What is it like, a cross-cultural marriage of American to Filipino, of old to young?
I exclaimed to my wife the other day that "I may have a large ego, but I am thoughtful".
She exclaimed back, "thought fool?"
That is one of the pluses and minuses of the deal. We regularly misunderstand each other, causing great bouts of rolling on the floor in laughter and just as many arguments.
I asked the guy at the Manila airport where check-in is for Tobaclan. My wife cracked up as the guy's face went blank. "Tacloban, babe, Tacloban".
A few days later she peeked up from her magazine and asked what are "pork lips?"
Huh? After a minute of describing these machines that run around on wheels and lift things, I understood what she meant.
We have determined that our ears are mutually defective.
My wife has the patience of Job, just like all the rice workers who plop one planting after another into a pool of mud all day. Only she has to listen to my relentless complaints about Filipino rude behavior, outta-control dogs and pollution, and illogic. She is my escape valve, the person who listens (or pretends to), and allows me to vent the steam that would otherwise poison my enjoyment of the Philippines. She accepts that my perspectives are right half the time and wrong half the time.
Hers, of course, are right all the time. She is Filipino, with face to defend, even if it means scratching the eyeballs out of mine.
Well, no, that is not an accurate characterization. She is not physically violent, but her tongue can carve a husband better than that Chooks for Chicken guy lays waste to a bird carcass.
The rest of the time she is sweet as a Snickers.
That is another difference, though, come to think about it. I try to explain things to the kid. Give him a little direction and some context. She orders him about like a drill sergeant with a burr in his briefs. She figures the only context the kid needs is a shout in the ear and threatened excommunication. Or maybe a spanking, I forget which is which. President Aquino knows.
But it doesn't matter. The kid is sneaky smart, and at age three has figured out how to manipulate both Mom and Dad.
The neighbors and townsfolk can't figure us out. They try hard enough, staring as if we were just off the saucer from Mars. Rumor has it, started by the wife of a mason I hired, that my wife is a prostitute and is running around with the electrician. Also, we only have one kid because I can no longer "get it up".
Now I wonder how it the world she gets her information, but I think her spy is named Envy. She couldn't be further from the truth but you'd never convince her of that.
We are an odd couple, for sure. I'd stare at us if I saw us. One is 4'9" and the other 6'4", one is Filipino and the other American, one is under 30 and the other over 60. We've earned our attention. And it is the enjoyment of the difference that gives us so much humor and occasionally, ummmm . . . tension. So if others share the moment, too, what should we care?
The way I figure it, no one has the market on the correct way to be, and those who try hardest to hammer others into their singular way of living are far from correct way. I like to think our differences are like the elegant spices that turn regular food into fine cuisine. Sometimes the dish isn't so tasty, but we just wait for the next meal.
The distinction between American and Filipino has eroded within our household. We are just us. The kid certainly has no idea about it as he wanders about blabbing half in Visayan, half in English, and a small percentage in Dad's swear words.
Come to think about it, that's one of the things that separates me even from highly patriotic Americans. I think people around the world stand equal, and nationalistic fervor is rather like the neighbor's envy, artificial and too often built on insecurity. Yes, it is necessary to bind together to defend one's way of life. No, it is not necessary to consider other peoples as somehow lacking in authenticity.
That said, I think certain principles are good. Like hard work and responsibility and ingenuity and honor and courtesy and as much dignity as we can conjure up as we mingle amongst those with different standards.