I love Filipino people. They are without a doubt some of the friendliest, most accommodating people in the world. Sometimes they are accommodating beyond the realm of comfort, though, and this is something that often bothers me.
An example of what I am talking about is when it comes to food. Sometimes, during the day, I might ask Feyma what is for dinner. She will tell me something that sounds real delicious. For example, I really enjoy Shrimp. So, maybe Feyma will tell me that we are going to have sauteed shrimp for dinner, and I might be looking forward to that during the day, because it is something that I enjoy. When it is dinner time, I will take a look and everybody else in the house is eating something else, but there is a beautiful plate of sauteed shrimp there in my place!
I will then ask Feyma, where is your shrimp? She tells me that only I will have Shrimp, everybody else is eating vegetables and rice. I will explain to her that I think everybody should have shrimp too. I know that our kids don’t like shrimp, but I also know that it is a favorite of Feyma’s just like it is for me. So, when I ask her why she is not having shrimp, she will say that she doesn’t feel like shrimp, she feels like vegetables and rice, or fish of some sort. Now, sometimes I can believe that, because we all have different cravings, but I know that Feyma loves shrimp, and I wonder why she is not having it.
The reason, though, that she is not having the better dish becomes clear when you go other places. A lot of times, when I will go visit people, they will serve me the “better” food, and their family eats something less. Honestly, I believe it comes down that since you are a guest, and especially that you are a foreigner, you are given the “cream of the crop” and they will settle for something less.
This is only an example of what I am talking about. It happens a lot with food, but with other things too. I remember the first time when I came to the Philippines, in 1990. I met Feyma in Cebu, and later we were going to fly to General Santos City to meet her family. When we arrived there in GenSan, we went to her family house. It was obvious that her parents were not well to do, yet they presented a big spread of food to welcome me. I can only imagine that they must have spent several weeks, maybe a month worth of their salary as a welcome to me when I visited them. This kind of thing makes me so uncomfortable. I mean, what is the appropriate thing for me to do? That time in 1990 when I visited Feyma’s family, I wanted to get some money and give them to pay for the welcome feast, but that also seems that it would be somewhat insulting to them, to give them money like that. Even though I have lived here for a long time now, I still don’t know how to appropriately handle things like this. It still makes me uncomfortable.
What do you think?