I have a cousin who married an American Citizen and lived there together with their child for more than a decade. When they decided to return to the Philippines for a two-week vacation, their schedule (as expected) was fully packed: few day trips to Boracay, Baguio and every inch of our province visiting our relatives. One of those trip is a day trip which includes ALL of the first degree cousins, the titas and titos. (Is there any official term you call somebody for being your 1st cousins offspring?). Long story short, the trip was lovely: nice view, nice lunch, nice weather, nice amenities, we did something new and we bought nice pasalubongs. But there is this little thing that stayed with me for all these months that passed by that I think should be pointed out and discussed upon.
I have been to the first place we visited at least twice now and it has been a long time since the last one. Like most longstanding popular sloping tourist attractions, there are zip lines now that tourist can enjoy. My balikbayan cousin’s child wanted to try it on so we went near the platform area and queued in line. The zip line is actually quite popular with a mixed of local and foreign tourist. There are two, Slavic(?) speaking Caucasians queued who can be described as ‘pudgy’ (okay, of course they are a little taller than a typical Filipino, the man can be more accurately described as buff and the lady who is larger than him is the obese one #truth). When the lady foreigner hops in the zip line, you could see the guides snickering and talking in vernacular questioning about if the zipline can even ‘carry the load’. My tita, upon seeing that lady ‘decided to watch’ the whole thing with gusto as if expecting a disaster. When the zip did actually start, the other crowd and my tita decided to cheer (which aside from the kapamilyas of the other riders were noticeably absent before) and there are faint laughing sounds you could hear in the (mid altitude) air. When she returned, the guides then said once in vernacular “Kinaya” with a sense of triumph from his voice.
I actually felt sorry for the lady. Even if she can’t understand (in face value) what we are speaking; the snickers, the cheers and the faints of laughter are already enough clues for anybody to deduce that they are making fun of them. Body language is almost universally understood by anyone. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute you will know they are talking about you and you will not like it.
One of the things that our tourism campaign banks upon is the fact that our country is a friendly society as highlighted by a commercial which I frequently see in CNN. Yes, we are friendly but I also notice (as I’ve notice before) that we are also shady: throwing subtle digs whenever we see something we don’t like (just look at any social media). Another angle at play is that we have stereotypes of foreigners and yes, we will comment (verbally or otherwise) on it whenever we see it as well. The thing that for me makes it weird for me is that we are also ‘pikon’. Even the slightest unflattering thing or stereotyping that is pointed out will garner a universal dislike from us to the point of again stereotyping or saying unflattering things to the other race concerned.
How to end this? This might be one of those traits that is already so ingrained in our psyche, the only thing that will end this is for all of us to collectively decide to end it or to be imposed to us. We can however start small. I for example am not immune to thinking about certain stereotypes but I keep my mouth shut. I also try to not think of anything about certain group of people in any way. It is hard and I fail sometimes but it is a first step. If we want any progress then we should start within ourselves.