Friday, March 30, 2007

Children, Teach Your Parents

My six year old daughter graduated today. My wife told me a couple weeks ago to keep my schedule open for it. I thought at the time, ‘Oh, well that’s nice—a cute little make-believe commencement exercise.’ Yeah, right! Boy oh boy! Next month I'll have been in this country five years and I still have a lot to learn!

This morning I had a nice polo shirt set out and immediately I got jumped on by the wife, “You can’t wear that! You have to get dressed up!” She handed me my nicest white Barong Tagalog.

“What, for kindergarten?” I asked with some astonishment. Approaching thin ice I ventured out onto it anyway saying, “The only real graduation I can remember attending was for high school. What do they do over here--have a ceremony for every year?”

She’s got her US passport but my wife still gets pretty defensive when I wax into one of my “superior American attitude” orations—and well she should—so she laid into me with a big huff, “It’s not EVERY year. It’s only at the end of pre-school going into first grade, and again after the 6th grade, and finally at the end of high school. And if you don’t like it, don’t go!”

“Cr-r-r-a-a-ack! Splash!” That was the sound of the ice breaking under my feet and me falling through it. Feeling like a cad and knowing what’s good for me, I moon-walked out of that no-win verbal exchange, I clammed up, and put on my barong.

“Morning Daddy!” My soon to be first grader knocked and came into the room wearing lip-stick and a white leotard under what looked to me to be a long white first communion dress. “Come on Daddy, do you want to see my graduation dress?” she asked excitedly, pulling on my hand.

“Aren’t you wearing it already?” I couldn’t imagine that she’d be wearing anything nicer than what she already had on. I went with her into her room and hanging on the door knob was a little white graduation cap and gown.

‘Oh my God, they really do it up here for pre-schoolers,’ I thought shaking my head, this time keeping my comments to myself. Well, my little one was really excited, so I decided it was time to get with the program too. I began to realize that this was not going to be a cute little 1-hour-long pretend ceremony. Filipinos love pageantry and I knew I was probably about to suffer through an interminable example of some.

Three hours is not that long—right? Well, unless you’re a Baptist, most Americans can hardly stand to sit through more than an hour of church. That’s especially true for mini-Americans, those in the pre-school and kindergarten ranks of us. Thing is, today, I was pleasantly surprised by the display of excellent behavior I saw from my daughter’s five and six-year-old classmates. The entire preparatory class assembled just after 8 a.m. and they remained in good order until the torture—I mean commencement—ended a few minutes before 11. I have to say, if all my money bought was that—teaching pre-schoolers patience and a bit of observable self-discipline—then I think it was money well-spent.

The commencement exercise was an up-scaled version of one you might see at any American high school. Yes, I said up-scaled because it had three times the stuff. Let’s see, four kids gave speeches, memorized and robotically spoken, but pretty impressive considering how long the speeches were. It’s funny—three or four adults also gave speeches, only they read theirs. I think the kids would have been allowed to read their speeches too, but I don’t think they can read yet. Don’t you love the irony? There were also at least a half-dozen production numbers performed by the kids. And altogether, they devoted a full hour to the delivery of certificates and awards. My little graduate did so “with honors,” but I soon realized that every child left that day with some kind of award—whether for most-improved, best-helper, or blackest-hair—every kid left with something to buck up their little developing self-esteems. No complaints, I guess that’s a good thing. (Okay, okay, that’s not how I really feel!)

We didn’t bring a camera since we were given pre-written instructions that no photography, except by the official photographer, would be allowed during the ceremony. I guess my wife’s 10 years in the US ruined her, because she really seemed surprised to see every other parent in there with their digi- and video cams just a snapping and a shooting away.

“I thought they said no photography by the parents,” she complained loudly to me.

I answered wryly, “Are you forgetting where you live? They make lots of rules in this country, but when none of them are enforced and everyone knows they won’t be enforced then do whatever the heck you want...You know what they say about Rome, right? So, do as the Romans!”

