Enter imaginary door, slam it shut and lean on it, grumbling, muttering, "needing to let off steam", i.e., silent scream. Exhausted but smiles.
. . .I'm still mad, though.
All she does is nag, nag, nag. (Wanders about an imaginary room littered with clothes and books and junk, picks up each piece). When she can't pick on anyone else she picks on me! My room is no different from any other room. At least I know where everything is when I want it.
(Points to imaginary pile) See this. At least I know where things are. Under is Monday's clothes, which means I peeled this blouse and this skirt last Monday. In Monday's pockets are the phone numbers of guys I met on Monday. Next is my Tuesday jeans. My Wednesday jacket and blouse. ETC....ETC....ETC.
(Bends down to imaginary items on the floor) If I took this and threw it over there (tosses to opposite side), I won't know where to find it. (pick someone from the audience who is OLD) You know how it is. You've been through this before, right? So this has to be right here because I just borrowed this from Lallie. We exchanged vests at the concert.
(Goes to another part of the room, picks up object, recognizes it and runs to imaginary door and shouts with back to the audience) MA-MAH, I found your KWAN. You left it here last night. (to audience) See, what I mean. I got blamed for even losing her ANO or her KWAN.
When she was pregnant with my brother, she insisted they return home to the Philippines because she didn't want my brother to be born American.
(Imitates mother with Filipino accent) Iha, Ay tol you ober and ober agin to clean up yur room. Yu are a woh-man na! How can yu be more magulo dan yur brodder. Hala, clean yur room now. And look por my ano ober there (points with her lips)
(Switches) What, Ma? Where?
(Switches) Its dere. Doon! (with lips) I used it the last time I ano the kwan. Harreee up so I can pinis dis bepore yur Papa arribes.
My mom got married when she was 24. Dad was her first boyfriend. They met while he was doing his residency in New Jersey. She was in the Accounting Office. When she was pregnant with my brother, she insisted they return home to the Philippines because she didn't want my brother to be born American. Me, I was born right here. So everytime I argue with her, she dismisses me by saying that I answer back because I am kana!
* * *
Why do I have to grow up Filipino????
Filipino families have curfews. My friends don't. Filipino families come home for dinner. My friends don't. They have dinner at mine.
When I was 12, I hated being Filipino. For several reasons. The strange part is I don't hate it as much, now that I'm older. (Defensively) I just turned 16!
One reason was the embarrassing smell of food Why did we have to eat pakbet, dining-ding and bagoong? Why couldn't we just have ordinary food like fries and hamburgers? If I was planning to bring home friends, I had to call ahead to find out what was our dinner menu. Of course, who among my friends didn't love adobo or bipstek! But how I cringed whenever dinuguan was on the table. And It was my favorite dish!
You see, when it comes to food, I am pure Filipino. But so early on, I was constantly afraid of being found out. "Found out about what?" you ask. About being different, that's what! I wanted to be blond, blue-eyed and five feet eight, eating pasta, carrot sticks, or a T-bone steak. Not spam, eggs and fried rice for breakfast. But I couldn't begin my day if I didn't share a Filipino breakfast with Dad.
Did my friends notice that I was any different? We always ended up at my place for pajama parties because Mama catered to us. She prepared the best snacks and she would serve them to us in my room. And the best part was that Kuya was not allowed to even peek inside my domain. The worst was whenever she called out her reminders:
"Iha, don porget to brush your teeth, ha?
"And darr-lling, use the tabo tonight, ha?"
Shhh, Ma! (run to imaginary Mother) My friends will hear you!
"They don't know what a tabo is!"
"Christine, WHAT'S A TABOH?"
Nothing, just my...just uh...just my
uh, dental floss!
* * *
Sandy Ferguson told me the other day that a Chinese family moved into the neighborhood. I said Nope, they're Filipinos! How did I know? EasyDid they talk this way (imitate chinese sounding words) "ANG-CHING KOH-CHEE-TOH-YAW?" Of course not. They spoke this way "ANO BAH HAH-NEE-HELP YUR PADER CARRY DAT, ANAK!"
It has to be in the Guiness Book of Records that the most foot-loose people are Ilokanos! And of course, the Cantonese Chinese. We're everywhere. We beat the Cantonese because Ilokanos possess an asset which Cantonese don't: Ilokanos speak ENG-GAH-LEESH TAGLEESH.
* * *
By the way, It only happens among Filipinoswhoever is taller automatically becomes my Tita or my Tito. We have aunts, uncles and cousins from Hawaii to Alaska, from the North Pole to the South Pole. In Madagascar and even in Antarctica. Don't challenge me on this 'cause you'll lose. They don't have to have blood ties, water ties or oil ties to be related to me, they just have to be Pinoy. And Presto! (to members of the audience, very graciously) Hi, Tita! Hello Tito! Lola, thank you for coming!
With ordinary people, does it matter whether the guy's parents are from Kansas or from Boston? What if one parent came from Anchorage and the other from Newark, New Jersey? What does it make them? PELICANS?
(Phone rings. Picks up, but is not enthusiastic) Hi, Jeff. I can't. It's not thatI just can't. What? Who? Who sez I'm a coconut?! Listen, asungot, I too can sing the Bayang Magiliw! Just because I can't stand your face doesn't make me a coconut. That makes me white? I'd rather go out with Casper the Ghost than be seen with you! (slams down imaginary phone)
Can you believe that?! Just because I'm dating a puti, he says I'm a coconut! Just because I'm not competing for Miss Filipino American Bowling BallI'm a coconut! Well, I've got better things to do than to watch you Neil Diamond wannabees croon "Song Sung Blue" for the umpteenth time on the Karaoke! (Do a barf gesture)
GUYS!!! Wish they would disappear from the face of the earth! Parents don't make the choosing any better. How can I convince mine that dating a Pinoy is like dating my own brother?? ("What's wrong with your brodder, iha?)
The first question they ask, if I happen to bring home a Pinoy, is "Where are his parents from?" I ask myself, why? Why does it matter where they're from? With ordinary people, does it matter whether the guy's parents are from Kansas or from Boston? What if one parent came from Anchorage and the other from Newark, New Jersey? What does it make them? PELICANS?
(Become giggly and silly) I'm dating this handsome jock right now. He's blond and he mumbles all the time. My father can't stand him, unless the football game is on TV and they watch together. My mother whimpers every time we go out. She equates my date with a loss of my virginity! But if I dated a Pinoy, he is insured a place at the dinner table anytime!
(Phone ringing. Pick up) Hi, Jenny. It's for me, ma! You can hang up now! No I can't. I'm trying to, but I don't think it's possible. Wha'dya mean! That's a good 20 feet down, at least! What if I broke a leg? (long listening stance) She did!? (scared) How did she do it? (accepting a dare) I can do THAT! I can DO THAT too! Of course I can! All right, it's set! Past midnightno, it's got to be at least after one, after Letterman! Bye! (Places phone on the cradle) Oh, please let them be asleep by then!!
(RAPPING ON THE DOOR) I'm almost done, Ma. Yeah, yeah, yeah! Awright, awright! (starts picking up things and pushing stuff in the closet. Looks around, then opens door. Sees what is being held out to her.) Oh, Mama! That's my favorite! Did you make puto with this? Oh, yummeee......
© Remé-Antonia Grefalda