Skip to main content

Fil versus Am: Guest Protocol

...Wow, my post heading looks like a movie title.

My household is a Fil-Am one -- half Filipina and half American, and 100% sassy. I spent the first eighteen years of my life being a dutiful Catholic in the Philippines, before Fragrant Mother, by her own account, went out there and lassoed me a scholarship to faraway Canada. That started my journey to Vermont, Kyoto, Boston, and Bangladesh, with some stops in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Australia along the way.

The point is -- and please imagine me saying this in the most obnoxious voice possible -- I am a citizen of the world. Now hand me a barf bag, I'm about to lose my peanut butter-and-cheese sandwich.

Meanwhile, Fragrant Husband grew up a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). He's a voracious reader, and can talk to you at above your pay grade in Life about a variety of topics, especially if science, technology, or law is involved. So we are two harmonious nerds who really need to get out more, is what I'm saying.

But speaking of staying in, one of the differences about our approach to Life has to do with the treatment of guests. In Las Islas Felipenas, a household will drop everything to cater to a guest hand and foot. The best food goes to the guest, who also gets to sit on the best chair, have the electric fan pointed directly at him/her, receive the freshest fruit, and possibly even get water that is purified or has been boiled and stored in the fridge. If no water is available, the lowest member on the household totem pole will rush out and get soft drinks (soda). Causing dysentery in one's guest is considered bad form.

When Fragrant Husband visited the Philippines for the first time recently, he was taken aback by the insistence that he stay right in his chair after he finished a meal. He would sneakily try to put his dishes in the sink, only to be blocked by my sister. He was not allowed to pay for anything. He was fed full meals as much as humanly possible and given beer at every opportunity.

By contrast, here in 'murica, if you go to a buddy's house and he/she gets a pizza for the group, everyone is expected to contribute. Sure, makes sense. It's perfectly reasonable, even expected, for a guest to help with food preparation in the kitchen, which in the Philippines would amount to stabbing your host repeatedly in the chest with a blunt spoon. The insult! The shame!

And, if someone here says, "Come to me, I have food," half the time it's chips and dip, crackers and cheese, raw veggies, or other fares that have previously crushed my dreams of being happy and satisfied at a gathering. The best chance of being fed properly is at a barbecue or a dinner party. What I just described is an over-generalization, of course. I'm sure there are many, many people who are as food-obsessed as I am, and will faint at the thought of serving just potato chips and onion dip to guests.

Happily, there is a confluence of guest protocol values in the Fragrant House of Fil-Am: the quality of mapagsilbi. The root word "silbi" means "service," and the closest English I can come to is "considerate." The term can be used positively--"Malakas ang korelasyon ng pagiging mapagsilbi at pagiging makamandag" ("There is a strong correlation between being considerate and being awesome"), or negatively--"Wala kang silbi!" ("You're useless!") That latter phrase is interesting when you think about the fact that someone who isn't considerate is usually pretty awful at Life (c.f. the man-child).

Sometimes, being mapagsilbi is just a way to signal your high status. A host may offer a feast like a peacock spreads its tail feathers, with a similar message: "Look at me, look at me!" Note that I say similar, not the same--because the boy peacock is saying, "I got yer cloacal kiss right here, baby!" (This is how birds mate, FYI. You're welcome.)

At our home, which sees no shortage of guests--especially since I brought a TempurPedic bed for the spare room--everyone is mapagsilbi. Anyone getting up will offer to get drinks for other people. Everyone will offer to help in the kitchen. It's nice! The only exception is the ironclad Cat in Lap Protocol, which states that anyone who has a cat on top of him/her is excused from standing. Other people must serve drinks or food to that person, which is kind of like how a cat works, come to think of it -- always being served. Huh.

So it's tough to decide which one I like more: the Pinoy or American style of treating guests. On the one hand, you can game the system in the Philippines if you're always the guest. That's actually my strategy. On the other hand, a give-and-take between guest and host a la the US promotes independence and equitability.

Hah, who am I kidding? The answer is, "When in Rome, do what the Romans do." Adaptability is the key to success, my friend.

This post brought to you by a lollipop and hot chocolate.

Popular posts from this blog

An International Women's Day Miracle!

Truly, International Women's Day is a special day. No, not because multitudes are out there rallying for our rights and giving voice to the powerless. It is because I won a gift card from a company raffle!

Let me explain why this counts as a minor miracle. You see, I never win anything. I answer every damned survey sent my way, participate in all the raffles, buy lottery tickets -- to no avail. This particular raffle occurred monthly, and I had been faithfully entering my name every month for two years, with no results. Finally, last month, I declared: "No more!" and unsubscribed from the mailing list -- but not before entering one final time, because why not.


There's also some déjà vu at play here. You see, four years ago, I won a gift card from a company raffle. The one fracking time I won anything! I was elated! Shortly thereafter, also on International Women's Day, I was laid off from my job.

Sooooo...since the day's almost over, I guess I'm not…

Paint Nite!

Last night I joined the "Oops" Paint Nite event hosted by the Club Cafe in Back Bay. About 12+ people came to relax and have two artists guide them through painting this original work:

The point was not to slavishly duplicate "Oops" -- we were instructed to make it our own, to relax, and not to utter the words, "Mine sucks," "Can you do this for me?" or "I thought this was paint-by-numbers!"

Speaking of dashed hopes, I had assumed that wine was included. I had done something like this before, only it was in the morning and we all got mimosas. Not so here! While the artists were setting up, I schlepped over to the bar and was rewarded with a generous pour of Cabernet. Now I was ready.

The setup: Everyone got a 16" x 20" canvas, three paint brushes, and a palette (a paper plate) with red, yellow, blue, and white paint. One artist (Brian) had the microphone and would paint with us, while the other was the assistant (Kory) who wo…

Get Out (2017)

Get Out has a charismatic lead, a terrific soundtrack, and damn good cinematography. While it’s described as horror/comedy, it’s more disturbing/cringe-y than scary, and I mean that in a good way. This is an entertaining movie that’s also pretty effective as social commentary.

The film stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a photographer who’s about to spend the weekend at his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parent’s house. Naturally, it’s in a secluded spot in the woods. When they get there, the awkwardness that might be expected from a first-time meeting gives way to a series of bizarre behaviors and interactions. While Chris initially takes it all in stride, it eventually becomes clear that there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes.

The acting and dialogue are highlights of the film, as is the camera work. In particular, Kaluuya’s eyebrows and head tilts are so expressive that the audience knows what’s going on in his head even as he politely brushes off eccentricities. A…