Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Pinoys outside the Philippines

Posted on May 06, 2007 by jimparedes

The Philippine STAR 05/06/2007

I am on my nth concert tour of North America with the APO. As usual, it means that before and in between shows, we go out to meet and mingle with a great number of our kababayans. We do this to let them know we are in town and hopefully convince them to go watch our concerts.

After so many years of touring, I have acquired a few observations about our overseas kababayans, at least in North America, Australia and a few other parts. Some are obvious and trivial and some a little more profound. Here are some of them:

1. Being in showbiz, APO has considerable influence and effect on Pinoys abroad. It’s not just the fact that when an artista, which includes almost any form of celebrity singers, actors, models, TV personalities (except perhaps politicians) ? enters a room, there is some sort of commotion, from mild to electric, that occurs. Showbiz is a link to what preoccupied them at home and it continues be so here. Attending my first Philippine Independence social event in Sydney last year, my presence was acknowledged in the same breath as the Philippine Consul General and the Speaker of the Parliament of New South Wales! I thought that was a gas!

2. Despite the prevalence of digital cameras now, where one can see instantaneously what a newly shot picture looks like, Filipinos believe in taking an extra safety shot or two? or three. It must still be the effect of that Kodak campaign years ago which urged everyone to take an extra shot “para sigurado.” Nope. Digital has not made this aspect of our work easier. On the contrary, everyone with a cell phone or camera has become paparazzi. Ha ha.

3. Depending on who you talk to, the Philippines, in its present state, can seem infinitely enchanting or horrible from a distance of a few thousand miles. Some will trash it, and some will speak of it in romanticized terms. But the longer a person has lived abroad, the more idyllic his memories are of how things were. Old timers, especially those who have not visited in 25 years or more, still harbor memories of a Philippines that is pre-McDonald?s, traffic free, and where one could have a good time for 20 pesos.

4. People always ask you how it is back home, and they like to talk about politics. I suspect it has to do with their feeling affirmed about their decision to leave when they did. While they are saddened when they hear of bad news back home and how the situation has worsened, they feel better about having chosen to leave and stake their future where they are now.

5. Every Filipino tries to make a personal connection with every kababayan they talk to. With us, it could be a past concert they watched, or a common friend, or a friend?s friend, a school we both attended, a distant relative or even the province we both come from. It does not matter how remote the connection is, even if it is something like, “we walked together on EDSA.” Somehow, we just feel better belonging to tribong Pinoy.

6. This may be so self-evident, it shouldn’t even be mentioned, but it just has to be said that Filipinos, especially our kababayans abroad, invariably go the extra mile in expressing their hospitality. It is a declaration of loyalty that says they have not forgotten or abandoned their being Pinoy. And the generosity todo-bigay can be overwhelming. The sumptuous Filipino breakfasts complete with danggit, tocino, tapa, pusit, tuyo, atbp., the volunteers who take a day off from work to drive us around and see the sights, and the little pasalubongs that are given with such sincerity and heart simply bowl us over. I just love the way we are!

7. The big move of leaving home was, they say, “for the children,” and some professionals willingly took a step down career-wise and do menial tasks for this cause. At the same time, almost all Pinoys we meet worry about how little of the Filipino values their children will probably retain as they grow up in their adopted country. It is not unusual to hear the kids behave like their white counterparts, speaking with a strong Anglo twang and still making mano to their parents.

8. Pinoy kids who were born overseas usually grow up having no interest in the country and culture of their parents. However, those who discover the country by going home for a visit are fascinated to find that the Philippines is a place where many things that are not possible in their adopted country can and do happen. One can speed on the highway and not get a ticket, or go to a bar and not have to present an ID, are examples. My nephew who grew up in California was so fascinated with the vendors in traffic who walk around barefoot and sell different kinds of stuff. He thought it was the coolest thing. An in-law of mine saw a man carrying a bed and selling it right on the street. He turned to me chuckling in utter bewilderment and said, “We go to a department store for that.”

9. I still have to find a place where there is agreement among Pinoys on whether or not there is discrimination in the new land they have settled in. It all depends on who you are talking to. One of the most stunning observations I heard was from a very successful engineer in Sydney. My friend Rod Santos says that when dealing with his all-white, upper- management colleagues, all it takes is palakasan ng boses. He pointed out that he felt more discriminated against in the Philippines when, as a poor struggling student who sidelined as a Luneta photographer, he was not allowed to enter Manila Hotel. What he experienced back home was economic discrimination, he says. In hindsight, he asserts: “There is discrimination kung papayag ka.”

