Carolina: Cruising Past 70: WOW: Becoming an American without Losing My Roots, Part 2

Monday, October 7, 2013

WOW: Becoming an American without Losing My Roots, Part 2

my favoiite teepoee at an Indian Village
In Part 1, I asked 'Who is an American'. The common answer is anybody who has been able to come to or was born on American soil. But, for late-age migrants like me, an American should be much more. He 1) has come to America to achieve a dream that was difficult to achieve in his or her home country, 2) is legally accepted into the country, regardless of race, 3) knows her history, upholds its constitution, appreciates her natural beauty, and accepts the diversity of her people and culture 4) takes pride in its products and institutions, and 5) has something to contribute to the nation.

@ the Missouri Arch
Living here for the past 10 years, my dancing has changed from disco and ballroom to country and rock, songs I sing from pop to country, and my attire from blouses and skirts to tank tops and jeans or shorts. My kitchen is shifting from cooking adobo, pancit and lumpia to grilling steaks and baking pies, my snacks from turon and suman into pretzels and chocolate chip cookies. My every day expressions are turning into American English instead of Tag-lish; when hurt I now cry ‘Ouch’ instead of ‘Aray!
With Ann at the RV
But I quickly and animatedly shift to Tagalog when I am with my kababayans (country mates).  As Bill has noticed, my English quickly brings on a Tagalog accent which is not the case when I am with Americans.  Actually, I still think in Tagalog and that’s why I shift genders, conspicuously, because there is hardly such a thing in Tagalog (the word for son or daughter is the same, anak; the word for wife or husband is the same, asawa; the word for a brother or sister is the same, kapatid; words of respect, however, connote gender: kuya is for older brother and ate is for elder sister. Expletives are more easily shown by repetition  (pretty, pretty, pretty or ganda, ganda, ganda for very pretty).

with q cowboy
My yearning for Filipino food became even stronger as I partake of more American meals. A sandwich is not a meal, it doesn’t have rice! For Filipinos, pan de sal is merienda (snacks) or almusal (breakfast). Even as I felt pride in American products and institutions, my pride when Megan Young was crowned Miss World, making the Philippines the only country with all 5 of the most coveted beauty titles, became uncontrollable; even when Jessica Sanchez almost made it as the American Idol. And I am proud to tell fellow Americans that July 4 is not just the day for American independence but also the day for Filipino-American friendship for on that day in 1946 America finally gave us our own independence!

with the Lincolns at hix Presidential Museum

In another sense, however, I feel sorry that the Philippines does not, enjoy a lot of the good that I see here in America, like electoral processes, library systems, community centers, and transportation systems. The parents of students in elementary and high schools see the progress of their kids online! Better funded school districts provide high school students their own laptops. And many Outer Lab Education Programs augment the children’s education for greater appreciation of astronomy and wildlife and plant life, like the one we inspected with Suzanne in the foothills of Colorado, for Cassie’s completion of Grade 6. But then I remember, the Philippines is only 58 years old, America, 238! There is time and room for my home country to grow, in a daang matuwid (righteous, staight line)!

car art like the Philippine Jeepney
Throughout our travels, I became keenly aware of the kinship the Philippines holds with the story of America. My home country shares not only the Pacific Ocean with the US west coast but also the treacherous Pacific Ring of Fire. Spain colonized the US southwest and the Philippines for the same number of years until the US won those territories after their victory in her Spanish-American War. Filipinos fought side by side with Americans in WWII. And now, countless Filipino nurses and teachers are an integral part of the backbone of many US hospitals and schools.And much more American business processes are outsourced to Philippine shores.

US Cleawater beach in Tampa Bay, Florida
But there are also many differences. The Philippines is a tropical archipelago of 7,107 islands while the US is a vast contiguous (except for Alaska and Hawaii, etc.) temperate land. Thus wildlife and plant life species are very different, except in southern US. I miss tropical fruits so much that I sometimes have to pay top dollars for their occasional availability in Asian stores. Mountains, plains, and rivers are grander, wider, and stronger in America. Beaches may extend for miles in the US but island beaches in the Philippines are more exotic. And when you step into the wide vistas of Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas, the beautiful desert landscape of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, and the glaciers of Alaska, you know that you have entered a world many moons away. And in the Northeast, especially, fall and winter paint the differences loud and clear. 
Charlie and Lucy in equal partnership
under the New Year  Ball in Times Square 
Anyway, the other question is ‘What is the American dream’? For me it was to have an equal partnership with a spouse. But, like most others, I also find it in all the modern facilities made available to everyone who dares to ask. America is where, if you put your heart to it, you can be whatever you want to be. I now want to be a good writer!  My mother, a product of American innovation (as a scholar in teaching the deaf to speak) herself, taught me those early values.

enjoying the fruits
Capitalism is not evil, greed is. Capitalists give opportunities to those who have the drive to excel. In a sense I lived the American dream, albeit in my home country. The foundation for the Philippine’s highways, schools, public administration systems, was laid by America. And many of the multinationals that do business in the Philippines contribute to the continuing education of the Filipino. I was born to parents who fought side by side with Americans in WWII. I was schooled in the Philippines’ American School. As an adult I was trained by American multinationals. Now, as a naturalized American citizen, I enjoy the fruits of her early leaders’ genius and sacrifice right here in its vast lands, with a handsome Caucasian by my side.
Pinoy Pride

In four short years I have gotten an intense American education. But I am so glad I did not get boiled into the thick soup melting in the pot. Instead, I got included in a colorful chunky stew, contributing to the taste, but retaining enough of my own essence. I attribute that to the unique eternal elasticity of American culture. Founded by immigrants from the UK, followed by successive waves of immigration from every corner of the world, America has become uniquely innovative.  I am proud that I have become an American without losing the Filipino in me and extremely happy for the last third of my life!