Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thought Fool

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.

"Fork lifts."

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.

She keeps the floors spotless, the pantry full, her husband stuffed and the kid in order.

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. 


  1. HA! HA! HA! HA! Funny ! And Joe thought it is cultural. My wife and I both came from the Philippines, same province speaks same local dialect. She watches telenovela, I don't. My wife forces me to watch the telenovela with her while I cannot force her to watch History, National Geographic Channel and Food Network. She accused my watching Food Network of my yucky experimental dish. My son loves my experiment adding "could this have taste more better with more garlic ... ?" and other "what ifs". My wife has none of that. She sticks to traditional recipe LIKE ALL FILIPINOS.

    Filipinos are afraid to experiment. That is why Philippines has very few distinctively Filipino dish, they are the usual: Adobo, pansit, raw tuna marinated in vinegar, tinola, deep fried pork belly and few others mostly coronary artery-clogging cuisines.

    My favorite is assorted seasheslls, clams, oysters, mussels, and other molusks with shells dropped into boiling water and garnishings thrown in.

  2. Yep! ENVY ! I do not really know if it is borne out of envy.

    In the Philippines a Filipina is branded as prostitute if they are with foreigners.

    Sex is talked about 1,000 times a day by Filipinos. In Cebu, jeepneys are plastered at the back with "Tila-i ko be" (Lick me, please) or "Super-Tila" (Super-lick) which is a no-no in America. If the wife doesn't get pregnant they tease the couple "dili kahibalo" (don't know how to do it) in front of people nary a blush.

    In America is different, they do it with different partners but cannot talk about it in front of opposite sex in a group.

    But watch out these Filipinos in America. Both sexes talk about sex and use it against each other to bring others down if jealousy arises because they know it is sexual harassment to talk openly about sex in America's corporate world. Smart pinoys. They know how to manipulate. That is the best they can do. They are primed for it.

    It is like in so many comments in newspaper articles boils down to this: "Why would Corona benefits the rule-of-law when he is a violator of rule-of-law". The anti-Corona commentators are saying, the congress has to violate the rule-of-law to prosecut Corona because Corona himself violated the rule-of-law. And these are coming from brilliant Filipino commentators. Perpetuation. The Filipinos truly believe in "an eye for an eye". Very common. Very normal. As long as the violation of rule-of-law do not happen to them.

    Monday is the day of Entertainment.

  3. ... oh, I forgot. Marriage is the most happy uncomfortable event if the woman is not pregnant walking down the aisle. She'll be teased by her male co-workers to no end. They'll ask her how many times she did it, how they do it, if she liked it. And when she leaves hurriedly after work, she'd be teased again, "What's the rush?". It's normal. Teasing you of your "not getting up" is soooo common. Sex is the main fare in the drinking session under the mango tree. You will get used to it. I betcha your wife was asked by neighbors how long is yours. Because Filipinos believe Americans have a big long thing.

    I am curious, too ! I even asked my pretty skinny petite Filipina office mate in AMerica who is married to a white how long was his. She replied, "it is more than a mouthful" WE JUST LAUGHED AND LAUGHED AND LAUGHED ... BUT, word of caution, since you are an American you cannot asked that from a Filipina officemate.

  4. Do you know, Joe, that Filipino alphabet do not have an "F"? We are so conscious of the absence of "F". Here is the alphabet in Filipino:

    A Ba Ka Da E Ga Ha La Ma Na ... I forgot the rest we do not have a "Q"

    So when they speak english especially, if it is spoken by a provinciano, they are so trying hard to pronounce words correctly in doing so they mispronounce "P" as "F" which is usual and very common.

    Anyways, in Del Monte Plantation in Bukidnon in Mindanao an American manager was looking for "Rudy" the guy answered, "he is in the facking department". "Great!", the American manager said, "they have f*cking department!"

