Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Culture. Or the lack thereof.

On my second to the last day in my old job, I went out with a few officemates and ended up at the opening of a new bar called Martinis at the Mandarin Hotel in Makati. It was supposed to be a by-invitation only event, but we managed to stroll past the check girl at the door, owing perhaps to the fact that I was with people who were obviously Caucasian. (Let me tell you, I’d have never gotten in there if it was just me and my obviously Pinoy features). Although it worked in our (specifically my) favor, that just tells you that you can’t totally eliminate racial profiling in this supposedly modern, cosmopolitan city no matter how much we try to sweep it under the rug of tolerance and understanding. I’m not being cynical. Just stating a fact.

Inside we were treated to a feast for the senses: the bar was overflowing with drinks, mostly martinis (dry, fruity, what-have-yous) because the place was, after all, called Martinis; rail-thin models were modeling swanky evening gowns and doing Bond girl poses complete with faux assault weapons, dripping with jewelry head to foot that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a red carpet event in Hollywood; everyone was smelling of wealth and luxury. I even spotted two or three people there whom I’ve only seen on the society pages of the local broadsheets and magazines. While it was the first time I ever had an honest-to-goodness martini (complete with the olive), I’ve been to these types of functions before so I wasn’t exactly self-conscious. It did amuse me to know though that the expat friends I was with were getting a kick out of the whole thing, too. It occurred to me then that a free drink is a free drink, no matter how many of these things you go to, and, more importantly, no matter where in the world you’re from.

Mingling with the different types of people one usually finds in these kinds of events, the art of making conversation seems more like a science. Talking with the people you came with can only take you so far. Eventually you’re going to have to venture out into unknown territory…and talk to unknown persons. I had the (dis)pleasure of talking to a native of Austria who claims to have been flying in and out of the country for the past 10 years. All was going well, until he said he didn’t really like the Philippines because apparently, this country doesn’t have a culture to speak of. I would’ve smacked him on the head with the martini glass in my hand, until I realized that if that was what he thought of the country, incredibly sad though it may be, could I have said anything to make him believe otherwise? Considering he’s been in and out of here for a decade, his notion that this land of ours is severely lacking in culture must be based on personal observation. Apart from the fact that I am the least confrontational person on earth, I just felt that at that moment, I lacked ammunition to convincingly dispute that impression. So I just kicked him once in the nuts and resumed talking to my expat colleagues.

Of course I'm kidding. I just feel like this entry is getting too serious. All I wanted was to tell the story of the night I got to sneak in at an exclusive bar opening and chug my first glass of martini. Oh well.


Anonymous Alvin said...

Cheers to your first glance then :p

And I would have to sadly (and partially) agree about what the Austrian guy said. Manila doesn't exactly ooze Filipino culture, does it?

Then again, if he's been in and out of our country for the past ten years and still dismiss the Philippines as a country that has "no culture to speak of", then he's probably wasted most of those 10 years (in and out, of course) in the "posh" areas of Metro Manila. He probably has never been to any place here that wasn't air-conditioned.

But that's just a guess.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Alvin said...

dammit.. I meant first glass hehehe

9:05 PM  
Blogger peejay said...

one way of looking at it is he was probably expecting culture like the one in his native country. austria and the rest of europe IS pretty rich in culture, without a doubt. or yeah, he probably doesn't get out that much every time he's here. just always hanging out in clubs or at bar openings and such. you can only soak up so much culture while taking a swig from a martini glass hehe. =)

speaking of martini, that was my first, and probably last, glass. kay james bond na lang yun. i'll stick to my beloved san mig light, thank you very much. =D

5:54 PM  

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