Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm Filipino, Dammit!

I'm Filipino, Dammit!!!

That is the answer that I often feel like saying when someone asks me what ethnicity I am.

or in the Vietnamese nail salon:

Where you from? 

Which is a question that usually confuses me because in my head I'm like, Do I tell them where I currently live? or do I tell them where I grew up? and if I tell them that, do I have to delve into where I was born because we moved when I was like 12 so I technically grew up in two places. or... are they really  asking if I'm from this country? 

I usually resolve to answer their question with, "I'm from here". Which, I think in effect confuses them because they follow up with another question:

Oh, Where you born? 

It is then that I decide to give a more detailed, informative answer to avoid further confusion.

I was born in the United States of America and grew up in Hawaii, and in Lynnwood, WA. I currently reside in Everett.

You would think that that would be a satisfactory answer, but no, what they are really wanting to inquire on is my ethnicity.

Nail Salon Lady:  oh, you chinese? 

Me: no, Filipino

NSL: Oh, you Philippines!!!

At that point, she smiles, laughingly tells her coworker something, probably something about how my feet are weird looking and it's because I'm Filipino, and proceeds with my pedi.

But, do you see the amount of confusion that is brought with my identify? People who are asian think I'm Vietnamese, people who are Vietnamese, think I'm Chinese, people who are other than asian think I'm just Asian (ya'll look the same). It's like I don't belong! The truth is,  I am a product of the Filipino melting pot, years of conquistadors wooing the Filipino woman, who was undoubtedly overwhelmed (and probably even turned on) by the tall white man's big guns, ships and booty.


I know what it is that throws people off:  my freckles, light skin, and chinky eyes set me apart from what people see as the "standard" Filipino. It is only when I am extremely tanned do I even resemble a Filipino.

Funny story, this picture was taken in Hawaii in a wedding I was in. The first day I went to Hawaii, I layed out on the beach for 3 hours and got darrrrk!  I was so dark and had such a bad sunglass tan, they had to airbrush me for a wedding I was in. I mean, I thought "airbrushing" was a technical nerdy computer term used by editors to make beautiful people more beautiful in pictures. But no, there is actually a make-up tool that looks like a mini-blowtorch, and they connect the makeup to the device and blow makeup in your face to even out your skin tone. It's nuts, but I am grateful that the makeup artist had that in her little Mary Poppins bag. Does every makeup artist have one of those? 

Anyways, that is probably the only time in my life that I have truly looked Filipino. When I came home from my trip, my dad was like.. oh!!! So black! Just like the darkness... lol. 

 I normally look like a light-skinned mixed kid that nobody knows which ethnicity I belong to. It's okay, though. I'm used to it. As long as I know who I am, I suppose that's all that matters, right? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I want a Magic Mic!

I think I may be the only Filipino in the world without a magic mic

I know, I know. From my desk, I can hear a million Filipinos gasping and muttering Ay Na Ko! Who's anak (kid) is dis?!? She should be e-shame!

I am ashamed. The Magic Mic is a staple of the Filipino household.  And I, who claim the Filipino culture as my own, do not have one.


[Side Tangent - After hearing the phrase all my life, I finally broke down the phrase susmaryosep for the first time.  I now realize what it means! It was quite the revelation... My expression was like.. ooooohhhh!!! ::lightbulb::  and! omg, how boater!!]

In my defense, magic mics are not cheap. I don't even know how some Filipinos can afford the dang thing when it's like, $300 - $400, but as many Filipinos (including myself) are karaoke rockstars, they make it happen.

What makes the magic mic so awesome (for those of you who are unaware that such an awesome karaoke device exists)?

  1. There are thousands of songs available for you to sing
    • From K-pop, to Tagalog, to the classics, to the the Top40, these songs are stored in memory cards that you can switch out and buy to get new songs
  2. Background scenery
    • While the lyrics flash on the tv screen, a slideshow of the most random pictures play. Deep space 9, cows grazing in the meadow, a beach, corn fields, it is literally the most random pictures that never have anything to do with the song playing.
  3. Grammatically Correct?
    • No. A lot of the English songs saved are not grammatically correct. Many an instance has occurred where I would be singing, and would realize the lyrics displayed on the screen are not how the actual song goes. O-well, that is what you get when you have a non-native English speaker translate to English an English song.
  4. Scoring not based on talent
    • At the end of each song, a score pops up. I don't necessarily know how a person is scored, but I have seen people get scores of 99 % when all they did was sing one pitch the whole time. Maybe the magic mic was broken, but in general I've seen better singers  get scored lower than the worse singers.
I realize that these reasons may not necessarily be selling points to those who've never experienced the magic mic experience. But take my word, it's a good time that promotes fun and makes it so there's less pressure for those who can't necessarily sing.

