03 July 2007

Balikbayan

I am thrilled to be joining the Filipina Moms blog. I am a family doctor and mom to toddlergirl The Pumpkin. I am happily married to Daddy in a Strangeland (DISL) who encouraged me to write and start my blog which, of course, is called Mommy in a Familiar Place. I was born in the Philippines and moved to California with my family when I was a year old. While I have always been pinay I feel like I am just beginning to appreciate my heritage and the meaning of being a Filipina mom. I was raised apart from extended family for the most part but recently became reacquainted with my family in the Philippines during brief visits over the last decade. Most recently, I traveled with my parents, my husband and baby on their first trip to the Phils.


My family had been planning the Big Family Vacation to the Philippines for years. So when we returned last May from 2 weeks of family reunions and introductions there was a lot to process. Here's what I learned from the experience: 1) Our baby is a great traveler: flexible, adaptable, ready to party as long as she's had her nap. 2) My mom's family (chaotic, dramatic, highly emotional) is very different from my dad's family (professional, organized, diplomatic). 3) I had been trying to compartmentalize my Filipino identity and my American identity.


My anxiety about the trip reached its climax the day before we were supposed to leave. I was convinced that I had made a terrible mistake, that DISL and the Pumpkin would hate the Philippines, that my parents would be completely incompatible travel partners, that the whole thing was going to backfire in my face. Why? No reason. Completely irrational.


In my mind, my two worlds were going to collide and I was scared of what was going to happen. I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of going back and forth between my parents' world and my world. In my daily life, I'm your friendly neighborhood family doctor reassuring you that you're normal or that we're going to handle whatever your condition is together. On my days off, I'm scatter-brained mama trying to manage storytime with a toddler, doling out timeouts and teaching moments, while running errands for the family. Then once a month or so, we visit my parents and I'm a dutiful daughter who never has an opinion and goes along with anything my parents say.


Well, we had an unforgettably fun time in the Philippines and will probably plan another trip when the baby can actually remember the experience too. I have to admit, though, that I was a mess, and I had very difficult time knowing "my place". I need to give credit to my parents who were very accomodating of the baby's nap routines and bedtimes and to the baby who always joined the party despite her jetlag and of course, to my husband for being patient and for following my lead and for having good time anyway.
DISL says he learned 3 tagalog words: init (hot), pawis (sweat) and tubig (water). In the past, we usually stayed with family and used local modes of transportation but for this special inagural visit (for DISL and the baby) we splurged on the Manila Hotel and hired cars. Basically, we tried to stay airconditioned whenever possible. When we did venture out, both DISL and the baby would be drenched in sweat the second they hit the humid air. I had a lot of fun experiencing the Philippines like a tourist. We visited Intramuros by ourselves (I managed to communicate in Tagalog with the driver), we strolled BayWalk, we shopped at the Mall of Asia, we visted Villa Escudero, a coconut plantation and resort "where Philippine culture and history come to life."
The best part, though, was seeing DISL and the baby become part of my family. I was finally able to blend my 2 families together. No one from my family was able to attend our wedding in the States. This was the first time in 14 years of being together and 9 years of marriage that my father's father had the opportunity to meet my husband. I hadn't seen my grandfather in 7 years. Seeing my nuclear family mixed with my extended family was almost surreal. It was as if 2 parallel lives had collided with each other. Luckily, this didn't cause some rift in space or whatever it was I was afraid of before we left for the trip. Instead, I think I became more whole. Is that possible?
I learned to respect my husband. I learned that I need to listen to him and to stand up for him. I learned to be an adult and to voice an opinion in front of my parents. I learned that I still have a lot of growing up to do in order to be a wife and a daughter at the same time.
Thanks, for reading. I also posted this at my own blog.

4 comments:

mamazilla said...

reading your post, i feel like i'm reading about my own recent trip to manila back in february... like yours, it was really a learning experience, surreal, hot, humid and fun. i really wish i could have brought the thin man and the pork chop. i can't wait to plan another trip for all of us...

and btw - i just want you to know that while i was excitedly and happily reading your post the pork chop managed to find a fork and has been willy nilly playing with it... ACK! BAD MOM! BAD MOM!

xiaolin momma said...

Been postponing "the trip" for a while for the same exact reasons. Always been worried, I would kill my parents during the adventure or scare my husband off with my crazy family. Alas, thank you for inspiring me to get off my butt and just do it. I guess I better start prepping the kids for the mosquito nets and jeepney rides.

Congrats on the new blog!

xiaolin momma said...

I have been putting off the "trip" with the whole family back to the PI. Been worried about those same exact things. Thanks for posting and inspiring me to get off my butt and just do it! I better starting prepping my husband for the jeepney rides and the heat.

SugarMama said...

Glad to see you here in FilipinaMoms!