Friday, June 22, 2007

Brown and Browner

So. Today, I went up face to face with my first experience of discrimination here in Canada. It wasn't from a native, not an Indian, nope, not a Mexican, Korean, Chinese or even an American. I got the figurative slap in the face from- yes, a Filipino.

A Filipina, to be exact. I have been attending a seminar for the past three days at the Immigration Services, and I have gotten close to my classmates. Of the nine of us, five are Filipino, two are Chinese, two are Iranian and one is Mexican. I am really learning a lot from this seminar, and it has done me good. (Did you know that the Farsi word for attitude is Motafokr? Wahaha)

Today we had a few new faces, a Singaporean, a Brazilian, another Chinese, and the Aforementioned Filipina. Everyone else was reallly really nice, except for this Filipina. I walked into the classroom (early!) and saw her sitting at our table. She gave me a cool once over. I smiled at her. She scowled, her eyes hostile and bitter. Haha. And no, it wasn't my imagination.

She was the same with the other people. Nice to the white people, though her smile never reached her eyes. But with us fellow Pinoys, she wouldn't deign to look at us.

All through the morning we suffered her cold scorn, and indifference. When asked by our facilitator, she said she'd been here 3 months and was looking for a career in hospitality. Another classmate offered to hook her up with a local hotel and was met with a sneer. Privately, I wondered what she was doing here.

During break time we tried to talk to her. She looked down her nose at me and said, "You probably worked at a call center back in Manila. Kaya ganyan ka." I laughed and said, "No, I didn't. I'm just from Mass Comm."

"Di ako trying hard, at nangungunyaring Canadian. Pa ingles-ingles ka pa. Halata namang kakarating mo lang dito. Akala mo ba papatulan ka nila?" She hissed. I blinked, and so did the other pinoy guys. " Akala mo kung sino ka? Pareho lang tayo dito." Whew. Major Issues.

She stood up and went out, presumably for lunch, and didn't come back. So. I guess she didn't want to waste her time on us. All I can say is, good luck to her. Seriously. I can't figure out how she can do what she has to without guidance, but i guess some people are like that.

We were at the Filipino Fiesta last week to celebrate Independence day, my dad and I and one of his fraternity brothers. It was a huge to-do with tents set up in a park on a cold and blustery day. To our surprise, the booths there were divided by regional organizations, such as the Bicol Association or the Waray Organization or the Ilocano Group. There were Goldilocks and Red Ribbon cakes, as well as kakanin. It was fun, superficially, but there was a strange tension in the air.

My father approached the table at one booth, asking if he could buy lechon from them. The person behind the desk said, "Sorry, that's only for people from our region. Are you from --- (name omitted)?"

My dad blinked and said, "No, I'm from Cebu."
He said, "Sorry, you're not one of us. Try the Visayans at the other end of the park."

And it was the same in the other booths. We were surprised that old rivalries and hatred still divided the people from the SAME fricking country here. And over that all was a thin veneer of amiability. We were so disgusted that we left after 20 minutes.

Our facilitator said, it's human nature not to want others to succeed faster than you did. And so I guess they give you dead end jobs lifting cartons in 7-11, or pushing cash registers at the Dollarama, under the guise of, you need to work, let me help you find a job. Any sign of progress and it's like, how dare you try to improve yourself. You owe me. And if you try to break free of that, you're UNGRATEFUL and SNOBBISH. Wokay. I can see how this is true in the filipino community, but i haven't spent enough time with the other cultures to tell.

But if you think about the first wave of immigrants and how they were nannies, prostitutes who married their white "Joes," carpenters, drivers, seamen, I guess you could understand the underlying culture of insecurity and competition, and the need to prove yourself better than everyone else. Add that to the typical Filipino neuroses (crab mentality, etc.) and you've got MAJOR issues. Especially since the intellectuals have been crossing the pond recently. You're talking bankers, doctors, accountants, graphic designers, filmmakers. If you carry over the unspoken resentment of the class system at home and the burgeoning insecurity of the so-called established immigrants, it doesn't make for a good mix.

Don't get me wrong. I love being Filipino. I honestly do. Ask anyone who knows me. But I am an immigrant, the same as they are. I pulled up my roots, cut off ties to everything near and dear and familiar, gave up an old life where i was happy to start over in an unfamiliar land with no job, no place to stay, no family and no tobie. And I know these people did the same thing, even more because when they moved here, the communications system was only snail mail. How can they not understand this? Why are we all so easily threatened by each other? I am disappointed by the so-called pillars of the Filipino community. Of course there are exceptions, but still. It seems that the longer they've been here the more condescending they are to people fresh off the plane. I pray to God I never reach that stage.


ernie said...

thanks for sharing this story. I am honestly shocked that incident in the food booth happened. Unbelievable! Good luck.

tobie said...

Horrible, horrible people.
Frankly, its sad how there are some Pinoys who think its by segregating themselves from fellow Pinoys that they can be seen as special.

Its really sad.

drakulita said...

What is wrong with them? :(