Monday, July 27, 2009

Daily Report: The Jolly Baker

We got the oven fixed. My call to the La Germania corporation in Manila yielded no results as expected, but a stop by the Desmark store where we bought the range brought the repairman to our door the next morning. Nice.

With our oven now working, Epril immediately wanted to bake the second of two instant cake mixes that we bought for Inday's birthday the weekend before last.

As a rule, Epril doesn't cook, so she entered into the cake baking endeavor a little meekly, sending up text messages to my jungle perch ("Do I add the oil now?") in a quest for confidence. However, as the afternoon wore on, her text messages became more jubilant and triumphant, ending with, "I can bake a cake!" Obviously the poor child's early life was lacking an Easy Bake Oven, hence these breakthroughs today.

There is something I've figured out about Filipino people: They take an intense interest in other people. They want to know about others' lives... and share their own. Epril, Susan, and Ednil are all addicted to Friendster, which seems to be an activity of primarily looking at other people's family photos... and sharing their own. They spend hours every day looking at some girl's vacation to a beach in Bohol, or photos of some complete stranger's nephew's birthday party.

I didn't figure out how pervasive this curiosity about others was though until today when I was watching the TV show, "Wo-Wo-Wee". It's a variety show with a live audience, from which the host draws contestants to play games. I realized that the host spent about 15 minutes getting to know two contestants — asking them about their love life, asking them to tell a happy or sad story (shedding tears gets bonus points), asking them to sing — before playing a name-that-tune game that lasts only 2 minutes. Amazingly, everyone in this country finds the mundane-yet-tragic love life of a housewife from Quezon City interesting... and they really (really) want to hear this lady sing an off-key rendition of a 1970's Tagalog love song.

Perhaps Filipinos are looking for pieces of their own lives in others. Maybe they want to compare. Maybe they're just overly nosy. I don't know... but it's educational, these little differences between cultures. Often times, you learn more about a people by examining small things like I described, rather than the big differences (language, tradition, religion) which everybody notes.

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