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Saturday, February 18, 2012

The East West Birthday Dilemma

Today being my Birthday I thought I would write about a funny experience I had in the past. 

A few years ago I was in Cebu for my 40th Birthday and had  been staying with a friend at that time. I remember being excited for my birthday. I had told my friends about my Birthday and let them know I was looking forward to a great celebration.  That was my hint to them that I was expecting them to throw me a huge party. 

The morning of my Birthday arrived and my friend reminded me it was my birthday. But there was no talk of any plan for a party of anything. My friend seemed really upbeat and in a festive mood but I had not noticed any trips to the store to get supplies or any preparation for the party I was expecting. Still my friend was giving every hint in the world a celebration was coming.

The day went on and by the afternoon my friend had started to get a sour face. I was wondering what was going on? Why were they not getting ready to give me the best party of my life?  I too started to get sour and my attitude started to get bad.  I could not believe on my birthday that they would do nothing for me. In America when someone has a birthday, especially a 40th Birthday your friends would get together and throw you a wild bash. I was getting really confused wondering why in the Philippines no one appreciated another persons Birthday??

The night arrived and by that time my friend had started to downright treat me badly. We were not even talking to each other. I could not believe the coldness of my friends not throwing a party for me on my very special 40th Birthday. But they were looking at me as if they were angry to me. What? This kind of treatment was unheard of where I came from on a Birthday!  Bed time rolled around and the attitude of my friend was cold as Ice.  I was down right depressed as I closed my eyes realizing my 40th Birthday came and went without any party or celebration. Likewise my friend seemed to be downright depressed too. It perplexed me, I could not understand it at all?

It wasn't until years later I learned why my 40th Birthday was a disaster. I found out that in the Philippines the Birthday Celebrant is expected to be the one to throw the party for all of his friends.  Completely opposite of that in America where the Birthday Celebrant expects all his friends to throw the party. So that 40th Birthday ended in a disaster for both my friends and I. A total culture misunderstanding!  

Today I laugh about my past experience of the "nightmare 40th Birthday in Cebu" as I understand Filipino culture much better. I think many foreigners have experienced this for their first Birthday's in the Philippines and I imagine many Filipino's in America have appeared exceedingly generous on their own Birthday's offering to pay for everything! 

Isn't life great with a little bit of understanding. Got to love it!! 

By they way, for my Birthday today I was able to "escape" the responsibility to throw a party as our family changed countries again today.  I had everything I could ever ask for today and that is my loving family with me. That makes it a wonderful Birthday no matter what the circumstances.  

I did get a cake though last night. Some friends of ours who are very poor showed up at our hotel room with a cake and some homemade sticky rice! It was so touching. The love and sincerity was so beautiful. They really sacrificed to buy that cake. That would have been three days wages they used to buy it. I am a blessed man when I really think about it. Thank you Lord! You are so good to me! 

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