He visited the Philippines in 2009 as a Canadian exchange student in Visayas. After just a year, he became fluent with the language – his acumen, I must say, was accompanied by his fondness of the Pinoy culture.
When we first met, I did not know what to ask first, to be able to explain how a white guy knew more of Philippines’ dialects than I, a Filipina, would ever learn. For a moment, I hoped he spent time in Manila, maybe even in UP, just to get the chance of enjoying his perspective, while I was still back home, studying.
“Huwag kang magsalita ng Ingles sa akin, ayoko makalimot.” His plead to use Tagalog started our fun conversations. He brags about cooking “adobo” and “ampalaya.” He enjoys colloquial terms like “sulit”, “bongga”, “so fab”, “taray”, and our usual goodbyes, aka “ingat.”
Today, we bumped into each other in the lunch room. He talked about some Filipino friends he currently have in the university. “May iba”, he said.
He visited the Filipino students association, started speaking Tagalog, only to be told, “Most of us could only speak in English.”
“Maybe they grew up here?”
“Some, yes. Some, not really. They don’t even know any Filipino recipe. They are, “kulang sa kalog, sosi.” They say Filipinos love karaoke, but I can’t help but think, there’s more to your culture than that.”
“I guess some learn to adapt to their environment’s culture. Too ‘Canadian’ ba?”
“Okay lang naman, pero minsan, nahuhusgahan mo na parang, trying hard.”
I fell flat on my face. Yes, maybe that is quite a peak to a bigger picture. And I blurted the last questions I could ask, “When you were in the Philippines, did you feel the big difference in the social gap? Did you feel what they called, ‘colonial mentality’?”
He paused, and concluded, “Hindi naman.”
And at the back of my head I thought, buti na lang hindi siya napunta sa Manila.