10. I observed that in North America, a great majority of Filipinos can be fiercely loyal to their adopted country. They will not bash the country that has given them the opportunity to begin a new life even if the rest of the world seems to have a different point of view regarding certain issues such as the Iraq war, or global warming. While many Filipinos back home (and in Canada) seem to be more sympathetic to what the Democratic party in the US stands for, many of our kababayan in the US are flag-waving Republicans (except perhaps those in New York and California).

11. There is such a thing as Pinoy laughter. I remember being in a hotel in Japan and walking through the corridor on my way to my room when I heard loud laughter coming out of a room. I just knew I was hearing Filipino laughter. I knocked on the door, and sure enough, there was a gaggle of Pinays having a good time laughing their heads off!

12. Regionalism rules. Nick Joaquin calls it our “heritage of smallness.” It is hardly surprising to see, say, three Ilocano, four Ilonggo and seven Tagalog associations all competing for recognition and official status in one community. Some of the organizations are pitifully small, with just enough members for everyone to become an officer. I can?t see why we don’t have just one big umbrella organization instead of the regional, provincial, barangay splinter groups proliferating now. Once, we attended a basketball tournament between Batangueños and Caviteños and within five minutes, there was a full-scale brawl going on inside the court and out. It only came to an end when the police came and many kababayans were seen scampering away because they were illegal aliens.

13. Almost all overseas Pinoys say that while they live a good life abroad, it can at times be lonely. There is a longing to go home, especially during the winter months when Christmas comes into full swing back home. While it may be beset with problems that exasperate many of its citizens, including our overseas kababayans, the Philippines is still, in their view, a “happy place.”

After all, there is where the family, barkada, the good old days, the “vices,” the simple easygoing life are enjoyed within the relaxed dimensions of “Filipino time.” We don?t have to tiptoe quietly, or put on an accent, or assume any kind of stance to fit in. In the Philippines, we are in our own universe. We don’t even have to speak English. We just go with the flow.

Living in an adopted land where you have to do everything yourself because no one else will can be very stressful. But in the Philippines, there is not much you have to do. You can simply just be who you are! How cool is that?

25 to “Pinoys outside the Philippines”

  1. ma' says:

    beri beri cool! 😉
    with #6. parang ininject sa laman laman naten ang pagiging hospitable. automatic kumbaga eh.

  2. DaveLock says:

    I loved reading these observations, sir. Brilliant work! 🙂

    I asked a Filipino friend of mine back when I was living in Seattle last year, about what you happen to mention in number 5, & he said that it was “a part of the Filipino bonding”. I recall he said “we are a village based people & we feel a need to let the other person know that we are neighbours, which is also why we always make the effort to try to speak to each other in the most localised dialect that is common between us, rather than just speaking Tagalog, which we know that we all can speak”.

    Regarding number 6, Filipinos can’t help supporting their culture & I admire them so much for that. My previous job was at an aviation training college. Cathay Pacific sent 12 students over to Brisbane for 18 months of study, of which 5 were Filipinos. The rest were from China, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong & Thailand. Within a few weeks, the 5 Filipinos had been taken under the wing of the local Filipino community. By the end of the 18 months, the Filipino communtiy had also adopted the other 7 students (because their respective communities didn’t even want to know them), & they were even starting to speak Tagalog!

    Number 12 makes me laugh so hard. I call it the “Filipino factionalism”.

    And finally, with number 13 I think the Philippines & Filipinos just get under your skin. Well, that may be very incorrect, but it is certainly the only way that I can explain how non-Filipinos like me can also long for the Philippines. Filipinos know what it is to live life, not just exist like I think we do here in Aus.


  3. Anne says:

    I just enjoyed your show in DC. Once again it was a hit!

    Here in NoVa (Northern Virginia), I am a part of what we call the “Friday Class” It is a bunch of us Cebuanos who meet up almost every single Friday to bond and catch up with our lives. We watch our kids play basketball, watch a movie, listen to APO, plan the next party, cook, eat and drink. We are together in good times and bad. It is our support group. It keeps us sane and grounded.

  4. Jim says:


    davelock– yes, we do know how to live and enjoy and connect with each other. For all our faults, that is one of our saving graces.

    anne-yes, it is important to be grounded in one’s own culture and millieu. Glad you enjoyed our show!!

