Bringing the UK closer to the Philippines

I am a British man who has had connections with the Philippines since 2014 to my great pleasure. My husband is Filipino and I adore his family and friends. I do not yet, to my shame, speak the language, any version of it and, there are a few!

My visits there have been few and sadly, because of Covid, not recent. I have not had the chance to fully comprehend the country though, most experiences have been rewarding. Only a few times have I thought that the country is, dare I say it? A little bit racist? Don’t get me wrong, we are all a little bit racist, indeed, we’re programmed to notice any difference. My negatives have been with the overcharging which goes on as soon as a white face is seen. Prices can more than double purely because of ethnicity. It is annoying because the assumption being, all white people are rich. (We’re not).

Anyway, that is an aside.

I’ve been watching some Youtube videos from foreigners (American) who have settled there. They seem to quickly form their little USA and let the Filipina for the Philippines stuff and it got me to thinking what it is like here in the UK for those born in the Philippines but living here now and, it seems to be much the same!

Is that healthy though?

England is a country which has embraced multiculturalism for decades absorbing nationals from all over the world into our way of living. The problems arise from those nationals who will not integrate. Integration does not mean to stop being who you are, it doesn’t mean to lose your sense of national identity. For me, wherever I live I know I will always be British but, if that place ends up being in Ph, I’d like to think that the locals actually think of me being just a little Filipino too.

My very local experience of the Filipinos in this country is that integration is not high on the agenda. Sure, working here is but actually actively seeking English friends is not. Anyone not speaking Tagalog is sidelined in favour of those who do even in an active conversation in English it will be switched instantly to Philippine dialect instantly cutting the English speaker from the chat. As a cultural point, such things are the ultimate in rudeness here similar to physically turning backs on people mid conversation or whispering. We are the same with face coverings including sunglasses too, we just feel uncomfortable and instantly presume the other person is hiding something. Living here this is something the Filipino needs to respect. It’s maybe daft, makes no sense to you after all, you switched languages because, in your view, the conversation no longer applied to them but, still, it’s considered very rude and apologies should be made if you are about to cut a British person out of a conversation and, the reason needs to be because the other person does not speak English.

I am not trying to preach here but share some of the differences.

As I found in the Philippines, it doesn’t matter whether I agree with the culture or not, it is not my place to ignore or disrespect it and there are a few things I found very challenging to just accept. One guy was openly telling me how having sex with 14 year old boys was his thing, he loved young boys. If someone here in the UK said that I’d be horrified but, this isn’t unusual over there for consenting Philippines nationals though … I understand it’s a minefield of legal confusion! Either way, not my place as an Englishman to question a Filipino on what he can apparently do with another … my mind did go there on gay sex there but, that’s not the point. The reality is, as we say in England, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Effectively saying, we each should accustom ourselves to the expectations of the country we are in and not expect them to change for us. I also learned this in France where I asked a lovely lady a question in English and she said to me back (in French) that if I cannot be bothered to at least try and speak her language she cannot be bothered to answer my question and then made it clear, her English was perfect. I screwed up, I learnt a lesson!

What I think we need is to try and mix more. I’d love to learn Tagalog but, I won’t do it by those around me turning to each other and speaking it clearly excluding me. Please, for me to get to know you, speak to me in English and then, maybe help me with Tagalog. It feels very odd for me to have friends not speak to me in English in England. I am very grateful for any English I can get back in the Philippines but, of course, so many do speak English anyway.

My husband gets invited out by his Filipina friends and yet, we do not get invited as a couple. The only difference with me being, I am English but then, this is England so, should that be a problem? Ironically, he may well come home with many questions and ask me to help out, easier done first hand!

Never ever stop using your mother tongue, it’s important though, at the same time, out of courtesy, remember, it’s not a language anyone here is taught, we will not understand you. If we cannot understand you we cannot embrace you as we would like as ‘one of us’. I really want loads of friends from the Philippines, I want to or need to really embrace the culture but, until or unless I learn Tagalog, I need that friendship to be exclusively in English.

Gatherings, those too seem problematically to be predominantly Philippines affairs. Husbands and children of filipinas can go but, the expectation is that the entire thing will focus on recreating the Philippines in the UK. The majority language is Tagalog and, as can be seen on the faces of the mainly bored English guys there, unless they talk to each other, they’d rather be somewhere else. That’s not how to feel at home when abroad. Our home is the people around us, our family and our friends. Surrounding ourselves only with those who speak the same language cuts us off from some of the most amazing friends we could make locally. I know it’s not what I want to do if we retire to the Philippines as easy as it surely is. If I am living there and don’t have Filipino of Filipina friends then, I’ve failed and not just because they are the wives of foreign nationals but friends in their own right.

I’d love to perhaps go to a Philippines themed event here in the UK where all the food is from the Philippines (the recipes, not the actual food as that’s problematic). Let’s face it, British food is quite bland! Let’s have some Filipino songs, I’ve a few favourites myself. But let us embrace our cultures. Sure, ideally the evening would need to be in English, you cannot get us to get you if you shut us out by speaking a language we don’t understand. I’ve seen many British husband, they’ve just given up caring what goes on now. Just sit there looking at their watch drinking a beer unwrapping their cheese and pickle sandwiches. Being British, as many now are, needs to be embraced too. Never forgetting the Philippines but embracing how the two nations are now connected especially those with kids who are getting older who, maybe, are getting fed up with mum or dad constantly speaking in a language they cannot be bothered with because, all their mates speak English, all their TV and movies are English, they want and need their parents to ‘fit in’ when their mates come over.

Still many kids with parents who won’t speak English won’t invite their English friends over because it’s too embarrassing for them. I can remember way back when my kids were little trying to talk to a little German kid in bad German just so he felt OK playing with my kids. He was so excited I could and wanted to talk to him. MY German is rubbish now but back then it wasn’t too bad.

Can we just really try to thoroughly mix? I’ve got about a decade to speak passable Tagalog to equip me for life over there though, I am still undecided just now. Part of that is that I don’t like that me and Dennis will be instantly not a couple the moment we land, not a single legal connection between us. I’d just be a foreigner living in the Philippines. I am nowhere near coming to terms with that so really prey the law will change by then. The other being that my health isn’t so great and leaving the safety of the NHS worries me.

My heart wants to commit, my brain doesn’t.

For those who have been here, what did you think about the way we try to mix up all of our friends regardless of where they are from? We have a mix of foods, karaoke. We even had some heat though, to be honest, that’s always luck in the UK! Imagine if all those people here were just your friends as well as those who speak Tagalog? Wouldn’t that be great?

Personally, I am often getting bored at home during the day, I’d love to meet up, maybe have someone teach me some Tagalog? Have a laugh, who knows?

This is my blog, on here it is nearly always a long read, way more so than Facebook and, as it is ‘my’ blog, it doesn’t leave room for interjection or disagreement which I am more than open to. I am not always right, just sometimes and some of what I write is so easy to misread so, this isn’t conversation, please don’t take away lasting judgements unless we speak in person.

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