have been one of the biggest migrant
groups to New Zealand over the last half decade. What do they bring
besides Filipino food, and how might they shape NZ's future?
There are some similarities between Pinoy and Kiwi culture.
Like Kiwis, Filipinos are modest, self-effacing, quiet about their achievements, and generally dislike behaviour that is mayabang (bragging or self-important.) Like Kiwis, Filipinos are generous, accommodating, willing to go out of their way to make a stranger feel welcome.
Both nations also have an underlying pride in who they are, and as a consequence can become quite offended if they feel their nation or identity has been slighted. With Kiwis this is certainly true with sports - New Zealand reels if the All Blacks lose a game; the fight that sees Pacquiao defeated is a cause for national lament in the Philippines.
But of course there are differences. New Zealand culture was built on Middle Class English, with a small Pacific influence; Filipino culture was shaped by Malay, Spanish, Chinese and its own indigenous influences. They have different histories, and as a result, different values.
Krystle (pictured) is the daughter of a Filipina mother and an Australian-born father.
She was born and raised in Auckland, but her mother made sure she learned about Filipino culture.
She sang Tagalog songs as a little girl, and listened to her mother's tales about life in Davao. But most strongly impressed on Krystle were the gatherings, "the way Filipinos come together for happy times and social events.
"Filipinos have a great sense of community and family."
Indeed, one of the key values in Filipino life is that of extended family. "Ate," "kuya," "tita" and "tito" are used to address those who are not truly related to the speaker; and used in a far more sincere way than the equivalent "bro" might be in Kiwi circles.
Krystle discovered another dimension of her lineage very early on in life:
Filipino gatherings are all about the food.
And it's not just about family. Food is pivotal to Filipino culture. It is a social catalyst, crucial to every kind of occasion or gathering. Sharing food with a friend, offering food to a guest, bringing food as a gift, or even offering food in lieu of money; food has a deep cultural and social meaning to Filipinos.
The significance of food, and the uniqueness of Filipino cuisine, has left many a Filipino expatriot craving the tastes of home. Even Krystle, who has never been to the Philippines, was delighted to discover Turo-Turo Cafe in Glen Innes, and indulged her cravings for longsilog, and sago't gulaman.
A sure sign of Krystle's Filipino genes is her love of danggit, those small salted fish. "They stink the house out, and everybody else would complain."
The culture of food is a glimpse into the core of the Filipino soul,
and it's here that we see one of the fundamental differences between Pinoy and white Kiwi culture.
The traditional Filipino way is actually deeply socialist. Bayanihan tradition brings a community together to work for the common good. The fundamental principle is that abundance is shared. Everybody contributes to the group, and in return, the group looks after everybody. The community is "family," even if not technically. The obligation, and desire, to share includes food, of course; the invitation kain tayo (let's eat) is a courtesy that even the poorest are compelled to offer.
Contrast that with the strong individualist ideals of more Western societies.
The English Protestant tradition of white New Zealand is all about independence, 'each to his own,' the closed nuclear family. A Filipino extended family is truly that: cousins grow up together in the same house and the responsibilities of parenthood are routinely shared among adults. By contrast, Middle New Zealand sees communal households and shared parenting as fringe Hippie ideas.
It's likely, though, that a sociologist would point to the Filipino way as being the healthier of the two. Early human societies needed the stability and strength of extended family, and it is arguable that a stronger family structure is better in modern society, too. In fact, despite third-world status and the prevalence of desperate poverty in the Philippines, Filipinos are the more patient, spiritually balanced, and happier of the two peoples.
You may need to look no further than annual suicide rates between the two countries.
- 13 people out of every 100,000. Philippines - only 2 out of every
100,000. And yet New Zealand is supposedly the country with a far
better quality of life. But when the elderly are sent off to spend
their twilight years in rest homes shut away from the rest of society,
what kind of 'quality of life' does that really represent, compared to
a society where the elderly are cared for by their families?
There is a lot that Kiwis can learn from the Filipinos among them. Filipinos bring with them the potential to make New Zealand a better place; a culture of hospitality, family and food, of taking the time to celebrate life, and most importantly, of looking after each other. Values that are immediately recognisable in Kiwi-Filipina Krystle, truly a beautiful blend of two peoples
Kain tayo, mate!
Turo-Turo Philippine Cafe 26a Mayfair Place Glen Innes Auckland 1072 New Zealand (64) 9 528 6050
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