I guess I’m atypical.
I’ve never been to the Philippines. Pretty much every other Filipino I know has been at least once, to see family. My parents, for some reason, never saw it as important. I’ve never known the joy that is a Manila traffic jam. I’ve never ridden on a Jeepney. I’ve never eaten at a Jollibee. I’ve never met my extended family. I don’t know Tagalog well enough to speak it. The first time I ate a boiled duck embryo was a year ago.
A lot of Filipino families I know go back to the Philippines. Some of them make a yearly trip, during the summer. Mine never did. When my brother and I asked, they asked us why we wanted to go to the Philippines. A question with a question. To this day, my brother and I still don’t know. We haven’t asked since then. We just wait stateside and ask other families to bring us back barrel men (don’t ask–trust me) and pirated software.
I don’t know what impetus drove my parents to distance themselves from the Philippines, but they did. It even manifested itself when they sent me to grade school. I attended Sacred Heart Parish School in Coronado. The city of Coronado, incidentally, is as “white” as my neighborhood is Filipino.
It’s strange what you remember. I remember “Uncle Larry.” Uncle Larry had no teeth, was missing an index finger on his right hand, and wore his pants well above his waist. I remember he’d pitch wiffle balls to us. We’d wield orange, oversized bats wrapped in white cloth tape. He pitched with the hand that was missing a finger, low easy pitches that we’d be sure to hit. He and “Aunt Mimi” would watch us in Spreckel’s Park, conveniently located right across the street from my school. Occasionally, Uncle Larry would have to point at something. He always used his middle finger (in lieu of the missing digit) which we found riotously hilarious.
Every Friday, the kids in my class would go watch a movie after school and go to Wendy’s. Everyone would bike home and change, then meet up after school to head off to the movie theater on Orange Avenue. I never went. I had to wait for my carpool to bring me back home. My parents didn’t want me gallivanting around Coronado, considering how dangerous it was.
Coronado is an island off the coast of San Diego populated by Navy brats and the retired. It has fought tooth and nail to remain in the 1950s. You can walk the entire length of Coronado in an hour, and you will have seen everything. The one screen movie theater. The public library. The white picket fences in front of perfectly manicured lawns. Two point five children playing in Spreckels Park. A lot of palm trees. Lots and lots of palm trees. There are cars in Coronado, but everyone gets around on bike.
It only took people ten minutes to bike home, change and then come back to school. I was always still in my uniform, while everyone else wore jeans and t-shirts. They always asked me to come. I never managed to make it.
I didn’t feel like I fit into my community, so I left.