The other day, a friend asked: “What is a Filipino’s role in this world as a Filipino?” I diverted and kept mum. When the primordial question of who we are emerges, all racial, cultural, and ethnic issues come into play. No matter where we go, what we do, what language we speak, or what names we use, our hair color will reveal itself behind the dye, and our skin will speak louder than our accent. Our role as a nation comprised of individuals with diverse genetic patterns belonging to the same race will not be as easy as asking a question. And then again, what is our role?
What is the Filipino’s role in this world as a Filipino? We blend so easily within the larger scope of our immigrant status that we lose awareness of our specific idiosyncrasy.
We adapt so well but despite our ability to survive and thrive in a foreign land, we sometimes forget about certain core values attached to our race as external impressions and markers that will tend to affect everything we do as immigrants.
There are positive stereotypes: the dominion of African Americans in sports and pop culture, the ubiquitous advances of Japanese technology, and the omnipresent manufacturing trend of “Made in China”, to name just a few, are sometimes deemed as racial roles contingent to a perspective angle. And then there are negative stereotypes the likes of which “domestic help” and “imeldific” were attached to the Filipino overseas workers. Centuries back, Spain held the title as a global conquistador. And then England took the helm. Now, we have the US as a military and financial behemoth. But where do Filipinos stand? Can we claim dominion in boxing because of Pacman’s fist? Or can we hold the throne of Asia’s music hub because of the so many winning singers we have produced in different parts of the world? Where I work, Filipinos still dominate the nursing department, slowly ebbing away because of tough immigration protocols. Would it be right to claim our role as a global caregiver?
Some time back, chatting with an Insurance Underwriter, I was surprised by the fact that the Company he works for will automatically decline any life insurance application to any Filipino American who intends to go back to the Philippines within the next twelve months. This was during the time when journalists were killed en masse by a politician who was more of a tribal king. This was the time when the Philippines held the world record for having the highest index of murdered journalists and broadcast media personnel.
So then again, what is the Filipino’s role in these dynamic times wherein speed and information are priced commodities while specialization has somewhat evicted the general practitioner? If it is true that one of those rules rests upon our dominion in the nursing industry, then perhaps I need to meet more Filipino nurses in the upper hierarchy of nursing administration or nursing practice. If it is in the world of boxing, is there anyone second to Pacquiao? And if we are the hub of Asia’s musical buzz, I have yet to meet a pure bred Filipino with a top charting single.
I am a pure bred Filipino, but just like so many of us, this pure bred has rivulets of other racial genes. As much as possible, I try not to chant a litany of my family history, but I find myself responding so frequently to so many questions regarding my racial origin the moment I use a non-english language as my means of communication. That made me think and ask again, “What is my role as a Filipino in our current global conditions?”
I think our basic contemporary role as a Filipino is first to be a Filipino. There is no point to count the almost invisible traces of foreign genetic inheritance. Although our great great grandparents matter, I find no sense in claiming them out of their contextual history. Philippines does not have dichotomous labels on national origin. The US uses African-Americans, Italian-Americans and so forth to preserve their tradition of honoring their origins. Although they claim diversity, these dichotomous labels also produce the negative effect of facilitating stereotyped nomenclatures. In our own setting, Filipinos have regions marked by island cities, island provinces and island towns, but there is no such thing as a Bicolano- Filipino or an Ilocano-Filipino. We are Filipinos and that suffices.
If we can be who we are within what we do, we can do what we desire according to who we are. The complexity of our identities extends beyond our individual personalities. Stereotypes happen because of anecdotal repetition of behavioral patterns that we consistently reflect. When those patterns emerge from habits and become a conscious act, then our role as Filipinos could be more delineated and purposeful. Juan de la Cruz is first Juan de la Cruz before he is a Filipino, but then as a Filipino, he is only known as Juan de la
Cruz. Our racial identity cannot be tramped by any citizenship that we profess. While citizenship is a political entity, racial identity is a genetic reality. From the social and cultural angle, I can only transmit this message to those Filipinos who still bear and contain the traces of their historical origin and tradition. There are evidently Filipinos of the nth generation whose parents, itermixed or not, have decided to uproot anything that is Filipino, either for convenience or for other unknown reasons. I leave them to their own conjectures.
Yes, it is a question of relevance. Our roles as Filipinos in this global setting is perchance in a nascent mode waiting for maturity. As we raise our children distant from our own roots, the only way to promote our racial identity is to remind them that their chromosomes have markers unique to our Filipino race that no amount of tattooes or pierced noses could obliterate. It is a question of relevance for we need to know what our roles are to help improve our birthplace.