Whenever I go to parties that have magic mic for entertainment, it seems like everyone there who does magic mic at every party has one single song that they sing every time. For some it's I did it my way. For others, like myself - it's End of the Road.  Whatever the song, the song number is always memorized by heart by whoever sings the song.

Singer: 2-9-6-3-5!!!

Me: What song is that? 

Singer: Dat ... is my song.... apter put on 6-4-3-7-8!!!

Me: You're singing Journey again? !? 

I always enjoy going to these parties that have magic mic, it's a good good time. My inner rock star emerges every time I sing my song and for that brief moment, I am a pro. I hope to one day have my own magic mic device that I could use all the time at parties and when i'm at home... by myself.. where no one can hear me. One day I'll make it happen and when that day comes, it will be awesome! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spelling out the Name : A - as in "Apple", F - as in Pilipino

Filipino names can be kind of complicated.

Bellario. Filomina. Jaupner. Charlie-ann. Pilita. 

When I still had my maiden name "Amplayo", I found myself constantly having to correct people on how it was said and constantly having to spell it out as - phonetically - it's not spoken as it is written

My name is Amplayo. It's prounounced, Uhm-ply-yo. It's Filipino. 

A as in Apple
M as in Mary
P as in Paul
L as in .... Lavatory. 

..... etc etc....

Sometime I would play around with the words that represented the letter.

A as in .... Antelope
Y as in .... Yellow.. 
O as in.... as in.... Oreos!!!

Whenever my dad would spell out things for people, he would say words that were an accurate  phonetic representative of the letter, but his accent would throw it all off.

V as in... Bictor
S as in .... Eh-stupid.
F as in.... Prank..(excuse me ? what was that again?)... as in, you know.. I'll be berry prank wit you... 

(sir I'm sorry, I didn't understand what you just said)

Getting others to understand how to spell our surname always took a while when he was spelling it out.

What's funny is when other Filipinos learn of my last name, they always give the same joke.

Oh, your name is Am-pa-la-yo! ? like.. Am-pa-la-ya?? Huh? Mebe your name should be Am-pa-la-ya!!

Me: It's nothing like that at all.

And then they would laugh.

Ampalaya is the Filipino word for Bitter Melon in English.

 It's the nastiest vegetable I've ever eaten and I don't know why anyone would classify it as a 'melon'. Bitter? Yes. Melon? no. From what I have observed, Filipinos love ampalaya. Like, really really love it. They put it in their soup dishes, their stir fried dishes, eat it with rice. I have not had acquired a taste for it. Just thinking about it makes my face do a sour look.

Acutally, this is my post - tequila shot face, but ... it's pretty much the same look as my "sour" face.

So... when my husband asked me to marry him, I was glad he had a 'plain Jane', 'John Doe', last name. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a simple name anyone who passed the 3rd grade would be able to spell. No explanations needed.

Roberts. I like to pronounce it Robert-sus... kind of like Hobbits-sus.

It's a good name, although... whenever I sign off on emails, people who've never spoken to me on the phone or met me in person, think I'm a boy.  They reply to my emails with "Dear sir" or reference me in their emails to someone else as "He". "He referred me to you"

When I read those emails I'm like , but I'm not a boy!!  and I want so badly reply to their email and explain this to them.

Dear X

Please see attached for your documentation 

WInter Roberts
PS... I'm not a boy. I am a girl. 

....  but I don't know if that's professional. So I usually let it slide even though it kind of bugs me.

