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

Tabo by Helga Weber

Tales of the travelling tabo

I’m a self-confessed scruncher. This was also the article in which I admitted to having visited Sexpo.

There is one thing I never leave home without and it’s not my American Express. It’s the first item to go into my suitcase and the first to be unpacked. It’s on my packing checklist three times.

‘Mahal, did I pack the—‘

‘Yes!’ my husband usually groans in exasperation after hearing the same question for the umpteenth time.

‘OK, just checking…’ I rummage around for a few seconds. ‘Where? Where is it? OH, MY GOD, WHERE IS MY TABO?’ Continue reading

Faking it in the kitchen

This was my first article to appear in a print magazine, my first column piece and the first writing gig that I was actually paid for.

In my family, cooking is a tradition. Everyone has a signature dish. My specialty was burning food. Once, I forgot I was boiling water and scorched the saucepan.

I married a man who wouldn’t know a tong from a tweezer. ‘You’ll make a great cook,’ he encouraged. The words of a desperate man. I hoped the honeymoon would last long enough to survive my first meal. I was counting on love to keep us alive should dinner explode. Continue reading

RJ Rosales

RJ Rosales: On leaving and coming home

This was my first interview, and I hope I did justice to RJ, who also happens to be a childhood friend. It’s one of my favourites.

Filipino-Australian entertainer RJ Rosales took the bold step of moving back to Manila to live his dream. He talks to PINOYexpats about what it’’s like to be an expat then a balikbayan, and how he copes with living out of a suitcase.

There’s something lightly surreal about talking to a childhood friend whose face regularly appears on television and whose voice draws audiences from around the world. So it’’s a relief to discover that chatting over the phone with RJ Rosales is just like, well, talking to an old friend. Which is just as well, because it seems he’’d just gotten out of bed when I rang, though I wouldn’’t have guessed from his cheerful tone. He eats his breakfast as we talk, and the conversation is laced with humour and just a touch of homesickness. Continue reading