It is a bit scary, the things we take for granted that are so much a part of our everyday lives, or what is often referred to as our ‘culture’. You tend not to notice these things until you either find yourself immersed in a foreign culture, or have someone from somewhere else immerse themselves in ours. Like when you marry a Filipina, for instance.
Are Mermaids Real?
Not long after we were first married, my asawa and I were on a pump boat coming back from Malapascua Island and my wife asked me if mermaids were real. I’m ashamed to say my first reaction was to laugh, I mean, seriously? Here was an otherwise intelligent, high school graduate with a lot of ‘nouse’ (street smarts) asking if mermaids were real or not. I was taken aback and I am sorry to say my initial, somewhat incredulous reaction did hurt her feelings. But if you think about it, how would she know otherwise?
Mermaids are not a part of native Filipino folk legend, as they are within our Anglo-Euro centric culture. She has only seen mermaids on movies and TV where they are portrayed as being very real. ‘Splash’, ‘Ariel’, ‘H2O’ and similar shows all give the impression that mermaids are indeed very real. So why would anyone without any other point of reference think they weren’t? When you take into account the fact many Filipinos hold firm beliefs in spirits, both evil and good and blend Catholicism/Christianity with their older animist belief systems; why can’t mermaids exist alongside their own onggus and dwendis?
You Wanna Plate? That’s Extra
I have to confess that even today, a decade and a half after marrying my wife, I still react poorly when she asks me something which I take for granted as being something ‘everyone knows’. The fact is, not everyone does know that, even if they are Aussie born and bread. Our language alone has Aussie-isms that other native English speakers misunderstand or simply fail to comprehend totally. When we first arrived in Sydney we had lunch at a food court. A sign said; ‘Lunch Special – $6 per plate’. Asawa asked me ‘why do we have to pay for the plate’? She was confused and thought the food cost whatever was up on the board and you had to buy the plate on top of that. She checked what was being used to hold the food and was pretty disgusted to note they were plastic, not worth washing let alone taking home. For six dollars! MAHAL! (expensive).
The other day she asked me where was the ‘Leagues Club’? I asked her which one and was told, ‘St Mary’s Leagues’. I reminded her we had been there before but she insisted no, that was ‘St Mary’s Rugby Leagues Club’. We cleared that up and then she asked about the other ‘Leagues’ Club. Turned out that was the RSL. OK, so where is the ‘Rissole’? Same place! You can imagine how the conversation deteriorated as we went through the Bandies, the Band Club, the Tradies, the Tradesmen’s Club and the local pub, officially called a tavern and often referred to as a hotel. I got the look, the five minute tampo just to let me know she wasn’t amused and a shaking of the head. Can you blame her?
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), www.streetwisephilippines.biz, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at
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