[ Note : just a stream-of-consciousness e-mail. Please excuse the candidness, and the spontaneity. ]
“Hey NOWL, what’s Tey-galog ?”
[ Definitely a trick question ; knowing the asker, he’s already Googled and Wikipidiaed the term; still it’s a pleasant, if odd surprise that he’s asking about our language, or at least, one of them… ]
Back home, there’s no such thing as a national language like Maori or English in your parts, but if you’re looking for the nearest thing to a lingua franca anywhere in our Archipelago, Tagalog is the way to go.
“Hmmm. Okay, thanks for the info NOWL.”
[ Don’t think we’ll ever get used to being called Nowl, as in Nowl Leeming (a popular chain of appliance stores), but at least it’s better than Noelene or NOwl the Filipino, or Phil the Noel-pino, now leave me in peace to drink my well-deserved oxidant-banishing, and wrinkle-discouraging green tea… ]
As backgrounder, in itself it’s a wonder that he even thinks of asking us anything that doesn’t pertain to work, he’s straight-as-an-arrow, serious-as-serious-gets, and professional-as-can-be at work, so anything that distracts you from the mundane list of tasks for the next eight hours in the dead of night is a welcome digression.
Famous last words.
“hey Nowl, just out of curiosity, have you got any idea how much a university education costs in your country relative to the standard of living and average wage, just off the top of your head ?”
Wow Koya, iba na mga tanong mo ha. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were committing to pay for the education of someone back home, obviously someone a tad more important to you than the only other Pinoy you know, that’s ME of course . 🙂
[ of course, we’re not that suspicious, and in the midst of doing three different things, we couldn’t give it more than a raised eyebrow and a hurried 2nd thought, but still… ]
Tuition, depending on the quality of education provided by the school and the degree course and curriculum, costs anywhere between 30,000 to a hundred thousand in Philippine pesos per term. That’s a relatively reasonable 1000 to 3000 in Kiwi dollars, but you have to realize that resources are more scarce back home, average wages are much more modest, and families are usually bigger, are you thinking of any school in particular (or anyone specific) ?
“Hmmm (again, that disturbingly non-chalant hmmm)… no, not really. what’s for lunch ?” . . .
Shows me a piece of paper. “Read this, NOWL.”
(I almost cringed and wanted to say I didn’t want to, but inevitability and morbid curiosity gets the better of NOWL.)
M – A – H – A – L K – I – T – A .
There was no one else in the building, but i whispered the translation, scared that anyone else would hear. (Smiles.)
“I knew that, heh, heh heh (like a Cheshire cat). There’s another word that I failed to write, I need the translation and wanna know why it’s in the middle.”
(Sigh.) Okay, what’s the word?
(writes slowly) “D – I – N.”
Okay, your friend translates for you, gives you her answer, and then translates the same for you?
“Yup, I just wanna know why “din” is in the middle.”
Well, it would be inelegant if it were said anywhere else, and she probably already knows you have a Filipino friend, who’ll do the translation for you. And the interpretation.
[ Kinikilig itong lolo mo, NOel. ]
You know Boss ? In the two plus years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen you like this.
You look like you lack sleep, and you look like (shudder!) you’re bored with work.
“I guess I do. Been chatting with my Filipina friend three nights now…”
[ Shows me her pics, very pretty actually, a duskier version of Isabel Oly, in colegiala camouflage. ]
“Wants me to visit Manila straightaway, that’s why I’ve been picking your brain the past three days. Also wants me to see her family.”
Inay ko po.
Hey boss, aren’t you rushing things a bit? It’s just not like you to uhm, rush into things like this.
“For sure. Am not gonna be rushed into doing things. But let me tell you NOWL, she’s smart, sez she’s a simple Filipina girl, and from what I can tell, she’s not materialistic.”
[ Well, what can I say ? What would YOU say? ]
Barely audible sigh .
“Say Nowl, are there flights out to Manila from here that don’t pass through Sydney or Melbourne?”
Well boss, that’s the idea. Flights are cheap cuz there are so many passengers bound for Manila picked up from either of those cities. Sometimes both.
“You mean, besides the Filipinos IN HERE, there are lots more in Aussie?”
(Duh.) Actually everywhere. Say, are you really serious about going to the Philippines ? It’s just not sightseeing and beaches you’re after, yup?
(Actually I already know what, or who the reason is, I just can’t believe it’s reason enough for him to up and go.)
“Well I HAVE been planning to go on a long holiday, and you know the weather here can be quite frustrating. ( Pauses ). I just don’t know why she’s insisting that I visit her December.”
Whoa. Just my humble opinion Mastah, but unless you’re from there, you DON’T want to travel to the Islands Christmas season. And don’t ask why. Just too iffy, and too many unknowns. And it’s probably the most chaotic time of the year.
“Most chaotic compared to what ?”
Most chaotic compared to ANYWHERE YOU’VE BEEN.
[ Looks taken aback, but quickly recovers. ] “You’re not discouraging me from visiting your own country, are you?”
(I roll my eyes.) I’m not. Just… as you say, don’t rush into this, boss.
(Smiles a self-assured smile). I won’t be (rushed). You know me better than that, Nowl.
[Actually, I don’t. Not after the last few days.]
** ** ** **
Pardon our cynicism, but compressing my dozens of questions into three : Did Mastah know the first rule of online dating / chatting, which is NEVER to send, or even promise to send money, at least until you’ve gotten to know someone considerably longer than a week?
Second : Has Mastah at least taken the precaution of using either the webcam or Skype (or similar telephony) to see or hear if the person is indeed the one in the obviously flattering pictures?
This third is actually the hardest : Is Mastah naive enough to believe that he is the only one his friend is chatting with?
These are the Final Jeopardy questions we want to ask Mastah before the end of the Isang Linggong Pag-ibig. Cross our heart and hope to die, we really, really want to ask him.
But don’t bet on it.
Thanks for reading !
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