They didn’t want to come here. Majority of my blog readers from my country still ask me about my experience in traveling in Europe even if they know very well that I’ve been traveling Latin America for two years now.
Two years. Wow, that’s strong. Two years. I’d like to repeat it to remind myself that it really is true — I’ve been here for two years and I don’t feel different. That’s what they said: “I would rather go to Europe than Latin America because it is very similar to our country.”
That is true, my friends from the Philippines — Latin America is so similar to our country. I felt familiarity when I first arrived in Baranquilla, Colombia. It was as if I was paving the skyway from Makati to Alabang. How the streets and buildings are made are exactly the same. Nostalgia hit me when I visited the Miraflores district in Lima, Peru — I thought I was in Greenbelt (Makati). That completely made sense because the Philippines, like Latin America, is one of the countries colonised by the Spanish. Believe me or not, my Latin friends find it weird that we are a Spanish colony because of its geographic location. They think the Philippines is an ‘oriental’ country — you know, Chinese lanterns on the streets, Chinese dragon dance, Chinese food and everything Chinese. Don’t worry, I’ve already corrected them.
One of the biggest realisations for me, however, dates back in elementary school. I tried to remember how much were we taught about the Spanish colonisation in our country and I don’t recall much. I am familiar with the basics but the bulk of my memories are about slavery, banning of the arts, war, suffering — it’s all negative. Questions such as “Why don’t we speak Spanish?” came up. It got me to thinking: All of the Latin American countries were taught the Spanish language during the colonisation of their country and we were not.
“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me. In my mind, the world is not a graph or formula or an equation. It is a story. It only had to do with how it felt to be out here in the world. With what it was like to live in a different culture, to eat food from the other side of the globe, to speak a language that isn’t my own. The experience is so powerful and fundamental.”
Our nouns in the Philippines are in Spanish (most of them) but while I was here, I learned that not all the words mean the same thing. For example, the word ‘puerta’ here means “door” but in our language, it means vagina and is spelled as “pwerta.” “Abre la puerta” (“open the door”), one of my Peruvian friends told me the first time I came here. I was puzzled. I didn’t have any idea what he was asking me to open. The words are familiar but it doesn’t mean the same thing.
Actually, the Filipino language helped a lot in my Spanish fluency. When I first started speaking Spanish and didn’t know how to translate a certain word, my go to words are in Filipino. Surprisingly, I was always right. I just didn’t pronounce it the same way but I will always get a “muy bien!” (very good!) remark from my Latin friends.
FUN FACT: Today, June 12, is the Independence Day of the Philippines. Maybe that’s why I wrote this post.
What if we danced salsa, tango, flamenco and had Latin music like merengue, bachata, reggaeton & vallenato? I kept picturing the streets of my hometown filled with people dancing and it made my heart jump. Though I am not a very good dancer nor do I have enough knowledge about the dance culture of the Philippines, I am very proud to say that all our dances are from us. They are original. Thanks to the Spanish, the Filipinos became creative and diverted all their pain and suffering into art — and that is absolutely amazing.
There is also a big resemblance with food. Colombians, and Brasilians are also rice eaters. In my country, to eat a meal without rice is completely unimaginable. This gave me a very difficult time while I was living in Europe as I am not really a fan of bread. I need rice. Rice makes me full. Rice makes me complete. Being in Brasil for six months made me really happy because of the availability of rice everywhere.
I hate the machismo though. Whoever introduced this ‘culture’ should be stoned to death. However, it is very noticeable that the Philippines is more open-minded in terms of this department. Probably because of the ‘modern’ influences of the Americans. I am from a country of strong women and my beautiful community of women is a good example for that. Although machismo is slowly being tackled as an important issue here, there are still some parts of Latin America where women don’t have a voice; where women thinks the only thing they can do is stay at home, clean, feed the children and their husbands, etc. This thought makes me really really sad and for a long time, I wanted to do something about it. I am actually doing something about it.
Why would you come to a place where it is very similar to your country? Why not go to another continent where everything is different? Okay, I’ve been to Europe, travelled most of Asia and Africa but why Latin America? I don’t know. There is this feeling that made me come here to stay. I don’t know why I can’t leave. I don’t know why I can’t move on. But I would want to invite you to come here and change your mind: you would want to travel in a place that is exactly the same from your culture but at the same time very different. The learnings and lessons can be very very interesting.
Disclaimer: This post does not aim to educate. It is written from experience. Should you want to share your thoughts, please leave it on the comment box below or e-mail trishavelarmino[at]gmail[dot]com. Remember, there are not right or wrong thoughts. Hope you enjoyed my writing and my curiosity about life and the world! Xx