March 2003: Hours before my departure for the Philippines and in the midst of last-minute packing, I called my mother to verify my arrival in Manila. Despite the bad phone connection, I sensed that something wasn’t right. She sounded frazzled. She haltingly informed me then […]
“It is a bitter-sweet thing, knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace nothing is ever the same.” ― Sarah Turnbull
I got my US citizenship for years now and some might say that I’ve been “Americanized”. By definition, it means “To make or become more typical or characteristic of America, especially in terms of culture, customs, language, etc.” That doesn’t sound necessarily bad, right? But why is it that when some people refer to someone as being “Americanized”, it’s usually tinged with some negativity or censure? I’ve read in one forum before that one of the reasons some Western men opt to travel all the way to the Philippines to meet Filipinas for a relationship is because they are not “Americanized” yet. Say what?!!! Since when does assimilation rules you out as a potential mate? Search for love abroad by all means but do not succumb to the illusion that Filipinas are immune to being transformed by their environment. One must adapt in order to survive even in the land of milk and honey.
There are always going to be stereotypes attached to every cultures and races, including the expatriates (persons who live outside their native country). Most likely, if you’re a Filipino expat and had been back to the Philippines for a visit, you’ve probably been described by a friend or relative as “liberated” or “Americanized” already. How so, you ask? The responses are likely based on the western movies and media they’re exposed to that depicts a so-called American lifestyle. Unless they have actually lived and breathed in the culture, it’s really a moot point explaining that there’s more to being an American than what they surmise. Anyway, here’s a list of some pigeonholed views of an Americanized Filipino expat. Whether you agree or not, this list is generally based on superficial and clichéd observations by fellow balikbayans, so take it with a grain of salt.
To some Filipinos, being an Americanized Filipino expat means:
• sporting a lighter (or any) shade of hair color other than what you were born with. I am admittedly guilty of this but millennials nowadays are sporting all sorts of hairstyles and colors anyway so it shouldn’t be a big deal anymore.
• speaking with an exaggerated American accent or nasal twang or sounding like someone from the hood, peppering the language with expletives or profanity. Essentially, even just speaking the English language fluently or articulately (or not) might give you that assignation.
• wearing revealing outfits or dressing up in hip-hop duds. I’ve seen some people wearing cool-weather apparel when it’s 90+ degrees Fahrenheit out there!
• providing people free entertainment with PDAs (public displays of affection) and “lascivious” gossip material ( premarital or extramarital sex, divorce). Pretty much any type of behavior that makes people’s tongue wag.
• fairer skin color especially when they used to be tanner or dark-skinned.
• losing some of the family values and Filipino traditions
• not being religious and not practicing the Catholic faith.
And the list can go on and on.
When I travel abroad, I always wonder what it’s like for other expats living in their respective host countries. How is it being Frenched, Germanized, Dutched, Britished, Japanized, etc? I don’t even know if there are such terms but you get the gist. I am curious as to how their new country’s culture have influenced their views and way of living. Is it ever a struggle to maintain a cultural identity or is it easier to shed it off altogether? Feel free to sound off or leave any feedback in the comment section. I would love to know your thoughts on this post.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine
As a young girl, I’ve always been curious about other countries and cultures. I read about them in books and magazines. I often fantasize about someday catching sight of the places that I only see in the movies and TV. Candidly, the desire to travel was my incentive in choosing to study Nursing in college and what spurred me to keep going even when things got perversely grueling. I just know that there’s a bigger world waiting out there for me and I can’t wait to explore and be a part of it.
Looking back, this passion didn’t just come out of nowhere. Maybe I’ve always been a nomad at heart, but at some point, someone or something ignited that flame in me. For me, that trigger was my Aunt Agnes. She was my father’s youngest sister and was quite independent, untraditional and a bit of a free spirit. She married a Korean man (uncommon at that time) who worked in international construction. Due to the nature of his job, they were able to live in Alaska, Korea and the Middle East and had traveled to Europe a few times. During that time, we periodically received photos depicting her new life and travels. I looked forward to when my grandmother would pass them around during family get-togethers and bingo games. To me, Aunt Agnes looked so glamorous, sophisticated, confident and worldly-wise. I remember one photo that stood out the most. It was one of her with the Eiffel Tower behind her. At that distinct moment, a thought flashed: “I’ll go there someday.” With that notion, my fate was sealed and my itinerant soul was slowly released.
It took a few years but I eventually made it to Paris in 2006. The moment was unlike anything else. Surreal was an understatement indeed. That trip also marked the beginning of my love affair with Europe. I just find myself drawn to the romance, history, architecture, culture, language and the people themselves. I can’t get enough of it. I might have started off dreaming about Paris but now, I want to find myself waking up at as many places as possible in the continent. I have a long way to go but just like many, many moons ago, I’ll get there someday…
Is there a destination that you’ve always dreamed of visiting and have you already fulfilled that dream? If you haven’t, what’s keeping you from making it a reality? What will it take to motivate you? Please do share your thoughts in the comment section. I would love to hear about it. Happy travels!