Define FilipinoBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
Recently at Filgrad, an event for graduating Filipino students at San Francisco State University, a white girl wanted to participate in the occasion as one of 70 other Filipino graduates.
The organizers were delighted to have her participate since she was involved in many Filipino affairs as one of Professor Begonia’s students. So it seemed logical for her to top off her stay at the university by celebrating it amongst her closest peers.
Well, word got out about this around campus and some Filipinos students took offense against this action, brazenly insinuating that those representing our former colonizers should not be involved in what clearly was considered a Filipino-labeled event. In fact, it became such an issue Professor Begonia threatened to boycott the event if she wasn’t allowed to participate. The organizers of Filgrad weren’t deterred by such audacious accusations from a few meddling students, but apparently strong feelings were being displayed about the very meaning of the word Filipino.
What exactly is the definition of a Filipino? Professor Benito Vergara asked such a question to students at his Philippine Literature class, but they were unable to come up with any definitive response.
It seems like a simple question with a long list of answers.
What makes a Filipino? Is it his/her comprehension and understanding of the language? Or how much lumpia one has consumed in one’s lifetime? Is he a baluthead? Or has the specific angle of the nose something to do with being Filipino?
Of course, some of those criteria have been used to a certain degree but the most common criteria that props up usually is based on one’s own lineage- basically, whether or not the person in question has Filipino blood in them.
But even this criterion seems overtly flawed.
Consider Ava Tong for instance. She takes time off to apply her skills next to the great Master Kalanduyan every Friday to learn the Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines. She has her own kulintang at home and plays it better than me or others I know.
And I bet you not all Filipinos would be willing to devote their time and effort to this wonderfully enchanting music but when she has the time, she’ll be learning Mr. Kalanduyan some of the most difficult and mind-boggling versions of sinulog or binalig he can come with. She’s always been exposed to Filipinos through many of her friends and now she’s here, reveling in our ancient heritage. And the interesting thing is, she’s not even Filipino.
Then there’s Tony Smith, a retired member of the special ops, living in a small town just outside Music City USA. Neither is he Filipino, but he and his wife are thrilled to invite many Filipinos over to their humble abode for some lumpia and pancit.
He enjoys retelling his stories about his adventures living off just insects in the backwoods of Tennessee or the jungles of Zambales, all the while as he spins a 8-foot-long bamboo stick with a fully –grown pig tacked onto it. By nightfall, you could play mahjong with him all the way until daybreak, winning or losing 10 or 20 cents while he says “bunot” and “sagasa” all night long.
Is this Southern hospitality? Perhaps.
Filipino hospitality? You bet.
In fact, these two are just a few of the examples of those who have not a drop of Filipino blood in them, but act and live as Filipino. They may not have our flat nose or fully understand our languages but they define what a Filipino is and how a Filipino should be. They are living the Filipino life and enjoying it in their own special way and therefore that makes them in an odd kind of way – more Filipino than some of us.
So we shouldn’t question whether or not one is Filipino based on ethnic dimensions.
Who we really should question are those full-blooded Filipinos who ridiculously called into question that girl’s acceptance into Filgrad. Their “I-am-a-Filipino” ID card should be revoked. – PDM
See this article,"Define Filipino" in Philippine News. Click here