Monday, 7 May 2012

LIFE OVERSEAS: The Comfort of a Filipino family's embrace

RUMAH terbuka is a term that every Malaysian comprehends. It happens during festivals such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Deepavali when all our differences are set aside as we celebrate as a nation.
My memorable moments include visits from house to house, eating and laughing with friends from all ethnic groups. I even received duit raya when I visited my Malay friends during Hari Raya. I learnt the meaning of unity.
These have instilled warmth and welcome into me.
Culture shock and the feeling of being on another planet are all part and parcel of the experience when you are in a different country. However, you may find home in a foreign land by accident.
In Ireland, I live in an area far from town. So, I travel an hour to town on weekends to go to church and take part in youth group activities and band practice. Public transport is limited to six buses daily. A return trip costs a whopping RM80! I miss the RM1 bus fares in Malaysia.
My parents and close friends helped with the commute but there was the cost of petrol and it was time-consuming.
But a family of five has offered me a bed whenever I am in need of one.
Sleepovers used to be rare but now they are the norm. Not only does the family provide food and a room, but its members also share their love.
The Filipino family speaks Tagalog and English. It has its own style of cooking too and I had the privilege of tasting sinigang (tamarind-based soup) and adobo chicken (pan-fried chicken marinated in vinegar, soya sauce, oil and garlic), just to name a few.
Then I began to discover our similarities, such as our love of food, like typical Malaysians. We played similar childhood games such as batu seremban or five stones. Some common Tagalog and Malay words have different meanings. In Tagalog, mahal kita means "I love you" whereas it translates literally into "we expensive"
in Malay.
The Filipino family's home has become my second abode. I know where the cutlery and towels are kept and all the domestic details. I even have a curfew while under their roof! Shyness gave way to trust over time.
I have never encountered such a closely-knit family, who also befriends many others in its community.
The family gives a warm, fuzzy feeling of home where I can be myself without restraint. I will always have a rumah terbuka in Ireland.

The writer is studying at a high school in Ireland. She loves to try all things but is a Malaysian at heart.

Read more: LIFE OVERSEAS: The comfort of a Filipino family's embrace - Learning Curve - New Straits Times

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