[ Host Wellington and the Wellington Pinoy community welcome all kabayan participants and competitors of the Pistang Pilipino 2016 sa Wellington, kudos to the organizers, officials, marshals and other volunteer staff. Mabuhay kayong lahat! ]
NOPE, IT’S not communication or language. Most Pinoys (an endearment Filipinos call themselves) treat English almost as a first language, having been taught the King’s English from nearly the very start of their lives. In fact, I remember in Pinoy Mass (once a month, celebrated by a Filipino priest), the priest delivered his homily in (of course) perfect English, for the benefit of the non-Pinoy parishioners who insisted on attending Mass with kabayan. After 10 minutes of a short discussion of the Sunday Gospel, he said, I now respectfully continue the sermon in Taglish, which everyone was expecting. In both versions, Father Kabayan was outstanding (and uplifting), and considerate of both English and Tagalog speakers. So, adjustment to our host’s language is no biggie.
A little more complicated is the way people travel, both on the road and on the footpath (sidewalk or walkway ang tawag natin). The New Zealand Road Code tells motorists to travel on the left side of the road, so when you cross the street (usually a two-way street), you look to the right first, then to the left when you’re in the middle of street. It took me a while before i got used to that, and got me quite a lot of honks and four-letter words from drivers who never get used to Asian pedestrians like me. It got a little worse when I started learning to drive, because I frequently reverted to the mindset of driving on the right side of the road, not very safe and definitely taking a little more adjustment than walking. Still, as long as you keep focused on your walking / driving, and remember that you’re in New Zealand, not the Philippines, you should be OK.
And then there’s the work culture or culture of interaction, I can’t go any broader than that for fear of using too much space. Kiwis or New Zealanders generally speak their mind, but are aware of the need to save face at all times, especially for Asians. So they temper the sharpness of their tongues with subtle digs and lighthearted witticisms, sometimes using good-natured sarcasm, in short, very Pinoy, when you think of our sawikain (literary expression), salawikain (proverbs), parinig (hints) and other figures of speech that dull the kaanghangan (spicyness) of our criticisms. Definitely, there are more similarities than differences when you compare social intercourse /s of Pinoys and Kiwis. The key words are civility, pakisama (attitude of “getting along” with each other) and the golden rule (do unto others what you’d want them to do unto you).
Even better, as long as you let your work and your work attitude talk the talk and walk the walk, you can’t go wrong. Kiwis may find you strange, different and awkward, but if you do your work right, work within the team concept and go the extra mile, you speak their language, and speak the universal language, the language of hard work spoken anywhere.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
No, the biggest adjustment you have to make is accepting the realization that the next time you go back to the Philippines, it’s no longer to return to your home base but as an excursion to a place you used to live in, to visit friends, loved ones and family, only as an interruption of your regular life… as a migrant.
The biggest and most lifechanging adjustment you make is a shifting of allegiance from the country of your birth to the country of your future, to the country you will soon (if not already) call home. Loyalty is on unstable, shifting ground, no more so than for the migrant.
You will never lose gratitude for the country that gave you existence, blood and identity, but your migrant life changes everyday, and your migrant life waits for no one. Least of all, old memories and old attachments.
You can always go home, back to the Philippines, but with different eyes, different attitudes, and different perspectives. That is as hard as any adjustment you can make.
In a very real sense, you can never go home again.
Thanks and mabuhay everyone for reading!