"How's the Weather, Brother?"
by Ruby Bayan
One of the first adjustments a Filipino living in America needs to work on, aside from how to say "suh-uhm" instead of "sahm-ting," is how to stay synchronized with the four North American seasons, spring, summer, winter, and fall. Four different seasons that impact on every aspect of one's life (not just on the wardrobe) can be a shocker to a migrant who grew up living in only wet and dry climates.
I'm a little fortunate that I'm a Florida transplant -- the minor adjustment necessary is only for about three weeks in January when the temperature briefly dips into freezing. Other than those chilly weeks that somehow resemble Christmastime vacation in Baguio, the year-round weather in Florida is, well, not as flooded or as parched as in Manila, but typically tropical.
Spring in the Sunshine State can be considered the most uneventful (except in Orlando where families storm the theme parks, and in Miami where bare skin outshines the sand and surf), because summer is when we get all the heaven-sent action. We have our 3PM downpour (like clockwork), and our daily dose of hurricane alerts.
Summer is when we stock up on bottled water and corned beef, and cook adobo just in case the high winds knock the power out. After we've boarded up the windows with plywood, we pray hard that the next twister doesn't suck our nice American living into oblivion. This goes on through what would normally be Fall in other parts of the continent. While others are watching their trees turn red and gold, Floridians are watching the skies turn black and gray.
Then Mother Nature takes a break -- the climate calms downs and cools off. Our air conditioners and power bills take a little break, too. I was talking to a friend in Oregon sometime last December, and I said the temperature was getting cooler and we could already open the windows, and he said, "Well, ye. It's getting cold here, too, so now, we have to close ours."
I guess the most exciting season for most of the Filipinos in America, especially in the Midwest, is winter. I remember Mang Domeng of Meycauayan, Bulacan, who used to sweep his front yard with walis ting-ting, wearing just a sando and rolled up pajamas.
Now, Dom (his US name) spends winter in a snow-covered farm in Iowa, and he wears a glacier jacket and fleece balaclava, and swings an ax to chop firewood. His wife Aling Nene (now Nenita) helps Junior (now Jun) put on his down jacket, insulated pants, galoshes, mitts, earmuffs, and fur cap, so he doesn't freeze in his tracks on his way to school (if he can still manage to walk under all that weight).
Tuning in to four different seasons must take some getting used to. A Filipino friend who has lived in Chicago for more than a decade said that he has finally adjusted to the season changes, and he can't imagine living anywhere else.
For me, I'll consider my uncle's advice: "Start in Florida. After a couple of years, move up to the Southern States, then when you get used to the cold winters, go higher and get used to the snow. Then settle in the Midwest where the four seasons are the greatest." Sounds like a plan. Maybe I'll try it.
[Published in BastaPinoy News and Global Pinoy Magazine]