Tag Archives: Filipino culture

Living on Filipino time

This post was completed approximately two years after I was asked to write it. I was complimented on my use of the semi-colon. Thrills.

If there’s one thing Australia has failed to wean out of me, it’s my inability to be on time. Filipinos call this ‘Filipino time’; Aussies call it being late.

I try my best. My clocks and watches are set at least fifteen minutes ahead. I put things in my calendar half an hour before they start. But nothing has worked. My husband has resorted to scheduling activities an hour ahead, just to ensure I’ll be ready on time.

My chronic lateness is a running joke with my Aussie friends. What they don’t seem to understand is that I regard the clock, with its authoritarian precision and merciless advance, as a mere guide to life rather than its master. Continue reading

Tabo by Helga Weber

Taboo down under

This is a revised version of Tales of the Travelling Tabo, which I adapted for the Australian Filipina, and it always gets people talking.

Tabo by Helga Weber

Source: Helga Weber

There’s one thing I never leave home without, and it’s not my American Express. On a recent trip to Melbourne, disaster struck. I stared at my open suitcase in horror. I looked at my husband. ‘Oh, my god!’ I panicked, ‘WHERE IS MY TABO?’ The prospect of cleaning my bum with nothing but a flimsy bit of paper leaves me … insecure.

For many Filipino expats and travellers, the tabo is taboo—a secret tucked in the corner of the bathroom—but nevertheless essential. Worried about being caught out when you’re away from home? Fear not. There are alternatives. Continue reading

Finding your voice

One of the greatest tragedies of my life.

I’m part of a silent minority of Filipinos who bear a secret shame: I can’t sing to save my life. From the age of six, I’ve envied Lea Salonga. She has two things I desperately want—dimples and a singing voice. Someone once told me I looked like ‘a Kim’. Too bad my singing voice is worse than grim. By Filipino standards, I believe this makes me a mutant. Continue reading

All packed up

This article was inspired by my parents’ first trip back to Manila, ten years after we migrated to Australia.

If there’s one enduring symbol of Filipinos all over the world, it’s the balikbayan box. Whether we’re travelling home or merely sending presents to relatives, packing these nondescript brown boxes has become a Christmas tradition for many expats.

My Aussie friends, used to exploring entire continents carrying no more than a backpack, are aghast to learn that Filipinos travel with boxes. ‘What do you put in them?’ my friends ask. I shrug. ‘Pretty much anything you can think of.’ Continue reading

Size matters

I’m not sure how Filipinos developed this fixation with weight, but if you’ve ever been on the wrong side of the scale I think you’ll understand why this article was begging to be written.

Many people believe that asking about the weather is conversational suicide. They’’ve never had to endure a Filipino greeting.

‘Hoy, tumaba ka yata!’ (Hey, you got fat!) It’’s not exactly the first thing I want to hear after a decade of separation. Suddenly, ten years don’’t seem long enough.

Filipino women are fixated on weight. Listen in on any tsismis and inevitably someone will mention the F word: ‘fat’. If you’’re lucky, they won’’t be talking about you. Lately, it seems, my fortune has been in decline. Continue reading

The power of lambing

This was my first feature article for a print magazine. It went through a few revisions, and I can only be grateful that Michelle Baltazar was (and is) such an understanding editor and mentor.

There’s a reason why Filipinas are so good at grabbing a bargain. And it’s not just the fact that we know where all the factory outlets are. It’s because we harness the power of lambing. Loosely translated, this means expressing physical or verbal endearments to show affection or, in the case of shopping, to get a good deal on that new lounge suite.

The English language has no equivalent word for lambing or karinyo. It can mean tenderness, charm, affection, love, flirtation and even flattery. But these words don’t fully convey the underlying sense of building and nurturing relationships that forms a big part of what lambing is all about. Continue reading