Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Take on Filipino Identity

Angono Petroglyph
Image from Laz'andre
I am a true-blooded Filipino. My mother hails from Aklan and my father is from Bulacan. I have lived all my life here in the Philippines, and my feet had never touched foreign ground. I eat adobo, bagoong, nilaga, sinigang, bulalo, and all Filipino food you can think of except Durian (to the guys who like Durian, I did try but this is the part where I believe in "acquired tastes"). I believe in the Filipino Spirit, the pride of being Pinoy, the fierceness of our race and the beauty of our women. Yet, a question remains in my head. What is the identity of the Filipino?

The Angono Petroglyphs tell us people have been living in our country for at least 5,000 years. That means as a race, we can claim we're not that young, although not that advanced as the old civilizations of the planet. There's a huge gap in our history and our scientists are continually researching to uncover how our ancestors were for 4 and a half milleniums ago, but only so much can be uncovered by the experts. It might be safe to say most of the details have been lost.

Battle of Mactan Image from Cebu Bluewaters
Only for the past 500 years we have concrete evidence of our past, yet it was shaped by external influence, ultimately changing the people of the country. Pre-colonial details of way of life has been documented because of historians and scholars brought by Spain, only to destroy it by changing our way of life. It was a radical change. Asian and European cultures clash, and our ancestors were called upon to leave their "barbaric ways." The cross and the sword changed the face of our culture. It was a slow and gradual process, making our ancestors abandon their lifestyle. Oral history became forgotten, culture and tradition became destroyed, traces of our old identity eliminated.

New culture followed after the Philippines was sold for 20 million dollars, yet the remnants of Spanish rule still exists to a huge extent plus other cultures that merged with ours. Its now a fusion.

We are the brown, Asian people who were educated by Americans and Christened by Spain. We love basketball although we'd never be great in that sport. Rice is still staple but 9 out of 10 birthday parties or celebration, spaghetti is on the menu. And some put banana ketchup in spaghetti sauce. Heart disease is nature's way of saying game over for most Filipinos, same as with the rest of the world. Bagoong and adobo will always be a mainstay in Filipino tables, and it will be hard to find a Pinoy backing away from a Lechon and eat on the plate with bare hands. Barongs will never go out of style, and Filipiniana surely means classic Pinoy fashion. There's bound to be a walis in every house, whether ting-ting or tambo. Men will always have a peculiar interest in cockfighting and women will always be expected to take care of their elderly parents.

The list can go on and on, there are still numerous things that are distinctively Filipino. However, with globalization, mass media and the internet, we are driven closer to other cultures over impossible distances. The gaps are bridged, and we consume more American, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and other cultures. More faster than ever, the fusion churns everything together, like a blender on steroids. Our concept of identity gets muddled, confused, and exchanged over some stereotypes starting from childhood even up to adulthood. Too bad because we are great assimilators, and on hyper mode, we could be throwing away a lot more than what is necessary.

So who is the Filipino? No one can really say. Though we resemble closely our Asian cousins, we behave and think differently. Yes we can draw it from our history and heritage, but it only speaks about the past. Language? 7,107 islands in an archipelago brings about over a hundred dialects and it wasn't a majority win. Being Filipino is a state of mind nowadays because no one is really sure. It is the age of confusion, the era of individuality, the reduction of stereotypes (you really can't make them go away, many will always be misguided). We are almost at the moment to define who we really are. When the dust settles, we will know by then our distinction. Sounds close enough? Think again.

Photo from Rappler
Today it is a state of mind and a choice, for each and everyone who proudly says I am Filipino. It is the pride in our race, our culture, our customs, our traditions, and our daily way of life. The flag and the country no longer represent us, they represent the government, and the government represents the individuals who run them. Amid the corruption, the politics, the telenovelas, the overpriced coffee, the daily traffic and long lines of commute; amid the people who brave living in the country whether they have a choice or not; in the smiles of every men and women making the most out of life in the Philippines...there exists the essence of a true Filipino. Somewhere along the jagged lines and distorted circles, the dots can be connected. Until someone does so and many believe, no one can define what is a Filipino. For now, we just have to believe that we are Pinoy in our own little way, and respect how others do it, because they're not wrong...and neither are you.