  5. Anonymous says:


    All the things you have said, you hit the nail on the head! You have to be a chameleon to survive wherever you may be and Pinoys are good at that! We blend in to survive. Pride comes later…

    Masakit, folks who attain something in some miniscule capacity, kumukulot and ugali…kanga, hindi sanay sa karangyaan!! a handful of luxuries turn into a gamut of kayabangan! That’s when I stay away regardless you are relatives or friends. I step back and I become more compassionate and tolerant of humans. I must admit, it’s tough just to exist whether you’re in the Philippines or US, etc.,

    By the way, we got tickets to watch the May 12 concert at Royce Hall. See you there and the rest of the group! We (Pinoys) will enjoy the evening…

    Salamat Jim for taking the time to read our comments and your prompt response. Regina

  6. ibalik says:

    di gaya nuon, maswerte ang mga pilipinong nag iibayong dagat ngayon dahil sa easy access sa pilipinas. ultimong bagoong nabibili sa local pilipino o asian grocery. chocnut? chippy? bangus? balut? available lahat dito sa america.

    [payo ko sa mga kamag anak natin sa pilipinas. huwag na po kayong mag abalang mag pabaon ng iuuwi dito sa amerika na tuyo o daing, dahil meron rin po dito nyan. ang wala po talaga dito e yung argentina cornbip. ewan ko kung bakit? ]

    isa pa, available na rin ang TFC at GMA. So hindi na tayo nahuhuli sa mga telesyere.

    ang pinaka malaking tulong sa lahat, ay ang internet. dito ako nag rerely sa mga pangyayari sa pilipinas, mapa politiko o showbiz. dito rin madaling makausap ang mga kamag anak at kabarkada sa pilipinas, mapa chat, email, video/audio chat, etc.

    higit sa lahat, sa internet rin makakahanap ng mga OPM. di ko nga akalaing mada download ko sa iTunes ang “kami nAPO muna” (opo, binili ko po yan at di dinownload. pero aaminin ko, nakapag download ako ng mga OPM na walang bayad, but only because it’s not available on iTunes. kaya sa mga pinoy na gustong mag start ng business online, OPM iTunes should be a big hit.

    so my point is, hindi na kagaya ng dati na dinadaan sa sulatan (via airmail), telegrama, costly long distance phone calls ang “reconnection” kay inang bayan. hindi na masyadong nostalgic ngayon, di gaya nuon.

    ***syangapala, may balak kaming barkada panuodin kayo sa sabado sa UCLA. pwedeng mag rekwest? blue jeans at kabilugan ng buwan. salamat aPO.

  7. JimR says:

    i still consider our family migration is still young compared to others. sapul na sapol ako sa pang 7 item mo. kaaliw at katuwa din basahin ang kada topic mo Jim. We still know and act as Filipinos but unfortunately we all know why we choose this path. Kahit sabihin pang we are again starting all over again in another country. Whenever I share to my other Filipino friends here in Vancouver, they actually thought I personally know you. Sabi ko feeling ko din after reading every week your blog. Mabuhay!

  8. Kat O+ says:

    Great list.

    #8 depends on some degree to how much of Filipino culture the kids are exposed to. I grew up in a neighbourhood with lots of Filipinos, so we were always culturally connected. In the US, there’s a non-profit org called Tagalog Onsite that facilitates trips to the Philippines for second-generation migrant children. I think it’s a wonderful idea.

    I agree with your friend in #9. Also, I notice that when Westerners try NOT to discriminate, they can over-compensate one way or the other and can come across as either condescending or intolerant. I think patience and tolerance have to come from both sides.

    As for #12…hay, naku, those umbrella organisations usually end up in tears because everybody wants to be a star. Or lawsuits due to financial mismanagement. And the same issues arise, whether it’s a local church group, a sports organisation, a university club or an attempt at establishing a national association.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Sir Jim,

    What a wonderful observation and insight on Pinoy overseas. I myself a Filipino-Canadian for the past 14 years living in Toronto makes me wonder if we Pinoy overseas are creating a new sub-culture of Pinoy expatriates. I feel blessed in some ways living in Canada were they promote multi-culturalism and diversity. I am a Filipino living, working, breathing and flowing in an alien country. Yet, I always feel, think and act 100% Filipino, mind, body and soul whatever part of the world I will be. I feel energized whenever I share a part of me, a Filipino, to anyone I meet and intereact in Toronto or anywhere else. Wow, I hope you still find me “isang tunay na Pilipino outside the Philippines because I am 100% inside and out – I mean by out is my outer features, I’ve got a brown skin, flat nose, small in height which are a few trademarks of a Filipino…as you can see, I still have my sense of humour which is a hallmark of being a Filipino.

    Mabuhay ka Jim!


