The following is an article previously published on the website of Philippine newspaper Philippine Star on the experience of Filipino & Scottish worlds. The original link is here.
The Best of Both Worlds
(philstar.com) Updated February 02, 2010 09:55 AM
It shocks me when a Scottish person I meet tells me they do not know where the Philippines is.
I do not live in the remotest part of Scotland. I am based in Edinburgh, its enchanting capital. This vibrant, historical city is where the very first skyscrapers graced the skies. The place is a fascinating blend of “old meets new” with its ancient and modern feel within the clusters of closes (narrow alleyways) and tenements (apartments). A grand castle and dormant volcano lie at the heart of the entire bustle, and yes, this is where J.K. Rowling is famed to have created the world of Harry Potter.
It is truly more beautiful than any city I have visited in Europe.
When I hear that some poor soul has not heard of Pinas, the country that I love, the land I was raised in, I always think they are missing out. There is a wealth of scenery and more that our beautiful country owns, sure. Yet it is the tiny details that our own tropical paradise revels in, also making it stand out in my view.
I am a second-generation immigrant, born in the UK and raised in Manila. I go through life in a state of “uprootedness,” which is a general neither-here-nor-there feeling. Now that I am back in the country of my birth, I join the millions of kababayans who are nostalgic for home from time to time. I am constantly lovesick for my other country.
In the six years that I have stayed in the UK, once more, I have learned that I cannot brag about the pristine beaches enough, or the scent of ripe mangoes in the heat, the different types of orchids that bloom, the warmth and extreme kindness of the Filipinos.
I hear envious sighs when I speak of how we can freely step out of the house with flip-flops and sunglasses on, as the tropical climate mostly allows. The Scots would love for the sun and 29 degrees (Celsius) temperature to take up permanent residence in Scotland.
Weather is a big deal in this country. It is not an exaggeration when I say there are times when you experience all four seasons in a day. You get the complete package: snow, rain, bright sunshine, and cloudy skies all in just one day. And I smile to myself when I remember some old Pinoy schoolmates asking me if snow is always a star attraction in the UK. The answer is, not after the first few days when you have to venture out and cars in front of you start moving diagonally on the icy roads that resemble glass.
I find it ironic how the white Brits I know wish to avoid the “pasty look” by covering themselves head to toe in tanning sprays or lotions, even going to lengths of owning a sun bed at home.
They raise their eyebrows in disbelief when I tell them of the whitening lotions for sale in a Filipino supermarket. It is quite absurd how they do everything and anything for their roasted skin to remain on the golden standards barometer. Note the love/hate attitude towards “fair skin” from a Pinoy and Western standpoint.
With these illustrations, I have learned that wherever you are in the world, either as a result of your choices or circumstances, there will always be people owning the notion that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. They would always tend to believe that “people are luckier abroad” or that “life is easier in a different country”.
Pride is elusive for some people. However, the lucky ones are those who have tremendous pride in their culture. It saves from nostalgia and homesickness. This Filipino dignity takes center stage when we show off Pinas to the world.
The Scots are comparable to the Pinoys in so many ways, I am happy to report, being universally well-loved, and very easy to feel at home in their company. Their sense of humor reminds me so much of the Pinoy’s.
Their culture is displayed in full glory when they don their tartans and kilts. They are an outstanding country, with a long list of inventions under their belt: the ultrasound, refrigerator, penicillin, insulin, cures for tuberculosis and typhoid fever, golf. Despite these achievements and more, they remain humble and down-to-earth.
In a way, the saying “ignorance is bliss” supports the people I encounter who have no inkling of the tropical paradise on the other side of the world. The less they know, the happier they are. I, on the other hand, am blissful knowing that the tangible experiences of eating lechon, listening to the musical Tagalog spoken around me, coursing down the street in a jeepney covered in streamers are an authentic feeling of being home.