Amusement was written all over my face when I first heard this question in Jakarta airport. For fear of being asked more questions though which might lead to deportation, I just opted to merely nod my head in agreement. The next time I was asked this question was in an international Christian school where I would be spending two years of my life as a teacher. I then launched into lengthy discussion what the people in the Philippines are called. I explained that the country where I came from is called as Philippines but the people are called as Filipinos.
Soon enough though, I got tired explaining. Indonesians simply refer Filipinos as ‘Philippine’. Who started it? I have no vaguest idea.
However, what the ‘Philippine’ means to this country was slowly unfolded for almost four months of my stay here. I was in Carrefour with a friend one time and I was inquiring about modem when I was asked again that famous question, ‘Are you a Philippine?’ Of course, I just smiled and said yes. One of them scurried off looking for somebody who can talk to me in English. Something was very evident- respect and admiration.
The warmth hospitality of Indonesians whenever they ask me if I am a Philippine did not end in the airport, groceries, or in the school where I am teaching.
It was during the end of the year holiday last June that I was able to completely grasp what the word Philippine means for them. Being left alone in the huge house was not in my vocabulary so I endured the travel almost everyday just to stay with my friends in Citra Garden and City Resort. I traveled by taxi and though I have this habit of pretending to sleep as soon as I give the address for fear of being asked so many questions, the effort was futile. Taxi drivers in Indonesia have this warm personality that they seem to know that I am, a Philippine. As soon as I nod my head, the smile is instant, the respect is written all over their faces.
One taxi driver who knows how to speak little English told me, ‘Philippine’ teachers are very good. They speak English so clearly and all those who come from the Philippines are teachers.
The conversation with that driver was only the beginning of many other encounters affirming his statement. It’s overwhelming how highly respected the Filipinos are in this country. In my four months of stay here, I noticed that Filipinos have two kinds of jobs here- either teachers or administrators. It is no wonder then that Filipinos are receiving this kind of deference from this country.
When I traveled to Singapore twice for processing of my papers, I did miss that instantaneous smile and admiration whenever I affirm that I am indeed a Philippine.
The high regard for Filipinos is highly evident in this country. If it were not for the warmth hospitality of the Indonesians, I would have found it impossibly difficult to adjust in a country where most people don’t speak English. But, their always ready smile helped me a lot with my adjustment here. The kindness emanates from school to roads, and odd places where you would never expect to find good people. Surprisingly, I am in a foreign country but I feel safer traveling even late at night knowing how much respect we are getting here.
I have only spent four months here, but the love and kindness of the Indonesians has rubbed off this wave of inspiration in me to spread the richness of their culture, the kindness of their heart, and the simplicity of their lives.
Now, I no longer feel amused whenever I receive that kind of question. Early today, after spending days in a friend's house and on my way back to my own place, the taxi driver told me, "Oh, Philippine. Very good ya." I just smiled kindly at him. I know Philippine connotes something which I must be so proud of- respect.