(Photo Credit: Expat Hell)
(Only if you stop making fun of our bloody accent)
We do not deny that our country’s greatest export is our human resources. Because of that, Filipinos are seen in every conceivable piece of land or body of water on earth no matter how small a speck the island would look in the globe like Tenerife or Seychelles or Canary Islands and Vanuatu.
One of the things that remains a mystery to me is that foreigners can hardly make out my nationality-even Asian ones. Always, the first guess is that I am Thai. This was from a University of Manchester scholar Kresda, himself a Thai who I sat beside at the British Council counter at Heathrow while waiting for Kate to pick me up. He said ‘I’ve always thought you were Thai until I heard you speak. Your accent is definitely not Thai’ Oh, ok. Then when I was in Denmark, I was visiting with a friend in a university in Aarhus and one of the people there, actually the director of the nanotech laboratory and while working on the scanning tunneling microscope (where I got to see the atom on a nanometer or one billionth of a scale), Fleming, asked if I was Malaysian. And so the second guess always is that I might be Malaysian. This even happened at the Natural History Museum in London when I was taking a guided tour of the museum along with some Canadians. When we got to the room on birds and I pointed at the stuffed Pithecophaga jeffryi , the Philippine monkey eating eagle as coming from ‘my country’ – only then did they know I was Filipino. In Morocco I was mistaken for a Japanese, mamma mia. Then four years ago in a First Bus in Southampton in the UK , a lady asked me if I was Singaporean while I was running after my two nieces going up and down the double decker bus from school.
Well, no. I am a Filipino and I have always been proud of it. That is why, if there is one instance that my country or its people are being talked down to, denigrated, harangued, maligned, disparaged and insulted, I often see red and in a manner of speaking, be compelled to speak my mind.
I got to chit chat with an English bloke a few years ago and upon learning I was Filipino he started to ask me how long have I been staying in the UK. I said- a month. And he said, ‘So now, have you learned to say your F’s and P’s?, he asked smugly as though the UK were one big school on phonetics.
And so I said Fardon? (Nah, silly, I said, Pardon? ) He went on with a blanket conclusion ,‘Because you Filipinos do not know how to say your F’s and P’s’.
I was fetripied. (Petrified, silly.) ‘Bloody hell. How dare you!’, I thought. (It was a thought balloon of course. I needed calculated civility and darnedest diplomacy amidst cultural assault here)
‘ What I know is that I know my F’s from my P’s’.
And he said, can you say Filipino?
And I said- ‘Fi-li-pi-no. Did you hear anything wrong with that?’
He apologized and said he felt stupid. But then again, he kept refeating that pact to the foint that it inpuriated me (Are you happy now, Mr. Phonetics’)
What I mean, ladies and gentlemen is that- he kept on repeating that fact to the point that it infuriated me. He said he had in his employ Filipinos as cleaners, housekeepers who were teachers and professionals and did not know their F’s and P’s and always cooked smelly fish. (He must have meant our dried fish. )
But I said, I don’t think our linguistic and phonetic ability (or inability) has prevented us from becoming hardworking, efficient people in our jobs? Has it?
He said this was in the 80’s and that he was joking.
I told him, for someone who was working with the local government whose policy is to foster equal opportunity and non-discrimination, he was the personification of one who does not practice it.
And for that he has been deleted from my phonebook, buddy list and memory.
He’s from Brighton by the way, on his was to the Mini Couper caravan.