for sindak value alone, it's worth the effort to wear...
“In my heart I am an American. I am one of many, many people, and we are not who you think we are. We don’t just mow your lawns and babysit your kids and serve you tacos.”
–Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Fil-American, who has been an illegal immigrant for nearly 20 years.
[ NOte from NOel : Kudos to proud Ma & Pa for the awesome birthday party of Meg and Kim Montenegro Agustin, and greetings to Tita Nanette, kids and grandkids on the wedding anniversary of Atty. Renato and Nanette Montenegro ! Belated happy birthday to early June kabatch celebrants Ralston Lim (2nd June), Katherine Ang-Chuabio (5th June), Belani Chan-Uy (6th June), Marivic Ching-Chua (6th June) and Stephanie Chan-Lam (9th June) ! Hope you all had a wonderful birthday! ]
BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE, I acknowledge Kuya Palo, a Noli Locsin-lookalike if I ever saw one, and probably the best drill / crane operator Wellington region has seen (or will ever see) from San Pedro Laguna and Sariaya Quezon. Because the jacket was at least one-and-a-half sizes too small for him, and I chanced to mention that I always wanted a Team Pacquiao jacket, he passed on to me the red-gold-and-blue one morning and non-chalantly told me it was mine forever.
After the initial euphoria, I matter-of-factly assessed the garment. It was definitely from Greenhills, where brands burst all over and buyers beware. But the colors were correctly shaded and authentically hued, and I was feeling patriotic that day, so I wrapped said jacket around my thermal undershirt and running jersey, and started, not without a little self-consciousness, around the suburb.
The temperature was no different from what I experienced the last few days : eleven to twelve Celsius, and just to jack up the degree of difficulty, my balahibo tasted the famous gusty Welly Winds + the companion wind chill factor. But the magic of wearing your country’s colors swept these discomforts aside, if only for a few moments.
Houses and flats I didn’t know were Pinoy-owned and rented revealed themselves. Rakers of late autumn leaves pause disbelieving at the mobile flag, and after a split-second smile a Filipino smile. Hands with unseen owners, preoccupied probably with ironing office shirts or folding laundry, wave from seldom-opened windows. Even pre-teens not too young to remember pre-school in the old country point to my sun-and-3-stars, and I point right back, hoping my lips echo back what my thoughts convey: “MA-NNY PA-QUIAO!”
Extending the facade of fame and familiarity were the honks and cheers of “PINOY” from cars whizzing past. After only a quarter of an hour I understood that these were kabayan who wanted to acknowledge the novelty of a roadside runner, and who undoubtedly were reminded of home. Of course, I waved back. One or two were actually Kiwis who asked me “Whatcha wearin mate?” laughed without even waiting for a response, and sped away. Of these I paid no mind, and ran the noble footrace of Pinoy Pride and Middle Age Fitness.
Best of all were the thumbs-up sign of fellow runners who did a double-take at the unusual duds but still appreciated the summer colors on a dreary day.
Hmmm. If I got these kinds of rave reviews outdoors, how would I do in the mall? Later in the day I joined the frost-avoiding throng and shuffled inside Westfield Queensgate, a winter oasis of Kiwi, Maori, Polynesian and Asian leisure warriors and heat-hunters during these cold climes.
Now I know there are about 10,000 Filipinos spread evenly across the cities of the region (Wellington City, Johnsonville, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt) but right now there seemed to be more than our fair city’s share, especially in this mall at this moment. I knew there were sales and winter bargains that brought the Filipinos out of the woodwork, but everywhere I turned there seemed to be one or two (or three).
Di ka naman siguro proud magmukhang Pilipino dyan, no? quipped a lineman from Tondo that I met last year, giving me a spirited jab of good natured sarcasm, which I took in stride. I could not jab him back, as he was pushing his newborn bundled in a pram alongside his convalescing Misis.
Suplada (haughty) Pinays in tight miniskirts, leggy leggings and smart berets, some of them already born here, held me in their gaze through Pagani and Glassons windows. I imagined that they’d seen me before but always thought I was Chinese or some other Asian. Now they knew better, in my dreams.
Two very Visayan grandmoms actually interrupted their chatter to give me a once-over to confirm to each other that yes, this singkit-eyed bansot was crazy enough to be a walking bandila, and one of them chirped “biri nice kulurs iho,” which I acknowledged with a “salamat po.” Right back to their kwentuhan.
One high schooler I caught staring at my jacket and hurriedly looking away. Very kayumanggi-looking and obviously 2nd generation Kinoy. I dismissed him without a second thought.
If you can believe it, in the space of two more hours running errands I met a dozen more compatriots and their families, some of them actually asking why I was wearing the national colors, but most of them telling me they had similar jackets of their own.
Well, why don’t you wear them like I’m doing now, I ask. I know it’s tacky and others think it’s baduy, but overall the feel-good factor overrides everything else. I mean, it’s not like I’ll ever be a member of the national team or challenge Manny P., so you know it’s all just in good fun, right? They usually just smile sheepish smiles and salute me like I’m a flagpole.
** ** ** ** **
In the course of our everyday, mundane lives we sometimes need to see a few things to remind us of what we left back home, and what we’re missing. If ever we didn’t wear our Pinoy-ness on our sleeves more often back home, and if ever we were less than proud to be Filipino, not to worry. Anytime (like now) would be a good time to start and, though they’re not essential, little reminders like Team Pacquiao jackets, Proud 2B Pinoy bumper stickers and saying something positive about our country and countrymen go a long way towards loving your very own, warts and all.
Maybe next time I’ll wear a salakot and camiso de chino to Filipino Mass, just to be as Pinoy as can be.
Mabuhay ang lahing kayumanggi!
Thanks for reading !