once.in.a.while


TIME for balikbayan stories.

On the last time we went home for a visit to the Philippines, a giant wall-sized sign on the interior side of the building greeted me as we waited for our turn at the immigration gate.

Behind me on the line was a young lady holding a Philippine passport, so I asked her, “Excuse me, please, ano ang ibig sabihin noong sign na iyon?” pointing to the wall.

She took a glance and then looked confused herself.

“I am sorry, I am Korean, I really don’t know much Tagalog.”

“Oh, I see, I asked because you have a Philippine passport.”

She just smiled, “My husband is a Filipino.”

Hmmm, lucky guy.

The sign I am referring to says “Walang Wang Wang Dito.”

I planned to ask the locals afterwards but the whole thing skipped my mind during that whole time that we were there.

There had been tremendous changes since way, way back when.

There were non-stop constructions, high rises, super highways, malls, super malls and, coincidentally, who knows, maybe more wang wang?

On the express bus to Baguio, there was a long line at the ticket booth, when the security guard tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Sir, doon ho kayo sa VIP line, mga senior citizens ho kayo.”

Wow, old age has its own rewards.

Aboard the bus, we were greeted by two flight stewardesses, I mean bus stewardesses, donning the appropriate uniform, complete with cap, purse and high heels.

The only thing missing is some actual demonstrations of what to do just in case there is an emergency landing, I mean collision.

Then they handed out newspapers or Nooks (for the digital readers), free drinks and snacks.

There were also TV movies non-stop during the four-hour trip.

In the course of our travels, we heard some balikbayan stories.

A six-year-old girl was complaining to her mother, “Mommy, mommy, lola is...,” “Yes, anak, what happened?”

“Lola is smothering my face when she kissed me.”

The mother comforted her and reassured her that it is OK.

“But lola is suctioning my face with her singhot-kiss.”

The mother let out a loud laugh.

“Now my right cheek is crooked,” she continued showing off her imaginary contorted face.

“Don’t worry,” the mother continued, “just close your eyes next time so your eyeballs won’t be sucked out by her nostrils.”

Some balikbayan kids who went to the Philippines for the first time recounted their own experiences.

A boy was telling his fellow balikbayan vacationists.

“You know,” he began, “my grandparents’ house in the barrio has unfinished basement.”

An adult family member quickly corrected him, “That’s not really a basement. We call it silong or an open-space groundfloor.”

The boy continued, “They also had a mini-zoo in the silong, complete with chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, pigs, spiders, lizards and dragonflies, flying dino-sized cockroaches, and a buffalo tied to a tree. It was really a Jurassic World, sort of, if you asked me.”

“Upstairs, at night, while lying on the bed to sleep, I couldn’t. There was a big hole on the nipa roof and I could see an Imax-full of shooting stars on the sky. Once in a while, I could also see airplanes with its signal lights flickering during their flyovers. But if it rains, I have an instant downpour shower while on bed. Oh, it’s so much fun,” he said.

Another boy recalled, “Not where we went. It was horrible. We also went to the country house, and one night, a centipede was crawling on my blanket. I almost died. Then one night, I saw a teenie-weenie crocodile on the ceiling. I ran out of the house shrieking. They told me it was butiki. Ughh! I couldn’t sleep sinc then. The roosters were screaming Kukkoo-ko-ook. Kukkoo-ko-ook. And at sunset...there were non-stop concerts of Tukkoo-tukkoo. Mga buwisit,” he said in Tagalog.

A market fish vendor had her first-hand account of an encounter with a balikbayan lady.

“You know, there was this sexy Filipina woman, dressed to impress with a really nice outfit. I could smell and tell that she is a balikbayan.”

She stopped by my stall, raised her McDonald-arched eyebrow, and asked me.

“Whut is thaaatttt?”

So I answered in Tagalog, “Talangka ho ma’m. Bili nakayo. Bagong huli ho.”

“Oh, I am sorry, I don’t know what you just said. I don’t speak Tagalog, I am from New York.”

I muttered to myself, “Pongak na pongakang ilong mo, hindi ka marunong mag-Tagalog. Yabang mo.”

The lady continued to poke at the little crustaceans, when suddenly, a deafening scream shook up the whole marketplace.

“Hayop, demonyong talangka ka, bakit mo ako kinagat. Arrraaayyyy, nanayko!”

The vendor couldn’t stop laughing.

“Walang hiya ka, eh di natuto ka na ring mag-Tagalog, ha ha ha.”

There’s another story from my balae who recalled something about a newly married niece who decided to bring her Caucasian husband to meet her family living on the boondocks.

The father is a farmer so he always left the house before dawn break.

When the American son-in-law woke up early in the morning, he went around the yard looking for his father-in-law.

“Where’s ta-ta-y?” he asked in halting Tagalog accent, pronounced in long vowel “a.”

“The boy answered back, “You mean ‘ta-ta-ye?”

“Yes!.”

The boy told him to follow him to the back of the bushes, behind the banana stalks, and told him, “You squat here,” handing him a roll of toilet paper.

When the new bride who is now looking for her husband sensed that something was lost in translation, got indignant, and scolded his nephew.

“He is asking for Tatay, not tatae,” she painfully explained.

To the non-Tagalog readers, Tatay means father, whereas, tatae means going to the bathroom.

How embarrassing!

Ay naku nga naman, nakakahiya.

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