Thursday, January 05, 2006

Random shit going thru my head about Filipinos...

Pretty much began with trying to cook adobo (for all you types unfamiliar with Filipino food, a stew/braise--depending on what part of the Philippines you're from--of chicken or pork cooked with garlic, onions, soy sauce, bay leaves, peppercorns, and some kind of acid--some people use lemon, some use calamansi, others use Coca-Cola (!)), a couple days ago, during which time I realized that I wasn't cooking so much adobo like the way my mom used to do it, where there was a minimal amount of liquid and lots of hacked drumsticks and thighs, but more of a pot-au-feu, since I had thrown in everything and cooked everything on low temperatures since I didn't want to bother with looking at my pot every few minutes. It turned out great, but not like mom's.

I'd really like to learn how to cook decent Filipino food and I can make some dishes, like sinigang/dinengdeng (tamarind-based stews; favorite is with bangus/milkfish or pork), tinola (chicken stew with lots of fish sauce/patis and ginger), pancit canton and bihon (egg noodles and bean noodles, respectively), and lumpia shanghai (the all-meat type), but I want to learn some other stuff that I've tried, like ukoy (seafood fritters), and other stuff that's not from my parents' provinces. I refuse to eat stuff like pinapaitan (cooked goat offal), or kilawin (raw goat offal) or balut. Guess I'm white-washed like that.

Another thing that I've had a morbid fascination with is the ongoing saga of the two Filipino kids left in their home in the East Bay while their parents were off partying in Vegas over the New Year's. It's not a surprise they're not talking to the police, or talking to anyone for that matter. Given how fast tsismis (particularly bad stuff) spreads in the community, especially since Filipinos judge each other on how well they take care of their kids, it's no surprise that they're trying to keep to themselves, thinking that they can save face that way, even when everyone else realizes how stupid and counterproductive that is. It galls me to think that when bad things happen to the Filipino community, the people involved try to stay quiet and try to hold onto some figment of perceived dignity, instead of coming out and being open about it. Same shit happened to me when I got fired from my executive director's job--the people involved tried to keep quiet and ended up raising even more questions with their silence afterwards, even as I continued to talk.

It just shocks me since I was raised in a family where all the kids were taken care of, one way or another, either through "sleepovers" or having my greataunt babysit us while our parents worked or recovered from working, and to leave your kids for more than one night away from your sight was unthinkable. For the most part, most of the cousins that I grew up with who are the same age as me (late 20's/early 30's) who remember the sacrifices our parents put us through are putting off getting married or having kids since it was just way too much. It's a pretty big shock in my family now to see that our younger cousins who are now in their late teens and early 20s are skipping school and having kids, except for a few notable exceptions.

Looking back, I see that I was definitely an anomaly, since I've noticed that a lot of Filipino kids are left to their own devices, either because the parents have to work long hours just to make ends meet, which alienates the kids from their parents; or the typical bullshit that younger Filipino Americans have to go through while growing up (identifying with the Philippines or the United States, having to put up with bullshit about one's authenticity as a Filipino, trying to understand what being Filipino actually is when one isn't exposed to a lot of affirmatory Filipino images). I've also started to claim my identity as being Filipino American, despite the fact that I get challenged by other Filipinos because of my lack of so-called authenticity (I don't speak Tagalog or my family's native language, nor am I particularly all that interested in learning it; I'm pretty outspoken about being gay even though I don't consider myself bakla by any means). On the other hand, I know more than most Filipino Americans about our histories here in the US, the traditions and ways that have been adapted in order to survive, etc.

I think that there's an inordinate amount of pressure for Filipinos, especially if they were born here as 2nd generation, to conform to either being Filipino or American, and trying to find 2nd generation Filipino Americans who were born here or who were 1.5 generation and who are my age or older is exceedingly rare, particularly if I'm trying to find people who actively claim Filipino-ness as a cultural identity, never mind if they're queer or not. I've been pretty lucky to get hooked into a group of intelligent Filipin@s who refuse to make those set-in-stone distinctions about what being Filipino is and who respect people's decisions, and who keep each other on our toes.

Now if I can just find a good Filipino restaurant that's like Cendrillon in NYC, then I'll be set.


Rona Fernandez said...

Dude, that Richmond couple who left their kids was FILIPINO!! I had no idea. I read the top part of the article at the bustop today, the paper was still in the vending machine. I'm cheap like that, eh?

I totally feel you. I can't imagine leaving my kids alone; I was hardly ever left alone, which I don't think was always healthy or about my safety, but it did instill a sense of responsibility in me about kids. My downstairs neighbors leave their kids (14 and 3) alone all night sometimes and I am so galled by it.

You said a lot in this post, E, lots of food for thought. And let me know when you find that fabulous Filipino restaurant! ;-)

Efren said...

Yeah, I feel you on that one--which is probably part of the reason why I don't really hang out with most of my family. Closeness can become suffocating if people aren't careful. The same cousins who are my age have pretty much reacted the same way to our family the same way I do--we keep to ourselves, and on the rare occasions we do get together, get drunk and talk shit about the rest of our family (usually how the younger kids are all getting knocked up or fucked up, and all the older relatives still think we're kids b/c only a couple of us have gotten married and kids).

I have a lot of ambivalence over having kids because of that--I wouldn't mind having and raising kids, but at the same time, I'm really humbled when I see people raising them. I have a hard enough time taking care of myself, so I'm amazed to see how people can raise kids.

I have noticed that I have picked up my mother's style of inflicting fear in a kid just by looking at them. I don't even have to say anything!