By David Haldane
March 12, 2019
It happened again the other day. I was at the private school my eight-year-old son, Isaac, attends in Surigao City. His second-grade class had just let out and, waiting nearby, I spotted him marching towards me across the grass.
“Hey daddy,” he said, “can you carry my bog?
“Excuse me?” I replied, nonplussed. “Your bog?”
“My lunch bog,” he said without skipping a beat. “I didn’t eat much and it’s feeling kind of heavy.”
I immediately felt my blood rising, as it always does on such occasions. This time, though, I resisted the urge to declare that I didn’t know what he was talking about and demand that he pronounce it correctly. Instead, I just grabbed the lunch bag and motioned him toward the car. Perhaps I’m finally making peace with my son becoming Filipino.
Naw, just kidding; I hate it now as much now as I ever did.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the heritage to which I object. My Filipino wife and I have always taught Isaac to honor both his Filipino and American sides. No, the part that bothers me – makes me crazy, in fact – is my little boy’s persistent and annoying insistence on speaking English with a Filipino accent.
It’s not as if he doesn’t know proper English. Isaac, after all, spent the first seven of his eight years in Southern California, talking to his American father and attending an American public school. He was born in the USA, for heaven’s sake, and though his citizenship is dual, his cultural roots are red, white and blue.
Yet, ever since moving to the Philippines eight months ago, my son has been saying mom instead of mam and calling his bag a bog. At first I thought it was just a temporary affectation that would soon disappear. Instead, it seems to be getting worse with each passing day and probably each year.
“Daddy,” he said the other night, “my toblet is low bot; con you please close the light?”
Initially, I thought I could just intimidate him into submission. “Sorry,” I told him, “but I only respond to requests made in proper English, so please try again.”
His mother who was nearby, however, quickly tucked him in.
To some extent I get it, of course; I’m not completely dense. Isaac is literally the new kid on the block who’s got to try and fit in. Lately, however, I’ve noticed that, whenever the subject comes up, he immediately embraces his Filipino side and admits to the other only when trapped. The inescapable conclusion: that my son thinks being Filipino is cool.
All of which for me, unfortunately, has created a sort of existential crisis. You can believe me when I say that I’ve never been a flag waver. Somehow, though, these recent events – and especially the strong feelings they have engendered in me – have raised a troubling specter; that, despite my claims of multiculturalism, I am at heart a true American.
Please don’t say that too loudly.
A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and winner of a 2018 Golden Mike award in radio broadcast journalism, David Haldane fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he has returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. Today he and Ivy, along with their eight-year-old son, Isaac, divide their time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Surigao City, Philippines. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists, recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be at the tip of a peninsula marking the gateway to Mindanao where he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse overlooking the historic Surigao Strait. This blog is the chronicle of that ongoing adventure.