LOLA GOT’S LUTONG BAHAY IN AMERICA: Autumnal Equinox

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Summer is finally over. The heat this year was just as bad. It seems like it has become the new normal here in our part of Nevada (Henderson), when temps reach up to a hundred and over. This year, at least, it just went up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit. As if that was okay. NO! It’s not. But ‘round these parts, Honey, you better believe it’s better than 120! (Ang sabi ni puti…)

Temps aside, the task of packing and unpacking has made us busier than ever. And, because housemaids are too expensive here, we have to fit the extra work into the daily schedules we had for housework and such. And so, because we tend to be a little on the OC side, we find the work taking up so much of our day. The good thing is… it forces us to take a second look at stuff we have to get rid of, recovering the space we forgot was there.

At our age, the thought of having to unpack (again) can sometimes be overwhelming. There were days, we have to admit, that it overtook us like a wave threatening to drown the day into a 24-hour TV marathon instead. We pull through only when we realize that there is no one who will do this for us, and we have to get up and move. And we’ve found a way to cut through this lethargy; assigning ourself a few tasks we know are the most urgent, and making room for a few breaks in-between. This way, we don’t really feel too put upon, and we get to see results everyday. Which, also, makes us think we are avoiding being a hoarder anyway. (After binging on the TV series Hoarders)

The autumnal equinox was a few weeks back, or better still, more than a month ago already. We still glare at things undone and try to weave in a little sanity through the myriad tasks we have to do and finish. The house is still in a flux. The youngest son has given notice. Moving out, Ma. Have to be independent. We respond with silence, and then a smile, we hope looks encouraging but not pushy. The balancing act can sometimes be a strain. We wonder if we ourselves are in the process of crossing over our “celestial equator”.

Every year, we realize, we actually go through some sort of personal equinox. No way it can be a mid-life crisis since that ship sailed more than ten years ago. Besides, having a mid-life crisis every year?! Really?! Whatever it is, we seem to be able to lift a leg over these periods in some way or another somehow. Lots of praying on mornings we feel like there seems to be no end to the turmoil in and around us. Our very catholic upbringing keeps us in the sane lane, even if we no longer adhere to the rituals and incense of the Pope’s Church. Praying, we realize does not have a religion. It is, instead, an act of faith more than anything. That “things happen for a reason” is not a cliche, but an affirmation of that faith, and, ultimately, of hope.

We get into these moods, we guess, because we are starting to feel like the rock and the hard place is moving to crush us flatter than a chapati. Our Filipino self is lamenting the new dynasty rising in our beloved Davao. The Marcos era divide and conquer system is showing it’s ugly head. Power and greed, corrupting the waters of progress – unabated and still running the system. Again, we feel the tired old cries of “US imperialism” and “people power,” “Ibagsak…” kuno in the streets of Manila and Davao. We thought these were happily left in the past, where we also thought we could finally remove that firmly attached tumor of fear we had to carry on our backs for twenty odd years, like hunchbacks of the Marcoses’ Martial Law regime. There is fear again, for our family, for our businesses….. for our livelihood. The very things that define the survival of our own lives, little as they may be. Especially for us who decline to participate in the political arena.

We feel the re-runs of the same things happening over and over and over again. The smell of money and opportunities to fatten personal coffers “no matter what” is never far away. We wonder why our beautiful “pearl of the orient” does not seem to learn from the past. The sour smell of an oyster gone bad. Our “leaders” still choose to see only as far as their bank accounts are concerned. The country and its people are of no importance as long as they secure themselves. There seems to be no accounting of the fact that being in office is to serve the people who put them there in the first place. Being in office in the Philippines apparently means, serving yourself. As much as you can, while you can….. How sad that all those years that united the country under the Marcoses’ cruel dictatorship has become a convoluted, confusing recounting of disparate histories, depending on who tells it. All the books and analyses (in numerous theses and academic debates and discourses) on why we remain in the same boat while other countries around us rise to greater economic standards, seem to remain with that “learned” circle. Their heated arguments understood only within their marbled halls, while the rest of the country is left to fallow in the belief that their leaders are on their side.

A friend on Facebook, once replied to something we’d written (which frankly we’d forgotten what of), that things do get better. That it always does, in the end. No reason to be so dire about it all, we seem to hear him imply.

We wish we could be so sanguine about it, but circumstances here in America are no better. The New America emerging from the Trump administration has made us ultra aware of our ethnicity. It may not be as bad as the African-American experiences, but it has made us more conscious of our being not white in ways that sometimes pinches that sliver of fear when we notice someone across us, in a public place, level an unfriendly stare in our direction, as if saying, Go back to wherever you came from! And, because we are sometimes with our white partner, a…, What the hell are you doing with that chinky-eyed rice-eating yellow Asian….! His tattoos all chiming in to the conversation. (This actually happened recently.) A low-level kind of paranoia signaling you to lower your eyes like the submissive Asian they think you are, and keep your distance, move closer to your white partner and hope he (the starer) is distracted by his female companion. Disturbs us for a while because we did choose to live here. And, we know we are not the confrontational type either. We just back off, afraid of disturbing a peace we thought was there.

Then, we realize later, that the person who maintains our bug situation (who comes once a month) and the plumber we call regularly for service, and even the guy who cleans our air vents, are all white people. Things we took for granted, were non-issues now seem to be going in that direction. We have no inkling on how to handle this, because this will have been the first time a stranger has made us feel assaulted. Our bug-man and plumber, or even the vent cleaning man has always been friendly and respectful in the times they’ve come to do something in the house; but, we wonder now, when they are no longer in our presence, if they do not have some sort of resentment, or anger at having to do work for someone who they look upon as beneath them, an Asian immigrant.

The rock and the hard place have not met yet. But it does feel, sometimes, like having to summon Samson’s spirit, to have the strength to keep the two at bay.

We remain grateful too, for the life we have, and mostly for the unconditional love and loyalty our resident Corgi displays without fail. That, at least, saves the day for us. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Margot Marfori is an author and visual artist from Davao City. She is currently based in Henderson, Nevada.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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