Pinoy na Pinoy

A friend just posted at the SPCQ83 e-group for US residents a request to help her sister out who’s a graduate student in Communications gather data for her thesis.  Questions revolved primarily on one’s media choices and how much one utilized the various sources of information.  At the very beginning of her survey was a rather intriguing question: 

On the scale below, how would you rate yourself in terms of cultural identity?
Totally Filipino
Mostly Filipino
Rather Filipino
Rather American
Mostly American
Totally American

The answer to the question didn’t even merit a pause — I clicked on TOTALLY FILIPINO.  For someone who has been here almost 5 years now and who still refers to things in Manila as “Sa Atin” compared to things here in the US as “Sa Kanila“, I think I can truly say I am still totally Pinoy.  After all, when I am hurt accidentally, the expression you will hear is not “Ouch!” but usually “Aray!”. 

The fact that such a question was asked as part of an effort to gather data for an academic study leads me to believe that there is a distinction, or at least, Filipinos in the US see or perceive a distinction.  (Emphasis supplied)  I have always believed that you are either Filipino or American, whether you were born back in Manila or here, and it was either one and not half and half or one or the other. 

I had made up my mind when someone in the family was describing a friend as “being too Filipino“. I couldn’t help but wonder what that was about and how it could be if like black and white, you produced a totally different color when you mixed half and half of each in grey.  You were either one, but not part one and part the other in one person.  Am I making sense?  Humor me..

I now have a 10-month old son who, for all intents and purposes is an American.  He has my skin color and my features but has thicker eyelashes which I attribute to the human body’s natural predisposition to adaptation, being that he was conceived and had been nurtured in a colder environment than the one I was born into.  While my husband and I know that racially, he is pure Filipino, in my heart and mind, he is a Filipino-American, but if it were to be a toss up between Filipino and American, he is an American.

He will never know what it is to sing the Bayang Magiliw with a throng of people and will not know why people in the moviehouses stand up as it is played before the last full show.  He might learn the song eventually, but he will not know what it truly means — unlike how he will get a full appreciation of the Star Spangled Banner. 

He may, in time, consider himself Mostly American or Mostly Filipino, but in the end, I know he will know he’s an American.  Never too American — just an American.

In the same way that I will always be Filipino.  Not only because I speak the language fluently and I think and feel in the language — but more so because I know that I will forever nurture in my heart the values I had grown up with back home. 

This early I speak to him in Tagalog and English.  I know he understands me in his own innocent way.  I have seen people who were born here speak the language fluently with only a very slight twang.  In the sea of Filipino-Americans who can comprehend bits and pieces of the language but who cannot speak Tagalog coherently like my stepson, I have seen people who can actually hold a decent Tagalog conversation, with nary a hint that they actually grew up here in the United States.  I want to give that gift of language to my son.

If the Koreans and the Latinos can teach their children to speak English and speak their native language, it should be second nature to us Filipinos who speak two languages back in Manila. 

Kung tatanungin ako, taas noo kong sasabihing Pilipino ako. Kahit pa napapagkamalan akong intsik ng mga dayuhang nakakasalubong ko dito sa Amerika, buo ang loob kong sasabihin sa kanilang Pinoy ako.  Kahit dito ako mamalagi hanggang sa aking pagtanda, at magpalit ang aking kinikilingang bandila kapag ako’y naging isang naturalisadong Amerikano, alam kong Pinoy na Pinoy pa rin ako.


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