I don’t speak Tagalog

Although I don’t think that is entirely my fault;
it is so much more fashionable now, for children
to produce adorably garbled sentences,
requests for appeasing sweets and rides on the pony, spliced between

the mother tongue and the father tongue.

Back, however, when I was young, it was all about fitting in,
skinning your knees at backyard footy
encouraging freckles and having crushes on boys with red hair.
No one thought it ideal to have your children stand out;

indeed, we begged for vegemite sandwiches.
My mother was working on her Ingglés then too –
why confuse the issue? Though we knew
to give our names, and then the blessing, to older Filipinos who asked:

Anó ang pangalan mo?

Having disinherited myself from all that might be
(had only I been a better Filipino daughter)
I sometimes sit bored at family parties and only occasionally
let on that: Hindî ko maintindihan.

I’ve no idea what you just said.

Ironically, my mother “worked her fingers to the bone,
so I wouldn’t have to live with poor people in Asia”,
sending me to the kind of school that let me read
Camus in the original French and made me ashamed to be ethnic.

Maria Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino died,
to barely a ripple on the Australian news
and barely a ripple for me although, coincidentally, we had been in Manila,
holed up in some hotel, watching Sesame Street
while below there was a “People Power Revolution”.

Though some obtusely compliment and say I am not “very Filipino”,
I am still Filipino-Catholic enough to light a candle for her in my head
and think of José Rizal, another of their revolutionaries, who said:
He who does not look back to his origin,
will never reach his destination.

Where is your spirit world? Peril Magazine, poetry submissions to 30 July.You know you want to.


Categorized as musing

By Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer, cyclist, writer, gal about town, feminist, freewheeler, and friend.

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