If you haven’t yet, you should watch the Philippine edition of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”. I know this is a very late recommendation since it aired on 2009 but we don’t have cable channel and I only chanced upon it on Netflix’s Instant Play the other day. I wasn’t exactly looking for the show since I am not a fan of food channels – I was browsing something for my son Evan but in the end, after watching the 40 minute video I took away a lesson in how to parent a half-filipino child.
Before I get to that, I must say I was very impressed with the show’s research team. They were able to track down filipino bloggers who knew their stuff and presented to Bourdain a balanced choice of filipino food that best represents the Philippines. From the top of my head I remember seafoods, seaweeds, pinakbet, bulalo, fishballs, pinapaitan, sisig, sinigang (with guava), barbequed chicken butt and of course, the Cebu lechon which Bourdain proclaimed as the “best pig ever!” I think what didn’t belong there was this “fancy” dish one of the hosts Claude Tayag served that had bacon and something in it. Even Bourdain pointed this “discrepancy” out right away. But in general, I came away with the feeling of pride for my country (btw, the wet market Carbon was soooo clean that day!), the wonderful job the filipino hosts did and homesick for the food I grew up eating.
But back to Augusto, he is a fil-am who was born in the US and had only visited the Philippines as a grown-up for one short week. The food made such an impression on him that he joined the No Reservations fan contest (?) and sent a video to Bourdain to tell him why they should do a show in the Philippines. During the course of the film a conversation between Augusto and Bourdain was shown (they flew in Augusto and his family to Cebu) a much more reserved Augusto compared to his boisterous self on the video entry, confesses of insecurity while growing up in the U.S. because of not knowing his self-identity largely in part to having a filipino heritage. He observed that unlike other ethnicities e.g the chinese, indian, japanese etc. filipino immigrants don’t impose their homeland culture to their children to make it easier for them to adapt to their western way of living and peers. But according to Augusto, who seem to be a well-educated and well-adjusted young man, it didn’t really help in making him feel less of an outsider not only in the Philippines but here in the US as well.
I felt bad for the guy. I know how it is to feel like an outsider. Even after living here for almost 8 years and as much as I love this country and its wonderful people, I still don’t feel like I belong. But the difference between Augusto and me is that, I am probably 15-20 years older than him and I had that sense of belonging for the first 30 years in my life. And at 40 years old I can live with this new status without regret, just a matter-of-fact, you know, c’est la vie.
But he made me think of my own son. The past few months I have been introducing to Evan a little bit of my culture, I constantly talk to him about his lolo, lola and cousins back in the Philippines, given him a glimpse of my childhood, teaching him tagalog, a couple of songs. Augusto’s confession is an affirmation for me that I am doing the correct thing on moments I would wonder if this was a futile undertaking. It is a motivation for me to continue what I am doing. That what this is goes beyond the cuteness of having my child talk, count and sing in filipino. That it means so much more for him, even if he doesn’t know it yet right now.
I wish I could ask Augusto why his parents never brought him to the Philippines for a visit even a few times, I’ve always known that it is what I want to continually do for my son – for my parent’s sake and his own. I can only pray that Evan would continue to show curiousity and interest in his mother’s homeland and that we will always have the financial means to go visit the Philippines every few years or so. God willing.