Where's the Patis? by Carmen Nakpil

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Travel has become the great Filipino dream. In the same way that an American dreams of becoming a millionaire or an English boy dreams of going to one of the great universities, the Filipino dreams of going abroad. His most constant vision is that of himself as tourist.

To visit Hong Kong, Tokyo, and other cities of Asia, perchance, to catch a glimpse of Rome, Paris, or London and to go to America (even if only for a week in a fly-specked motel in California) is the sum of all delights.

Yet having left the Manila International Airport in a pink cloud of despedidas and sampaguita garlands and pabilin, the dream turns into nightmare very quickly. But why? Because the first bastion of the Filipino spirit is the palate. And in all the palaces and fleshpots and skyscrapers of that magic world called “abroad” there is no patis to be had.

Consider the Pinoy abroad. He has discarded barong tagalog or “polo” for a sleek, dark Western suit. He takes to the habiliments from Hong Kong, Brooks Brothers or Savile Row with the greatest of ease. He has also shed the casual informality of manner that is characteristically Filipino. He gives himself to the airs of a cosmopolite to the credit-card born. He is extravagantly courteous (specially in a borrowed language) and has taken to hand-kissing and to plenty of American “D’ you mind?”s.

He hardly misses the heat, the native accents of Tagalog or Ilongo or the company of his brown-skinned cheerful compatriots. He takes, like a duck to water, to the skyscrapers, the temperate climate, the strange landscape and the fabled refinements of another world. How nice, after all, to be away from good old R.P. for a change!

But as he sits down to meal, no matter how sumptuous, his heart sinks. His stomach juices, he discovers, are much less adaptable than his sartorial or social habits. They have remained in that dear Barrio in Bulacan or in that little town in Ilocos and nothing that is set on the table before...
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