WHEN COLORS BLEND
Cultural Informant Interview
What is your cultural and personal background? I am Priscilla, a native of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. I am a 74-year-old widow of an American native from Indiana. We have two grown children and two grandchildren by each of them. I migrated into the United States in 1973 where I have lived and worked up to the present. Before my migration, I worked in my country until I found a job in Vietnam where I met my husband. I always dreamed of living and working in the United States although I have kept emotional ties with my native country. The Philippines has been through a lot of crises, especially economic, and I wanted to help. I have been able to vacation in my country a number of times.
What are Your Cultural Values, Habits, Holidays and Other Observances? Tradition dies hard in our country, especially among older folks in the countryside. These are unquestioning obedience to elders, simplicity, religiousness, courtesy, modesty, loyalty to the family and a deep sense of responsibility towards parents and younger members of the family and hospitality. Most Filipinos are timid. We are often indirect with what we want to say. A sense of belonging lifts our self-esteem. Our holidays are mostly church holidays, because the country was under the dominion of Spain for four centuries. The Americans took us from Spain through a treaty. Then we came under the rule of Japan during the Second World War when Filipinos suffered extremely in all ways. Our holidays today both in the Philippines and in our Filipino community are a mix of foreign and native events. We keep in touch with our relatives and friends in the Philippines through the social media, the telephone, letters and mobile telephones. There are many Filipino families in our city alone. Although we have already deeply ingrained American ways into our lives, our sentiments and habits as Filipinos remain in our subconscious.
What is the best thing about living in the United States? Adopting a dual culture, I have raised my economic, social and intellectual levels. The systems of doing things in America are the best in the world, in my opinion. Americans emphasize efficiency, punctually, precision, productiveness, openness, self-reliance, a deep regard for one's rights and those of others and a pride in their heritage. Most importantly, they are particular about product quality and durability. These are the very values that should be inculcated among Filipinos. Americans' pragmatic attitude is largely an attitude that should be imitated. They see problems as mere challenges that almost always have a solution. They focus on what can be done and reserve time to enjoy themselves. They adhere to the rule of law. Strong American political will makes the country very strong, economically superior and attractive to all freedom-seekers.
What is the worst thing about living in the United States? Filipinos are in the same footing as other non-white people in the U.S., despite our high literacy rate even in the Philippines. We still experience color discrimination despite our American citizenship, education and American ways and articulateness in American English. Another undesirable feature in living in America is the looseness of family ties. It is...
Nuclear families in America are fast deteriorating. Although some of us Filipinos in our community and in the rest of the U.S. have even imitated this unpleasant American trend. When we visit in the Philippines, our fellow Filipinos notice the change and not everyone is happy about it.
II. Cultural Immersion
There are Buddhist temples in many parts of the United States. The best time to visit is right after sunrise when it is cool and the monks are coming back from alms procession. I learned that there are rules to observe when visiting. Visitors should remove their hats and shoes and leave them at a designated place outside the worship area. They must show respect by turning off all devices, speaking softly, and refraining from eating, smoking or chewing. They must dress modestly, covering the shoulders and wearing long pants or skirts. They should enter the shrine with their left foot first and leave with the right foot first. They should show respect for the statue of Buddha by not touching it. Do not take pictures without prior permission. When leaving, back away from the statue before turning the back. Refrain from pointing at things and people in the temple. Stand when the monks or nuns enter and remain standing until they finish their worshipping pose. Monks do not eat after noon time, so visitors should not eat or snack around them. If they see a month sitting, visitors should also sit down before talking with the monks. Pointing the feet should always be avoided. Only the right hand should be used when giving or receiving anything to or from a monk.
Female visitors should never shake hands or hand anything to a monk. A cleansing ritual is needed before women's clothing can even brush against a monk's robes. If they want to give food to them, women should pass it to a man who should in turn give it to the monk. A small metal box is available in the temple for donations from visitors. These are for the necessary operational expenses of the temple. The average donation is $1 or less. Visitors should greet a monk by placing their palms together in a praying gesture and slightly bow at him.
III. Filipino Cuisine
Popular Filipino dishes include adobo, which means chicken, meat or pork marinated in garlic, soy sauce and vinegar; afritada, which is meat stew with green peppers, onions, tomatoes and potatoes; escabeche, which is sweet-sour fish; kare-kare, which is ox tail stew with banana blossoms cooked in peanut sauce; menudo, which is oxtail stew with chickpeas; and mechado, which is beef and onions cooked with tomato sauce. Other favorites in our country and even in our Filipino community in the U.S. are daing or dried fish; dinuguan, which is made from blood of internal organs and made into pudding; embotido or porkloaf sausages; laing, which is taro leaves cooked in coconut milk; rellenong bangus or stuffed milkfish; pochero, a combination of chicken and pork stew with bananas and vegetables; paksiw, which is fish stew marinated in vinegar; tapa or seasoned dried meat; tinola or chicken stew cooked with sayote or green papaya and ginger; and sinigang or soup with pork, meat, fish or shrimp made sour with tamarind or kamias, a native sour fruit.
We Filipinos are also very fond of noodles. We call our noodles pancit. The different types are pancit canton, pancit bihon, sotanghon and miki. Our snacks include arroz caldo or a kind of salted porridge with shreds of ginger and chicken cuts; ginataan, which is a sweet mix of camote, gabi, langka and saba; halo-halo, which is a mixture of fruit bits of the season in crushed ice with sugar and milk; puto bumbong, rice cakes, and maja blanca. We also love preparing and eating torta, which is plain omelet; tokwa or tofu; fried rice or singangag; and new varieties of lunch under the general categories of "silog." Natives drinks include coconut juice, gulaman, ginger tea and hard drinks, like basi and tuba for the men.
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