Different Sides of A Coin

It’s not unusual for me to see foreigners waking around, especially if I am on my way to Ayala, the place where I work. But I must admit that when I was younger, it is a mini surprise when I see non-Filipinos walking around the place where I usually go.

A friend of mine, who also happens to be my foreign boss, told me a very interesting observation: she gets ogled a lot more than the other Asian countries that she visits. “Is it because I’m black?” was her punch line.  I did a little observing of my own, too.  When we went out to eat, people did stare a bit, longer than usual. We even made it a game to count how many people would give a stare, or even a second or third look at the tall lady walking alongside small, and “regular looking” Filipinos.

"They think I'm Oprah or something!"

We talked about it all day, and we told her that Filipinos are not really  used to seeing foreigners. We still have this xenophilic attitude, that we automatically assume that all foreigners are here for a couple of reasons. One is because they’re looking for a relationship (long term or short), or that they are on vacation, like they only go to the Philippines to have rest and recreation, which sort of goes back to point 1.

just an example - no offense meant

People also have this idea that if you are with a foreigner, you might be just mooching his or her money. So imagine that ogles that my boss is getting, then imagine that judgmental looks that we get after that. You get the idea why I would want to avoid even having a conversation with any foreign counterparts, bosses, or even subordinates outside the office.

Even the waiters in the place where we ate automatically assumed that our foreigner would be footing the bill. The first time we sat down, he gave the menu to our guest, and only to our guest. When he was taking orders, he was talking strictly to my boss. He just acknowledged us when our guest told him to take our orders.  My boss noticed it, and yes, it is a bit insulting, but that’s how it really is, I told her.  When we asked for the bill, he gave it to our guest and asked if she was going to pay for our orders, too. I took the bill from the waiter’s hand, I admit that I got mad at this point. I literally snatched it from him, put the payment in, told him to “keep the fucking change” and slammed it on the table. We walked out from there and never went back.

She tried to make light of the situation. She told me that Filipinos always think that she has money, just because she looks different. When she tried to shop, she was given steeper prices. Good thing that she has one of my teammates with her. She finds it hard most of the time, because even she needs to watch her budget.

As much as we want to have this stigma removed, it is not an easy task since most of the ladies that I saw with foreigners fit the stereotype.

Sad, but the stereotype is not a stereotype. It’s a fact, and because of that, it’s a burden for everyone else.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

I met an Aussie lady last Friday, on a bus, on my way to work. Her name is Emilé, though I am just basing the spelling on how she pronounced it.   She was on her way to the mall, a few meters where my office is located. She went in the bus hesitantly since she was not sure if she was boarding the right bus. She has good reasons to be hesitant, since our buses are a bit scary.

I was sitting in the front, just behind the driver’s seat. I did not notice her until she stood next to me and motioned that she was going to take a seat. I moved a little away, and proceeded to mind my own business, which is observing the people’s reaction to her.

Stares of disbelief. I even heard a couple say: “Wow nagbus siya! Bakit kaya?” (“Wow! I wonder why she took the bus?”). 

I couldn’t help but to shake my head.

She paid the bus conductor, and she asked for directions. The conversation was going nowhere fast, so I decided to butt in. I asked her where she was going.

The look on her face was priceless. It’s like “you speak English??”

She apologized and told me that she tried talking to people and no one was able to understand her. I told her that not everyone in the Philippines can speak English, but that not everyone does not know how to speak  English.

I gave her the direction, and she felt relieved. I told her that most foreigners get lost because they do not ask the right people. I also assured her that the mall she’s going to should have more English-speaking natives.

I asked her if she knows any Filipino words. She said no, since it was her first time here. I advised her to try to learn a few words, since she was on another country.

It is going to be for the better too.

We walked the same direction. She asked if there was anything else she needed to know.

I told her to just be careful and enjoy her stay. I did warn her of one thing though.

Stay away from shopping malls. She would not be able to avoid the temptation.  

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One thought on “Different Sides of A Coin

  1. Hey, Koopa, Filipinos do tend to stare, huh. Over here in the US, that would be considered very rude. When I was there, I was stared at a lot, I mean, really a lot…. and I don’t really look ” foreign”. One time, my cousin decided that I should experience taking the public vehicles. He goes to UP, so from Paranaque, we took the bus, jeep, ate fishballs, etc. going to UP. The ride on the jeep was pretty disconcerting. The folks in front of me ( the jeep was full ) stared and stared, men and women alike. WTH ! At the malls was worst. My cousin said I looked like a foreigner, with those red streaks in my hair, ha ha ha. I guess. Even here in the US, people think I’m Palestinian, ha ha ha. But Koopa, it’s so rude. But I got used to it, and learned to ignore or look away.

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