Asha's "Passport to California" school report was due this week. The report was on how our family came to live in this country. She talked about her Lolo Angeling, World War II guerilla soldier, who was granted the chance to become a U.S. citizen for his service to America, nearly half a century after the war. She asked me to print out some photos of him, looking dapper in the 1960's, a doctor of medicine studying Social Policy in The Hague. This is my grandfather, I imagined her saying in front of her class. He was an immigrant. She wanted to come in Filipiniana costume, so we assembled one for her: a cotton top from Target, plaid fabric from my sewing stash, a woven kitchen towel from the linen closet, a salakot and bayong we keep around the house as objets d'art (I know, right?). Every year, my children are tasked with homework of this sort -- a lesson in geography and history to them, a source of comfort to me.
There is a song that goes: "It's Istanbul not Constantinople. I'll be waiting in Istanbul. Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why'd they change it I can't say. Maybe they just like it better that way." April and I sang that song throughout planning this trip. We also like laughing about what people make of us during our trips. "Students" is a favorite. "Mother and child" is hurtful to April but my discount soothes. The funniest is "Filipino maid and Korean madam." We're used to people drawing these strange conclusions. Because even back home we're a bit strange. We don't exactly belong.