Sunday, April 23, 2006

Why I Think I'm Still in the Philippines #2

[If you missed it, Why I Think I'm Still in the Philippines #1 is here.]

5. In the Philippines, complex archipelago of 7,000-plus islands, we have 13 major languages. One of them is Kapampangan, whose most famous characteristic, at least to non-speakers, is its lack of the phoneme "h." When my parents Gerry and Priscilla met my then-boyfriend Pierre, and for the first time for real were exposed to a Franchophone accent, they began to wonder if maybe people go "Me keni" beyond Central Luzon.

One of their conversations was about a trip to Europe my parents planned to take. "You can go to Olland, and stay in a otel." Pierre offered. Priscilla looked at him, raised an eyebrow, puffed on her eternal cigarette, then looked at me and mouthed, "Saan daw?" ("Where, did he say?").

Soon enough they were discussing France, where my parents of course had to visit Pierre's village. My urbanite mom worried. "You live in the country, maybe there will be many snakes?" Pierre assured her, "Don't worry, they are armless." Priscilla again raised an eyebrow.

She replied, "Of course, snakes crawl, diba?" The Frenchman tried again. "Armless... armless... you know..." Not at all being the supportive girlfriend, I clipped my arms to my sides and began to wiggle my trunk left and right. "Armless like this, honey?" I asked. Flustered, Pierre managed to blurt out, "Armless! The snakes are armless. They have no poison!" And of course, despite his guffaws, my dad just had to ask, "Are you sure you're not Filipino? You're speaking Kapampangan eh."

Epilogue: Sufficiently traumatized, Pierre now adds an "h" to any and all English words he has to speak that begins with the letter "a," so that, for example, the crevice under the arm he calls "harmpit." (Not so off the mark, when he hasn't showered for a couple of days.) Meanwhile, my parents still have doubts, wondering if their youngest daughter really isn't just married to a local guy and living somewhere in Pampanga or Nueva Ecija.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Vitrioling (The Last Time, I Promise)

Look what came by post!

A question my husband was often asked--is actually still asked, but now much less frequently--was, "Tu l'as ramené ici?" Did you bring her over here, they'd demand of him, about me, as if I were some souvenir from the tropics, a kitschy pair of mega-sized wooden fork and spoon for hanging in the dining room perhaps, or maybe something vulgar, like a barrel man.

Pierre's usual response would begin with a joke. "No, I'm so hot she came chasing after me." Then he'd start it, sometimes subtly, sometimes more upfront, depending on his mood, different ways of saying, she got her own visa, bought all her own plane tickets, before the wedding spent her summers vacationing here on her own money. This is not a marriage of convenience. I'm not my wife's financial savior, you see.

I appreciated his efforts, really, but one time I'd had enough of feeling like my entire curriculum vitae had to be dug out of the filing cabinet and presented as proof of my acceptability. So I snapped.

"Yep, brought me over, he did," said I to one lady. "At the supermarket, he purchased an extra-large cardboard box and a roll of sticky tape. He packed me in there really tight with some bubble wrap. It could have been a rough ride in the plane's cargo hold, but Pierre was really considerate. He remembered to punch air holes. Also to mark my brown box 'Fragile' and 'This Side Up.'"

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Monster Alert

A fine break from all the bitching I've been indulging in following that bizaare hair-pulling incident: Vin Simbulan is publishing an anthology in the Philippines called A Time for Dragons, and a story I wrote called "A Fishy Tale" is going to be in it. The book will be a collection of short stories dealing with--yep, you guessed it--dragons, and my story will feature--uh-huh, you got it again--creatures that swim in the sea. You can read the complete table of contents over at his blog. Woohoo!

Let me go public now: Apart from all the Wakasan komiks, Danielle Steele sizzlers, and Harold Ludlum mysteries I gobbled up as a child, I was also a big fan of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and, yes, let me just bare it all here, Stephen King. My brain thus wired, now that I'm trying to write fiction, there's almost always an element of the fantastic in my work (an exception being the pap in my last entry below). Now I'm taking a deep breath and trying to get my stuff published.

Given that I am so bad at rejection and criticism, I don't think this is going to be easy...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Rules (for a brown woman finding herself in an interracial relationship)

1. If you're going out with a white guy, don't ever go to Café Havana, said Myrza.

2. When I was dating this Canadian, I gave up my strappy high heels and went around wearing flipflops, this one from Tara.

3. Oh, and cargo pants, para mukha akong student, again from Tara.

4. Wear pearls, and the hair pulled back, dearie, was an acquaintance's advise.

5. Speak English with an American twang, an officemate was overheard.

6. Do not wear shorts too short, an older friend warned.

7. Don't be long-haired and skinny, or otherwise look hungry, from a European backpacker.

8. If you must smoke, don't make it a Phillip Morris, from I don't remember who.

Why all this effort? It's preparation, to make ourselves ready for the inevitable malicious inspection. My college friend Daki was very upfront saying, "You have to admit, we all do it." He meant that look one second longer than necessary, when we see a brown woman out with a white man, trying to figure out if the relationship is for real or if she's just a bitch for hire.

As if adjusting to normal married life wasn't hard enough...

Help this brown girl adjust. Add to the list and leave a comment!