When Worry Equals CareBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
SAN FRANCISCO — 4:20 a.m., the 11th of October, 2003.
Another early Saturday morning or really, really late Friday night.
Whatever. I turned off my headlights and moseyed my car up into the driveway, incognito. Quietly turned off the engine and went inside. Everything was a delicate operation. I mean, you didn’t exactly want to wake up anyone… if you know what I mean.
I fell into bed. Tired, I tried sleeping.
Footsteps could be heard above… then on the same floor… then the door creaked open.
“Philip, are you awake?”
“Hmmm… should I continue pretending,” I thought.
Nah, it’s only been 30 seconds... I ‘woke’ up and said, “Yes, uncle.”
My uncle stood at the door, his composure in a steadfast state even though sleep was upon him.
“I give you a warning. This is the last time this will happen. You follow the curfew at 12 o’clock. Understood?”
I actually was kinda surprised; in fact, more or less, stupefied.
“I’m sorry, uncle. I apologize. This will never happen again.”
The door closed and then there was darkness.
OK. So what the he** happened?
A culmination of irresponsibility, inconsiderateness, ignorance, insensitivity, and any other negative word with i- seemingly attached to it. That’s what happened.
Frankly, for an American child, born and acculturated within a society where children receive more leg-room when it comes to liberties and the pursuit of happiness, this may seem tough.
Mind you, I have turned twenty-one recently so even I, now having been awarded the ability to drink responsibly, should be able to do whatever I want, when I want to.
But even so, this happy-go-lucky policy that many American families participate in where kids are treated more like lost and found items that are only looked upon when needed, doesn’t cut it with those that are more Filipino in nature.
Unlike their more relaxed, carefree counterparts in America, Filipino parents like playing a more intrusive, “big-brother” approach when it comes to parenting — one in which parents act more like semi-Diyos, where, when it comes to family affairs or activities, they happen to be all-knowing and all-powerful.
The latter statement may be a stretch; but all-knowing indeed.
To wonder where you are, wherever you are at all times, is completely and utterly normal within Filipino inner circles and the idea itself, is usually not subjected to any sort of criticism.
This type of “big-brother” lookout, where almost everything a child does is monitored and worried about, is helped along by a unique network of chatterboxes that span from one family entity to the next, with information usually spinning through the continuous tsismis that routinely zips its way about the family realm.
In short, contact from relative to relative and therefore information about a child’s whereabouts is usually only a simple phone call away.
With such a vast networking in place, families could therefore easily relinquish control of their children to other relatives with ease and still be very sure they’d get the same attention and care that they were previous under. In a way, “elder” relatives turn into “hawks,” perched way up high above each of the respective “territories” where what was within their sights became representative of their corridor of responsibility.
Here whatever, or in this case, whoever lies within their range of sight usually becomes integrated into their custodial duties.
So, when underlings, move from one “territory” to the next, the “hawks” would naturally pass on their responsibility to the next one.
Ok, with all that philosophy out of the way, you could perhaps understand now why my Uncle Milo was so worried at the time.
In this case, it wasn’t that I was doing something wrong per se but it was the very fact that he had lost track of me during that time period that made his job as a “hawk” questionable.
If anything were to happen to me, the relatives in this very intertwined, interconnected, knit-tight family of ours, would question not the mouse that scurried away but the “hawk’s” ability to look after what was supposed to be his territorial grounds. In political terms, my uncle would have become the “fall guy,” so to speak.
Now of course, there are times when this kind of hawkish behavior that is played out within family circles could get really annoying, sometimes spiraling out of hand to the point where they have a tendency to flip out even after just an hour on the clock had passed of “not-knowing.”
My Auntie Auring tried calling the California Highway Patrol on me and my nephew years back after we’d mountain biked our way through the hills of Vallejo.
Apparently, by what little John John told me at the time, the reason why they were about to do so was that they were worried that “(he’d) get kidnapped.”
Then, there’s the time when my mommy did call the Tennessee Highway Patrol and there was actually a manhunt for me and the vehicle I was driving on the police frequencies. What was my crime: Not having a Global Positioning System attached to my a**.
And after thinking about it… perhaps I should have one. It’d make life so much easier.
Ok. So even I’d admit that sometimes they do this just cause of their nature to be intrusively nosy and the rush they get when meddling into other people’s affairs and watching their reactions to it like their own home-made Filipino melodrama but despite all of that, one must realize what advantages their worry-happy nature does bring in comparison to what it would be like if they hadn’t even worry at all.
For example, perhaps one of the major disadvantages of what is commonly referred to in America as the nuclear family, is their inability to monitor and stay on top of certain situations because their family are usually to small to handle the problems that may arise.
They have no third auntie to look after the kids; no grandparents to pick up the fourth graders from elementary school; no info whatsoever about the whereabouts of their teenagers from the annoying relatives they should have had in the first place.
It’s no wonder why, especially in a supposedly “highly advanced society” known as America, there could be found parents who’d say, “We didn’t know she/he was doing such and such.”
If only they had a bunch of titas and lolas who were hella nosy and worried about everyone else, then perhaps they wouldn’t have been so clueless.
I find it funny though that it took an incident such as the one above for me to appreciate how important this nature to worry is because technically, even I’m prone to being a worrier myself.
For example, paminsan-minsan Agnes Lau, a sweet girl who happens to be one of my closest friends, and I would stay out hella late sa coffee shop of hers.
Agnes happens to drive a little Integ which has a peculiar reputation of having a mind of its own, sometimes starting only when it wants to.
So anyways, after some late nights sa coffee shop, we’d spilt, get into our own cars and drive home but before I do that, I’d always instinctively wait behind her, watching sa koche ko with high beams on and everything until she’s all warmed up and ready to go.
She finds it strange; sometimes calling me on a cell phone to tell me that’s it’s OK for me to leave her there all alone in this semi-trustworthy neighborhood with that fickle engine of hers.
But little does she realize that I know better; that I’m concerned; that that very feeling of worry runs deep through our blood and will never ever go… no matter if you call to beg on a old Motorola to tell us to leave or not.
It’s not because we’re paranoid.
We do it because we care. - PDM
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