino" blog was to bring myself closer to a culture that at times seemed distant to me - and yet by birthright, is a part of who I am, even though I don't quite understand it. We look at History, and while sometimes change and evolution can be a positive thing, it can be sad to witness a loss of what once was.  Maybe it was in vain that I started this blog, trying to find my connection with a culture that maybe was slipping from me. Maybe no one reads this. Maybe no one cares. I don't know

But, I found his book at the library...just by wandering around and letting Fate lead me to it. Like I said, I'm only 30 pages in, but I feel like even within the first pages, Dalisay has made me feel more connected with this Filipino side of me. Its a good feeling.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Typhoon in the Philippines ...and being Self Absorbed

It took my husband (who's not Filipino) mentioning the typhoon in the Philippines for me to be aware of it's devastation

Husband: "Man, that sucks what happens what happened in the Philippines.
Me: Yea I know
H: Have you heard anything from your family
Me: No
H: You haven't asked you're dad how they're doing?
Me: No...
H: That's bad...

The truth is, I can be so self - absorbed sometimes, unaware of what's going on with anything else except with what's in my own little bubble. But I feel like that's a symptom that affects a lot people that live within most westernized cultures, especially the United States. While it is a blessing that we live in a country that protects us from a lot of things, it inadvertently causes us to regard a lot of the worlds happenings as "oh, that's quite unfortunate", but "what am I going to wear to work today?" or "this barista is taking so long with my coffee order". I know, it really isn't an excuse, it's just a sad truth to the way things are.

Now, as I read the news headlines and see pictures of the devastation, I come to the realization in being self-absorbed and not aware of what was going on,  I am such a horrible person, especially since this typhoon hit my motherland, the place where my ancestors are from. If it hadn't been for some descendant deciding to migrate to another country for a better life, me - or some version of me, would probably be dealing with the tragic damages of the typhoon.

It is especially unfortunate when natural disasters hit 3rd world nations who were already poor to begin with. I mean, people were probably living in shanty homes and now you take away that away, as well as the materials they would need rebuild that shanty home?  How do you rebuild nothing from a storm that leaves you with less than nothing?

Anyways, I hope everyone keeps the Philippines in their thoughts and prayers, because as we're going to our jobs, taking hot showers, eating hearty breakfasts, there are people out there who just lost everything. I will definitely being keeping that in mind today.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Goldilocks Bakery and other Gifts from the Mama

Wow, it's been a while since I wrote in this blog. The honest truth : I have been having writer's block. Particularly when it comes to this subject of 'Filipino'.

I started this blog, thinking - yea, this is something I could write infinite amounts of entries on, but lately -had not had a lot of inspirations. I think it's because I don't hang around my parents a lot, or a lot of Filipinos in general . Or maybe I haven't had the opportunity to think about this sort of stuff... I don't know.

Anyways, I don't know if I wrote about this or not, but my brother and I got my parents tickets to California a couple of months ago for their birthdays, which they just came back from a couple of days ago. 

"Mom," I said before they left. "Can you get pastillas at Goldilocks? 

For those of you who don't know what Goldilocks is, it's a Filipino bakery that has a chain of bakeries in the Philippines and the US. In the US, the bakery has a ton of locations in California, skips over Oregon and Washington, and then there's one in Canada. Which, what the hell Goldilocks? How the hell are you going to skip over the Northwest and then have a spot in Canada? That's messed up. 

But I digress. 

So I ask my mom for pastillas before she left of California. Honestly, I didn't know that the candy that I wanted was called pastillas.  I remember is a friends mom getting them a kid and liking them so much that they left a lasting impression on me, 15 years later. So I googled 'milk Filipino candy' and pastillas came up in the search and so requested that from my mom. 

She comes back on from her trip, and not only gets me the requested candy, she gets 4 containers of it, two spaceshirts from this museum she went to, a huge bag of ensyamadas, a huge bag of mamon - French sponge cake, 2 bags of space food, and a hello kitty blanket. I swear, when she was unpacking her suitcase it was like Christmas.

"omg," I said, wide eyed like a little kid. "what am I supposed to do with all these food?!"

"Eat it," my mom said matter of factly.

