Since I moved to the Philippines almost 7 months ago, the few social interactions I’ve had involve my barkada [translation: group of friends] from school, coming over, eating food, getting drunk, singing karaoke, and laughing until we’re all red in the face and about to pee ourselves.
These friends of mine are awesome; they’re smart, dependable, fun, and non-judgmental. But they’re also a little bit younger than me and without any real responsibilities, and that, coupled with the culture barrier makes it hard for us to really vibe sometimes. We can’t, for example, go out clubbing together, get drunk, and grind on the dance floor like it’s ’94 and the butterfly is back in style – not unless I want their parents coming to my house and cursing me out for being a bad influence.
Lately, I’ve been craving a certain kind of companionship. Not just non-frenemy girlfriends, but the kind that have style to spare, so that we’re feeding each others’ imaginations. The kind with swagger and sassiness. The kind with wicked-cool sense of humors and yo mama jokes for days. (Or the Filipino variation of yo mama jokes, at least.) And most definitely, the kind that’s independent, that don’t care about anyone’s opinions, and are up for almost anything.
I haven’t found anyone like that here in the Philippines, and that fact makes me feel two things:
OHMYGOD,I’M SOOOO GRATEFUL FOR THE INTERNET!!!
Holy crackwhore, I have got to make more friends.
No disrespect to the friends that I already have, because they’re awesome. But I need to hang out with people who don’t have curfews.
Attempt #1 at finding my Filipina BFF: Going to a party with other Fil-Ams.
Let me first say that before dating Rob (who’s also Filipino), I only ever had ONE Filipina friend, and I probably wouldn’t have met her if it wasn’t for the fact that our mothers work at the same hospital. She’s awesome and I regret not having hung out with her more while we were living in the same neighborhood in Queens, but she was in her punk rock stage and I was in my slutty-druggie stage, and looking back I realize that an attempt to bridge the gap in influences could’ve only led to a relationship not unlike Angela Chase’s and Rayanne Graffe’s.
But I digress.
What I meant to convey was the fact that every Filipina I ever came across in New York (besides the one previously mentioned) was fakety-fake-fake-fake/two-faced/materialistic/status-hungry/a socially-conservative bitch – and those were only the ones that I met while I was in my teens. I fully admit that I was probably limiting myself, that bad experiences prevented me from socializing with other Pinays, and that if I really tried to find some cool, down-for-whateva, Pinay homegirls, I could’ve found them. But I was too busy hanging out with my cool, down-for-whateva, [insert every other nationality] homies to bother looking for Filipina friends.
Recently, Election Day passed in the Philippines, and I was invited to a celebratory soiree of one of the winners. I was dressed to the nines, classy and sexy as ever, ready to mingle with people that I was told were “just like me.” Why I believed that there were people “just like me” at the party, when I was told this by people who don’t know me at all, I’ll never know. My guess? It was desperation. I wanted so badly to believe that there were people at the party to vibe with… and I was let down. Of course.
Not only was there a chick at this party who said I don’t live in the real world, but there were also pretentious jerks at the party who used their faux-American accents to talk condescendingly to everyone they assumed had never been off the islands. You’ve been in Montana for all of four years, dude. Get the fuck off your high horse. And the chicks that wouldn’t talk about anything but cars, jewelry, clothes, and how hard it is to find good help these days? They. were. everywhere.
I ate my fill, drank at the open bar until I might succumb to my compulsion to slap people, and went home.
And then, a few days later, a girl moved across the street. She’s the daughter of a very respected neighborhood psuedo-politician, and she appeared out of nowhere, twenty-five years old (my age!) and three months pregnant. I must admit, I wanted to ask a zillion questions – Where did she come from? Is she married? Where will she be delivering the baby? Is she going to raise the baby in her mom’s house? Et al. – but since moving here, I’ve taken on a decidedly un-tsismosa (sp?) attitude. In a country where word-of-mouth and gossip are synonymous and practically the only way to learn anything about anyone (social networks are in vogue, but ‘net use is not as ubiquitous as it is in the States), I am an unexpected breed. I don’t talk or listen to gossip. And I’m learning that it may serve me better to tweak that characteristic, so that I listen but not share.
I’m also learning that there’s a big difference between gossiping and asking questions for the sake of getting to know someone. (Which is an obvious lesson, but what can I say? I’m used to sharing practically everything I know with *someone*.)
But I digress. Again.
This girl, Jean, seems like my salvation. She has a glint in her eye that denotes past lives spent doing things her parents would most definitely not approve of. I can tell from her laugh that there isn’t only air between her ears. And our housekeeper, Joy, tells me that Jean worked abroad and used to send her parents money – so she’s a little more worldly than most of the people I meet over here. And maybe *fingers crossed* she was in the States? Or even NYC?
Thing is, she’s at her mom’s place, and her mom is quite a presence. And I’m taking this, plus my general experience with Filipino families, to mean that Jean will live under the thumb of her ‘rents while she’s living in their house. Or worse: that I could never really trust her, because she’d tell everything I say to her mom, who might use the info against me…
I wish I could say this was all paranoia, but there have already been a few instances of gossip run-amok that my family have been victims of… and Jean’s mom is known for having a huge mouth. Not huge like I expect her in particular to go running around, telling my business all through town; but huge like everyone’s mouth around here is huge. Like, really, I told her one little thing about my pregnancy, and ten minutes later, I’d heard her tell the story to four different people at four different times. (It was a short story.)
I gave Jean the last of my prenatal vitamins (about a month’s worth), and lent her my copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I plan on bringing Riley over there one morning and chatting her up to see how her pregnancy is going. I feel like I’m back on the dating market, what with all the thinking I’m putting into this. But. it’s. just. so. different. from what I’m used to.
We’ll see how this goes…