Filipino New York: My Pinoy Life in The Big Apple
By Mikko Lazaro
I’ve always been an avid traveler, and one of the cities that I have visited which became my favorite is New York. In fact I used to visit New York about three times a year since 2010. In December 2014, I decided to stay permanently in the Big Apple to re-focus my career in healthcare.
I lived in Dubai working in the insurance industry, prior to moving to New York. Working in insurance was something I stumbled into when I took my chance overseas. After seven years in that industry though, I felt I needed to go back to practicing my profession in healthcare, and the USA provided me with a great opportunity for growth and development. I am an independent contractor working in physical therapy. As my patients say, I “make people walk.”
There is a lot to say about New York, but I’ll try my best to describe the easiest way I can. The Big Apple, as many know it, is the most populous city in the United States. Like Dubai, it is a fast-paced, globally influential center of art, culture, fashion and finance. Some 800 languages are spoken in New York, spread out across five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.
I will talk specifically about Bronx because it is now what I call “home.” The multicultural flavors of New York are heightened in Bronx where various cultures and people live harmoniously. Communities of Latinos, Africans, Asians, and Europeans are within tasting, hearing, and seeing distance from my second floor apartment.
I love the fact that within the two-block radius from my apartment there is a public library, a hospital, eateries, mini-marts, and street vendors selling various sundry. I’m far enough from the hustle and bustle of the main road, but close enough to hear gospel songs sung in Spanish as a ‘culto’ (religious congregation) sing worship right across from my apartment.
Filipino New York: My Pinoy Life in The Big Apple
Within a bus ride away, I can visit one of the large open spaces of parkland in New York — Pelham Bay Park, Van Cortlandt Park, Wave Hill (my favorite because it overlooks the New Jersey Palisades), Bronx Park (the home of the New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo, the largest urban zoo in the US), Edgar Allan Poe Park, and the Yankee Stadium.
In a way, where I’ve settled isn’t too different from Dubai. However it offers me more diversity in open spaces, nature and cultural exploration.
My life here is pretty laid-back because I choose it to be that way. At my age, after work, I prefer to just go home; take a nap; check my Facebook; read books; chat with my housemate, Ms. Elaine, over dinner; then talk to family in Dubai, Maryland, and Isabela; then to bed.
I choose to work 7 days a week so I wouldn’t easily get bored whenever I am home. Although, I don’t believe in what a lot of people say that – “Dito sa America, dapat trabaho ka ng trabaho; wala ka na time mag relax.”
I’m working hard by choice, but I also play hard and generally enjoy life. After work, if I don’t feel tired or lazy, I usually go to dinner with friends or co-workers and taste what new flavors New York has to offer. When I take vacations, I explore American cities and states with my spouse. This past year alone, I’ve visited New Orleans, Boston, Cape Cod, Washington, DC, Baltimore and Tampa.
Missing my family is the hardest part about being here in New York. But thanks to technology, I’m able to keep in touch with family members who are spread all over the globe. If I miss them and when I feel lonely, I just go to the museums and spend time there. Nothing beats loneliness than a good trip to the museum and learning something new — and New York gives you plenty of those opportunities.
It also helps that I’ve made friends with the Mexican laundromat attendant, Vietnamese neighborhood grocery owner, Korean vegetable and fish vendor, Egyptian deli store keeper, barber from the Dominican Republic, Greek diner owner and attendants.
Right next door is a community library led by a charming Latina lady who keeps me grounded with stories of her colorful life. She also updates me whenever there are new movies available that I can borrow — for free, mind you.
Being a Global Nomad
I consider myself a global nomad, having traveled all over the world and explored cultures. New York is a place for global nomads like me, and I would imagine it would be a great environment for a lot of Illustrado readers. You eat your own food, you speak your own language, you say whatever you want to say, and you can choose to explore other cultures as you wish.
What I particularly love about New York though is the seemingly endless opportunities it can provide if you choose to pursue them. I’ve done more walking here than I did when I was Dubai, making me lose weight as I only use the bus and subway train wherever I go. I am more independent here as I do my laundry at the laundromat just two blocks away; I also do my own groceries, cook my own food and clean my own room.
New York City is extra special for me for its endless activities, unique styles and personalities, awesome hidden gems, the mix of city life and much quieter neighborhood and being generally eclectic. I feel that most New Yorkers are very open-minded and accepting of others. I guess that is what happens when you have over 800 tongues spoken in your city.
Mabuhay! Ako ay Pilipino; taas noo kahit kanino. But with our Pinoy pride, let’s also not forget that quiet confidence also goes a long way.