Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for November 15th, 2005

Aloha! Mahalo! We love you Hawaii! 19

Posted on November 15, 2005 by jimparedes

Never say never.

We finally made it back to Hawaii after we swore 19 years ago that we would not return. You see, the last time we stepped into Hawaiian immigration in 1987, Danny, Boboy and I were arrested, handcuffed and detained for 8 hours in a lonely jail. If you want to know why, I can’t really tell you. Nobody really knows for sure. It must have been a case of inter-office wrangling between the US embassy in Manila which claims we had the right papers, and the Hawaiian authorities saying we were carrying the wrong visas. And even if that happened a good 19 years ago, the incident still comes up every time we apply for a visa since all past records, even if already cleared and clarified were once again revived after 911. It continues to haunt us today albeit with lesser intensity. And so you can understand why we entered Hawaii with mixed feelings. But thanks to the warm weather, Oahu’s tropical informality and our producer’s hospitality, our anxieties quickly dissipated.

‘We got leid!’

Taking a break!

We arrived 5 days early for the concert since we needed to do promo work. You see, aside from the fact that producers were telling us how hard it is for our kababayans to part with their money for anything, Sharon and Martin were also performing the day after our show and so we needed maximum visibility. Traditionally, people do not buy tickets until the artists are confirmed to have arrived and are seen everywhere. So we spent the next 5 days going to the different Filipino eateries, visiting radio shows, military camps, clinics were Filipinos gather. Everywhere we went, we posed for pictures, signed autographs, engaged in small talk, and interacted with fans. It was a killer schedule. The few breaks we had, I either slept in my room or walked around Waikiki taking pictures and just enjoying time for myself.

Tourists along Waikiki.

Hawaii is a sun worshipper’s place.

The Japanese and their cameras!

Filipinos comprise 20% of the Hawaiian population, and most of them, some 85% are Ilocanos. Hawaii is very laid back, informal, multicultural and yes, even ‘provincial’. Unlike the Pinoys in the US mainland, our kababayans in Hawaii do not feel any need to assimilate with the rest of society. You can hear Ilocano spoken everywhere and can actually find pakbet, saluyot and other Ilocos delicacies easily. After all, this is not haoli (white) country and so the Ilocanos, the Japanese, and other ethnic groups are at home just as they are.

We were somewhat worried for awhile espoecially when we heard that there were Ilocano old timers who still harbored resentment over our participation in EDSA 1. Their idol Marcos was from Ilocos Sur, and is still revered by many to this day. But when we started to mingle, we began to feel that our fear was overrated. We were received quite warmly, and yes, excitedly everywhere we went. A lot of them remember with fondness our songs, the past concerts they had attended back home, and thanks to TV, our days as hosts of Salingonaposila. These were the ties that bound us with them.

We had thought of a few funny lines we could use to break the clannish ethnic Ilocano barrier. We had a list of famous Ilocanos who had supposedly ‘made it big in Hollywood’ kuno—people like Steve McWEN, Richard Gearrrrr, Arnold Swarzeneggerrrr, all said in thick Ilocano accent . We also had a quip about how Jesus Christ could be Ilocano. Why? Because He SAVES! And that INRI thing on top of the cross—could it have actually stood for Ilocos Norte Region 1? We ended up not doing any of them during the concert and instead sang a few lines of Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing, and Manang Biday which quickly melted the ethnic ice. After that, it was easy pickings! Our concert, though not a full house was nevertheless momentous and great fun! We gave our all and we felt gloriously reciprocated. Because of that. whatever Hawaii had meant to us previously had now been forgotten. Starting November 12, Hawaii was not just Apo Ferdinand’s country alone but APO Jim, Danny and Boboy’s country as well!

Great crowd. We love you Hawaii!

We continue to learn about what the Filipino is like abroad because we meet so many of them in our travels. It can be both funny and pathetic how we, especially when we are abroad are both global and parochial. True, it is admirable how easily we can adapt to cultures and societies which seem so different from ours. It is no secret that we can live and thrive anywhere. But at the same time, we have witnessed how so divided we can be regionally. Just try counting how many Filipino organizations there are in every place, most of the time borne out of a need to group themselves around regional or ethnic identities. In Madrid, we witnessed a basketball game between Batanguenos and Cavitenos turn into a boxing match within the first 6 minutes! Try to count how Pinoy civic groups there are in LA alone! Everyone feels the need to be a president of something! If there are 100 Filipinos anywhere outside the country, expect 102 organizations to spring up! Ganyan yata tayo talaga.

I am writing this (Danny and Boboy beside me)at the Northwest Lounge at Narita while waiting for our flight to Manila. Like our kababayans, we the APO see ourselves as both global and local. We tour everywhere and can find our way around the geography and cultures of the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and anywhere. We are local as we proudly proclaim that we are Filipinos and communicate the music, humor and sentiments of who we are. We are proud to say we do it quite well and really communicate the ‘Philippine Experience’. Never mind that I was born in Luzon, Danny in the Visayas and Boboy in Mindanao. We decided long ago that our commonality as Filipinos was more important.

I guess by ‘local’, I mean ‘national’.

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