9/03/2005

Pinoy Ako!

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Riffin' on my earlier post Astig, another phrase that's caught my attention in these hiphop songs I'm listenin' to is Pinoy Ako.

I am Filipino.

Pinoy Ako.

For my parents and acquaintances, this is a sort of no brainer. My parents are both Filipino. They were born in the Philippines and immigrated in the late 50's. I'm not adopted. I look mostly Filipino (when I'm not looking say, Hawaiian or Native American).

If only cultural heritage were as easy as looking at ones genes and skin color!

But as people get to know me, they realize that my ties to my Filipino heritage are for the most part unconscious, or at least subconscious. I'm told I have a slight accent when I get tired. I tend to sway when I walk. I know a bit more than the average person about Filipino-US history. But as a US-born pinay, I often don't feel I identify well with being Filipino.

My folks came to the US to live the American dream. Dad didn't want to be a Bureau of Lands agent like my grandfather who didn't want to be a farmer like my great grandfather. My mother admired all things USA because my grandfather was a Philippine Scout in the US Army, and the American's saved her from the invading Japanese. Post-colonial discourse is not high on their agenda.

They've been really successful in living their American dream. They've got a house in the suburbs, a good retirement, strong ties to their parish. When they go back home, they are heroes, the ones who made it, the ones with wisdom from the West and money to help out. They made it out of the Philippines before Marcos' Martial Law and we didn't visit as a family until well into the Ramos Administration.

Growing up, keeping ties to the Filipino community wasn't a high priority for my mother who saw such groups as a bunch of gossipers and egoists trying to out do each other with their wealth. I think my dad would have liked to have had stronger ties with the local diasporic community, but since socializing wasn't one of my mother's strong points, his opportunities were rare. It was only after the death of my mother's parents and our visit in 1995 that my mother began to see the real value in making friendships with Filipinos in our area.

It was a weird thing growing up...a lot of mixed messages. My parents never taught me any of their dialects because they were told that do so would stunt my mastery the English language. At the same time, they spoke their secrets in Tagalog, often speaking about me as I stood there, having a conversation about me that I could not understand. My keenest memories of separation come from those moments.

Being US born is to be outside. Outside of the Filipino community. Outside of the white community of the US. For a long time I just existed as if being Filipino was a happenstance of genes, nothing more.

This is changing. Old wounds are healing. Connections are being made. An internal awakening is happening.

Finally, though, after 40 years, I can own Pinoy Ako and not deny any other part of myself.

And that's a really, really good thing.

1 comment:

Ernesto said...

Sometimes being "out" is a way of accepting things "in".

Identity, in my opinion, shouldn't be taken for granted, at least not before a sometimes painful and long process.