The Filipino culture is so ingrained in our hearts that no matter where we are, we cannot escape from them. Take the examples below, for instance:
1. The tsinelas at all times
Tsinelas remain traditional Filipino slippers, and must always be worn inside the house. If you go to a new Filipino’s home, you’ll find various pairs already waiting for you at the entrance: flips flops, straw sandals, or slip-on house shoes. Nowadays, wearing slippers isn’t really my thing. But as soon as I take off my shoes, I can see Grandma obvious at my awkward tsinelas-less feet as they walk away.
2. The hoarding
There’s something about Filipinos and retain every napkin, take-out utensil, to-go container, and hotel soap we can discover. It’s as if the apocalypse were to happen tomorrow. We always tend to take more than necessary — you just never know when you are going to need a sachet of ketchup–and I always thought this was quite ridiculous until the day I instinctively found myself doing the same. One day, I was in need of a napkin after a spilling a drink on myself, and guess who had about five hide at the bottom of her purse? This girl. Step aside, Tide To Go.
3. The balikbayan box
Turns out, we even reserve when traveling. A few months ago, while abroad, I accidentally found myself gathering a balikbyan box. I thought I could separate myself from that stereotype, but no. When a Filipino travels to a new country (say, to visit the homeland before returning to Canada), they more than likely will return with a balikbayan box, like upcoming home with souvenirs for your family and friends — except Filipinos take it to the next level: while everyone also at the airport is waiting for a suitcase or two at the luggage pickup, Filipinos are waiting for a box occupied with nothing but trinkets. I mailed mine home. No shame.
4. The karaoke lifestyle
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If you so much as stimulus breathe the words “karaoke” to a Filipino culture, you will find yourself in a never ending musical trap. The middling Canadian family may rarely sing a tune in front of one another just for fun. My family and extended family will turn it interested in a show, complete with little prizes or gifts at the end. I’m never surprised to come home and find my mother performing her new favorite Barbra Streisand tune on the karaoke machine. It’s not a joke or silly past time, but a way of life.
5. The foreign items
Inserted away in the corner of my kitchen is a stick with a bundle of straws tied to the bottom of it. It’s our broom. This may be the one item we have in our house to clean up messes in the kitchen. It’s literally the one item we’ve ever had. We live in Canada — people are using a Swiffer WetJet like it’s nothing. My family is using a bundle of straws.
6. The “Filipino” time
For whatever reason, Filipinos at all times tend to run up to three hours behind. If we say to one alternative “See you at 4 o’clock, ‘Filipino time,’ ” we can securely assume that no one will actually be there until 6:30. If we’re lucky. I was natural into this, and I am always that one friend that makes you late for everything. “Oh, dinner was at 6:00…ish?” I say as I uncomfortably walk into a room full of all my friends who have already eaten. I think my Canadian friends have finally assumed, and now if they want me somewhere by 7, they’ll tell me it’s at 5. And I still show up at 7:15..
7. The Tagalish
Everybody familiar with Spanglish. Filipino families have Tagalish. My mother will often say a few things to me in Tagalog, and being a Canadian natural born child, I’ll reply back in English. Family conversations, jokes, anything is usually just a mix of languages. I not ever really understood how weird it may be, until a friend of mine listened in with a confused look on her face, trying to piece it all together. Maybe the guys over in Quebec will understand.
8. The naming protocol
In Tagalog, to indication respect for your elders, you must precede their name with either manong or kuya. In my life, I have only once mentioned to my brother as simply Peter, instead of Manong Peter. He wasn’t even there, and it was uncomfortable. I guess some things you just can’t detach yourself from.
9. The superstitions
The common of my Canadian friends think of demons and spirits as myths or silly stories. But to my family, they are very genuine. To this day, I can’t step out into a dense forest without worrying about disturbing and upsetting bad spirits. My parents show me to always say “tabi po” when crossing paths with untouched Earth or immensely high trees. We say this because we believe spirits — good or bad — live in these parts of the forest. If you don’t say “tabi po” to defend yourself from them, they will cause you harm. You may get sick, or fall and break a bone. To the usual Canadian folk, this is as just an accident on the trail or altitude sickness, but my family and I know better. Nowadays when I go on hikes, I still tend to find myself whispering these words to small ferns and high evergreens without even appreciating it; you never know when a bad spirit is waiting around the river bend.
10. The tight-knit community
One day, my mom called me while I was waiting in line at the Tim Horton’s Drive-Thru. I told her to hold on as I well-ordered from the kind, old Filipino woman at the window. Noticing my obvious visual Filipino physical characteristics, the woman started asking me if I was born in Canada, if I’ve ever been to the Philippines, where my parents are from. Then of development, my mother decides to chime in. “Anak, who is that?” Since my cell-phone and car speakers are related, the lady at the window heard her too. Next thing I knew, there was a line of cars stalled behind me because of a discussion my mom was having with the worker, talking as if they were long lost best friends. Even at Tim Horton’s, when all I need is a coffee, I can’t escape from the Filipino culture.