Purely Pinoy, Purely Pearlie
In my last post, “One Correct Answer,” I wrote about Pearlie (Aussie Puh-lie), my ten-year-old niece, who was my muse in writing the book “Book Eyes, Small Eyes,” two years after her visit to the Philippines—when I met her for the first time.
Pearlie has since gone to high school and graduated with honors. Her graduation gift from her parents is a month-long overseas travel to any of the six continents—other than Australia—where she hasn’t been to.
Pearlie needed no menu of choices. She had already one, and only one, in mind: the Philippines. What, the Philippines?! Huh? Why not, uh, France? Or maybe Spain? Greece perhaps? Or even Africa?
No, thank you. The Philippines. And so it is.
In February this year, she flew in to NAIA and out again to Boracay, Bohol, Cebu, Bacolod, Dumaguete and all the other scenic, undiscovered places in our country most Filipinos have postponed or skipped visiting in favor of trips to other countries.
What was there to expect in the second coming of Pearlie? Definitely more “Oooooh cooool!”
Wrong. The wide-eyed little girl is gone, with her “Oooooh cooool” totally thrown into obsolescence. In her place is a willowy stunner—taller than me and both her parents. She is mostly quiet, with a phrase, a sentence or two in breathy Aussie twang, silent nods, a lot of smiles, girlie giggles and endearing cuddles. She is an ardent listener, and an eagle-eyed watcher, as though faithfully recording every bit of Filipino rustle and bustle.
In deference to her, my family and I were careful not to lapse into speaking Filipino. When we did, we quickly translated it to English. Why, we need not have bothered! Pearlie may not be able to speak the language, but understands every Filipino word (including her father’s native tongue, Ilocano), according to her mom who accompanied her on the trip.
We were excited to introduce her to the many Filipino thingies (celebrities, movies, new sights and sounds) that are alien to aliens. She surprised—if not shocked—us all. She knew more than my husband, sons and I did, put together.
She was keen on “Pinoy Big Brother” (yes, the reality TV show that has captivated viewers for many seasons). In fact she wanted to see for herself, first hand, the Big Brother’s house. She also knew all the new teen idols like Marky Cielo, Richard Gutierrez, Dennis Trillo, Angel Locsin, Jennilyn Mercado and Katrina Halili, all strange names to me until she came. I had to consult my househelp, Ate Vi, who these people are and what they look like! Ate Vi gave me the look-- “Shame on you!”
Puh-lie knew all about “Eat Bulaga” (and the colorful story behind its two famous hosts) and other TV emcees, including controversial Willie Villarame. With the likes of Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe, big-named Aussies, she is excited over Ogie Alcasid?
When we took her to the south for a heritage tour, she wanted her photo taken in front of the old church where Kampanerang Kuba (the tele-serye, I was filled in) was shot. For lunch in Liliw, Laguna (where she bought a Pinoy-made sandals), we took her to a restaurant which had piles of Filipino glossy magazines for the reading pleasure of the diners. She said she already had some copies of those at home and she had in fact bought a few more (despite her mother’s protest due to their weight) to bring home.
In our sentimental journey to our family’s hometown, Umingan, and then up to Baguio, she had to be stopped from tasting all the native delicacies and fruits lest her Aussie tummy wouldn’t agree. Again, we need not have worried. She was a risqué local more than a finicky tourist.
Now let me ask (myself, I guess), who among us—especially those who’ve developed a taste for foreign glam like the Oscars, the Tonys and American Idol—has the same pride and passion of being a Pinoy—and shows it?
Here’s 17-year-old girl who was born and bred in a milieu so alien to a homegrown Filipino and yet remains as purely Pinoy as a 17-year-old who grew up in anything but.
“Is this how Fil-Aussie teen-agers are in Melbourne?” I asked her mom—my mouth agape.
“Not at all!” she replied, laughing. “In fact, her cousins are wondering what’s gotten into her? But that’s the way she is. She convinced her father to subscribe to the Filipino TV Channel and she patronizes Filipino goods.”
And as though these weren’t enough, she told us, through her mom, that with her savings she wanted to send one needy child or two in our hometown to the high school where her dad graduated. It’s some kind of a personal scholarship, most probably in the name of her late lola and lolo, my parents. I can’t imagine bigger surprises in store for us when she graduates from college and earns her own money.
Incredible? I like to think that when Puh-lie came home that first time at age ten, she saw with her own eyes (big, literally, but bigger still, figuratively) what she is and what home is like. In both trips—and through all my writing days—she would be my muse and God's channel of grace. If ever my Gifts of Grace Book 3 would ever see print, the first chapter belongs to Pearlie.
She’s introduced me to all the unknown Filipino OFW’s and immigrants (in droves, judging from the overseas call in noontime TV shows and overseas Pinoy concerts) who are in distant lands but, like Pearlie, did not abandon their roots; they brought it along with them—and kept it in their hearts.
(Photo shows Pearlie and her parents)