I had no idea "Winter" was a unisex name...I thought it was a no-name that no one would ever name their kid... except for my mom. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Resourcefulness of the Filipino

Filipinos have this uncanny ability to make something out of nothing, especially the most random of nothings. This is generally a trait that is common among poor people, and ...Filipinos are a poor people.  I think at some point or another,  when human beings had lived in caves and wore loin clothes made of mammoth fur, we all shared this attribute. But as time passed, inventions were created , and human beings progressed into a smarter species, there was less and less of a need for any sort of ingenuity. Today, we have inventions for just about everything, but this in effect has displaced the creativity and innovativeness that we once had.

But no, Filipinos have not completely lost it.

Give a Filipino a screw driver, plastic bags, and some tape - someway, somehow he will build you a bird tree, given that you allow him to scrap some other surrounding material. I don't know exactly how, but he will, especially if it's for the sake of survival.


Growing up, my family wasn't super poor, but we weren't well off. We lived in an old ranch house that must have been built in the early 1900's. It sat on about 2 acres of land and was built like a motel, a total of ten rooms lined in a row next to each other, with kitchens on both ends of the house. It had been built to house multiple coffee farmers (maybe even their families) back in the day when coffee farming was more of a demand than it is a today. My family, turned one half of the motel like farm house into our home, tearing down walls that separated the rooms. One room became the bathroom room/storage, a few rooms became bedrooms, and another room became my dad's "office".  Cockroaches, spiders, and geckos roamed freely throughout, which would normally freak people out, but when you grow up with stuff like that, you think nothing of it.

We had a few (large) mango trees. People used to come from all over town to get some free mango. Now that I do my own grocery shopping and realize the cost of mangoes, we should have charged them $1 per mango, especially since our mangoes were quality.

 The only problem we had getting the mangoes that were higher than anyone could reach.

How my mom solved the issue:

She found a super long bamboo stick that was growing somewhere, grabbed some wire, made it into a circular loop, attached some old red shorts that she didn't wear to wrap around that loop, and somehow attached the loop to the bamboo. Some people might think, wow, that is super ghetto. But no... it was genius and it worked. It served as our mango picking stick for years. I wish I had a picture of it. Really, it was a sight to see.

Hair Ties ...

My mom always did my hair every morning before I went to school, but would tie my hair with rubber bands.  Yes, rubber bands that you find in Office Depot or Staples that are rolled in a ball and bounce when you drop them on the floor.  Occasionally, she'd switch it up and change the color from plain tan ones to red, but they were still rubber bands.

Me: Mom, can you do my hair? 
Mom: Go to your dad's office and get some rubber bands

So I'd snoop in the drawers where I knew my dad kept the rubber bands and handed them to my mother to use for my hair. Growing up, I didn't know any better. I didn't know that scunci made specialized hair ties for hair that wouldn't pull your hair when you tried to take it off.

I think my lack of proper hair essentials growing up is part of the reason today, why I'm obsessed with hair ties and bobbies pins.

Chocolate Flavored Rice Crispies Cereal...

I don't know where my mom thought of this, but for a time when she'd make us breakfast, she'd make us a bowl of rice crispies with milk, and mix in cocoa mix to make it chocolaty. It kind of made my stomach sore and for a while we didn't say anything. Eventually someone braved it (I don't know who because I don't think it was me) told her we didn't like it and she tossed that recipe out.

Every Container With A Lid Becomes Reusable...

While many families have tupperware sets with different sizes that could store different foods, my family had leftover plastic containers from KFC lunches, cleaned out margarine containers, cookie tins that were reused to hold stuff like sugar; every item with a lid was reused for various items that needed storage.

Me: Mom, where'd you put safety pins? 
Mom: In the container that used to have the lemon cookies. 

And that's how my mom rolled, she'd put all these random things in random containers.

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There are probably a million other quirky things that my family did that would cause someone to classify as weird. But - growing up, I never looked at any of that stuff as being weird, but as just the way things were. Now that I've been given a such blessed life, I don't have to make sticks out of bamboo and used shorts in order to get a mango, and can afford to buy myself hair ties and tupperware, and essentially anything that need. When I think of if I were given a similar situation where I was in want, I don't know how / if I could survive. In truth, I have probably lost this sense of resourcefulness and replaced it with a sense of whining. Maybe I would eventually figure something out and come up with innovative solutions of survival for everyday functions. but not before experiencing moments of What do I do?!? What do I do?!?" But... I like the way my life is and would hope that we wouldn't have to resort to alter my way of living in order to survive.