Wednesday, October 01, 2008

i'm from pasig. look it up.

two weeks ago, i was on a plane on my way to chicago for a month-long vacation, trying to contort my body into a shape that could possibly induce sleep, when i heard my seatmate – who was majorly awake – ask, "where are you from?"

hearing the all-too-often-asked question brought me back to 3 months ago, when the same question came from the lips of a middle-aged white man and was directed to me and a girlfriend. we were hanging out in front of our beach hotel, enjoying the sun and a fantastic view of the water, when the guy came up to us for small talk. because i was usually the noisier one, my friend expected me to answer for us. the problem was i didn't.

the main reason was i was trying to figure out if he was the father of a friend we met the day before. thinking about it now, that probably didn't make sense because if he were that guy i suspected he was, he wouldn't have asked the question in the first place. i also had to pause a bit because of a mild case of foreigner anxiety. i'm 35 years old and i suspect every nonfilipino who tries to talk to me wants to kidnap me. i refuse to justify my illogical thoughts.

however, the most embarrassing reason why my vocal functions didn't work at that time is the simplest one:

i do not like saying where i'm from.

it's not because i don't love my country and don't want to declare it. it's just ... ok, say i answer "the philippines", i always get the follow-up, "where in the philippines?" and i have to say "manila" with a heavy heart. everyone knows where manila is, sure, but am i really from manila? i have to restrain myself from overexplaining, "i'm not really from manila MANILA. i'm from pasig. which is in luzon. an island. where manila is. but it's not near manila. at least not by car. and not during weekdays." it's enough to make me want to live in manila, just to avoid the apprehension.

i should probably just say "pasig" and educate the world. but "manila" rolls off the tongue so much easier. and i like having weird dilemmas every now and then.

aaaaand there you have it. two minutes of your life down the drain thanks to reading my useless mental script. how to drive people to boredom/insanity 101.

anyway, after a painfully long 15 seconds of dead air, my friend realized i wasn't planning on speaking and answered, "manila." (yey.)

"oh i know where that is," he replied and scrambled off towards the water, where he would undoubtedly find more amiable creatures. my friend said we should've just said "siquijor" to challenge his knowledge of philippine geography. except i didn't really know where siquijor was either.

back to my long-drawn-out airplane story.

if i were back in med school, sleeping in cramped spaces at odd hours wouldn't have been a problem at all. when i was an intern, all i had to do was lean on a semi-clean wall and i would've dozed off instantly for a precious 30 seconds. ok, that was a lie. i would've slept even if the wall was filthy.

however, med school years are way WAAAAAAAAY behind me (this deserves another 'yey' ... so, um ... yey.) and it's not as easy to doze off. even with an empty seat beside me, it was really hard to pass out. i lost count of the number of times i tossed and turned in my teeny airplane seat, constantly waking up to be greeted by the number of hours we had to go before landing.

(incidentally, those airplane monitors that show time until destination, speed of plane, outside temperature, time at destination, time at place of origin, number of calories in airplane meal, future of my career, meaning of life, etc, ARE HEAVEN-SENT. the fact that i love those is probably connected to habits of wasting massive amounts of time watching candles burn until the wick runs out, checking the clock every other minute and being hypnotized by progress bars.)

without warning, a 30-something korean guy took the empty seat beside me and energetically tried to start a conversation in the dark with sleepy me. why. explain.

"hi there!"

of course he had to spray me with saliva every other word.

"hi." i turned my back on him to strike a stereotypical napping pose – yknow, for him to get the hint that i was trying to sleep. and to protect my facial orifices from his oral fluids.

"where are you from?" (see first paragraph of this blog entry to establish coherence of said entry)

i faced him and after a lightning-fast inner debate, answered "manila." i closed my eyes again and covered more of my body with the airplane blanket. i was not very fond of the instant in-flight saliva shower.

"oh i had a filipino maid for 5 years! she was good!"

i smiled faintly, trying to convey a multitude of thoughts with one tight-lipped expression: acknowledgment of the outstanding qualities of filipinos – maids or otherwise; a silent apology for not having the strength to continue a decent conversation; and a sincere plea to LEAVE ME THE HECK ALONE ... at least until a) i've had at least 30 minutes of deep sleep or b) i've found an giant umbrella.

proving that miracles are alive and well in the 21st century, the man moved back to his original seat. and i, having given up on sleep completely and having watched all the interesting movies and short films in stock, stared at the monitor again. after all, 6 hours and 37 minutes of staring is nothing, what with a plane going at 540 mph at 39,500 feet above sea level.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi O! Kudos to your blog. I love this entry of yours! esp..the med school-filthy wall-dozing off experience! He.he.he - Philip