Wednesday, June 28, 2006

You Come From Where?

Back home, aside from my regular job, on some weekends I'd go with my sister and brother-in-law to the NBC Tent and Forbes Park bazaars to sell our handmade jewelry. These days, I'm doing the exact same thing, except that I do it alone, the bazaars are called open-air markets, the addresses are Gordes, St. Remy de Provence, and Arles, and my clients are not Manila's fashionista crowd, but tourists from all over. I even sold a necklace to a Filipina named Maritess yesterday. She came to Gordes with an entourage of husband, son, and yaya, also a Filipina. Told you I'm still in the Philippines.

But this blog entry isn't about that. It's about, while doing this business, I've come to realize that the Department of Tourism needs to launch a serious publicity campaign. People see my brown face standing out in a sea of white, and of course they have to ask, "Where are you from?" There were times when this is what happened:

Scenario #1
ME: The Philippines.
ME: It's in Asia.

Scenario #2
ME: The Philippines.
NORTH AMERICAN: (Blank look)
ME: It's in Asia.
NORTH AMERICAN: (Enlightened look coming into eyes, voice getting excited) Yes, you were hit by the tsunami!

Scenario #3
ME: The Philippines.
EUROPEAN: Is that near Papua New Guinea?

Scenario #4
ME: The Philippines.
EUROPEAN KID: (Fingering a necklace) Are all of you Chinese good at making stuff with your hands?
ME: Uhm, the Philippines?

Scenario #5
ME: The Philippines.
EUROPEAN: Are you part of a minority or do you all have black hair and dark eyes?

Scenario #6 (When the other person actually has an idea where the country is.)
EUROPEAN: What are the houses like?
ME: Regular, like you see here.
EUROPEAN: (Looking disappointed)
ME: (Never wanting to disappoint) Okay, there are things called nipa huts.
EUROPEAN: (Brightening up) Are they up on trees?
ME: Unless you're going to buy a necklace, I think you better go now.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cono Comes to France

Half-cono meets half-jologs. (Photo taken by Makis, the unlabelled.)

Forgive the absence. I've been working (more on this later) and the Internet connection has been the past weeks iffy. I did have a full day free the other Thursday and spent it hanging out with Kala and Makis, making like we were back home, eating adobo and then going for a ride with an Eraserheads CD on the player. Fun.

The conversation at some point turned to Filipino class divisions, when Kala informed me that I am half-cono. If I remember right, she herself proudly claims the label jologs. If I hadn't been busy stirring in some more suka't toyo to our lunch, I would have protested.

While I grew up in the insipid, middle-class villages of Las Pinas, until she was past her teens my mother was a proud resident of very colorful Lakas ng Mahirap, Caloocan, where a cousin stayed on, until one day he was coming home from work and got chased by a village drunk wielding handmade bow and arrow. (He moved the following month.) Sending four children to school, my parents were always struggling. I helped man the clothes stand we once had in Divisoria, and took jeepneys and non-airconditioned buses to school.

Kala comes to her conclusion perhaps from the way I speak. Very Taglish, a habit I picked up working in the magazine industry, where many of my colleagues couldn't speak decent Tagalog. So they mixed it up, their speech a mix of English and Filipino. Supposedly, it's a mark of the real cono, although I've heard that some academics say it just shows idiocy, exhibiting that the speaker is really, in any one language, inarticulate.

I started thinking of this again the other day while I was talking to some tourists from the United States. I meant to tell them that a drive through sunflower fields might be pleasant, and that if they wanted to visit the Camargue, then I live right in the heart of it, so they should tell me and we could have coffee together. From the puzzled look on their faces, I gathered that they didn't understand very much.

In the thick of learning a new language, my brain had been misfiring. What I said was something like this, "There are les tournesols maintenant. On the road from Saint Remy to Arles. Ca sera bien if you take your car through there. Oh, and the Camargue is really wonderful. Les oiseaus sauvages, and the bulls. I live in Aigues Mortes. Stop by and see me. We can drink caf├ęs together, si vous voulez."

It's official. Perhaps I'm not half-cono, but definitely I'm inarticulate. Sigh. Let me make myself feel better this evening by making tusok-tusok the fondue.