Understanding “I’m very New York”

By Alenn F. Nidea

Guest Columnist


(Note: Guest columnist Alenn F. Nidea graduated high school from Ateneo de Naga. He is a NY-registered foreign attorney, works as a financial professional, and pursues an advocacy in legal consulting within the Filipino community. He resides in Queens, New York.)


When you say, “I’m very New York,” can you also say, “You know, I’m very Europe” or “I’m very Africa” or maybe, “I’m very Barangay, I come from the local rural village?” The last statement is more factually plain and straightforward, in which the person it is spoken to gets its clear and simple meaning.


But just saying, “You know me, I’m very New York,” can mean many things, especially when taken in the context and circumstances at which it was said, and most especially by who spoke it, and what she wants to project of herself in relation to her current circumstances.


From my own personal experience, I have not heard that statement said by anybody else, except from the person named Lisa Araneta, more known as the spouse of some big shot in the Philippine political scene.


I once knew somebody named Lisa Araneta in law school. She was friendly, tall and heavy-set body-wise. The first time I heard that she married the Filipino big shot, I thought it was she herself. But eventually I learned that it wasn’t the Lisa I knew in UP law school. There was surprisingly another Lisa Araneta who also took up law in another school contemporaneously with our batch.


This other Lisa that I would see and read about later in the newspapers was petite, tinier and seemed to show a likeable personality. I thought she looked interesting, seemed well-grounded, and had a good head above her body. I read too that she went for masteral studies in law in NYU, a reputable law school in New York, and that she worked for some time at a Manhattan law firm. I thought she looked okay. I almost grew some respect and admiration for the politician’s taste for having had her for a wife.


Then I saw her on social media, responding to an informal interview. Hearing her speak for the first time and the manner and content of what she was saying, took out all of whatever favorable impressions I initially had of her as a public personality. My previous impressions totally crashed. I saw that short clip in our high school chat group in the social media, where she uttered the now, probably much ballyhooed statement, about being “very New York.”


What does it mean? Better yet, what did she mean? She could have meant any of these statements: “Hey, when I say I’m very New York, you must know that New York is a cosmopolitan City and the fact that I lived there, makes me cosmopolitan, and so that makes me special. So, my social position is definitely above you and most others.” “Hey, I’m no ordinary mortal. I took up my Master of Laws studies in NYU. It’s not Harvard or Yale, but it’s NYU nonetheless. I am admitted in the New York Bar. I worked in a Manhattan law firm. Not anyone, not even my colleagues in law school can achieve what I have accomplished in New York. So, I’m a cut above many others.” “Hey, do you know that New York is the capital of the world and I lived my life there in style.” “Hey, you make it there, you make it anywhere, got that? Gets mo?”


So tell me, what’s wrong with saying that statement, and intending it to be any one of those stated remarks? What’s wrong is… saying it with an unmistakable air of arrogant superiority, of showing off, braggadocio unbecoming of femininity. It’s actually childish. But beneath that puffery, It can be a sign of deep-seated insecurity. Hey, a prudent and confident person who happened to have a lucky break in life, of having talent and some privileges that not everybody else may have, would smile, be grateful and privately and quietly celebrate what gratifying grace she has, with humility, and not flaunt them.


In the interview, her perplexing remark is preceded by her disavowal and abject aversion of ever considering a work in government, when the subject matter was raised by the interviewer. “They can’t afford me. I’ll fire all of them. Gov’t? Naaah, not my thing.” She punctuates her remarks with smirks, expressing such awful distaste that makes the sound of “government” like the most disgusting thing that’s ever landed on her mouth. When she makes a face to express her disdain, she makes a picture of being extremely obnoxious with her arrogant dismissal of “government”, saying it, like some foul air just swept over her face.


Ironically, her husband is seeking the highest office in government and she has openly shown her displeasure to it. What can the voters make of that? How should the electorate see it? Arguably, it is herself who hates the idea of having to do with government, but how can she possibly detach herself from her husband’s obviously all-consuming desire to grab the governmental position? If he succeeds (horrifyingly), she would herself reign (supreme) as the First Lady in the “government” that she loathes. It’s a serious situation that the Filipino voters must think about. But, unfortunately, in Philippine politics these thoughts could hardly be entertained, and the observations I am making could hardly be given notice nor would it be taken as something to be a subject of serious concern. It’s heartbreaking to me, but the people have probably enjoyed themselves already with that spectacle by way of pre-election entertainment. Sadly, it could go only as far as that would go. But I also read about her being described as the next “future” Imeldific II and for the people to beware of that possible eventuality. I surely hope the people pay close attention and be on guard.


But life goes on, and I pray for and encourage the many enlightened Filipino electorate to do what is right in the coming elections. As for me, I continue to live my simple life in New York where I have been living for the past 16 years. I cannot say “I’m very New York” because I still wouldn’t know what it means, but I will say, “I’m very Midtown Manhattan, where I go to work at the 15th Floor above the Grand Central train station” and that’s a plain and simple understandable statement.