Monday, January 24, 2005

Joe Philippines Part 4 (Hey Joe!)

Before my trip to the Philippines, my soon to be wife briefed me on greeting etiquette so that I wouldn't make a total baboon of myself while there. I was so focused on greeting others properly, I was totally unprepared for how they would greet me. As soon as I stepped out of the airport into Manila, Philippines people started calling me 'Joe.' It's not my name, not even close, and for a while I simply thought they were referring to someone else or were saying something in Tagalog that sounded like 'Joe.' Later I would learn that they were indeed calling me Joe.

The American military has been a big presence in the Philippines past and there used to be several military bases there. People grew up seeing these 'G.I. Joe's' walking around hence labeled them as such. I am six foot two inches tall, white skin, short-cropped blond hair and during my vacation there, I tended to where military looking cargo pants so that I had plenty of pockets to stash things. Needless to say, I looked plenty military to the locals and so they inevitably greeted me with a "Hey Joe!" and large smiles.

Every once in awhile, I would get a different greeting from those more hip with the times. One fellow gave me a "Whatzzzzzzz Upppppppppp!" like the beer commercial and several others would give me a "Yo!" that Sly Stallone would be proud of. But my favorite of the entire trip was one young lad who started singing, "Camptown ladies sing that song, do da, do da, Camptown races five miles long......" a song I hadn't heard since my grade school days. Another greeting that stays close to my heart is my wife's Inang (grandmother) referring to me as the tall white guy.

Despite what I tried to do greeting others and how they greeted me, the universal sign always seemed to work best. You simply had to make eye contact, put on a big smile and it really didn't matter what was said.

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