So, that is what I'm working on right now, eating a bunch of Goldilocks pastries before it goes bad. I have until November 12th, the "Best By" date on the packaging. I brought some to work to share with coworkers, but I still have a lot more at home. Ay soos!

A little snippet of everything my mom got me.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Your Husband..Is he Cattolic?....and other Questions of an Auntie.

My Aunt called me up a few days ago; I hadn't talked to her in years. This particular Aunt is my dad's older sister and is just as foreign and FOB as my dad, if not even more so.

She called because she didn't have my dad's new number. Apparently, she was one digit short:

Ay sos, he did not tell me de last number was de six. I only hab 6 numbers... plus de area code.

She then made idle chit chat, asking me how I was, did I have any kids (no I have dogs), how come I didn't have kids ..."bumbai u get too old" (me: thanks auntie, ill keep that in mind).

And then came the question on the husband.

Auntie: is he Cattolic?

I found it funny that she asked that question as growing up it was one of the top 2 questions asked whenever I told my mom or relative I was dating someone (which was probably like 3 times...I don't have that impressive of a dating resume)

It was always in always this order:

1. Is he Filipino?  (In this case. .no)
2. Is he Catholic ?

Responding 'yes' to question no. 1 was an automatic assumption that the person in question was Catholic, unless otherwise indicated, which in that case would then cause disapproval (because what kind Filipino wasn't Cahtloic?) Answering 'no' to question 1 automatically led to being asked question 2, and if question 2 was a 'no', you would get a raised brow response of  'mmmmmmm....not Cattolic. how come? ...how will u raise your kid?' response. Which would then cause disapproval and some chis-mis (gossip) among other relatives 

yea, she is dating somebody... but he's not CATTOLIC! ::insert shocked gasped reactions:: 

And then, the next time you would talk to your other relatives, they would bring up this 'shocking' fact

Relative: I heard you hab a boyprend.. and he's not CATTOLIC?'
Me: uhmm...
Relative: mmmmmmm.... aye na ko (oh my God!)

Thank goodness my husband passed the 'Catholic test' with my Aunt, because there would have been some chis-mis going around that would somehow have ended up being heard by family I had never even met in the Philippines. Which, I don't care if it did, but still.. kind of funny.

My Aunt moved on to other questions about my husband:

Auntie: Oh, I heard he's a pilot 
Me: he is?  
Auntie : I heard he's a pilot
Me: He's an engineer .. he used to work at Boeing... he used to design structural fixes for planes

I think I lost her with 'engineer' because at the end of my explanation of him not being a pilot, she just said "Oh.". And where she got that 'pilot' rumor? I have no idea. Probably from my dad, telling her my husband works with planes, and my Aunt automatically thinking oh, he must be pilot.. and just going with it. lol. That's my family for you. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Filipino Parents ... and Technology

It's one thing having to explain current technology to an older person.  It's another thing having to explain technology an older Filipino person.

... Like my dad.

Of course, I don't claim to be a tech-genius or anything. I mean, I've had my S3 for about a year and I still find myself struggling with it's functions.

Husband: You know your phone can do fingerprint scanning, right?
Me: What? no waaay!

Perhaps that puts me in the same category of those technologically challenged old people who I am venting about (in which case - that would make me a hypocrite) But at least I can turn the tv on  -which seriously, with all the buttons and remotes that you end up having - I think turning on the television can be considered a win, although some people (like my husband) would argue that while I may have turned the television on, per se, I may not have turned it on correctly because I inadvertently may have turned the sound system off in the process of turning the tele on. 

But enough about me and my lack of technological savoir (sp* French for savvyness? I'm  trying to sound high cultured, but I don't know if it's working). At least once a month, my dad calls me up like I'm some sort of IT specialist, and asks me how to do random stuff that - I think - are basic things a person of the 21st Century should understand or be able to figure out: like how to change a ringtone, how to change a font, how to open a webpage....

Some previous personal inquiries:

Win, win, win, WIN! - (me: yea) what time is the Seahawk game? 

Win, win, win, WIN!  -(me:  mmmm) - how come when I dial your number, your picture shows up, but when your brother calls - there's no picture?

