August 06, 2011

Hi. My name is Joe.

The Filipinos are no strangers to Americans being here in their country. The Philippine/American relationship has its rough stories hidden in the shadows, but for the most part it is positive. This week I have seen the remnants of that relationship. With all the American military here at one point in history, Filipinos began referring to American soldiers as ‘Joe.’ I am assuming, with the apparent Filipino affinity to pop culture, they are referring to ‘Joe’ as in “G.I. Joe.”

As I was running the other day, I past a construction site and all of the workers were so excited to see me run by and yelled, “Hey Joe!” I don’t know if it is because of my short haircut, or that I was out running, or my really “American” ( a.k.a white features) that they decided I was Joe.

Today, Lady Hiva and I went with our LDS ward (congregation) to visit people they have not seen in a while at church on Sundays. I was paired up with one of the older guys in the ward, whom everyone calls Bishop Flores because he used to be a bishop years ago, and Hiva went with the sister missionaries.

Bishop Flores and I set out with our list of people to visit. We had two hours to visit people—our list was 78 names long! Yikes! We got to the end of the street and he decided he did not want to walk anymore and wanted to ride a tricycle. These are peddle bikes that have little carts welded onto the sides for passengers. They are usually peddled by a young Filipino, and they go just about anywhere, including against traffic to get their passenger to a destination. Work ‘advises’ us to not use these, or jeepneys, for safety reasons so when Bishop F. said we were going to take one I hesitated. But what was I going to say to this elderly man…”No, lets walk. It is only 90 degrees out and your legs can handle?”

Rex gave us a ride on his tricycle. It was a tight squeeze with both Bishop and I in the cart, I wanted him to be comfortable so I edged all the way over so I was not sitting on the small seat anymore but on bar that connected  the cart to the bike. My boney butt felt every concrete bump as we went, not to mention my face was right in Rex’s armpit for most of the ride. As we past people on the road, Rex would open the flap of the cart and point and me and say, “Look I am giving Joe a ride!” AWKWARD. I am sure I looked great stuffed into a small cart and wearing a grimace because a bar is grinding on my tail bone. However, I put on a smile and started to wave to everyone like I was in a parade!

Rex dropped us off in the squatters. Squatter is the local term for the poor that live in huts or anything else they can build with nothing. Bishop did not seem too comfortable being there, I am guessing he does not come here too often. He kept asking if I was alright. Sure was. I had a blast. The squatters do not get too many Americans coming by their houses so I immediately drew attention and catcalls to say hello, “Hey Joe!” or “Joe, good to see you.” The children especially came over to say hello. One girl in perfect English said, “Hello, what is your name?” I told her (in Tagalog) that my name was Dust and that she had beautiful English. She responded, “Can you take my picture?”

It was not long before all the children on the street were yelling, “Dust, picture! Picture, Dust I am ready!” So while Bishop was asking all the adults how to find the people we were supposed to visit, I took pictures of kids who LOVED seeing themselves on the LCD screen afterwards. The crowd of children was getting big and exciting, so Bishop got nervous and told me to put my camera away. Sad. It was fun while it lasted.

We did not find our people, but met some really friendly residents of the squatters. They were all willing to stop what they were doing to answer questions, point directions and laugh that ‘Joe’ speaks Tagalog. Bishop was tired again so we stopped at McDonalds for a break. It is so unusual for an American to stop in that area that even the cooks in the back at McD’s were yelling, “Hey Joe! Welcome!” and waved. I would wave back and yell hello  and some of the broadest smiles would cross their faces like I had just given them an award. While Bishop ate, I watched through the window as people bustled by. A group of teenagers laughing and carrying their shopping bags full of goodies from the mall; A mother with small children trying to eat their ice cream cones before they melt; A few military cadets just coming from class in full uniform; A man selling cigarettes and candy from a neatly arranged box that he hangs around his shoulder; A fish salesman with 50 different kinds of fish hanging off his cart in plastic bags, still alive too; The family of 5 all on a motorcycle; and hundreds of other people going in many directions.

We tried a few more addresses and it was getting to be time to go meet everyone else back at the church. “Let’s catch this jeepney,” Bishop said as he waved down the passing jeep. Well...I am on a roll for breaking rules, why not? It was slightly bumpy ride and the driver kept stopping suddenly and I had to get used to being thrown around, but I did feel safer than being in the tricycle. And nobody seemed to care that Joe was riding with them either.


  1. You guys took some amazing photos, (I can't believe the one of a family of five riding a motorcycle together!) and this was a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love how you're getting out and about so much - I feel like I'm living vicariously through you, even though we live in the same city!

  3. Haha! I love reading your blog. Your pictures are amazing! I can't wait to visit in December. Fidel said that another reason everyone calls white people "Joe" is because of a Joe Romano commercial where a little boy goes "hey joe!". I don't know....Fidel was just laughing about it the other night.