Pacific islanders our brothers (and sisters) in race, culture and migration

[ Note : before anything else, may I respectfully remind the Precious Reader about my humble little My Favorite Kinoy of the Year survey, for guidance please view a previous blog, thanks in advance for your input; for managing every little detail of your wedding, birthday or anniversary, please contact events planners Marj Magno and Marie Garcia 029-7738616 in Wellington !  Please allow me to thank Ms Zaida Angara West for her beautiful picture which she has graciously allowed me to use as a masthead on my blogsite, thanks Zaida!]

versatilebloggeraward11THANKS TO your kind indulgence, I’ve blogged about a lot of aspects about my accidental migrant adventure, from the kind Kiwi hosts, to fellow Asian wayfarers, to kabayan co-migrants that have my life here heaps easier. But something I almost never mention but which is a mainstay of the NZ milieu, at least in my neck of the woods, is the Samoan, Fijian, Tongan, Cook Islander and Tuvaluan presence.  For brevity, I’ll call them the Pacific Islander fraternity.

We share obvious similarities with the inhabitants of Polynesia because of race, climate and history, so instead of pointing out the distinctions between the islanders, I’ll tell you how much they remind me of ourselves and our Pinoyness.

1st_Honda_OdysseyFamily.  Like many Asians, family ties whether by blood, marriage or affiliation are very important to our islander co-migrants.  Just take a look at the pre-eminent car of choice of an overwhelming portion of the different Polynesian communities, the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Estima, and counterpart 8-seaters of other brands.  Such that if you see a car like this in the population centers here, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s either Asian-owned or Polynesian.  Islanders love to stay together, so once a migrant makes it as an NZ permanent resident, expect the rest of his family, no matter what size, to follow him/her to New Zealand.

Some grumblings on this last situation have been heard from European New Zealanders and other locals, which would make sense but for the fact that more people are now leaving NZ than entering it, strange but true.  The net migration rate here has been flat or going down the last few years, so skilled and hard-working islanders and other migrants are actually a good thing for the xenophobes, you better believe it. 🙂

Ginataang-ManokLooks, sounds and tastes.  Fijians are a bit on the mocha side and have a very Hindu-themed racial heritage, Tongans are a bit too solidly built, and Samoans are simply superhuman in athletic potential, but on the whole Pacific Islanders look so much like Pinoys that I have been tempted many times to talk in Tagalog to a lot of them before hearing their accent and realizing that they’re not Filipino.  Otherwise, even kabayan who’ve been living among their own kind would take a little time before distinguishing between Filipinos and Polynesian brethren, simply because I suspect that genetically, we are probably identical.

We have very similar complexions.  Our facial features are uncannily reminiscent of each other.  Even our respective languages contain words that have kindred meanings.  The Samoan word for drink is inu, the Maori (and Cook Island) word for death is mate.  Do they sound familiar?  And all the island cuisines scattered all over the Pacific use coconut milk liberally, so our ginataang tambakol, Bicol express and ginataang manok find eerie parallels among our Polynesian co-migrants.

Wanderlust and work ethic.  I don’t know the exact New Zealand policy, but Polynesians particularly Samoans Fijians and Tongans are allowed special migration privileges by NZ, who acts as a big brother to the smaller nations of the Pacific.  Because of this, Auckland is known as the city with the largest Polynesian population in the world, home to large Tongan, Samoan and Fijian communities.

Many Islanders have done well here, and they are proud of their migrant tradition, as Pinoys are of their own (not only here but all over the world).  It’s just like the Pinoy dream :  given better opportunities to raise families and build wealth overseas, they take full advantage of their chances, and hitch their star to the migration wagon.  Doesn’t this sound a lot like our own hopes and dreams?

***                ***               ***

Have you ever met a sibling or long-lost relative that you never knew you had, and stared at him or her in wonder?  Followed by hours and hours of bonding and revelations of things you shared but never knew about?  This is how many of us Filipinos feel about our brother Pacific Islanders, and we have just begun to know more about them.  The fact that they are migrants like us makes the experience doubly profound.

Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Pacific islanders our brothers (and sisters) in race, culture and migration

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