  5. How does you wife feel you are attacking her own people ? Did she argue back with you ? Does she defend her people ? Does she make excuses for them ? And, oh, try asking your wife if neighbors asked how long is yours. I am sure someone have asked ...

  6. Mariano, I enjoyed your observations, which ought to be a blog in their own right. Especially the distinction between Americans and Filipinos regarding sex, in America vs. in the Philippines. Very fine observations.

    My wife generally agrees with me. When she doesn't, she goes quiet. Then I know I better shut up or that Chooks for Chicken guy might come out of her mouth. Also, her behavior remains the same . . . traditionally Filipino.

  7. Joe, I admit that the title of this post intrigued me a lot. I found myself laughing after I found out what it meant. And "pork lips"? LOL.

    I believe that partners can be opposites, to an extent. Age doesn't matter as long as the partner "completes" something in the other. When I was still in the university, I had a neighbor with a setup much like yours before. Occasionally, I'd hear them fight (a million decibels off the scale) and then see them all sweetie sweetie the next day. Nothing wrong with that, it's part of the deal.

    And if people say weird things about you, it's probably because they don't understand. It's pretty much human nature. Without accurate knowledge, people say things in the pursuit of "rationalizing" whatever new thing they see.

  8. brianitus, good counsel, indeed. My family is for the most part happy and healthy, so no complaints here.

  9. My Filipina fiance tells me that she routinely puts up with sexual comments from Fiipino man. It is normal to make comments like "when she had sex the last time or "if she has orgasm" or "how big is her Kano's...." etc. She also gets comments when I'm with her. Just by walking down the streets with her. It is hard for me sometimes to control myself. One time I wanted to go back and confront a group of Filipino man but she begged me not to do, worried that I would get hurt. She thinks they maybe under the influence of shabu or alcohol or have some pride issues. It is just so blatant and it's better that I don't understand when it happens but lately I ask her to tell me what she was told and I get upset. Interestingly it never directed at us but her alone.

  10. Attila, jealousy runs deep here, especially among those who have little in their lives. It is not worth fighting over, as then you go to their level.Interestingly, it is always in groups that those things occur. If you met any of those guys one-on-one, they would not say anything. So the comment really has nothing to do with you or your wife; it is just them showing off to one another. Like roosters, I guess. . .

  11. Attila, I feel for you. Please be aware that it is not happening to you. It is happening to everyone in the Philippines. I know it is hard to join the ride. My wife and I knows how to play them.

    I had my wife hike up her skirt close to her butt cheek and we rode up the elavator ... Oh, boy, those crazies went absolutely crazy ... I went crazy, too ! It works both ways ...

  12. Thanks for the advice. Where I came from any self respecting man would not tolerate it. I have to adjust.

  13. Hello Joe,
    Mario here, I have been out of the loop for the most part in the forum scene. Reading this article of yours is so dang hilarious. It just made my world a better place.

    Oh yeah! I soooo love those filipina girls in the Philippines. Not the prostitutes, lmao.

    1. Mario, glad you enjoyed it. It's also good to see you back. I trust that things are good with you. They're great here on Biliran.

  14. I was interested to know how would my fiance be treated if I were a Filipino man. Would she be a target for sexual harassment on the street when we walk together? Would she be told nasty comments by other Filipino men? She told me no it would be unlikely that she would be targeted. She explained to me why.
    She is target for 2 reasons: First it is widely believed that a Filipina would date a Kano only for his money. True love between a Kano and a Filipina is not possible in their view.
    Second reason is that Kanos are considered to be animalistic sexually. The way the kano has sex is low life barbarian way. We considered to be dirty pigs sexually. So if a Filipina is dating a Kano she is putting up with a man that abuses her and she deserves to harassed. That was her explanation. Anyone wants to comment on this?

  15. I remember the stereotypes my parents had about blacks and sexuality in the 1950's. Sounds about the same. I think there are perverts and abusers and good people about in equal proportions, every race.


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