Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Balikbayan



A loooong time ago, I wrote about a planned family trip to the land of my wife's birth, the Philippines, wondering about the logistical and cultural considerations involved with using a carseat overseas. Well, the time has finally come to put the rubber to the road, as it were. Our big trip "home" is fast approaching.

My non-continental-U.S. travel experiences have been slim so far--a trip to Puerto Rico, two trips to Mexico, two trips to Hawaii, a half-remembered childhood daytrip to British Columbia from Washington State. This is by far the longest flight I'll have been on, let alone with The Pumpkin, who at 2-and-a-half is no stranger to planes. And this trip is different in a much more important way--for my wife, who came here at age one, and her parents, who are the only members of their families in this country, this isn't a vacation as much as it is going home. For someone born and raised in Los Angeles whose immigrant ancestors on both sides of the family are at least three generations in the past, this is something entirely new.

For the first time, I'm going to meet people I've only heard about for the last 15 years, people I'm related to by marriage, people who are my wife's family. My daughter's family. My family. It's a weird idea, a weird feeling, for a guy whose own family-by-birth is pretty small. The number of first cousins I have, I can count on my fingers. For my wife, even thousands of miles and years apart, cousins aren't cousins--they're brothers and sisters. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about all this, about making a good impression, about the language and culture barriers, about traveling with my in-laws in their own homeland, where they're the experts. I want to have a good time, to make sure my wife and babygirl have fun too, and to show my parents-in-law how much I respect and appreciate them. So yeah, nerves are there. But I so want this, for my wife, and for my daughter, though I don't know how much she'll remember in years to come (we'll have plenty of pictures, though, if I brought enough memory cards and the right power adapter, that is). And you know what? I want this for me, too.

So I won't understand everything, linguistically, culturally even. So I'm not Filipino, just "Filipino by marriage." But being surrounded by people who look like me, a country full of brown skin and miscegenated features? And add to that that I'm related to a whole bunch of them, and they to my babygirl? Yeah, I want this.

So we're running around buying "tropical-weather" wear (90 degrees with similar humidity, only 80 at night!), packing balikbayan boxes for the relatives, prepping The Pumpkin with talk of the Philippines and going to where Nana and Tata are from, with them, and going on the plane, and meeting lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. We've tried to get her used to the backpack carrier we've bought, gathered all the power cords for the various electronic devices (thank god for portable DVD players!), and stocked up on sunscreen and bug repellent.

And we've been reading The Pumpkin these two awesome, brand-new books from Asian-interest publisher Tuttle, both by Filipina expat Liana Romulo: Filipino Friends and My First Book of Tagalog Words. They're both from the p.o.v. of Filipino American kids--"Filipino Friends" actually follows a balikbayan kid on his first trip to the Philippines. [Thanks to the good folks at Tuttle for sending me these, and just in time, too! Wow, I didn't even realize till I looked at Amazon that "Filipino Friends" isn't even out yet! Cool. Heh.] Definitely cool books for trip prep.

Oh--and the carseat? Yeah, bringing it. Heh.

18 comments:

Dexter said...

Whoa. I've been waiting for a Filipino entry to pop up in Rice Daddies and I was stoked to see the word "Balikbayan" across the top of Rice Daddies. I'm glad that the day has arrived! I HAVE to know where I can get my grubby hands on those two books.

By the way, my wife is filipino by marriage, which makes me white by marriage. We've talked about going to the Philippines, but will probably do it later on in the future when our little guy gets older.

Kathy said...

Jas-

Other gear we've gotten for international trips include a portable booster (I think it's First Years) and a lighter carseat (Cosco Sccenera--still very well rated) to be carried in bag or on back.

When is your trip?

Superha said...

Sniff. Sniff. We'll miss you. Have fun and come back soon with lots of pictures and stories! :)

Julie said...

Have a great trip. Yes, you are nervous now, but as soon as all of you are embraced by warm family arms, the anxiety will go away.

I look forward to seeing pictures, and you must write about your experiences - you're such a good writer!

Are you going to try balut?

SoulSnax said...

Hey man, I do hope you will take the time to blog a little from the Philippines. Lemme know what part of the Philippines you will be in. I might have some tips. I had the adventure of bringing my American friends to the Philippines when we got married. My main concern was convincing them that they weren't gonna get kidnapped.

By the way, when I was a kid your Pumpkin's age, I thought that the Philippines was located somewhere within JFK airport and that all my relatives lived there. So one day, when we were on our way to the Philippines, I was looking all over JFK airport for my Lolo and Lola. I was so confused!

honglien123 said...

Have fun! Can't wait to see and hear about your trip when you get back. My J will probably have to go through something similar next year when we go to Vietnam. =)

grace said...

I don't know when your trip is but one way to prep the Pumpkin on everyone is to find out if there are any digital photos of the family in the PI. Then you print those suckers off and create a little set of flashcard photos! I did that with my girly-girl when we first visited my family.

carol said...

I found your blog by chance when I clicked on blogs of note. I'm from the Philippines and I hope you enjoy your trip. I will bookmark this page and look forward to your post about your visit.

Kuky said...

A blog friend emailed me the link for My First Book of Tagalog Words because of this post. Thanks for mentioning it. I've always wanted to learn Tagalog.

Amiene Rev said...

philipino and balikbayan

there is a place named bayan lepas in malaysia.

and balik mean "go home" or return.

Reyes-Chow said...

Just stumbled upon this blog and lo and behold, Pinoy Power! Great stuff! Have a great trip!

dennis said...

Remember, bottled water is everywhere now.

Not like my first trip, or 2nd trip. Stay on top of the do not drink tap/well water and do not eat the ice cubes issues!!!

I've been 3-4 times with wife.imp (native filipina) and have loved every trip!!

tofubaby said...

Hi! I found the site through blog hopping.

You'll enjoy the stay, I'm sure. Blog while you are there. Internet cafe's are not hard to find there. And I'm pretty sure your host have an internet connection.

:-)

Mama Nabi said...

I'm so jealous!!! We're preparing our trip to Korea already and it's not even until the fall.

Have a great visit!

gringodownsouth said...

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Nils said...

Make sure to blog from the Philippines. Unfortunately the press in the states doesn't do the Philippines or the people there justice. It's certainly one of the most beautiful and hospitable places on earth.

Keep up the great blog!

Jeff Shaw said...

Great Blog. Just be yourself and enjoy everything. Everyone in the Philippines will love you no matter what, as they do every guest. I'm a "filipino by marriage too."

I'm at Bounded Rationality
http://boundrationality.blogspot.com

Ka_Jun said...

Check these books...they've been good to us, even though our boy is still a small guy...

http://www.amazon.com/Alpabetong-Filipino-Philippine-Books/dp/9715082475/ref=sr_1_25/103-6817585-5967058?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1178911461&sr=1-25

http://www.amazon.com/Prinsipe-Malungkot-Bilingual-English-Filipino-Philippine/dp/9715180051/ref=sr_1_24/103-6817585-5967058?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1178911415&sr=1-24

http://www.amazon.com/Filipino-Childrens-Favorite-Stories-Romulo/dp/962593765X/ref=sr_1_8/103-6817585-5967058?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1178911415&sr=1-8