Win... win, win, WIN! - (me: yea?) how come the DVD player is not working? 

A lot of times, I'm like, I don't know dad - I don't know what you did, I'd have to be to fix there.

Occassionaly, I feel inclined to help him troubleshoot his problems, but immediately regret it when I'm having to repeat myself a bunch of times.

A recent call made to me:

Dad: Win, win, WIN! how to I log into my email
Me: What's your email providor?
Dad: What? 
Me: What's you're email provider? Where do you get your email? ahoo? Gmail?
Dad: Oh.. oh .. Yahoo
Me: Ok.. what's you're email address?
Dad: Ano? HuH? 
Me: Email Address - you know - where you get your emails
Dad: oh.. BenXXXX@yahoo.com
Me: okay - put your email address in the space that says 'yahoo id'
Dad: ano?
Dad: oh... wait .. wait. .wait a minute.. yahooo id..
Me: Dad.. it says 'yahoo id'

At this point I'm talking loudly so that other people in the office can hear me and I begin to remember why 99% of the time I try not to take his troubleshooting calls at work.  During one conversation where I was trying to walk my dad through something,  a coworker was like are you talking with the dry cleaner ? 

No, I replied. It's my dad. 

With my dad not being very good at communicating his in English, there almost always is a breakdown in communication. It can get frustrating,  but I try to maintain my patience by reminding myself that he's old.. and Filipino, two things that factor in the reasoning of why communication can be so difficult with him, and which can't really be changed. As an example, his English hasn't gotten better despite 30 something years of living in America, and undoubtedly it will stay the same, but it is what makes my dad, my dad. I tell myself that when I get old I will never be that technologically challenged and call my kids up to walk me through things that should be simple, but given my track record with technology - I probably will. So I try to keep that in mind when walking my dad through stuff, but this patience thing is a work in progress.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The 4th of July and Lumpias

I hate it when, after going grocery shopping and having unloaded everything you've bought, you realize that you forgot to buy an ingredient for a dish that you're making.

And it's always something small (like chocolate chips), but vital to the dish. (Because how are you supposed to make chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips?)

Grocery shopping for a 4th of July shindig was no different. I went to the grocery store a total of 3 times.  The first time I bought most of the ingredients, forgot a handful of them so the next day had to stop at a specialty Asian store for some other one. As I was starting to cook, I realized I forgot to buy ranch so had to go back a 3rd time just for ranch.

I should probably develop a more efficient grocery buying process so I only have to go to the store once... I'm working on that.

As I stood in line to buy my ranch dressing (and ginger ale and bbq sauce, which I realized I needed to get while at the grocery store) the cashier was eyeing me weirdly, like he was trying to figure out something. He was a young kid, probably in high school, or just out of high school. Profiling him just based on his looks, he looked like he was into math, chess, and anime cartoons; he maybe played tennis, but if he did, probably never made it to Varsity; if he did have a girlfriend, she probably was one of those little Asian girls who had thick round nerd glasses and who liked to read books about vampires and magic.

"I'm sorry," he finally says. "I can't seem to figure out your nationality"

I don't know why knowing other people's nationality is important to other Asians. There have been countless times where Asian people have asked me that question.  'White' people don't really care since we supposedly all look alike (or do they care and I just don't know it?), but I feel like Asian people have to distinguish other Asians.

"Filipino" I respond. I can feel us having a bonding moment as he was Filipino as well.

"Are you making lumpia for the 4th?" he asks.

"Why yes I am"

"Me to."

We had another bonding moment as I swiped my card to pay.

But why not make lumpia for the 4th? I mean, sure we can have burgers and steaks - classic 'American' dishes, but I'm Filipino, I'm American, and I like lumpias. Besides, America is a melting pot of different cultures, the food should reflect as such.

I was going to make an analogy between food  and European monarchs who kept within royalty when reproducing: cousins married cousins, brothers married their dead brothers wives and their children either ended up being unattractive or died from being sickly. Anyways, I don't know how well that analogy would've worked and whether people gotten the overall point of  diversify your food like monarchs back in the day should've diversified their choices of spouses.

I don't know, I'll stop there. I'm super tired.