Thursday, May 22, 2008

FIL AM I AM: Going Home

I just had a semi-crisis: It's been so long since I posted last that for a moment I forgot my blog password. Thankfully, my morning-brain freeze was only temporary.

So, I went home to the Philippines last month. I found it apt that before both my departure and arrival, I thought of the same thing: "I'm going home." As one quippy Fil Am told me once: "America is our homeland; Philippines is our motherland." We Fil Ams - like many Pinoys who live all over the world but still maintain Philippine roots - have two homes, and we're so lucky.

Manila is so different, and yet it's still the same. Masikip is the best physical description I could come up with as soon as I entered the always-chaotic NAIA terminal. But Manila has always been masikip. Its very limited space is part of its appeal, I guess. If you're poor and un-connected, it is so hard to survive there that some people from the provinces probably treat it as a badge of honor to be able to eke out a living there.

The traffic is as slow as I remembered - but not, I thought, any worse than the 101 freeway in L.A. at rush hour. But the crazy driving and careless pedestrian-crossing are a different matter altogether. The photo I took of this truly Pinoy behaviour (see above pic) was on the front page of Philippine News a few weeks ago. Of course, in true Pinoy fashion, humor seeps through the seriousness of this situation. Tell me you don't get the urge to chuckle when you read the sign. Morbid humor. Pinoys do it best, I tell ya.

The only place I got the time to visit was Malacanang (to interview Press Secretary Bunye), and the popular Mall of Asia. I hope to write about both in later posts.

I wish I have more interesting stories to share today about my trip but since it was short and my time to write today feels shorter, I would include in this post a promise to double my efforts to write more in the coming days.

There's info galore in my Ask a Kababayan and Buhay America Tips folders so please come back later. (I know I'm writing as if I have a steady group of readers, but I can dream, can't I?:)

I also have several Q&As lined up. I've done four or five stories (for PN and Balitang America) since I came back but I didn't even find the time to write about them for my own website. Pathetic, no? While covering those stories, I witnessed a Pinay mom break down after her daughter's and grandson's killer was sentenced to life in prison; laughed at a breakdancing young Pinoy wearing kamisa de chino backstage at a Filipino Cultural Night in Knot's Berry Farm; and hear both Hillary and Obama prominently mention their support of Filipino WWII vets at the historic (if horribly attended) first-ever Asian & Pacific Islander Americans Presidential Townhall.

I'm also busy getting my mom settled here (she's the reason I went home; my petition for her went through fast and without a hitch, yay!) My mom is quickly adjusting to Fil-Am life; you should see her cheering for American Idol's David Cook last night. I myself was cheering for Archie, but what the hey. There were definite Pinoy moments in the show (Ramiele & Renaldo were there, of course) but the best thing for me when we were watching it was seeing her appreciate how in America, everything is possible if you work hard. Say what you will about AI (cheesy, repetitive, with shameless and crass commercialism - all true, BTW) but at its best, it's truly great TV for us impossible-dreamers.

She is still converting everything to pesos and misses her Tagalog soap operas (Have you heard of Lobo? Apparently, wolves roam the Philippines like askals. In TVland, that is.) but she is now addicted to Law & Order and Crossing Jordan reruns on cable. She also appreciates many things about American living. For instance, she was amazed by how quickly the process for applying for a senior ID took at the DMV.

"Lahat mabilis dito. Tsaka lahat malaki," she says while looking at a watermelon double the size of her torso at Walmart.

Through her, I'm gaining a lot of information for new and senior citizen-immigrants that I could share with other Pinoys undergoing/about to undergo similar family petitions. By the way, did you hear about the new H2B ruling? This might help you, so check it out.

All these post-trip activities on top of my regular workload required busier-than-ever multi-tasking that of course pointed out one undeniable fact: I'm home. Time to get crackin'.

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