Just goes to show that you can teach 6-year-olds here to behave and even to deliver complex speeches and sing elaborate songs, but evidently you can’t get their parents to follow even the simplest of rules. Oops, there I go again.


Amadeo said...

Hi, Phil:

Nice one. I see that you are beginning to take some of the local “idiosyncrasies” in stride.


Anonymous said...

just by accident (without broken arms) that i happened to read your blog :) your stories were quite interesting. it made me laugh and reflect. i'm bookmarking it!

yes, it's really difficult to understand pinoy ways- very conflicting, unexplainable, sometimes irrational and illogical. but you know, these are part of being a pinoy.

happy writing!

PhilippinesPhil said...

No choice but to take it all in stride Amadeo. Still, i prefer the mostly harmless "idio's" here compared to the "ghetto behavior" that the US now seems to be embracing.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hello pidro. Glad you aren't taking offense to my outsider observations. Writing about them is therapeutic. ...and happy reading to you...

Ed said...

I guess the good part about living in the U.S. is that I won't be attending any kindergarten graduation ceremonies. But I still have to celebrate my daughters birthday every month for the first year and my wife is already buying things for her first birthday party still two full months away!

Anonymous said...

He he he. Great observations phil.

I, on the other hand, was quite disappointed when my oldest son didn't have a graduation ceremony when he finished kindergarten. I was then working at a garment factory that makes graduation cap and gowns and I borrowed one and brought him to Wal-Mart and had his picture taken with the cap and gown. :)

When he graduated from 6th grade, I was once again surprised to see some of the kids just wearing T-shirt and shorts. I made him wear a nice pair of pants and polo shirt.

He's graduating from grade 12 pretty soon, and I know that one would be really special. :)

PhilippinesPhil said...

You're in Canada so maybe your son's graduation WILL be "special," but you still might find yourself a little disappointed. My daughter's graduation from Filipino kindergarten was more involved and lasted more than twice as long as my own high school graduation. My sixth grade graduation in 68 in Texas was no more than a school assembly with no parents there at all. Lets face it, North Americans are too busy working and don't have the time to spend half a day at such things and would consider doing so self-indulgent and frivolous. High School graduations back home are almost always in the evening. No offense, but most Filipinos, it seems, don't work, and even when they do they either have "minions," or the economy is such that people are willing to lose time away. It points out once again the profound differences between our cultures and especially the differences between our economies. You could say Filpinos have different priorities, but as I inferred in my reference to our economies, the economy here is such a sluggish "thing" that no one blinks when they have to spend so many hours away from the workplace. A perfect example is the current "Holy Week" where business basically shuts down for 7 days. Amazing.

Nick Ballesteros said...

I remember attending the graduation of a niece from grade school. I brought a camera along. But they said strictly no cameras; only the professional photographer can take photos. I smelled business venture. I took out my camera and clicked away. Hah!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Dang Wat, you made my point. Shame on you! Actually, the real point of the no camera regulation is to prevent a zillion inconsiderate people from jumping in the way of "rule following" onlookers, like me.

KA said...

That took me back...
A few days before the graduation I had moved with my family to Switzerland, so I would have been out of the country... it stirred a huge hooplah with my teacher, my school vs my mother! It was inconceivable ... they wanted us to push back the day of our flight and move. My parents are pretty Western. Thank god for it too.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Agreed! I've never heard of anyone putting so much emphasis on graduation from kindergarten. Now, if it was graduation from high school THAT is another story all together.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I googled "Bohol" and it gave me your blog...and I'm glad I just didn't browse. You have very interesting comments about Bohol and I love it. I'm going there with my girlfriend next month so I need to know what to expect to see there.

But what really made my day was your blog on your daughter's graduation from kindergarten. That's hilarious and I love it.

Please keep blogging. I'm bookmarking your site. Thanks a lot.