    Bass Poet

  10. Anonymous says:

    Finding a connection, regionalism and missing it…that’s so true talaga! I love this article “Apo Jim”. There is something about going home that can not be mimicked here in the US…kahit nasaan ka na Pinoy community…heck, even in California where most Pinoys end up settling. Iba ang amoy nang pusit, iba ang lasa nang bagoong at hindi mapait ang ampalaya! My boss was always curious as to why I kept referring to the US as my “adopted country”, considering nandito ang pamilya ko…when he went home to his “country of origin and heritage” a few years ago. He had never been there, but when he did arrive, he realized he was home. Ganoon tayong mga Pinoy ‘di ba? kahit na nasa Manila ka, kung promdiprobins ka, pag-uwi mo sa probinsiya, feeling mo “ay salamat, naka-uwi rin ako”…we are a regional people. We ask everybody who looks Pinoy where they are from hoping na they will be from our bario, city or (in the case of the Mindanaoans) bukid…we look for that connection that makes our heart skip a beat when we see the smile of a kababayan, kasi we know we are not alone in this “new country” we live in…rather, we have someone else who understands what it is about “home” that we miss…

    Hope you guys have a great trip and successful concerts…sayang wala kayong concert sa Chicago…maybe next year…

  11. Anonymous says:

    I certainly do not hope that being a Filipino after so many odd years living abroad makes one consider it as becoming a state of mind. That phenomenon usually happens when half-inebriated with pulutan (of course), I find myself singing with a bunch of nostalgics – Manila or Pumapatak Na Naman Ang Ulan. You forgot to mention us Pinoys outside the Philippines like to jam.

    My childeren who were born here are consciously aware of their heritage. We have sternly warned them what we do with “coconuts” in the Philippines. They visited the Philippines for the first time last summer and on our way to the new Asia Mall they saw these kids plying their wares in the middle of the streets. When we arrived at the mall, one of them asked; “What is the show for?” (the mall) “Why are those kids not in school?” Of course I went on a discourse about the coexsitense of progress and poverty in the third world. (LOL)Thoroughly enjoyed your keen sense of observations about us!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am in ly mid 40s, married to an American and migrated here in the burbs of Chicago two years ago. During bouts of homesickness, I would always tell myself, to my husband, and to my friends that American is for young immigrants. I am still overwhelmed with America, both positive and negative. I guess I have to take the best of both worlds. I am still in that stage where in I would always compare my adoptive country to the land where I was born and bred. “In the Philippines……

    What a nice article and I am going to let my hubby read this.

    Any upcoming show in Chicago?

    More power to you and to the rest of Apo!

    Judy G

  13. G says:

    Hi Jim! Glad you came up with this entry. Learned a lot. Dropping by all the time (here) at saka Ill grab a copy of your new book when Im in Manila. Wala rito sa Davao e (even at Natl).

  14. Jim says:

    g–My new bok is NOT available in manila. It can only be purchased through the internet at lulu.com

    judy g–thanks

    bass poet–definitely! Humor is a big part of who we are.

    kat 0+–sinabi mo

    jimr–it does not matter whether we all know each other personally. That’s the beauty of cyberspace.

    ibalik–yes, migration today is not as challenging as it was than, say. those who moved during the 60s.

    regina–see you on the 12th. have fun!

  15. Anonymous says:

    This is a good article. Also, thank you for opening the comment box. Us readers, learn from each other’s view

    I agree with you on number 9 (discrimination). It depends on who you are talking to. It also depends on the kind of discrimination you are looking for. If you think you will be denied access to some establishment because of the color of your skin, those days are gone. The discrimination of today are more subtle and thus harder to solve. If you live in a big city where the population is roughly 40% immigrants and you work for a big corporation, take a look at the middle and upper management. Is the mix reflective of the city that you live in? If they are all white there is a hint of discrimination. It is not an outright conclusion but it is a red flag.
    When I migrated to Toronto in 1992 my first job was a system developer in one of the big banks. I was surprised thay my project manager was Vietnamese and her boss the director was Chinese who was later on promoted to VP. I found out that there were a lot of visible minorities in the higher ranks. Sad to say that not all companies are like this. Some are, to borrow your term ‘all white upper management’. There shouldn’t be a glass ceiling in this day and age.

    Sometimes, we can not simply say ‘kung papayag ka’. If you are an African-American and your driving an expensive flashy car, your chances of being pulled over by the cops are high.

    #10) glad that Canada did not join the war in Irag

    Just my 2 cents.
    from a pinoy in Toronto

  16. JT of Dural says:

    Tito Jim,

    With regard to discrimination, of course there will always be! Life is never fair so let’s get over it!

