Defining Filipino IIBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
Recently, I got back from Atlanta and was pleased to find that my hotmail account was flooded with e-mail concerning the last column piece I wrote entitled “Defining Filipino.”
Some were in support of the column and the issue I wrote about. Others weren’t so enthusiastic.
Many chastised my conduct as irresponsible, careless, and others characterized the piece as “thoughtless, presumptuous and weak.” My two examples of others who I deemed were worthy for joining our rankings, failed to qualify in the eyes of some, prompting one to say they were “overbearingly irrelevant.” Some people believed the decision by the Filgrad was misguided, with one reader saying that their decision “reduced the history of the Third World Liberation Front at SFSU, the history of PACE and the militancy of self-determination.”
With respect to the girl in question, many questioned her right, her motive, her reasoning, with another reader telling me that “her efforts in our community were minimal,” and the only reason she joined was “to be with her friends.” From those I know and respect, they gave me a different view on the matter.
In retrospect, it’s understandable that such an issue would be met with such strong resistance. The Philippines and its people have been fighting for years from oppression from colonization so any “invasion” of that territory, whether from militaristic exercises to this action from those considered outsiders would have been dealt with an immediate and critical assessment.
Now, I’m sure it wasn’t the intention of the girl in question or the committee that decided to include her to demean the history and sacrifices of our forefathers by allowing her to participate as one of their members. Nor was it my intention when defending their stance.
When alluding to my examples of non-blooded Filipinos who I believe should be included among us, let me say that, I’m sure I’d have been able to write a whole essay about their individual contributions to our community, much more than sentence or two about pancit and kulintang that my column would allow. Perhaps the examples of what I wrote were not sufficient to some, but I would reiterate that they’ve done much more and removal of their contributions would have been a great lost to our community within their respective constructs of influence.
Now, there was something about some of the responses that disturbed me much of which went way beyond the scope of Filgrad. What I did fear was the sense that no matter what non-Filipinos do, they should never be accepted as one of us. One reader said, “Why is it that Filipinos must accommodate a white woman’s choices? Do we receive the same respect in the same way as white people? Obviously not.”
Another made the poignant argument, “You cannot become a Filipino through theory, extra-curricular activities, participation in community events or even denouncing your own culture.” According to both, only when we are accepted as Americans whose voices are equally heard and without racist comments placed against us can we place the whole concept of race behind us.
Now, no one denies the continuing saga which is the Filipino’s struggle for equality and respect around the world. Filipinos to this day struggle for religious freedoms in the heart of Saudi Arabia, are labeled terrorist for disparately looking for a better life by a freedom-loving America and receive no help from the Japanese or Korean governments who turn a blind eye from an entertainment industry which enslaves our kin in shady syndicates.
But if we decide to isolate our community only to ourselves and no one else in response to this unfair and unjust world, this ugly cycle will continue indefinitely. OFWs who continue to work in all corners of the world will never receive a hint of respect and dignity because those who treat us a second-tier beings could always reference instances where we’ve decided that no matter how closely others have decided to engage in our own community, we would not dare place them on a pedestal along side us. So, you think they will lift a finger to change reality to do the same for us in other parts of the world? Not a chance.
Now, our forefathers faced this same hostile reality, which belittled their role and value in the world. But what made their struggle awe-inspiring and inspirational… was not just their ability to stand up against their oppressors but it was the fact that Filipinos were able to organize, not just themselves but all workers of all ethnicities to come together and set forth on a common goal. Whether staged on the plantations of Hawaii, the fields of California, to the financial district in San Francisco, we were all reminded that Filipinos were continually and aggressively braking down ethnic, racial and cultural barriers to fight for a living wage, for freedom and equality not just for themselves but for all people, whether Chinese, Puerto Rican or Hispanic.
What the wealthier class of landowners feared about Filipinos … was not just their protesting-will but also their ability to unite with others for a common cause (of course in defiance of the owners who encouraged infighting among the races as their tool of control). So had it not been for their ability to organize and see past differences, Filipinos could not have achieved the success they did.
Yes, many of you were right.
Let us learn from the struggles of Filipinos and Filipino Americans who came before us. In spite of all the s**t they received from other peoples and other governments, they rose above and beyond the oppression, the racism and the colonialism and still came out with a sense of dignity and respect in their blood. Those colonizers may have played around with our language, destroyed our culture, imposed their own religion, institutionalized educational brainwashing, treated us like their little brown brothers, but we endured their torturous splat.
They came, saw and conquered even before we welcomed them with open arms, naively believing they had friendly intentions (in both instances). They sapped our resources for the growth of their countries halfway around the world but we were still willing to fight and die alongside those who have oppressed us. In every way possible, they tried their hardest to make us into their image but they forgot one thing: We will never see others or treat others as unequals like they have.
That perhaps is the beauty of the Filipino: our very humanity to all.
So in a way, those at Filgrad who decided to be inclusive could very well make the argument that they were making another step, be a small one in the direction of our forefathers.
I’m sure some of you perhaps are willing to include your own candidates (perhaps not the girl in question) while the rest of you will remain steadfast, citing that many of us have not received (or even worst) were denied the awards or respect from the rest of the world that we rightly deserve.
But by continuing to open the door to other respectable people who understand our experience into our community we would have denied our colonizers the power to destroy that one enduring quality that has remained with us for eons. And even better, by doing so, we would give our Overseas Foreign Workers and immigrants around the world the hope and chance that perhaps one day, those who oppress us would see that we have continued our goodwill through all the hardship and would turn around and welcome us in places such as the Middle East, in the Far East and yes…even in America. - PDM
See this article,"Defining Filipino II" and,"Defining Filipino III" in Philippine News. Click here