Filipinos have more in common with Brazilians than we realize
NEW YORK, USA – Let me share with you a secret about the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema: They’re dreamy – literally. The waves hit the fine sands in such a way that even on the calmest of days, a faint, peculiar mist floats over the shoreline
One could say that the city these beaches are located in – Rio de Janeiro – is my second home. My husband is Brazilian. Specifically, he’s Carioca, which is what Brazilians call people from Rio. When I’m not visiting family in Manila, I am on the other side of the world (it's true, have a look at a map) visiting family in Rio.
I wasn’t expecting to find a second home in Manila’s geographical opposite. But I look at Guanabara Bay which forms inland from the Atlantic Ocean into Rio de Janeiro and I am instantly transported to my mother’s house where I can see Manila Bay from her window.
For my added comfort, Guanabara Bay even has the same familiar sight of container ships at its mouth like the port of Manila, the same Art Deco buildings in its environs like Malate, and the same wafts of basura like Manila Bay.
Brazilians too have the warm spirit Filipinos possess. Visit any Carioca home and be prepared to be welcomed with hugs and kisses, then plied with food.
And though Brazilians speak Portuguese, the Filipino language has just enough Spanish words for any Filipino to connect with them. Derecho, iglesia, even hoy! – the essential words are shared by both languages.
It's not comfortable familiarity though, that qualifies Rio to be home number two. Rather, it’s the way the city transforms the familiar into the fascinating.
While steak is a special-occasion food in Manila, it’s a staple at Brazilian meals, which is a country known for its world-class beef industry. Thanks to the combination of my Filipino upbringing and Brazil’s traditions, I enjoy mealtimes enveloped in a vague sense of celebration, hypnotized by the act of chewing and the rich, umami flavor of a mouthful of juicy, well-marbled steak. Homer Simpson to donuts.
The beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema bring me back to Boracay, and then they bring my beach experience to heightened levels. Even on weeknights, the shoreline which is around 5 times as long as Boracay’s, is alive with a heady combination of live bossa nova, suitably strong caipirinhas, and scores of vigorous games of foot volley between friends and strangers alike.
Then there is the familiar Brazilian warmth, which they personalize with their unique exuberance and lack of inhibition. Brazilians say what they think and do what they feel with an intensity that meeker cultures could find overwhelming. There is no sense of shame, only matters of fact and fiesta.
It’s why Cariocas are comfortable in the skimpiest of swimwear. It’s why their football footwork is closer to dance than dribble. It’s why they throw themselves into Lent with a weeklong carnival of singing, dancing, and partying so extravagant that tourists come from all over the world to join it.
When I travel around Southeast Asia, I’m struck by how our Spanish heritage makes us so different from the rest of the region. But on the opposite end of the world, I find myself closer to home, feeling like I’m just next door at the cool neighbor’s happening pool party.
Should you ever have the chance to travel to Rio, I encourage you to do so! You too might find yourself at home halfway across the world.