ARTHUR (not his real name) is one of the oldest regulars at work, and he looks the part. Honestly, he looks older than he is, I suspect he’s only a few years older than me but appears much older. To anyone who will give him the time of day, he complains about anything and everyone, not that he’s got a point, but in this day and economic climate, you live with what you’ve got, right?
I was personally offended when a couple of temps got a bit tired hearing his mumbling and grumbling (they should’ve gotten used to that by now), and told him shut up old man. I’m not sure if Arthur took offense, he probably gets that a lot, put-downs and comebacks I mean, but coming from a much younger fellow who wasn’t even in the company six months, it was a bit hard to take.
The thing that actually got to me most was the fact that Arthur, despite his obvious difficulty in appreciating the fact that we’ve got jobs and nearly one in five New Zealanders DON’T (shhh… and I’m not even a New Zealander 😉 ) deserved a little better by virtue of his age and seniority, and additionally that he meant well, talking about things that mattered to all of us.
But I realized that despite the fact that we hold our elders and seniors in relatively high esteem just for being older than us, the same isn’t always true in other cultures, like the instant culture in question, White and Maori-dominated New Zealand. Elders and older people are treated just like everyone else, maybe you give them the benefit of the doubt and a little slack in discussions and work situations, but nothing more. As in this instance, when the young guns got a bit tired of too much lip from Arthur and told him in no uncertain terms to zip it.
I would think ten times before doing something similar not just with Pinoy and Asian elders I interact with but also with Kiwis, Maoris and any other race and culture. Why? Nothing else than the fact that it’s been imbedded in my psyche to give older people extra respect, tolerance and courtesy, whether they deserve it or not. If you’re Pinoy and Asian, I don’t need to explain further. If not, let me try other examples.
Among fellow migrants here, there are still a moderate minority who’ve raised their kids to use po and opo and kiss the hand of elders. I’m pleasantly surprised to encounter these families on the street, at the mall or in church, because they fall in line to make mano po, whether you’re a bosom family friend, a kabayan or just an acquaintance, it doesn’t matter. It sometimes gives me goosebumps ‘cuz it reminds me I’m getting on in years; that they still do this back in the Philippines; and I’m glad some traditions back home won’t die a natural death.
This is an alien concept among our temporary hosts in NZ; you just don’t expect kids to use respectful particles of speech that have no use in normal conversation, still less do you expect them to kiss the gnarly hands of middle agers and senior citizens for no other reason that they were born before the People Power Revolution. But Pinoys do it, as do other Asian cultures.
Another quirk that we observe as Pinoys that doesn’t translate to other folk is “respecting the food” by wearing something decent to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Esposa hermosa doesn’t allow me to come to the table without at least wearing a shirt, God forbid that I try dining in my underwear. It’s the decent thing to do, and you respect God and the people who raised you by dressing properly to your meals. Frankly, I’m not sure if other cultures do this as well but imagine coming au naturel to merienda. A bit awkward right?
And finally, because English is a second language to us, we strive as migrants to learn it as well or even better than the natives, but we will always remember our mother tongue, speak it with pride and use it as the language of our youth.
Which is why, when you meet countrymen who speak like they either don’t remember it anymore or worse, pretend that they never spoke it before (like they haven’t been in New Zealand for less than a couple of years, jeez), it raises the hackles and rankles the nerves.
There’s nothing worse than somebody who’s turned his/her back on the homeland, whether it’s via the little things or by doing it philosophically, like avoiding anything that reminds them of the Philippines, taking the initiative of criticizing our country, or taking pains to forget that they were once part of being Pinoy.
Incidentally, these are the (former) countrymen who before they encounter you on the street, cross the same just to avoid greeting you. Believe me kabayan, it’s not your loss and you are certainly better off.
There are so many reasons to defend my peculiar persistence in the particular way I react towards certain things, be it a generation gap, a clash of civilizations, or adhering to Rizal’s malansang isda metaphor. But there’s only one reason to sustain it : I was born a Filipino, raised with the Filipino way of life and will stay that way to my dying day.
Mabuhay po tayong lahat !
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- your census or your life (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- why Zenie Lorenzo Low is our favorite Kinoy* (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- bansot, potot & boy liit : celebrating pinoy height (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- happy birthday to 1 of the coolest pinoys in welly : mr Ricky Montenegro! (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)