Can You Blame Her?

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.

mermaids

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), Dip.Bus, 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 www.streetwisephilippines.biz

This article and website sponsored by Down Under Visa, Australian Registered Migration Agents in Manila – The Australian Partner Visa Specialists

 

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The Simple Life in the Philippines

There was a Greek philosopher who lived long before Facebook or Twitter called Epicurus. It is from his name we get the term ‘epicurean’. Something to do with enjoying food and the finer things of life, I believe. The reality was Epicurus lived in a large house with several friends and actually enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. Not fancy food, but just plain old cheese and wine. History has distorted this, as it tends to so often do, to the point where describing oneself as an ‘epicurean’ when rather obese generally leads to knowing looks and half-hidden smirks.

SimpleLife

Live The Good Life In Legazpi

Or anywhere in the Philippines for that matter. You can live a very good life and enjoy the simple pleasures that Epicurus so treasured. Good (albeit simple but tasty) food, good drink and most importantly, good company. He valued the latter more than the other things and he was right. Good company starts with your Filipina and extends beyond her to her family and your circle of friends. Having good company, quality rather than quantity, will make all the difference to how you assimilate into the community and your new life in the Philippines. Even if you only go there for vacation visits, having the right people around you makes all the difference.

I am on record as saying that if you are looking for your Filipina soul mate, there is little value in having much to do with Filipino males. I stand by that advice but, once you find her, it no longer has the same value. Now you are a part of a Filipino family you really must relate to your relatives, male and female. Ideally, learn their language but failing that, just be open minded. To make a friend, first you must be one.

 

You Can get Used To Anything

Believe it or not, I don’t mind drinking beer with ice in it. I have always been somewhat unconventional in my tastes and while I did find it odd at first, cooling your beer with ice cubes makes sense in the right context. That context being the cost of refrigerating crates and crates of beer as opposed to keeping a large block of ice from which you can chip bits as needed. Electricity in the Philippines is possibly the most expensive in the region and if you are out in da probince you have to adjust to provincial income levels. There may also be no electricity or, as it was on Malapascua, only available for a few hours in the evenings.

Truly, there is nothing better than a few cold beers (watered down by chunks of ice), some palutan to chew on and the company of your Filipina and her family. Sit back and relax while Mama gets the charcoal bbq going, throws on some chicken skewers and someone cranks up the karaoke machine to full distortion. Really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), Dip.Bus, 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 www.streetwisephilippines.biz

This article and website sponsored by Down Under Visa, Australian Registered Migration Agents in Manila – The Australian Partner Visa Specialists

 

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Our daily bread – White and sugary!

I have written about food and eating habits here before, but food is such an intrinsic part of our culture and daily existence it deserves further discussion. I know from my own experience what it is like to live without foods we take for granted. Like bread made with salt and not sugar. If the French left anything of value when they decamped from Indo-China it was how to make great bread. Vietnamese bread shops abound in Sydney and they make excellent bread. American bread is also of the salt rather than sugar variety, as is Spanish bread. So what happened in da Pilippeens?

pandesal

Sugar Is A Major Crop

The inclusion of sugar in nearly all Filipino baked goods is, I believe, due to two main reasons. First of all there is a lot of land growing sugar cane and it was a major crop that made many of the haciendero’s rich. Even today, most sugar cane land is owned by the wealthy oligarchy that owns most of the country. If you have a lot of something to sell then you need to find lots of ways to sell it, both as exports and for domestic consumption. Filipinos have very sweet teeth (or is that tooths?) and you can discover this for yourself when comparing their Coca-Cola to ours, or their spaghetti sauces.

The other reason is that bread is considered more of a snack food or ‘sweetmeat’. Pandesal buns are cheap and give you energy for a few pesos. Starch comes from rice or sweet potato so the carb intake relies on sugar laden foods. Kids don’t take sandwiches to school, they come home for a cooked meal of rice and fish or whatever. Bread is not a staple in the same way it is in western diets. But don’t you miss a good white loaf?

 

Finding Decent Bread

My very first trip to the Philippines found me ordering a club sandwich from room service and wondering if the ham was off. Something didn’t taste right. It took me a few plates over the time I was there to twig; it was the bread. I thought back then, 1989, how successful a decent bakery might be. When I lived in Cebu I used to get miffed when Gaisano’s bakery ran out of the ‘Farmer’s Loaf’, the only item among dozens of varieties of bread that tasted like western loafs.

I tried making my own, but lacking an oven, my micro-waveable unleavened bread flakes were something of a disaster, and still giggled over to this day by the asawa and anaks. My sister and brother in law once visited us in Cebu and she brought me two fresh white loaves, purchased that morning on the way to the airport. I had half of one at a single sitting, lashed with fresh, cold butter and the odd dollop of strawberry jam. It was bacchanalian, brutal to my arteries, but oh so good! You can get decent bread anywhere there are large numbers of kanos, like Angeles, Olongapo, Manila, Cebu and so on. But you do need to hunt around. Or better yet, why not simply get used to the local variety?

 

Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), Dip.Bus, 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 www.streetwisephilippines.biz

This article and website sponsored by Down Under Visa, Australian Registered Migration Agents in Manila – The Australian Partner Visa Specialists

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My Husband She Is A Writer – Filipino English!

Being a man of letters (several of which have been returned, marked, ‘not at this address’), I try to use my native language correctly and well, if only because as one who earns his living with his words, it seems the right thing to do. My failing in this department is blithely expecting my wife to understand what I say. She graduated high school and has Australian tertiary qualifications; she also speaks three languages fluently. My German is abysmal and my Cebuano pathetic, despite having a German mum and having lived in Cebu for several years. My Tagalog is even worse regardless of having lived, worked, visited and what have you in the country since 1989. Yet her English is not as good as mine… understandably.

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Going To da Probince – Pasalubong

There is a term used by those in the navy for anything taken ashore as a gift. ‘Rabbits’. It probably goes back to the days when they used to smuggle contraband like tobacco hidden in the carcass of a dead rabbit, or in the Australian context, something imported, like rabbits, foxes, pigs and so forth. When my dad used to travel with the army band (which was often), he would always bring something back for my sister and I and we always looked forward to his return with undisguised glee… and impatience.

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