I wouldn’t call it a nightly ritual, but often enough to call it a ritual: the act of browsing, selecting, and savoring See’s Candies. Unfortunately for me, there is a See’s across the street from the 2 Clement bus which I ride home–a mere seven blocks away–because I’m lazy and what better way to own your languor than to inhale milk chocolate in transit. Fortunately for me, the addictive habit never costs more than a couple dollars. Thank you, See’s management, for keeping your prices low and my sweet tooth satisfied.
The middle-aged man ahead of me in line was redeeming a one-pound gift certificate. Pointing, he indicated two of this, two of that. How about two more of this. Two of that. He was clearly a chocolate-choosing novice. I refreshed the emails on my Blackerry to pass the time.
“Are you Pilipino?” I turned around to face a gray-haired woman, several inches shorter than me. She had that non-American accent. I nodded.
“Do you speak Tagalog?” She continued the line of questioning that most Filipinos ask. I politely told her no. My parents are Ilokano. I understand Ilokano, but can’t speak it.
I wondered why I often get asked these questions by Filipino strangers. Is it because I look Filipino? Is it because Filipinos are friendly? Do other ethnic groups do the same? Do Indians approach others, ask if they’re Indian, then ask if they speak a certain dialect?
Is it because I’m American-born that I don’t feel the need to engage in the same friendly banter when I see someone who looks like they have my same ethnic background? Would I feel differently if I were born in the Philippines?