BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 21 February) – What bothers me about living outside of the Philippines is seeing how quickly the Filipinos especially the second generation lose their love or affinity for the mother country.
Is it our inherent adaptability that enables us to jump to faraway countries and accept their culture wholeheartedly without realizing what it does to our psyche? Are we quick to adapt in order to survive that we lose quickly what is essential as a Filipino?
I may be accused of ignorance here, but sometimes I see in Italy how the second generation Filipinos lose their identity quickly. You ask them something in English or Tagalog, they reply back in Italian. Is it because their parents interact with them in the adopted language, that these young Filipinos think Italiano is better than the language of their parents?
There are also parents here who talk to their children in German or French and do not bother to teach their children the home language. When the kids are vacationing in the Philippines, they are lost in the conversations of the family because of course, nobody speaks Deutsch with them.
My wife and I were recently startled when we asked our 6-year old apo (now living in Germany) when he was going to visit his hometown of Surigao again, and he replied, “Do I belong there?” Was this just a harmless rhetoric from a child only one year removed from the Philippines? We hope so!
There are also subtle behavioral changes in our so-called “second gen” that tells how they are growing more European or Swiss and losing their Filipino-ness.
Our generation values sharing food while eating our meals together. My wife organizes bus trips all over Europe together with her women organization. I always marvel that on those trips the Filipinos bring baon in amounts not just for their family, but also enough for others. Food is shared and there is much ado about these impromptu picnics.
In contrast, our children are not exposed to these situations. In school lunches, everybody has an apple or a sandwich and a drink and there is no cultural cue to share your food with others. And it is the same at work—I have observed that the option to stay away and enjoy your lunch alone is respected as privacy; there is no compulsion for a co-worker to join the others.
And you may be shocked to know this – parents may need to tell their children when they are coming to visit, because dropping by unannounced can be interpreted here as improper! Unlike in the Philippines where there is more spontaneity and even an impromptu visit is interpreted as a blessing for the host dahil may bumisita sa kanila.
The younger Filipinos who were born or grew up here are trained to be independent early in their lives. Which is a good thing. They learn early how to take care of themselves, they are financially independent earlier through a school system that allows apprenticeships or internships that pays a corresponding allowance, and then they are integrated into a work system that encourages further education or Weiterbildung while they are still working.
But the downside of this is that sometimes the young do not learn empathy or looking out for others. Because of a highly functioning school and work system, the outlook is individualistic.
Take my example of food sharing. Those who grew up in the Philippines instinctively seek out others to eat and share their food with. The young ones, meanwhile, are trained to be self-sufficient; everybody is provided for and they are not trained in seeing somebody who might be in want or in need. But then they cannot be blamed for social values that they never learned in school or in society.
I think however that Filipino parents also have blame for their children’s alienation from Filipino values. When they constantly complain about the problems in the Philippines, trapik sa EDSA, daghang adik ug walay trabaho, or grouse about Filipino time (which means arriving late for an appointment), they do not teach pride for the country. When they constantly marvel about material comforts of the host or adopted country, mas maganda dito dahil maraming chocolates at mura ang gatas, they teach their children that another culture or country is superior. When they don’t teach their children their mother tongue or dialect, they cut off the children from their cultural roots.
Is it a symptom of this alienation that second generation Filipinos here, even those who are full-blooded, switch to German or the Berndeutsch dialekt when they don’t want their parents to know what they are saying? It is like a secret language that they share to keep out their parents from the conversation.
More than ten years out of the country, I sometimes have mixed feelings when I see these changes manifested in our second generation. That metamorphosis might be something that scholars later may rue as negative in their studies of our emigration patterns.
(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their thoughts about their home country and their experiences in their adopted countries. Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)