We introduce the Filipino writer of this article – Noel Bautista, who main-tains a blogsite called ‘YBLnoel’s Blog’ on WordPress. The acronym that he uses ‘YBLNoel’ stands for ‘Your Loyal Batchmate Noel’ and it pretty much sums up the fundamental values this prolific writer holds dear. Noel styles himself as “… an accidental migrant in Wellington New Zealand” but we have to admit that the ‘accident’ turns out to be something other-wise good for people who want to read quality content on the Web. Judg-ing from what he writes and publishes online, Noel turns out to be a keen observer of mannerisms and nuance, and also probably a good judge of character. In this piece written about Southeast Asian migrants in New Zealand, and Filipinos in particular, he meticulously develops a case that argues for why similarities are better than differences in a fluid, conver-sational, informative and entertaining style. — Karl Quirino
CONSEQUENCES OF MIGRATION
There are probably many more, but one of the unintended consequences of migration is discovering perceptions of other races and cultures, and how others view your own.
Among the more popular and sometimes surprising we have picked up: Cambodians are excellent bakers of bread, pastries and related goodies; Taiwanese are remarkable in pick-ing gadgets apart, studying how they work, and inventing more efficient models of the same (popularizing the term reverse engineering); both Malaysians and Indonesians are world-beaters in badminton, and, rivaling our own homegrown Filipino talent, Indian ex-pertise in both information technology (IT) and call center operations is well-known the world over.
We’re fortunate enough to have spent our childhood years straddling Chinese, Spanish and American cultures, so our face glowed with pride twice over when a Kiwi co-traveler told us that reviewing personal experience, Filipinos and Chinese adapted with greatest ease to a foreign culture, specifically his own.
It was his way of telling us that, at the workplace, in his neighborhood, in church or on the national scene, almost to a man (and woman) these nationalities were the easiest to get along with, and vice-versa.
DISTRACTED TRAIN OF THOUGHT
We avoided making comparisons among Caucasians across borders and continents, be-cause firstly, it is like apples, oranges and bananas. The chasm is simply too great, and you cannot compare for example, Englishmen, French and Russians, just as Australians and Kiwis may look similar on the surface, but are as different as night from day. Natural dis-trust, historical slights inflicted on one another, and contrasting attitudes rooted in religion and ideology are possibly just some of the reasons.
Which posed the inevitable question, at least in our distracted train of thought. Among Southeast Asians and similar cultures (Polynesians and South Asians), is the tendency to look for similarities greater than the instinct to spot differences with those not of your own kind?
Filipinos within our own small circle seem to reinforce this urban legend. A flatmate ob-served that Samoans, Tongans and Fijians love cooking various dishes in coconut milk, and of course we Filipinos can relate to this on so many levels, witness our native dishes like ginataang tambakol, Bicol express, kakanin, to name just a few original (or so we thought) recipes.
Spanning the South China Sea: respect for elders, filial piety and involving the family in almost every aspect of life is likewise a hallmark of the Sinitic Race, and again, whether we see them as Chinese from the Mainland, Overseas Chinese from different Mini-Dragons of Asia, or local Kiwi-Chinese that are as homegrown just as New Zealand milk and butter is, the basic aspects of Chinese character remain the same.
PART OF OUR PSYCHE
It’s probably a long shot, but various cultures that have been influenced by elements of Confucian philosophy as early as 2000 years ago, notably obedience to the state, respect for authority, and according the highest honor to education and educators, still find ele-ments of the same today, in Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indochinese traditions across Southeast Asia.
Inevitably, the so-called stereotypes of certain nationalities surface when we try to look for similarities rather than differences with our Asian brothers (and sisters). It’s almost as if we identify with the latter only for as long as the characteristics are positive, and distance ourselves from any comparisons as soon as the negatives become evident.
No names here, but our unfortunate combination of imbibing alcoholic beverages and the occasional crime of passion committed in the name of such, are shared by many other races particularly in the South Pacific.
Frugality pursued to excess by the entrepreneurially-inclined among our East Asian bre-thren, borrowed by other ethnic groups, has become such a basic part of our psyche as to be parodied and satirized by many who seek to disparage the otherwise unassailable busi-ness ethic of the cultures concerned.
THE HIGHEST BLESSING
Finally, Filipinos like to single out our former colonizers whenever the subject of our le-gendary indolence is brought up, but in truth almost all lands and nationalities close to the equator have their special way of dealing with the oppressive climate, while preserving productivity and harnessing energies under the tropical sun.
It may be a long time coming, but the moment we discard the blinders of petty prejudice, transcend our long-held stereotypes, and banish the bitterness of history is the same time we begin to see the rainbow of races for what they truly are: fellow creatures of God who like us share universal goals of attaining happiness, preserving freedom and living with love.
In our humble view, this is one of the highest blessings that a migrant may enjoy.