Filipino-American, American-Filipino


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, January 05, 2005 was originally posted on January 10, 2005.

DAY 445:  Another day of inertia; I did more work on The Blog, more work on the DAY 503 trailer, all while I was “stuck” in the Greenhills house.  My apologies for the lack of travel-related activity, but as I once stated in a previous comment, the Philippines has become a great challenge; with the Relatives Factor, where my schedule is at the whim of family members unaccustomed to spontaneous adventure travel, I wasn’t calling all the shots as I had in other countries, nor was I in a tourist-friendly neighborhood where it was easy to get around and do stuff independently.

This leads me to write about the sociological aspects of being a Filipino-American in the Philippines, which will not only up my word count on a day with nothing special to report, but will provide some insight on the “First World traveler of Third World descent” that one Blogreader had asked me about.  Plus, the explanation of it all becomes pertinent in future entries, so I might as well set the groundwork.

LET’S GO PUTS IT PERFECTLY in their introduction to the Philippines that I quoted in a previous entry:  “At the heart of the Filipino tradition is a strong sense of community; Filipinos can’t bear doing things by themselves and, above all, value family, friendliness, and personal loyalty.”  As an American born of Filipino immigrants that met in New York, my upbringing has included those values of family, friendliness and personal loyalty (which I am happy for) — and all without the ability to really speak Tagalog.  Not that I’m complaining; it left my brain to be filled up with other useful things, like knowing how to instantly skip from the first level to the second level in the ColecoVision version of Donkey Kong. 

Biologically speaking, it amazes me how the brain is molded in the developmental years; I might have turned out like my cousins in the Philippines — speaking Tagalog and not totally and utterly dependent on the internet — but I turned out who I am, simply because I grew up in America.  I speak American English with non-regional diction, I write with a sort of American style, and my sense of humor is distinctly American — although the Trinidads of Parañaque proved to me that you don’t have to grow up in America to appreciate stupid-but-funny American comedy films of SNL alumni

There is much truth in the statement that “Filipinos can’t bear doing things by themselves,” and it is with that said that I say I have really adopted the un-Filipino, American ideal of independence. 

“Kuya Erik, are you a loner?” Chie asked me on Christmas Day on the matter of me being single and thirty, something very un-Filipino.

“Yes, I’m a loner,” I said with a smirk.

As more and more of my friends have gone the paths of marriage and kids — a path I am not attracted to at this point in my life — more and more I have had to do our activities solo:  mountain biking, trekking, snowboarding, etc.  Traveling solo for close to fifteen months has furthered that feeling of independence to the point where, for me, it has become a necessity.  People have wondered, “How can you do it, travel alone for so long?” but I wonder, “How can people do it, travel with someone for so long?”  I really don’t know how people can travel without calling all the shots; but alas, here I am in the Philippines in that situation.  I did manage to get away for an afternoon walk though, where I simply walked around the nearby post-Christmas market in the Greenhills Shopping Center (picture above), and did the American thing of getting a Frappuccino at the local Starbucks.

Lara (Peru, Bolivia, Brazil) put it succinctly when talking about homestays with relatives and friends; as nice as it is to have a free place to crash, you can’t come and go as you please like you can in a hostel; you’re always tied into someone’s schedule.  I am not complaining about my relatives’ homestays in the Philippines by any means — I’m grateful — it’s just detrimental to a guy determined to do at least one unique thing per day to keep the variety of his daily on-line travel column going. 

On another note, so as to keep my word count rising, we’ll go to the subject of eating in the Philippines, at least for a guy staying with relatives.  Like I said before, Filipinos will find just about any excuse to get together for a meal.  While I do appreciate the concept of getting the family together for dinner, I can’t really get used to doing that every single day, and on schedule too.  Here in the Philippines, I am scheduled to eat three square meals a day, something I have unlearned to do on the road — I usually only eat when I’m hungry so as to keep my weight balanced.  Here in the Philippines, my metabolism is all out of wack and I am definitely gaining weight, much to my chagrin; on my 1999 trip, I gained twenty pounds in two weeks from all the family overfeeding.

So what identity do I relate to?  I am what I am, a Filipino-American, an American-Filipino, taking the best of both worlds I guess.  I appreciate the instant feeling of community you get with Filipinos, while at the same time I feel the un-American Filipino tradition of living at home until you’re married is just archaic.  I love eating McDonald’s french fries, just as much as I like the freshly ripped off crispy skin of a fresh roasted pig with the head still intact.  To go into all the conflicting philosophies I have in my head would take pages, but you probably get the gist of it, and the word count of this entry is decent enough already.

ABROAD, WHERE I AM A FOREIGNER IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, there is no mistaking me for an American with my mannerisms.  In America, where ethnic people are defined by their roots, I am Filipino, or as the people who make standardized tests label me, “Asian/Pacific Islander.”  However, some would disagree; Rudy, the driver on the Pinatubo trek, put it like this in a conversation:

Rudy:  How old are you?
Me:  Thirty.
Rudy:  Married?
Me:  No.
Rudy:  Oh, you’re not Filipino then.  If you were Filipino, you’d be married at twenty-five.

This isn’t necessarily the case, and we’ll see in the next entry, a more exciting one that finally involves travel again…


Next entry: A Mis-Match Made In Paradise

Previous entry: The Guy Behind The Guy Behind The Blog

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Comments for “Filipino-American, American-Filipino”

  • are you a loner?  hahaha…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  12:32 PM

  • I love solo travel!  I just got back from 3.5 weeks of it.  And I think you actually meet more people when you’re solo.  No shame in being 30+ and unmarried..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  03:01 PM

  • What is the word count up too now anyway?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  04:41 PM

  • Amen!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  04:48 PM

  • E - I needed that - it does start to get a little lonely when you have to scrounge up things to do that don’t involve all your now married friends. Not lonely, per se, but it’s a good lonely. And, I can see that that makes sense to you… but, am I going to be cramping your style when I come travel?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/10  at  06:38 PM

  • SARA:  Filipinos aren’t known to be big travelers.  “Tita” Josie, who got bitten by the travel bug at thirty, puts it best when she told me, “When you travel, you just forget about marriage.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  04:04 AM

  • BILLE:  I think the average word count per entry is around 1,400 words.  Multiply that by 445, that’s 623,000 words.  (The average novel runs about 90,000.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  04:07 AM

  • NOELLE:  Nope, don’t think so; you’re a seasoned traveler already, you know “the unwritten rules” like the rest of us.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  04:09 AM

  • MARKYT:  “I’m a loner, Dottie.  A rebel.”  - Pee Wee Herman

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  04:10 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
A Mis-Match Made In Paradise

Previous entry:
The Guy Behind The Guy Behind The Blog


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

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The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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