The Chinese and the AmishBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
I THINK she was studying Organic Chemistry. It could have been that.
You could tell by all the chemical reactions she left on her yellow legal pad.
Agnes Lau sat in one of the benches in the Java coffee house, cuddled in her Tommy jacket while spending time spinning her black pen, swinging her foot precariously back and forth underneath a shaky wooden table.
I forgot what I was doing… maybe looking at the computer screen, typing up one of these articles. It wasn’t important now. She wanted to talk.
She had just come from New York after visiting her folks and was telling me about her time at Ground Zero, her trips to local shops in Brooklyn, and her experience with the Amish.
Amish in Brooklyn??? “Can’t be”, I thought – she must have confused them with the Orthodox Jews.
So I told her that they weren’t Amish but instead could more likely have been the Orthodox Jews, like those in Israel. But little Agnes was insistent, continuing to defend herself, believing that the persons she saw were authentically Amish and nothing more.
Soon, we got into a 15-minute argument about whether or not the persons in question were from Amish Paradise. I argued vehemently that the people whom she had seen were of a complete different religious background and were more of the kosher variety than barn-raising type.
She rebuffed my argument, periodically mentioning the fact that they wore things all in black and kept referring to their braids as proof of their Amish-ness.
She even went into the motion with her hands, twirling her little hand about her earlobes as if weaves of hair would miraculously appear from thin air.
She was wrong, of course, but proving so would have been difficult. I knew I had to win somehow – but I just had to wait until she trips up and says something totally incorrect.
“I remember, I saw them… in the bus,” she insisted.
Aha! An opportunity had arisen. I knew I had her by then – but all I had to do was tell it to her delicately.
“Agnes, the Amish can’t use modern transportation.”
Argument over – I won but for some reason, by the look on her face, she still felt she was right.
I could be mistaken but I’ve noticed Asians have this strange fascination with the Amish. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s their love for churning butter or their unbridled interest in barn-raising but whatever it is – it always seems to amuse Far Eastern folk – even my own mommy.
“Slow down, slow down,” she’d say as we’d sneak upon a moving buggy; its creaking wheels jittering upon the worn pavement while a diamond-shaped orange sign hung off its rear to ward off reckless drivers.
Approaching from the side, my mommy soon poised and readied her camera as we took a gaze at a world from another time.
Wearing their traditional clothing, weaved and sown by their own hands, they seemed unaware of the events that were about to unfold upon them. Once in position, my mommy, in Filipino jubilation, began ecstatically firing shots at the unsuspecting Amish, as if we were at some safari park with wild animals outside.
After firing a good four rounds, we left the crime scene in a hurry; the startled victims caught in the crossfire like wide-eyed goldfish whose only crime perhaps was going to ACME for groceries on the wrong day.
It’s pretty embarrassing watching my parent’s total aloofness to what would be considered acceptable behavior. Could you imagine what the driver must have told her wife, right then and there:
“Dear goodness darling it’s them Filipinos again. Duck, hide, quickly! Don’t they have anything better to do than take pictures of us?”
Well… no. If we’re not spending time taking pictures of ourselves, more likely than not, we’d be forced to spring our joy upon other innocent ones we come across.
But seriously, how would you feel if you were walking down Irving and a bunch of non-Asians in an old Ford Pinto came up to you screaming, “Hey look. It’s them Chinese people,” and start blinding you with their cheap a-- disposable cameras, hoping you won’t kung-fu them to who knows where?
How about if you were window-shopping in Serramonte and someone stood next to you and went, “Hurry, Hurry hunnie. I’ve never seen so many Filipinos with Macy’s shopping bags before. Take a picture quick before they start running to Target.”
You know, I’d be hella pissed off, lest you try to capture my flat nose on film. And we wonder why so many Amish are packing up their mules and moving to places like Ohio – the exploitation of their private lives is just too much to handle.
As Filipinos, such ghastly exploitation should ring a bell in your historical recollection. Exactly a hundred years ago, the World Fair held the St. Louis Exposition where hundreds of ethno-linguistic representatives from the Philippines were put on display to be treated with wonderment instead of being seen as people considered to be equal.
The bars which divided the civilized from the barbaric, the religious from the pagan, only helped cement the reasoning behind civilizing and therefore over running our country considered too backwards for its own good.
Obviously the Amish aren’t nearly in the same appalling predicament as those helpless Filipinos were, but the imaginary fishbowl still remains. With the pulse of modern America bearing down on them, constantly harassing their otherwise out-dated, commercial-free existence, being way different from the rest still intrigues the masses who routinely steal away a piece of their privacy via the pictures taken of them every now and then.
So have some compassion for the Amish of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Yes, they may be very different from you and me but for them to be hounded every time they make their errands is very awkward if not completely intrusive. You wouldn’t like it if that were done to you now, would you?
My cousin sat in the backseat watching a world of green pass by her window. This was her first time in the mid-South after being picked up at the airport but her curiosity seemed to be way ahead of her knowledge of exactly what lay here.
“You know who I want to see?” Tiffany Goh Dominguez said enthusiastically as tree after tree passed us.
“Who?” I said, a bit worried about the answer.
O hell no. – PDM
See this article,"The Chinese and the Amish" in Philippine News. Click here.