    With regard to visiting ‘Pinas, yes, it’s fun. But two weeks is the limit for me. Beyond that, I miss our spring weather, the relaxed atmosphere and the HOT WOMEN in the Sydney train. 🙂

    -JT of Dural

  17. Anne says:

    JT, i thought you prefer older women from Germany? j/k

    Seriously, discrimination does not come easy to most immigrants who have self worth. Specially if they served the military or was a boss of some sort where are from in the Philippines. Say my Dad for example. He was a captain in the PAF. He envies how his kids were able to just “get over it”. I keep trying to explain to him that we are what we feel. We will be what we expect.

    Because I do not think there is a reason for people to discriminate me, I am usually the last one to know that I am actually being discriminated. It is our submissive nature as Filipinos that we feel others are more superior than us. We are more susceptible to discrimination because of inferiority complex

    When my cousins first told me they are migrating to Canada, I told them, if you have no guts then do not leave. Once you live in Canada, never for a second think that they are better than you. They will be the minute it crosses your mind. BUT never confuse confidence with arrogance.

    They were also floored by all the people that went out of their way to help them. Our mahiya-in nature can also be misinterpreted as not needing help (arrogance). I also explained to them that that is the immigrant mentality. We help each other out. It is actually rude to turn assistance away even if you do not need it. It is only now that they understand why. When they find out there is a new immigrant in town, even if she is a friend of a friend of a friend, offering the couch for a few nights come naturally. Passing the favor forward is the best way to return it.

  18. exskindiver says:

    a great post.
    you are in the perfect position to make these keen observations considering it has not been too long for you either.
    that and your ability to reach all the walks of life with your work–gives you a fresh eye and the ability to see and appreciate the best of both worlds.
    i just did a post on my father, who turned 78.
    do you remember him?

  19. Clare says:

    great observations. being someone who usually has to entertain balikbayan relatives when they fly in i do notice the same things as well.


  20. Anonymous says:

    This is my second time to visit your site. And I wish I visited it more often before!!! =) Very insightful, Mr. Paredes.

    I read somewhere that the Philippines grew up in a convent for 400 years, immediately followed by Hollywood for half a century. And that is why we are still looking for our national identity. But in some way, THAT is our national identity. We also have a great deal of resilience. And this is so true for Pinoys at home and abroad.

    As for discrimination, westerners tend to be cautious, at the risk of being patronizing. So, your friend is right – it won’t happen if you don’t allow it. Surprisingly, the discrimination comes more from Asian countries like Hongkong, Singapore, China, etc., where most of the Pinoys are doing menial jobs. And where, unfortunately, there is a good number of Filipina prostitutes. In Asian countries, both the Asians and the western expatriates in it tend to generalize. And usually the generalization isn’t necessarily nice. It’s really up to each one of us to give a better image of our country, since we’re the representatives abroad.


  21. Anonymous says:

    we tend to talk a lot about discrimination in western countries but it happens more in our own backyard.
    here are good examples:
    “bio data” – fill in your religion, height, weight, parents’ names, and worst of all 2×2 photo.
    zorayda, richie da horsie and the like – these people were made fun of in front of millions because of their unique features.
    you’ll hardly see anyone with disability around the malls because of either these places don’t cater for them or they get stared at.
    the list goes on and if you haven’t noticed these things, that’s because they happen all the time and have become acceptable.
    so, before we talk about discrimination overseas, just look around our own country.

  22. Haidee Mae says:

    sobrang agree ako sa #13. i’ve been in the states for almost 11 years now but i can’t fully express myself in English. hay!

  23. Anonymous says:

    anonymous wrote in his/her comment that we should look at our own backyard first with regard to discrimination. very much so. you are correct, indeed. however, THIS particular article is ABOUT pinoys OUTSIDE Pinas. so we are not giving comments about what’s obvious back home. But then again, all the comments written previously are simply comments of people related to our own observations whilst we’re far away from home. masakit talaga if hindi ka maganda sa atin…kumbaga parang kasalanan pag pinanganak kang may kapansanan..o di kaya’y “pangit.” This sort of thing happens to the best of countries. Discrimination, that is. In Australia, ten years ago, they used to call Filipinos monkeys in some parts of Brisbane. I know this for a fact since a good friend of mine went there to train people in a seminar. The attendees welcomed him whilst inside the seminar room..but lo and behold, at lunch time, he was asked to leave the canteen! Sabi ng mga puti, they don’t eat with monkeys. So, as they say, may mang-aapi kung magpapa-api. 😉

  24. Mitchteryosa says:

    #2 observation just made me laugh. That habit makes me a real Pinoy then hahaha!

    I would always tell my husband, one more, one more to make sure my eyes weren’t closed, hahaha! And yes, we are using a digicam.

  25. Abigale says:

    We Ventured from the exotic and colorful Bangkok on a day trip to the countryside and visit Damnoen Saduak floating markets

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