From my vantage point in the corner of Best Western La Corona Manila’s Cafe Arquiza, I can see families and couples eating the most important meal of the day. For me, that’s two pieces of toast and soggy, cold, mush called scrambled eggs. There’s an individual egg maker in another corner of the cafe. Disappointed with the scrambled eggs, I order a proper fried egg from a new trainee called Kaylee.
I scan the room as I wait for the egg to be prepared. My eyes snap first, like a magnet, to the only white couple: short blonde hair on the woman, brunette on the man. They look young. They look like midwesterners. Or maybe mid-Atlantic. Or possible Pacific Northwest. But who knows, maybe they’re not even from the U.S. I haven’t heard them speak over the din of the breakfast cade. I pull my eyes away from them and sweep the room. The remaining tables are filled with Filipinos or mixed couples I think. It’s hard to tell. I remember what our tour guide said: no one is 100%, pure-blood Filipino. They’re all mixed from years of trade and colonization. Chinese-Filipino. Spanish-Filipino. Malay-Filipino. Indian-Filipino. American-Filipino. Our tour guide himself was Italian-American-Filipino. Looking around, I can see it: Filipinos with more Chinese features, or more European features. With dark skin or light skin. A melting pot. Characteristics and cultures blending together to create a unique stew. The blending accelerates with technology. Twenty hours by plane from the other side of the world to be here physically. One second electronically through Viber.
I sit down with my fried egg. At the adjacent table is an older middle aged American male, white mustache on his upper lip. Sitting beside him, a possible (probably, although I’ve learned from my time in Taiwan that I’m no good at guessing the age of non-European or African heritage humans) younger Filipina woman. This is not an uncommon site at the Best Western La Corona Manila. Am I a racist if this makes me uncomfortable? Me, the daughter of a white woman and a black man?
When I checked in at the Best Western La Corona Manila, I saw an overweight white man with a brown mullet checking in as well. Behind him, off to the side was the younger (probably?) Filipina woman he came in with. Short shorts. Spaghetti strap tank. Texting away on her phone. I remembered the review I’d read of the Best Western La Corona Manila days earlier and how it was located in the old red light district (also conveniently close to the American embassy). Was this?… Was she?… Mullet Man struck up a conversation with the only other white man in the lobby, an older white-haired guy who was there with his Filipina wife and their beautiful biracial children (I didn’t actually get a good look at their kids, just heard them playing around, but I assume they were gorgeous because everyone always says mixed kids are the best looking kids on the planet). I heard Mullet Man say the woman behind him was his wife and she look up from her phone long enough to smile a greeting at the other guy. I immediately felt sick with disgust, more so than when I thought she was an escort. Self-disgust. How sick of me to assume. How gross. How racist. How miscegenistic. To think a white dude with a non-white woman means he’s her john.
That was Day 1. Several days later and I’ve shrugged off assumption, ignorance. But it’s it’s place curiosity has blossomed.
At breakfast, in the Cafe Arquiza, I’m pre-digesting my eggs. From where I sit, I can see them – the Filipina woman with her boyfriend or husband, the white (skin and hair) Mustache Man – occasionally rub each others thighs under the table. I look away not wanting to be a voyeur, but keep my ears on them. Curiosity. What do they talk about? How did they meet?
Another white man, the Mustache Man’s Friend, comes over with his Filipina girlfriend/wife. “What’s the score?” Mustache Man says. He’s talking about the Super Bowl, which is playing LIVE (perfect excuse for a morning beer?) having started at 9 AM this Monday morning. “I don’t know,” the Friend replies. “TV’s not working.”
I can’t catch what they all talk about. Seated in the corner next to the bar and kitchen, the din of plates, pans, and cups clashing, and the Tagalog being spoken between waiters is too much. Plus Mustache Man, his Friend, and their partners are not talking very loud. Can I no longer count on the most basic of American stereotypes? The singular white couple is also incredibly quiet, maybe they really are European? I heard some German the other day from another family. Maybe these people are German too?
But frankly, I couldn’t care less about them. I’m curious about these biracial couples. How did they meet? What do they talk about? Do they live here or in the States? Are they Catholic? How did this come to be? Why the f**k do I care? Why can’t I just let this curiosity go? An obsession with identity an extension of my own biraciality? Is it easier to look longer at other’s and be left with unanswerable questions than to look at oneself and try to find answers?
*Written spur-of-the-moment on hotel scratch paper.